A Quarter of RapidRide Fare Citations Go to the Homeless or Housing Unstable, Report Finds


This is shameful.
People can't be expected to pay the fare when they use public transit.
Good reporting, @Syd. Free ridership for all gets my vote--as does electrically powered rail expansion to every corner of the inhabited Salish nation. Road maintenance will soon be impracticable.
An amnesty program makes sense. If you get into the hole because of a transit citation you should be able to show special circumstances (abject poverty, homelessness) and have the penalty waved.

@1) You will clutch your pearls every time a feather tickles your panties, huh?
Amnesty power should just be granted to the transit officers. If the transit scofflaw pleas special circumstance (poverty, homelessness), don't issue the citation. It is not a hard call to make if someone on the bus is a bit down on their luck.

Maybe just make a note of the interaction, instead of citation, for data analysis later on.
They could go back to the way it is done on regular bus routes (non Rapid Ride). The driver just lets people board without paying. I guess the fare enforcement officers could ask if they are homeless before issuing a citation?
Agree with @2.. but we'll need those maintained roads because rail just can't practically get to all places, so we'll still need buses.
Interesting report! I'd love to read a similar investigation into Sound Transit fare enforcement. It seems like fare enforcement comes in waves on the Link light rail. You can see none for a few weeks and then have your fare checked every day or multiple times a day for a week!
Good. For a society to function, there needs to be basic rules that are enforced.
Here's an idea: Don't steal services. Shit, Seattle. This is why we can't have nice things.
There should just be a waiver made for the homeless (or other similar circumstances), so you're not punishing people for the crime of being poor. This should be at the court side of the process, not the citation side.

Visibly having enforcement people check fares and issue citations (even if some of those get summarily tossed later) has a similar effect as the state patrol issuing speeding tickets or the IRS doing tax audits. The cop pulls one speeder to the side, and everyone else slows down. The fear of a ticket (or a tax audit) keeps most people from speeding excessively (or cheating on their taxes). If you eliminate enforcement, you'd see evasion rates spike.

So the trick is to figure out a system that maintains a visible enforcement to keep evasion low, but provide some relief for people in poverty who really should be allowed to ride for free, or at the very least not be penalized for being poor.

Provided the fine is paid in community service or similar, cool. Locking someone into a deepening cycle of fine based debt and legal trouble serves nobody. But that isn't what you mean, is it? Free rides for scofflaws, let the law abiding citizens pick up the tab? All based on the whims of an enforcement lackey rather than due process? No. Thanks.


Where is this "Salish Nation" of which you speak. Never heard of it, myself.

But wherever it is they'll still need emergency vehicles, freight deliveries, skilled tradesmen and presumably some visiting tourists to visit. Pretty hard to move furniture on passenger rail, so moving vehicles too. I could go, but you get the point. All of that requires a workable road system. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Also, cracks me up the airy way you and your pals throw around "free." "Free" health care. "Free" transit. "Free" college tuition. By which you mean, someone other than you can can pay for it.

Is there any hard data behind why homeless people ride the bus? My gut tells me most of them aren't onboard to just stare into space and be dicks, but I don't know any better than most of you. If it turns out that most of them are going to jobs, then the inevitable head tax funds could in part subsidize free ridership for homeless and low-income people. If they're going to services, we can help people helping themselves. If they're riding transit drunk, rowdy and just causing shit they can get community service. Fining them into oblivion for risking trouble to try to better themselves just isn't right. Neither is letting problematic behavior by some passengers screw up the transit system.
Who the fuck do you think is fare evading? Like, I'm surprised that the percentage who get ticketed being homeless isn't higher. The only other group I'd guess it kids, but an adult with any kind of money knows it's cheaper long-run to pay the fare than to get a ticket X% of the time.
@12 it's warm, you generally won't be hassled by police. It's mildly interesting. People need to be somewhere.
Once upon a time there was a magical place called the Magic Carpet Zone (map). In this magical land everyone rode for free! And then one day, during a recession when government money was scarce, the magic carpet was burned to the ground. Too many homeless people riding, they said. And a well-intentioned but kind of ridiculous free shuttle was set up specifically for those that couldn't afford to pay the fare.

But what happened right after the end of the Magic Carpet Zone? Suddenly more money was found for a Rapid Ride system, where everyone had to pay, but in a trust-but-verify kind of way.

So of course the homeless ride it.

In my view, good city transit should be free. Fares are already only a fraction of operating expense. Factor in the time lost collecting and enforcing fares, and it's even less. And it's never seemed quite fair to charge the same for 3 blocks as someone else pays to ride for 30 minutes.
just enforce all city laws equally, homeless, millionaire, "housing unstable" (thats a new one...), barista, junkie - enforce all laws equally, end of story.

