The Case for Decriminalizing Fare Evasion

Photo:  BeyondDC/Flickr
Photo: BeyondDC/Flickr

Nobody gets thrown in jail for not paying a highway toll or a parking meter. But for some reason people who break transit fare rules are subject to criminal penalties.

In Washington, DC, jumping a turnstile is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and up to 10 days in jail. A bill in the City Council would make these penalties much less severe, treating fare evasion as a civil violation instead of a crime. It has majority support in the council, but WMATA is resisting.

Now the push for decriminalization in DC is gaining momentum, reports Eve Zhurbinskiy at Greater Greater Washington. The Save Our System Coalition — composed of transit unions, the local Black Lives Matter chapter, and other activists — is drawing attention to the use of excessive force and racial profiling by police enforcing transit fares.

A recent case in which officers brutalized a black woman boarding a bus with her two young children has raised the pressure on elected officials to act, Zhurbinskiy writes:

Metro Transit Police fare evasion enforcement tactics have recently drawn even more scrutiny, following the arrest of a 20-year-old woman at a bus stop off of Alabama Ave Southeast earlier this month. The woman, a student at Ballou STAY High School, had boarded the W4 bus with her 1-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. She had a DC One card which allowed her to ride for free, but it was not with her on the day of the arrest.

She suffered 12 stitches in her knee, a busted face including injuries around her mouth and four broken teeth, and a fractured knee after a Metro Transit Police officer slammed her face to the ground and arrested her for fare evasion and resisting arrest. The case has been cited by Save Our System as an example of why Metro fare evasion policies need to be reformed.

The chief sticking point is WMATA, which has turned to stricter fare enforcement as it struggles with intense budget pressures. The agency estimates that failure to pay the fare costs $25 million in foregone revenue annually, and it doubled the rate of citations for fare evasion in 2017.

In pursuing this approach, WMATA is becoming more of an outlier among American transit agencies. In other big cities, transit agencies are reconsidering harsh fare enforcement regimes that criminalize disadvantaged people and exacerbate systemic social inequities.

California no longer treats fare evasion by minors as a crime. King County, which encompasses Seattle, has done the same. San Francisco decriminalized fare evasion for everyone back in 2008. Portland and Cleveland have also mostly decriminalized fare evasion — except for repeat offenders.

In the end, WMATA isn’t even helping its own bottom line, because obsessing over strict fare enforcement slows down service and repels would-be riders. Transit experts recommend implementing convenient, proof-of-payment fare collection methods that speed up service, with non-punitive inspection systems. Make the fare system work better for riders, and more people will ride — and pay fares.

Smashing your riders’ teeth when they forget their fare cards, on the other hand, isn’t a good way to encourage people to use your service.

  • one_kender

    Ok, I’m starting to notice a trend here with your articles. They aren’t really all that logical or even correct in many cases. Your article about the bicycle company that also makes guns/ammunition, and lobbies for gun rights was more of an advertisement than anything else, so much so that you disabled comments when so many people voiced their support of the company. I’m going to be buying a Bell helmet and a camelpack next time I go to Walmart. This article is yet another example.

    People who don’t pay their tolls lose their license to drive and can then be arrested if they continue to drive on the suspended license. People who fail to pay the meter get their cars towed or get a parking ticket that is much more expensive than the meter. Failure to pay a parking ticket DOES result in a warrant for arrest.

    People who evade fares don’t have a car present to tow. There is no license plate on a fare dodger to identify the person in question in order to ticket them. Without some sort of law on the books, there is no way to detain the fare dodger and force him or her to provide identification, nor is there any legal means to fine the person and force them to pay the money owed.

    Should a person be thrown to the ground and injured simply because she forgot her card? No. Have I seen people who, in the process of resisting transit police put up such a fight that such actions were warranted and necessary? By all means but in these cases, it wasn’t the fare dodge that was the crime that got them hurt. It was what the person did during the chase after being caught–running away, pushing others in their path over, (in one case I witnessed, almost causing another commuter to topple off the platform, onto the tracks) and the ensuing struggle with officers when outpaced. NEVER hit, slap, or otherwise strike another person, especially not one with a badge.

    That 20 year old woman should have gone back home and gotten her fare card. It sucks to be late because had to go back home to get something you forgot. I’ve been there and done that, even completely missing commuter buses that only ran twice a day, but that was MY fault and the consequences were mine to bear. The way to avoid this is to double check that you have everything before you leave, not to simply hop a turn stile. If you DO hop the stile and get caught, just take the damned ticket and pay it. It’s a hassle but you brought it on yourself by carelessness and doing something stupid. It wasn’t the fare that got her teeth busted, it was her actions after the fact and the sooner we realize this instead of sensationalizing the event that triggered those actions that prompted the actions that REALLY caused the take down/injury, the sooner people will start to take responsibility for their own actions and simply act right.

