DC Council takes 1st step toward decriminalizing Metro fare evasion

WASHINGTON — Starting soon, skipping a Metro fare could be more like getting a parking ticket than committing a violent crime.

A D.C. Council Committee has passed a measure to make fare-skipping a $50 fine — and not a crime punished by up to 10 days in jail.

The full council still needs to vote on the measure.

Supporters are concerned fare evasion arrests disproportionately affect black men — and that has only gotten worse because of a crackdown on fare-skipping that Metro began last year.

As part of the crackdown, Metro has installed extra-secure swing gates and alarms at rail station exits. But some people have raised concerns about confrontations between Metro Transit Police and riders over fare evasion.

Opponents of the bill, and some inside Metro, worry people would simply choose to risk the $50 fine, and will jump the turnstile anyway.

The original fare evasion law dates to 1978. The Washington Lawyers Committee examined more than 20,000 stops by Metro police and found 91 percent of those arrested or cited were black — and nearly half black men under the age of 25.

According to data presented by Metro Transit Police last week, officers have issued more than 8,000 fare evasion citations this year. Gallery Place-Chinatown is the most common location for citations on the rails.

Overall, Metro leadership has estimated fare evasion leads to a loss of up to $25 million.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report. 

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