Metro starts cracking down on fare evasion

In recent weeks, Metro has been issuing warnings to riders who do not pay the fares required to ride the systems trains and buses. And starting Tuesday, police will begin issuing tickets again.

The transit system said fare evasion results in tens of millions of dollars in unpaid fares. It comes at a time when Metro is bracing for a $185 million budget gap.

“We’ve done, I think, a really concentrated, deliberative effort to do warnings first,” Metro General Manager Randy Clarke said at a meeting last week.

Signs have been posted at Metro stations warning customers about the change, and Metro Transit Police have engaged with and handed written warnings to customers seen hopping over the fare gates.

“We are doing everything we can to get people to comply without being confrontational,” Clarke said. “We need people that have the ability to pay their fare, to pay their fare.”

In 2018, the District decriminalized fare evasion, amid concerns that Black riders were targeted disproportionately to others. While it remains a criminal offense in Maryland and Virginia, the number of tickets issued to fare hoppers plummeted.

At the Metro Board meeting last week, Clarke acknowledged the practice was drawing criticism from those concerned that it would lead to more racial profiling in the transit system.

“It’s probably good for everyone to avoid Twitter on this topic,” admitted Clarke. “We’re just going to have our rules. We’re going to enforce our rules, but we’re going to do it in the most humane way possible.”

Fare jumpers will face a $50 civil fine in D.C. In Maryland and Virginia the fine is $100.

“Our message is, just please, if you have the ability to pay, pay your fare,” Clarke said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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