    It also does no good to drum up business by telling they should pay but have no consequences if they don’t. Transit operators invest a LOT into infrastructure and maintenance. They give away free or severely reduced cost passes to the poor. There needs to continue to be laws on the books that make sure people aren’t taking liberties with the system.

  • Guest

    Yes. Transit systems should adopt the library model. Target only the repeat offenders. Nobody gets beaten up, thrown to the ground and put in jail because they didn’t return a library book on time. They do lose their borrowing privileges if they rack up too many fines.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Are there any cities where the first time you fail to feed a meter or pay a toll you face a fine of up to $300 or 10 days in jail?

  • 1976boy

    So by your logic, someone who evades a fare ought to get a chance to pay it, via a ticket or other method, and if they do not, they can face additional penalties. Sounds reasonable, but that’s not what we have.

    Blow through a toll and you’ll get a bill in the mail you can pay. Park illegally, or don’t pay a meter, a ticket is waiting for you. Jump a turnstile, and you get a $200 summons. This is not about responsibility, this is predatory.

  • Matthew Minor

    This blog slow decent into madness has been amazing.

    Next Angie Schmitt doozie: The City of Los Angeles should criminalize the use of private automobiles

  • one_kender

    My first and only parking ticket was just under $200. Predatory? You intentionally hopped a bus or a subway without paying your fare. The transit company didn’t grab you and put you on the bus or subway. They didn’t entice you by telling you the ride was free and then start charging you once you were five miles from home. You weren’t targeted and solicited to dodge the fare based on your social, political, racial, or economic status. No, you knowingly and willingly jumped on public transit without paying your fare. It’s not predatory, it’s a fine you got because you did something wrong . Man up, pay your fine, and think about it next time you think you can get away with being a complete douche and hopping hopping the turn stile. It’s people who do things like this that give these companies an excuse to drive prices up for the rest of us. I wish they would fine you $500.

  • one_kender

    Yes, especially if they boot your car and you can’t pay it immediately.

  • one_kender

    Oh, and the last time I had a toll issue, it was a $2 bridge toll. I handed over my credit card because, well who carries cash any more? I was told cash or E-ZPass only and no, I could not turn around and run to an ATM but that I would receive a bill in the mail. $75 was what the bill was for and if it wasn’t paid in 30 days, my license would be suspended so no, you don’t get to a second chance to simply pay your toll. You get fined just like anything else.

    I’m the case of a to

  • Stuart

    you disabled comments when it was brigaded by a bunch of people from a forum for AR-15 enthusiasts who have no actual interest in StreetsBlog.

    Fixed that for you.

  • davistrain

    There are a number of websites devoted to the cause of “free public transit”–great idea, faster loading of buses, no chance for personnel to “high-grade” some of the cash fares, and no need for workers to service the ticket machines. But in places where this has been tried, the results are usually the same: the transit system becomes infested with riff-raff who drive off the legitimate riders. I also cite the study from some years ago that surveyed the employees of the LA Metro system–it showed that only about 5% of them used the trains and/or buses, even though a free pass is issued to Metro workers. I was at a gathering last night at which transit riders told their bus and train related stories. The speakers included a bus driver who told about the sad stories he hears from people trying to bum a free ride, including the guy who told his tale of woe, then got out a new I-Phone.

  • Joe Linton

    You’re equating a boot (loss of car) with jail time (loss of freedom) … not equivalent… but even then you’re wrong. Los Angeles doesn’t boot cars until they have at least 5 unpaid parking citations – when someone has been unresponsive to 20+ notifications (see https://la.streetsblog.org/2017/07/26/parking-round-up-parkway-enforcement-smart-boot-expo/ ) What city boots when a driver who can’t pay a parking ticket immediately?

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    Cities that outsource parking enforcement do this. The private enforcement hangs out in areas with heavy violations and use Paylock smart boots. It usually hits food delivery drivers (Postmates, Grubhub, Doordash, etc.). They run in to pick up an order. The kitchen is running late and when they return to their car, it is booted. The driver calls a telephone number, pays by credit card, and is given a code to unlock the boot.

