December 15, 2011

TriMet bolsters fare enforcement, revenues

After four months since the change to fare enforcement over education when checking fares, Portland, Ore.-based TriMet has given out nearly seven times as many citations as a year ago.

Riders now have an 83% chance of either getting a $175 citation or an exclusion if they don't have a valid fare. A year ago, those odds were 35%, according to TriMet GM Neil McFarlane.

"The move to enforcement is resulting in more riders buying fares, rather than having to face a $175 citation or exclusion from the system," said McFarlane. "We continue to move our fare enforcement effort throughout the system and at various times of days, so riders should be prepared and have a valid fare."

McFarlane estimates that the agency will receive about $460,000 this year due to more riders buying fares, covering most of the costs of the additional six supervisors hired to enforce fares. When TriMet moved to a stronger stand on fare enforcement, the six new supervisors, plus other supervisors spending an hour a day checking fares, brought the fare inspection team to the equivalent of 18 full-time fare enforcers. The agency is evaluating the cost/benefit analysis of whether to hire additional fare enforcers.

The base fine for not having a valid fare is $175, with up to $69 coming to TriMet the balance goes to Multnomah County and the state. Exclusions from the system can extend up to 90 days.

Additionally, the agency has been awarded a federal grant to hire four additional transit police officers, which includes a K-9 unit. The $1.5 million grant will bring the Transit Police Division (TPD) to a total of 62 sworn officers including 4 K-9 units. TPD includes officers from 17 jurisdictions from the tri-county area. The agency plans to have the new officers in place by next spring.

McFarlane also announced that TPD officers will be stepping up patrols for the holiday season. TPD Cmdr. Mike Crebs said the focus is to serve as a deterrent.

"With more riders traveling around with gifts and packages, we wanted to send a clear message that more police will be patrolling the system," said Cmdr. Crebs. "We also want to remind riders to be alert while on transit and report any suspicious behavior or packages."

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