Portland's TriMet to fine first-time fare evaders

Posted on July 21, 2011

In addition to expanding the number of staff dedicated to fare inspection, Portland, Ore.-based transportation agency, TriMet also is shifting the focus from education to enforcement.

Six new supervisors have been hired exclusively for fare and code enforcement, and their work will move away from a warning and education focus to issuing citations and exclusions if riders are found without a valid fare.

Over the past five years, the majority of riders received a warning when found without a fare. Between 60 and 72 percent of fare enforcement resulted in a warning during this time frame.

Neil McFarlane just wrapped up his first year as TriMet GM and regularly heard concerns about whether the agency was collecting all of the fare revenue from riders.

"More fare inspection and the shift to enforcement will improve the integrity of our fare system," said McFarlane. "This change sends a clear message to our riders that they need to pay their fare or face a stiff fine even for a first offense."

The base fine for not having a valid fare is $175; exclusions from the system can extend up to 90 days.

Over the past two years, the number of staff dedicated to fare inspection was cut due to the ongoing recession and the agency's $60 million budget gap. The addition of six new supervisors dedicated to fare and code enforcement will increase the number of fare enforcers to the equivalent of 18 full-time staff. Supervisors assigned to other duties each spend an hour a day checking fares.

Additionally, TriMet has doubled the number of technicians dedicated to maintaining the Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) on the MAX platforms. TVMs perform at approximately 93 percent uptime. While checking fares, fare enforcers have access to real-time TVM performance data to verify if a machine is out of service.

With the new Fiscal Year 2012 budget that began July 1, 2011, McFarlane directed the addition of six supervisors dedicated to fare inspection. This expansion costs nearly $580,000 for the year. Of the $175 base fine, TriMet receives $69; the rest goes to the county and state.

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