    In the City of Los Angeles, the LAPD runs bandit taxi stings against ride share drivers. They use an undercover cop, usually disguised as a homeless person or a tourist. They tell the driver that their phone is dead (or do not have one), but have cash for a ride. If the driver even quotes a price, boom the police arrest him. It is a $1,000 fine and a 30-day impound of the car. This usually hits new drivers, since they are unaware of the sting. These are usually drivers who fall for the emotional angle and simply get caught when they were trying to help somebody in distress.

    Joe, why don’t you and Streetsblog check into how the Taxi lobby is coercing the City of Los Angeles into running these stings. Innocent people are having their only means of earning a living taken away from them. You can even use an Angie Schmitt headline, “The City of Los Angeles Steels Cars from Underprivileged Ride Share Drivers!” Oh wait, these people use cars to make a living. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the expose.

  • Southeasterner

    This is a full lie. No state or government agency in the country can suspend your license for not paying a toll bill or parking ticket. There is no direct connection between a drivers license and vehicle registration so their is no legal recourse to suspend a license for payment violation. Suspend your vehicle registration? Yes. Suspend your license? No.

    Pretty weak attempt at an argument, even for a troll.

  • Trillions and trillions on demand for the United States military industrial killing machine. But squeeze every penny out of citizens to fund public transportation with its 1000’s of over paid technocrats who function like aristocrats.

    Public transportation should be free and this problem should not exist. But for that to happen we have to clean out the halls of government and rid ourselves of the plutocrats that hold the rest of us hostage. And for that to happen we would need an enlightened citizenry. Alas the propaganda machine has most us trapped into a false reality that keeps us from seeing our potential and accepting this cruel fate.

  • AndreL

    “Free” transportation at point of use would bring some serious challenges and misaligned incentives. Which is not any justification to make simple and non-recurrent fare evasion a crime.

  • one_kender

    Uh… In New York city, you get booted immediately, as in they boot the car, write the ticket, a and leave it on your window. The boot doesn’t come off until the fine is paid and the fine goes up until the car is moved. I have also run into this practice in places in Tempe, AZ.

  • one_kender

    You are full of it. How do you explain red light camera tickets? In some states, like AZ, they are a legal grey area mainly because they don’t have proof that you actually received the ticket and the ticketing officer was not actually present to witness the event in person. In others, like he in VA, they can and will suspend your license over a light camera ticket. The vehicle registration, at least in VA, is tied to a person and a social security number. The driver’s license is a also tied to a person with the same SSN. These are two linked tables in a database. Virginia law believes that the owner of a vehicle is ultimately responsible for their vehicles and what happens with them. In this state, when a toll isn’t paid, they run the plate and then apply the fine to the person. If the fine isn’t paid, then that person’s DRIVER’S LICENSE is suspended. The only way to get out of it is if somebody else was driving the car and you can get them to admit to it. Take your ignorant armchair lawyer ass back to your armchair. I’m not trolling, I’m speaking to my experience. Oh, and go back under your bridge, you ugly troll.

  • Not really interested in debating this topic. Public transportation should be free since its primary funded by tax payers anyway. The fares are nothing but another tax levied on the poorest Americans and the people that get caught up in the police state aspects of public transportation are all from the lowest socioeconomic class of citizens.

    It’s well know that in the USA being poor itself is treated as criminal behavior.

    Our political/technocratic structures are morally bankrupt

  • Southeasterner

    Maybe VA, Russia where you are trolling from. Here in Virginia, U.S. they cannot suspend your license for not paying a toll or parking ticket. Of course you now are admitting you’re wrong and switching to red light cameras offenses and probably next DUI or felonies, which can result in license suspensions.

  • Aaron

    I’ve been curious about BART’s new fare evasion crackdown efforts by way of its “Community Service Officers,” started this past January. They’ve fed various numbers to the media quantifying losses from fare evasion: $15m/yr-$25m/yr, $19m/yr and when I contacted them was told $25m/yr. Given their average daily trips, average fare per trip and annual fare revenue, that works out to 4+% of all riders being fare evaders, or ~18,025 riders a day… or about 2.5 evaders per car filled to seating capacity or 8.2 evaders per full capacity car. They’ve yet to respond to my request on the number of citations being issued a day, but another media outlet reported 3 in one day (six officers patrolling.) If the $25m in losses is correct, catching a large number of fare evaders should be trivial, and yet it doesn’t appear to be.

