Governor signs HB2777 and my fare gets inspected

Something remarkable happened this week. For the first time ever, a conductor on the WES asked to see my TriMet fare. I rode this commuter rail line for the first time five years ago and wrote about it for the Oregon Catalyst. It baffled me that TriMet has been paying to have actual conductors on the WES line but has not had them do what this anachronistic position was primarily meant to do: inspect fares.

Of course, as a lifelong public transportation commuter, I’ve on many occasions seen fare inspectors on TriMet’s light rail but not since last December. What happened six months ago to make the fare inspectors go away?

Researchers at Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government released a study showing that minorities are slightly more likely to be banned from TriMet for repeated fare evasion. The local district attorney offices then quickly announced that they would no longer prosecute fare evasion tickets.  TriMet then seems to have ended its random inspections, auditing fares only at major events like concerts and Blazer games. As word got out, no doubt many free rides were given on the steel wheeled mode of mass transit this year.

Then came HB2777 which now gives TriMet the proceeds of fare evasion fine revenue, which comes in at a non-trivial $175 per citation. That seems to have quickly given Oregon’s largest transit authority the incentive to even get their conductors to ask for proof of payment.

Indeed, on the very day our governor signed this bill into law, TriMet’s policy change became immediately visible. I was happy to be asked whether or not I have a ticket. Now hopefully the free riders will clear some room for the paying customers, and I can get a seat on my connecting MAX train so that I can pull out my laptop and get some more work done on my daily commute.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon House, Public Transportation, TriMet | Tagged | 3 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I would occasionally ride the Max from Lloyd Center into Down Town portland for free, when it was so for a decade and more; avoiding the parking costs and hassles Downtown; while end route to giving public testimony at City Hall (otherwise avoiding as much as possible Downtown). But man, it was kind of scary riding max after Rush hour with it being free to all comers. Often some malcontent (not yours truly) would be shouting obscenities. creating a feel as though at anytime one of the folks nearby would become unglued physically attacking riders.
    So, enforcing fares should help tame behavior.

  • Rob N Oregon

    if they are not going to make sure people are paying fares then they should not get public funds! it is my opinion that not a single dollar of tax payers money should fund bus routes that do not self support. if they do not take in enough money to cover the cost of that route then it should be shut down! our givernment shouldnt be working off the tax payers dollars it should be working off fee’s collected period if some department does not pay for itself then it should be shut down!

  • Evan Manvel

    Lots of services are inspected randomly and by chance: for example, paying for parking. If we’re wanting 100% fare inspection on transit (I think audits have found about 80-85% riders pay fares), we should demand 100% inspection for paying for parking, right?

    Or is there perhaps a balance between the cost of inspecting and the benefits of 100% inspection rate?

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