clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hiring more cops to chase down Metra fare evaders is a waste of money

There were 43 arrests between 2016 and 2018 for fare evasion on Metra trains. Clearly, this isn’t a major problem for the agency. The resources required to further crack down are disproportionate to the problem.

Metra is considering hiring more security officers to crack down fare evaders and eliminating the ability to buy a ticket on a train for cash.
Metra is considering hiring more security officers to crack down fare evaders and eliminating the ability to buy a ticket on a train for cash.
Sun-Times file photo

Metra should abandon its regressive plan to ramp up enforcement of fare evasion with more Metra police.

Data obtained via FOIA shows there were 43 arrests between 2016 and 2018 for fare evasion on Metra trains. Clearly, fare evasion isn’t a major problem for the agency. The resources required to further crack down are disproportionate to the problem. What’s more, fare evaders are often low-income people of color — people who are often in their position due to institutionalized racism and systemic poverty rather than because they are bad actors.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Fines for small infractions like fare evasion criminalize poverty. They wreak havoc on the lives of vulnerable people by limiting their job prospects and contributing to crushing debt.

The harmful impacts of the policy outweigh any small revenue boost. The resources spent on Metra police would be better spent on exploring a reduced fare for low-income residents or installing tap-on tap-off technology at its 242 stations. This alternative could also help Metra comply with the state mandate to integrate fare collection with CTA and Pace so people can seamlessly ride transit throughout the region.

The Active Transportation Alliance proposes creating a reduced fare program for low-income residents and imposing community service hours as an alternative to criminal penalties.

Research from TransitCenter — a national foundation that studies urban mobility ­— shows “there’s no evidence that lighter penalties for evasion will incentivize less payment or lead to greater revenue loss for transit agencies. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that criminal penalties for fare evasion make taking transit riskier for many riders, are expensive to enforce, and may discourage ridership.”

By decriminalizing fare evasion, Metra can take a step towards becoming more just and fair system for its riders.

Julia Gerasimenko
Advocacy Manager
Active Transportation Alliance

Unfair to eliminate cash Metra fares

Last Monday, I learned that Metra is considering eliminating cash fares paid on a train.

But what if one boards an inbound train to the city from a station where there is no ticket agent on duty and there are no ticket vending machines? I sometimes take an early train into the city from Lemont, and that is the case.

Would I have to buy an expensive smart phone for which I would, thankfully, have no other use, just to make Metra happy?

As for the need to speed up the ticketing process, which is supposedly Metra’s chief concern, I have a solution. When I stand in line at Union Station, the ticket agents are often laughing and horsing around with other employees on their side of the glass. Perhaps they should pay more attention to the customers at the window. Just a thought.

Or could it be that those poor, over-worked conductors have been complaining about having to do their jobs? On my line, they often wear themselves out talking to favorite riders, or other conductors, while standing in the vestibule of the car I’m in.

The idea of mass transit is just that: to make transit available to as many people as possible. Could it be that Metra wants a certain type or class of rider, one equipped with appropriate forms of technology, and anyone else can get out and walk?

As for Metra’s argument that this is also a “security” issue, that’s quite laughable. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have been dead for some time.

John Vukmirovich, Lemont