Caltrain began testing its new fare enforcement policy, which will give fare evaders administrative citations instead of criminal citations that require a court visit, reducing fines and speeding up the process. Citations will only be warnings until July 25, at which point fare evaders will be fined.
In the past, Caltrain has used a proof-of-payment/honor-based system, and conductors were responsible for daily fare inspections. This policy was time-intensive, which hindered the ability of conductors to make more checks. Approximately twice a month, fare evaders have responded aggressively toward conductors during the 10- to 15-minute citation process, resulting in the train being stopped and Transit Police being dispatched to make an arrest, inconveniencing the train’s other passengers. The new administrative citations will reduce the necessary man-hours, free up conductors to check more tickets, and has the potential to generate more revenue.
Caltrain operates in three jurisdictional counties in California: San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. The previous policy presented many challenges to Caltrain patrons with varying court procedures and penalties depending on jurisdiction. The new policy will create a standardized electronic issuance procedure for conductors and minimize confusion for Caltrain passengers. In addition, the in-house administrative hearing/review process will reduce court congestion for all three Superior Courts.
Currently, fines are $250 plus court administrative fees and are considered criminal infractions. The new ordinance will reduce fines to a $75 administrative penalty for a first offense.
The new administrative notice of violation will adopt procedures to identify, deter, and penalize fare evasion in a timely, efficient and fair manner. This will minimize the expense and delay where existing remedies available, through the criminal court system, are costly and time-consuming for all parties involved.
The goal of the new policy goes beyond revenue. By identifying and penalizing fare evaders on Caltrain it reduces the amount of incidents of assaults on conductors and provides a safer and more efficient commuter rail system to the public. The new ordinance will create a standardized “zero-tolerance” approach, and greater enforcement will allow Caltrain to recoup money that is being lost due to fare evasion, and ensure that responsible riders don’t shoulder the burden for those unwilling to pay.