    It’s beginning to feel like they’ve pulled the $25m/yr number out of thin air to justify six new officers and a broken window policing approach. From what I’ve gleaned, the fare evaders they have caught, unsurprisingly, largely fall into the categories of (1) homeless/vagrants whose problems run far deeper than scamming BART and (2) kids who may deserve a stern warning (but probably more likely deserve to ride free in the first place.)

  • Jason

    I think an additional problem with respect to WMATA is that due to its governance structure the cost of throwing people in jail for fare evasion is “externalized” to the jurisdictions it runs through–it’s not directly answerable to anyone who has to worry about those costs. Whereas with a parking meter, although parking enforcement may not have to directly worry about those costs, it’s answerable to people who do.

  • one_kender

    You are about as dense as any other troll tries to appear to be. The red light cameras and the automated license plate scanners for the toll roads access function in the same manner and access the same license plate/driver database here. They are basically the same system. Here in Virginia, USA, you can and will get your driver’s license suspended for not paying either fine. I received the notices personally, just last year. As I said before, go back under your bridge, you bridge troll, and leave the lawyering to real lawyers. This state has the most ridiculous state government and legal system of anywhere I’ve ever lived. It claims to be staunch conservative but has laws and government programs for everything well as the taxes to go with it. I pay four separate taxes on my pickup truck. Water, sewage, sewage maintenance, and garbage collection are separate bills in the turn I live in. It makes me miss Arizona where things make sense.

  • milkate

    Wny does anyone deserve to ride free? It’s a public transit service, but that doesn’t make it free. When you pay, even if it’s a reduced fare, you have some ownership, some “skin in the game.” Public transit is a public good, and it needs public buy-in. That includes a sense that everyone’s paying their fair share, even if it’s a reduced rate. But someone riding for free makes paying passengers feel like chumps.

  • milkate

    Certainly spent a fair amount of time debating a topic you’re not interested in debating.
    I agree that our public spending priorities are skewed. I’m all for subsidized public transportation, but people need to pay something to ride it, in order to feel some ownership of the service. Some people riding for free while others pay makes the paying people feel like chumps.

  • It needs to be free for EVERYONE! Agreed

  • one_kender

    You are deluding yourself if you think the subsidies pay all of the costs of public transportation. They pay a portion but are by no means the lion’s share of the expense. Did you know that the bus drivers in Phoenix went on strike because they thought $60,000/year was too little pay for a bus driver and 20 minutes every couple hours wasn’t enough time to use the bathroom? That $60k PER DRIVER is just a drop in the bucket because there’s fuel costs, fleet maintenance, replacing old buses and train cars, expansion of services as cities grow. The subsidies cover labor and sometimes initial infrastructure.

    Furthermore, how can you say that they prey on the poorest of Americans when the poorest of Americans ride for free? For public transportation to be free for everybody, cities would have to double or even triple their annual investments into public transportation which would lead to higher tax rates for all of us, even those like myself who work at multiple job sites daily and need to haul equipment and tools. I CAN’T use public transit any more. It would take hours to get between sites 20 minutes apart by car and I have too many tools to sit in my lap. I already pay enough taxes and it’s not like I’m rich. I’m not even in the middle class income bracket. I count my pennies just to be able to pay bills and keep Walmart-brand boxed macaroni and cheese on the table.

    Your pipe dreams of free everything for everyone are entitlement driven fantasy. The money has to come from somewhere and this whole idea that the gubernmint owes me free stuff is something other people have to pay for. No, fares on public transportation are not going away and they shouldn’t.

  • People like you love to pick on the poor while giving a free pass to the military industrial killing machine. Your pathetic
    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/05/pentagon-logistics-agency-review-funds-322860

  • The main obstacle to this commonsense arrangement is that Americans are not willing to pay taxes on the level that would be necessary to fund this. Make all the rational arguments you like about how this would benefit the entire community and everyone in it; but the mindless reflexive ideological opposition to “taxes” is impenetrable.

  • one_kender

    Pick on the poor? I AM poor. Did you miss the part where I am scrimping to pay my bills and eat mostly boxed macaroni (which is $0.36 per box)? I live in a cheap 2 bedroom house that is just a tiny bit bigger than the 1 bedroom apartment I moved out of. I have to live frugally just to survive. I, as a poor person have seen how when the state starts offering more programs to try to help me out, my cost of living goes up so that I’m even closer to the edge. I was like you when I had money. When my business went under in the recession and I had to live of of the state sponsored programs is when my eyes were opened. I found out it’s your elitist, out of touch drivel that is REALLY picking on the poor by giving us the impression that there is a way to make something out of nothing. It takes hard, smart work and intelligence to get back on your feet and rise out of the mire, not handouts and free services…unless it’s free education that is restricted to marketable and in demand fields.

