Revenues don't justify fare evasion crackdown
Data obtained via FOIA shows there were 43 arrests between 2016 and 2018 for fare evasion on Metra trains. Clearly, fare evasion isn't a major dilemma for the agency. The resources required to further crack down are disproportionate to the problem. What's more, fare evaders are often low-income people of color -- people who are often in their position due to institutionalized racism and systemic poverty rather than because they are bad actors.
Fines for small infractions like fare evasion criminalize poverty. They wreak havoc on the lives of vulnerable people by limiting their job prospects and contributing to crushing debt.
The harmful impacts of the policy outweigh any small revenue boost. The resources spent on Metra police would be better spent on exploring a reduced fare for low-income residents or installing tap-on tap-off technology at its 242 stations. This alternative could also help Metra comply with the state mandate to integrate fare collection with CTA and Pace so people can seamlessly ride transit throughout the region.
The Active Transportation Alliance proposes creating a reduced fare program for low-income residents and imposing community service hours as an alternative to criminal penalties.
Research from TransitCenter -- a national foundation that studies urban mobility -- shows "there's no evidence that lighter penalties for evasion will incentivize less payment or lead to greater revenue loss for transit agencies. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that criminal penalties for fare evasion make taking transit riskier for many riders, are expensive to enforce, and may discourage ridership."
By decriminalizing fare evasion, Metra can take a step toward becoming more just and fair system for its riders.
Julia Gerasimenko, Advocacy Manager
Active Transportation Alliance