One of the biggest frustrations Metro General Manager Randy Clarke has expressed is the revenue the transit system loses because people won’t pay their fares.
Metro says it has lost tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue since the D.C. Council decriminalized fare evasion in 2018, making it nearly impossible to enforce the civil offense.
A new proposal from Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto — the Metro Safety Amendment Act of 2023 — would change that.
“I have continued to hear from members of the public who are on the system every day, how frustrated they are with repeated instances of fare evasion,” said Pinto. While she agrees that no one should go to jail for hopping over a turnstile, she wants to give Metro Transit Police the ability to enforce the current $50 fine if they do choose to evade the fare.
Under her proposal, if “somebody fair evades, they get stopped. Now the [Metro Transit Police Officer] says, ‘I’m going to need your name and true address in order to send you a civil fine of $50,’” she explained. “If that person lies or fails to provide their true name and address, then they can be detained and the fine goes up to $100.”
A Metro spokeswoman did not respond to a request to comment, but WMATA leaders have urged the District to give transit police the ability to enforce the rule, the same way they can in Maryland and Virginia.
“I think there are a lot of residents who are following the law who are paying for their fare,” said Pinto. “And they see this [evasion] on either side of them and wonder to themselves, ‘Why am I following the law when there doesn’t seem to be any consequences for not doing so?’”
She also said there’s a public safety benefit from enforcing the fare.
“General Manager Randy Clarke has said in the past and other public forums … ‘not everybody who fare-evades commits crime in the system, but almost every single person who commits crime in the system has fair-evaded,’” said Pinto.
“There’s already been a number of high profile incidents where people have brought weapons onto the system or had fatal shootings, and many of those, I hope, can be stopped to make sure that our law enforcement officers are equipped to enforce this civil offense.”
The bill has initial backing from D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray.
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