"b-b-b-but" - nope, in a society there are rules and things generally are not free. the world doesn't owe you much of anything.
Fares don't cover much of the bill to operate transit, and they are right on the line of costing as much to collect in transaction time and other hassles as $$ they bring in anyway. Everybody benefits from transit, even (especially) people who hate it because all of those transit users are fewer single-occupancy beaters clogging up traffic for the well-to-do who insist on solo operating.
I thought Metro already had an elaborate system of discounted fares and other allowances for low-income people and others in difficult circumstances. For a homeless person who needs to get downtown for an appointment with a social worker, doesn't the social services system provide vouchers? I'm sure of the former. I'm not sure of the latter. I get the impression, though, that for poor people who need to get somewhere and don't have a car, they have options. It's not necessarily easy, but it's not impossible.

I think about the Baby Boomers, who have gone through their entire adult lives under the impression that driving is for the middle-class "us" and public transportation is for those poor "others." And yet in this metro region, after decades of struggle that long predated me, we've reached the point where public transit is more of an "us" mode of transportation than a "them" mode. But that advantage is precarious, and for middle-class "choice" riders who are afraid of taking public transit, their fears are not entirely unfounded. And I'm sure a lot of choice riders ask themselves repeatedly, "Do I really need to put up with this shit?"

I ride the bus and the light rail almost every work day. I take public transportation for trips for which most people who have a ride wouldn't even think of taking public transportation. I can tell from personal experience that there's a constant tug-of-war between civility and barbarism. Almost every day, almost every ride, I have an experience where some homeless or addicted person attempts to claim their territory and tell the rest of us we aren't welcome. It's the kind of experience that I couldn't imagine my old-fashioned parents putting up with. At what point do the forces of barbarism succeed in claiming their domain and return our public transit system to being a "them" mode of transportation?

Hey, I realize I'm conflating two issues: harassment/misconduct and fare enforcement. And yet, can any of us deny that there's a significant overlap between the two?
@15 The 'Magic Carpet Zone' went buh-bye because it became a rolling homeless shelter for punks and drunks. Metro does make reduced fare passes available for the homeless. If you want to get people out of their cars and onto transit, you got to make the buses safe and clean. No free rides, no bums. Once the word gets out that this isn't 'Freeattle', maybe we can start to get a handle on the vagrancy problem.
Let's try two thought experiments:

1. Two years of where the entire regional transit system with the possible exception of the Sounder is one big ride-free zone.
2. Two years where the fare enforcement and transit police staffing has been doubled.

Let's see which produces a more functional transportation system that gets more people where they want to go. Perhaps I'm presenting a false choice by not incorporating enhanced security into the global ride-free system, but by the same token, once the system is fare-free how do you ticket someone for turning a light-rail car into a rolling homeless shelter?

Matt the Engineer @15, you got some empirical evidence? I know other metros have experimented with fare-free transit systems. I don't recall offhand what their experience has been. And forgive me for sounding like a Bernie Sanders doubter, but if the success story is a place like Copenhagen, I'm going to be skeptical as to how applicable that is to us.
hobo-naps went down dramatically when they killed the free ride zone downtown. everybody who is not a piss-smelling piece of shit was glad for it. we don't need to go backwards. London's transit is the best in the world and everyone pays.
You can't keep suggesting more and more free shit without creating non-chickenshit-locality-only revenue for it.
WOW income tax, thanks marijiwana.
FFS, I'm so tired of the whining about "criminalizing poverty" or "criminalizing homelessness." It is neither. It is criminalizing criminal activity. If a homeless person steals from someone and they actually happen to get arrested, much less prosecuted, are they being criminalized for being homeless? No!

I'd like to know, if we can't ask them to pay transit fare, is there ANYTHING we should be able to hold homeless people accountable for? We let them drink or shoot up in public. Soon we'll be the first in the nation to host heroin injection sites. We let them piss and shit in full view of people. We let them leave mounds of trash, needles, and stolen bikes everywhere. We let them park their derelict RVs and pitch their tents wherever they want for weeks or months at a time. The city even plans to give them free fuel, insurance, and repairs for their RV's. We let them start fires under overpasses using stolen propane tanks. We let them go into businesses and threaten customers and make a scene. And on and on. And we wonder why the problem's grown out of control. The rest of us would be arrested or fined for these behaviors. Why should homeless drug addicts get a pass just because they're "homeless?"