  • one_kender

    So… Free transit by eliminating jobs. That seems kind of counterproductive. Pay me to maintain the fare machine and charge me to ride the bus to get there. I’d be happier with that.

  • You’re not tracking dude- ‘our’ government loses hundreds of millions of dollars on the killing machine but we can’t have a decent and free public transportation system.

    You’re a ‘right winger’ obviously

    We can’t communicate and we are both wasting our time attempting to

    Have a good day

  • El Deplorable

    I’m not opposed to decriminalizing fare evasion, but the example of the young mother who was arrested for resisting and fare evasion isn’t an example of why. Let’s be clear: regardless of whether fare evasion is typically a criminal offense, very few people are actually locked up over it. No, they just have to pay a fine and are generally only locked up if they resist or are found to have outstanding warrants during the course of the ticketing. This woman should have cooperated and she would not have been arrested. Changing fare evasion to a civil offense would not have prevented the outcome of that encounter.

  • one_kender

    I’m tracking fine. You’re the one who’s not tracking. You’re worried about free transportation to a dead end job. That’s not going to help anything. At best, it just maintains the status quo and gives the person who already has enough money to be able to pay the fares an extra $20/wk, if that. Those who are truly poor already get free or seriously reduced rates.

    If you really wanted to make a difference, you’d be talking about diverting that public transportation money into free or reduced rate education so that the poor could get out of their dead end jobs and make some real money. THAT is a difference with making and spending money on.

    That’s OK, though. You go ahead and keep in your crusade to make token gestures that make people feel like it’s just a little bit easier to stay at the bottom rung of society. Continue to cry about how the killing machine eats trillions and trillions of dollars… Or hundreds of millions of dollars… Or… Dude, the numbers you are using just keep going down, like you’re trying to negotiate a deal or something. Will your next comment be hundreds of thousands of dollars?

    Anyway, keep crying about how that money isn’t going towards things that are a drop in the bucket instead of lobbying to have that money used to make a REAL difference by actually getting people into a position where riding public transportation is a CHOICE, not a necessity and that $5.00 all day pass is money spent and never thought twice about.

  • Aaron

    My posting was about mismanagement and poor policing decisions and questioning whether the cost of fare evasion enforcement is recovered in thwarted fare evasion. In this case, it’s not clear that the $750k/yr in enforcement costs will be recovered. It also looks like the truth is being stretched about the costs of fare evasion, which may feed some of the “chump” sentiment unnecessarily.

    But, as for kids riding free: BART already allows 4yo and under to ride free. Are you suggesting they need to get more “skin in the game?” I would have no problem extending that fare free period to 18 or 21yo. I like to see kids being independent and a society that provides them infrastructure to succeed. It’s better for everyone if they’re not being driven around everywhere by their parents. We fund libraries and schools on this model and, in fact, we already fund the public school bus program on this model… a good bit of total kid movement everyday. Car crashes are also the number cause of death for kids and is particularly high in the 15-21yo cohort, if that sort of reasoning is at all compelling.

    Whether a completely fare free system makes sense is an interesting economic question. Historically, the SF Bay Area has experimented with this idea by way of the fare free “Spare the Air Days.” Somebody did the analysis that missed fare revenue was adequately offset by environmental and health costs on smog prone days. The trains were packed but the stations a breeze to navigate.

    Also bare in mind that, again using BART and its 2018 budget as an example, less than half of its revenue is from fares. Most of the rest is from sales tax (biggest chunk) and property tax (next biggest). Remember all those $3.5 billion dollar bonds like Measure RR? If you want to talk about “skin in the game” let’s talk about Prop 13 and its lopsided impact on BART subsidies. Those who weren’t prescient enough to buy a house in the 70’s and lock-in low property tax liability because they were, say, unborn, have plenty of skin in the game in one of the country’s most expensive regions to live. I myself am on the wrong side of Prop 13, but on the occasion that I’m driving the bridges at rush hour (handful of times a year), I’m pretty happy to subsidize people in the tube and reduce the road chaos up on the surface with me.

    BART is vital and needs expansion and improvement. It also has a long history of financial mismanagement and other screw-ups. How about focusing chump sentiment on the $3.3M per car they’ll pay Bombardier for the new fleet? Perhaps they should hire better contract negotiators and not more “Community Service Officers” policing a petty transgression with ultimately minimal impact?

