Fare Enforcement: Reducing Penalties for Our Communities

Picture of someone getting on the bus, about to pay for the bus, holding a dollar bill.The EPA defines Environmental Justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

HB 2777 Development (checked!), Implementation (In Process), Enforcement (Coming Soon)

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Bus Riders Unite have been tracking HB 2777 since it’s development. If you remember, HB 2777 passed in 2017, authorizing mass transit districts to assess fines, or require performance of community service in lieu of fines, for transit violations. This important change takes transit-related violations out of the criminal justice system, preventing minor transit violations from leading to a criminal record. Read more here. We thank dedicated BRU member Nic Phillips for representing riders on the Transportation Equity Advisory Committee (TEAC) and pushing TriMet to change the fare enforcement process to make it more equitable.

A flowchart of the process of fare evasion tickets in the new policy. After a citation is issued, a 90-day stay is placed on criminal charges. The rider can either pay the fine to TriMet, engage in community service, or have a hearing with trimet. After 90 days, either the citation is resolved, or not resolved and then forwarded to the courts. The process concludes with data collection, and reporting to the state legislature about how the process is being used.

The current citation system is a burden on people of color and low income folks who are at the crossroads of other intersectional burdens. Citations for not paying fares are drastically more expensive than a citation for not paying for parking in downtown Portland. Receiving a citation for fare evasion could set off a chain reaction, leading to exclusion or Interfering with Public Transit (IPT) charges which are considered a Class A misdemeanor, equivalent to a DUI.

Bus Riders Unite members remain engaged in the implementation process to ensure that their questions, concerns and recommendations get addressed to serve the purpose of reducing penalties for the minor crime of fare evasion:

  • The current $175 citation is far too high and low-income people cannot afford it.
  • Riders need a more customized process to help prevent them falling into a spiral of larger and larger fines and exclusions.
  • Decriminalization of certain citations may eliminate collateral consequences to employment, housing, and military service that could occur if someone has a citation on record with the court.

Bus Riders Unite members have been tracking, analyzing and have been in conversation about every step of this new administrative system. Here are some findings and thoughts from riders:

Philosophy of Fare Enforcement:

  • “What is (TriMet) trying to do with $175 ticket- is it to be punitive?
  • “How do you come up with $175.00 when the majority of ridership is low income?
  • “Can the public do a walk-along or ride-along with fare enforcement?”

Communication Process:

  • TriMet should use multiple languages when giving out the information regarding the ticket.
  • TriMet should constantly communicate to let our communities know about their options in fare enforcement proceedings.

Citation/Fine Issued:

  • Parking tickets in Portland are $65 dollars, why not have a similar price?
  • Having a fine for fare evasion that is based on income level would be ideal.
  • TriMet must conduct outreach to low-income people and people of color with information regarding this new process.
  • If there must be a fine, it should be $50.00

Paying TriMet

  • Payment should not put financial burdens on Low-income people.
  • TriMet should provide a budget in how they intend to utilize the money from the fare enforcement process.

Community Service

  • Often, community service that is required through court and/or jail is intended to shame offenders.
  • Who benefits from community service?
  • Where is TriMet partnering to have community service benefit communities that needed?
  • Recommendation:  Find projects that would restore the person within their community, not have the process be shameful, and include options for folks with disabilities.
  • Recommendation: 4 ½  hours with ½ hour being educational piece.

Hearing with TriMet:

  • Folks who choose to have a hearing with TriMet should not have to face the person who gave them the citation.
  • TriMet must have an interpreter for those choosing to have a hearing

Youth Citations:

  • Has there been any discussion between the level of minors vs. adults who are ticketd with fare evasion?
  • Youth must be at the table before any decision gets made which will impact them.

Data Recording:

  • TriMet must ensure that data collection is transparent – what is collected, how is it used, and when is it shared outside the agency?
  • Can data be made available to oversight committee quarterly or otherwise regularly?

Not Resolving Citation:

  • Why can’t the ticket receiver make the choice on how they get the money back if they fail to pay in 90 days?
  • “If the fine is not paid in full by the 90 days dead line, how quickly does Trimet return all funds that went towards the fine?”

A committee formed to follow the administrative process following the recommendations of Bus Riders Unite and OPAL. It met on November 1st, 2017 and November 27th 2017. There is a proposal at the table for lowering fines and allowing community service, but there is still more work to be done. Bus Riders Unite will continue to engage to impact the final policy, because the policy will continue to impact us. If you want to learn more please contact Maria Hernandez at maria@opalpodx.org

Posted in Against Militarization, Against White Supremacy, Bus Riders Unite, Policy Advocacy, Transit Justice.