Keep enforcing fares on the established bus routes but offer new free bus routes with limited service to core destinations. Paint these new busses so they are easily identifiable from non-free busses.
There are (at least) three different types of homeless: Working people who fell on hard times and can't afford a place to live (many of who perform basic needed functions in and around the city), migratory workers (who may be tied to the maritime industry in the city), and people with mental health and/or addiction issues. But we refuse to get that nuanced. Conservatives want them all "thrown out" (whatever that means) while liberals want to provide more services, but don't really follow through on that, or just throw money at the problem.

Personally, I think we should get serious about the mental/addiction issues: provide services and housing based on the situation - including involuntary commitments - and then have zero tolerance for street camping. That will cost money, however, and there's little will for more taxes.

For the working poor and migratory workers, I believe we should establish RV parks and mini house parks that have electrical hookups and sanitary facilities in areas like the space under the West Seattle viaduct in SODO. Here, people would have to register and keep their campsite clean - if they don't, they would get put into the social safety net system for the mentally ill/addicted. The idea would be that they live there long enough until they can either be placed in subsidized housing or afford all the nonsense up front payments the landlords are requiring these days. Maybe we could pay them to do basic tasks around the campground.

We need to acknowledge that some of the homeless perform work necessary to the functions of the city, and some need the sort of help that only government can provide. We need to help both groups. Right now, all we do is wring our hands and throw money at it.

As for transit, I'd be OK with it all being free, in exchange for strict standards of behavior while on the conveyance. Of course, we would have to provide more equipment, more operators, and more routes. That costs money.

New reader, and I am surprised by all of the miserable, selfish, bullying and stupid comments and commenters attacking those who are down on their luck. Maybe these jerks should take a RapidRide trip someplace nice, to soothe their unhappy souls. In fact, skip the fare and if questioned tell the authorities that the ride is on me!
kolodnybro @26, you're accusing others of bullying, and yet you seem to be just fine doing some bullying in your own right. Your behavior is reminiscent of the behavior that riders on our public transportation system have to deal with every day from individuals who are the chronic homeless or addicts or otherwise mentally ill (or just, to use a term that has gone out of styel, evil) and who try to tell the rest of us in no uncertain terms that the transportation system belongs to them and not us.

The fact is, King County Metro already tries to accommodate those who are "down on the luck" who need to get some place. Could they do more? Possibly. But let's all be honest here. Of the cases of fare evasion, how many of those cases are people who, really truly are "down on their luck," need to get some place for work or public services, and who literally don't have the money? Very few apparently.
@15- Magic Carpet Land was not burned to the ground, it was drowned in urine from its disproportionately wino citizenry. This resulted in others (read: fare-paying passengers, commuters, that is, the people the bus is supposed to transport in order to ease traffic) being disinclined to visit Magic Carpet Land.

I'm all for reduced-fare programs for poor people. They need to get around, access work etc. just like everyone else. But making buses free (or not enforcing fares, which is the same thing) ends up turning the buses into rolling shelters. We need shelters too, but the buses are not the place.
I ended my previous comment @27 "Very few apparently." I should have skipped the "apparently." We can only surmise. Just because someone who is evading the fare can't afford to pay doesn't mean they're not abusing the transportation system.
In Seattle, being poor is an affirmative defense for all matter of things that would be considered "wrong" in most cities.

Although we have myriads of low income assistance programs...including those for reduced or free transit fare, it appears flaunting paying is perfectly acceptable.

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”
― Anatole France
Yeah, T-back @31, Seattle in the year 2018 is right up there with 19th century France in the way we treat the poor. And not giving the addicted and mentally ill free rein on our transit system is right up there with letting people starve. Maybe you can work a Charles Dickens reference in there too while you're at it.

I know it's not quite so romantic, but maybe you should read up a bit on ORCA LIFT next time before you sound off.
@32: It was actually worse in 19th century France, so consider you're own hyperbole before cautioning others on their commentary.
Free transportation for all! Great idea, then even more of the have-nots will be coming here to steal from us and piss on our sidewalks from their many tents.
How about this: if you get caught without a ticket, you get free transportation to the state line!
Everyone is equal under the law and no one should get special treatment. If you can't afford ridding a bus DON'T!
It is merely one asspecked of the Big Three SSindustries of Earth-Human History: War; Poverty; Pollution . . . . --- https://www.ctj.org
There will always be the poor.
Well, why stop at "stealing transportation"....why not just extend it to food, clothing, going to the movies or any other number of things. Justified...because one is poor.

Yes, makes perfect sense...well in Seattle anyways.