  • Aaron

    This article and many of the comments below focus on parity of penalties between transit users and motorists. For me, the question is parity in how the 4th Amendment is applied between the two groups.

    Imagine a car centric downtown with fee-based public parking. Now imagine cops being allowed to stop anybody walking/dining/shopping and demanding proof of parking payment. Or, imagine a cop stopping a just parked car and demanding license and registration as the occupants disembarked?

    The issue of DUI checkpoints, which somewhat fits my hypothetical, went all the way to the Supreme Court and, indeed, the court was uncomfortable with the search and seizure issue. They ultimately found DUI checkpoints legal based on the significant risk intoxicated driving posed, even in the absence of per vehicle probable cause. There’s no way fare evasion, in risk or impact, is comparable to drunk driving.

    It’s going to depend on the type of system, but in any tag-in, gated system like most subways/light rail, there’s absolutely no probable cause for the vast majority of users who, indeed, have already been electronically or otherwise checked. In honor based systems, like rear door bus loading, there’s a better case for checking. Historically in the transportation industry there was a profession that did this: conductors. They were unarmed, wore jaunty hats and vests, were often friendly and knew the extent of their authority.

  • Earl D.

    The biggest problem that I see with this is blatant, habitual fare evasion erodes the image of public transportation as central pillar of a city’s transportation infrastructure (where it should be) and instead projects it as a poverty alleviation for poor people, that leads to the perverse situation in cities like San Francisco where avowed progressives on the one-hand constantly campaign for reducing the costs of light rail and bus service and expanding the number of people that can use it for free, while on the other hand fight tooth and nail to prevent route upgrades for the system because that would remove parking spaces which is how ‘real working class people’ get around the city.

    So, I guess the question would be: does decriminalization increase blatant fare avoidance? If so, is the lost revenue and long-term damage to people’s view of public transportation and subjective experience out-weigh the negative effects of criminalization upon the individuals caught and subjected to the municipal justice system? I would suspect not (e.g. law enforcement presence is not particularly well correlated with the dramatic reduction in violent crime that the US has seen over the last 25 years, but it is very highly correlated with the degree to which the US has filled its jails at immense social costs), but the premise isn’t totally far fetched.

  • Aaron

    Not sure why my original reply disappeared, but:

    My initial posting questions whether the $750k/yr in enforcement will ever be recouped. It appears that it may not. BART also appears that it may be stretching the truth in its $25M/yr in lost revenue, which may feed “chump” sentiment unnecessarily.

    As for kids: BART (the example I’m using here) already allows 4yo and under to ride free. Are you suggesting they need to get more “skin in the game?” I have no trouble raising that cutoff to 18 or 21yo. I like to see kids be independent and have an infrastructure in which they can succeed. We all benefit and street level wear and tear is reduced when parents aren’t driving them everywhere. It’s already the model we use for libraries, public schools and, in fact, the public school bus program that accounts for a good chunk of kid movement every weekday. Car crashes are the number one killer of kids in the US and is particularly high among the 15-21yo cohort, if that sort if argument is compelling.

    As for fare free system for everyone, that’s an interesting economic question that will differ region by region. Historically, the SF Bay Area has experimented with fare free by way of “Spare the Air Days.” The trains were packed but the stations a breeze to navigate. Somebody did the calculation that lost fare revenue was offset by environmental and health savings.

    Again, keeping with the BART example, less than half of their revenue this year will come from fares. Most of the rest is from sales tax (biggest) and property tax (next biggest). If one wants to discuss “skin in the game,” we can revisit prop 13 property tax liability caps and the lopsided effect it has on transit funding (among many others.) Those who weren’t prescient enough to but a Bay Area house in the 70s, say because they were unborn, have plenty of “skin in the game” in one of the country’s most robust but expensive regions. I myself am on the unlucky side of prop 13, but the handful of times a year I drive the bridges at rush hour, I have no trouble with helping keep people in the tube instead of up on the surface traffic chaos with me..

    BART is vital to the region and needs improvement and expansion. It also has a long history of fiscal mismanagement and other screw-ups. If one wants to feel like a “chump” look at the resistance to driverless trains or the $3.3M per car they’ll pay Bombardier for the new fleet. Their time, energy and money can be better spent than on legally problematic enforcement and poor policing decisions over relatively minor problems.

  • zucho drig

    >Nobody gets thrown in jail for not paying a highway toll or a parking meter.

    Because you can tow away violator’s car and then 1) sell it to cover debt and fines 2) prevent more violations by the same car – double win.

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