Officials look to curb fare evasion

Nick Wicker

After an audit discovered that light rail fare evasion costs Metro Transit up to $28,000 per week, city officials are discussing potential solutions to cut down on financials losses. Metropolitan Council officials discussed next steps for the mass transit service at a meeting on Wednesday, which could include educating more transit riders rather than simply cracking down on those who dodge fares. The audit also found University of Minnesota U-Pass users donâÄôt scan their passes to ride the Green Line 10 to 15 percent of the time. Though this doesnâÄôt make for financial losses, it can skew data. District 15 Metropolitan Council member Steven Chávez said at the meeting he wants the council to look for solutions other than more stringent fare enforcement. He said the council should consider rewards that might incentivize swiping a prepaid card, such as getting a free ride after a certain amount of certified âÄútags.âÄù Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said more police officers will join the agency in the coming months. In addition to more officers, Metro Transit will increase public awareness for âÄútaggingâÄù before boarding trains. Currently, Padilla said more than 200 Metro Transit police officers perform more than one million fare checks per year, a number he said will only increase with more police officers. Liz McNamara, auditor for the Met Council, said Wednesday that adding turnstiles at entrances or increasing enforcement at the light rail platforms might not deter fare evasion and would instead only cost the council more money. âÄúResearch shows that more enforcement does not reduce [fare] evasion,âÄù said Brian Hanninen, the audit project team leader, at the meeting. McNamara said fare avoidance isnâÄôt more prevalent on the University campus than other areas, but the institution should do more to show students why scanning their prepaid cards is important. Padilla said a large part of solving the issue will be persuading University students to scan their cards at campus stations, even though they have already paid their fees. District 9 Met Council member Edward Reynoso said Wednesday that the audit was a step in the right direction and gives the council a chance to see what changes need to be made.