(The Center Square) – Sound Transit has resumed issuing violations to passengers found to be riding repeatedly without proof of payment, but with more lenient policies in place.
Sound Transit updated its Fare Enforcement Policy to issue two warnings to passengers without proof of payment in a 12-month period. This return to fare enforcement began on Nov. 15. All passengers will start with zero warnings.
If a violator manages to have third and fourth interactions without proof of payment, the person will be issued a violation, including non-monetary options such as an online class or engagement activity, or with a $50 fine for the third violation, and a $75 fine for the fourth.
A violator who has five or more instances of riding without proof of payment in a 12-month period, will receive a civil infraction, which may be referred to the district court.
Passengers who are found to be riding without proof of payment and do not provide any form of identification will be asked to exit the train at the next station. If they refuse to leave, they will receive a referral to security.
Sound Transit’s updated Fare Enforcement Policy changed the old policy to increase the number of warnings to two in a 12-month period, remove suspensions so passengers without proof of payment may continue to ride the system, and remove law enforcement from having a role in fare compliance.
Sound Transit first reviewed its fare collection system in 2019. The agency conducted a survey of passenger activity and review of existing Sound Transit policy, revealing that people of color were found to be disproportionately without fare and were disproportionately more likely to be fined or referred to the court system than white passengers.
This finding resulted in agency staff recommending a suite of policy changes, budget actions, and fare changes to address the inequitable results comprehensively. The Sound Transit Board approved a new fare engagement pilot project with the goal of preventing the inequitable effects that result from unpaid fines and contact with the court system.
In 2022, Sound Transit’s systemwide ridership increased 83% and fare revenue increased 60% to $45.1 million when compared to 2021. Notably, the 2022 Fare Revenue Report found that fare revenue is not increasing at the same rate as ridership. In past years, ridership and fare revenue were closely linked, with similar increases or decreases. In 2022, however, ridership increased 83% and fare revenue increased only 60%.
The agency said the main cause of the difference is lower fare payment compliance when compared to pre-pandemic levels.