Metro to Issue Warnings, Tickets for Fare Evasion

Metro will soon begin issuing tickets to fare evaders, in an effort to curb what the agency says is a $40 million problem.

Starting today, Metro will begin a warning campaign to alert people who neglect to pay fares that there are fines associated with fare evasion in each of the agency’s three jurisdictions.

The warning campaign will begin with notices displayed on digital signs throughout the system, Metro said. After the digital signs run for two weeks, Metro Transit Police (MTPD) officers and other Metro personnel will start distributing physical fliers to fare evaders with the same warning information.

Beginning in November, Metro police officers will issue citations to anyone caught not tapping their SmarTrip cards or mobile phones at fare gates, exiting emergency gates in stations, and not tapping fare boxes on Metrobuses.

Criminal tickets with fines up to $100 will be issued in Maryland and Virginia, while a civil offense has been created for fare evasion in D.C., where police will begin issuing $50 tickets. According to Metro, tickets are provided by each jurisdiction. However, until recent legislation in D.C. established a process for adjudication and appeals, Metro did not have tickets to use; as a result, Metro was not able to issue citations for fare evasion in the District.

A Metro press release noted that fare evasion results in significant revenue losses, and is part of Metro’s efforts to close a shortfall of nearly $185 million in the upcoming budget. Using data from Metrobus and pre-pandemic industry averages for Metrorail, Metro conservatively estimates revenue losses due to fare evasion totaling $40 million in the fiscal year 2022, or 22 percent of the total budget gap. Metro will be able to measure the scale of the problem more accurately with the help of new faregate technology that is currently being installed.

“As I mentioned previously, the region needs to decide what we want Metro to be, and fare policy should be part of the conversation,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke in a statement. “Many people have mentioned going to a fare-free model, but fare-free does not mean free. There are costs associated with running the community’s transit system, and therefore, the necessary revenues must exist to deliver the services the community needs.”

Metro is also exploring other methods for preventing customers from entering rail stations without paying. In November, Metro will begin testing faregate modifications as a preventative measure. Prototypes are currently in development and will be installed at a selected rail station for employees to test. In addition to tactile deterrents on top of faregates and higher barriers, other modifications are being examined. Upon completion of the initial round of employee testing, customers will be able to test the modified faregate and provide feedback early next year.

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