King County Metro is changing how it handles bus riders who don't pay

King County Metro is changing how it handles bus riders who don't pay.

The changes to the fare violation program eliminate sending violators to court or to collections.   It also reduces the fine for not paying a fare from $124 to $50. If the fine is paid within 30 days the fee is cut in half, to $25. If the fine is not paid the individual would be suspended from Metro service for 30 days.

The changes were made after an audit was completed in April 2018 and found the current enforcement system wasn’t working. The fare enforcement program costs Metro $1.7 million dollars a year, and according to the audit,  in 2016 the county got back less than $12,000 in fines. It also found in 2016 officers issued more than 39-hundred infraction citations, but only 94 people paid them.

The audit revealed the fare program was having a negative impact on homeless riders.  Nearly 25 percent of all citations and 30 percent of the misdemeanors were given to people who are homeless or experiencing housing instability, according to the audit.

Metro worked with advocacy groups to create the new program and really worked to understand why riders don’t pay.

As part of the change, Metro is also wiping out all previous citations and fines and giving all riders a fresh start. It also adds the chance for violators to pay their fines by doing community service, instead of paying cash. If the violation is not handled in 90 days, the rider could be suspended from Metro service for 30 days.

Metro hires a private company, Securitas, to do fare enforcement on the Rapid Ride Lines, where customers pay before boarding.

Starting next month Metro will expand paying in advance and all-door-boarding on all buses that use Third Avenue.   Fare enforcement will be checking riders on all buses, not just Rapid Ride, along Third Avenue. They will start by giving passengers warnings and use the interactions as a chance to educate them on the options. Many riders could qualify for discounted Orca LIFT cards.

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