Metro Transit starts new fare enforcement program in Twin Cities

Green line train
A rider boards a Green Line light rail train in St. Paul.
MPR News 2018

Metro Transit is trying out a new approach to fare enforcement, starting this week.

As of Monday, riders on the buses and light rail trains in the Twin Cities will start seeing community service officers enforce ticket payments.

The officers will be “asking people for their proof of payment. And if they have not paid to be riding, they will be issued an administrative citation,” said Metro Transit General Manager Lesley Kandaras.

She said the fine for a first violation is $35 — and can be waived if riders:

  • Load $20 to their Metro Transit Go-To Card

  • Load $10 to their Metro Transit Go-To Card and view a “transit school video,” a video reviewing expectations for transit riders

  • Qualify for the Transit Assistance Program, and load $5 on their Transit Assistance Program card. The program offers reduced fares — $1 per ride — to riders from low-income households

“It will be an adjustment both for our riders and for our community service officers, but we’re really focused on educating riders about the expectations to pay and how if they do have a citation, they can get that taken care of,” Kandaras said.

And instead of Metro Transit police conducting fare inspections, 12 community service officers are staffed to take on that responsibility.

“What’s changed in recent years, like many law enforcement agencies, is our police department is down officers and so that meant fewer fares could be inspected. So, in many ways, we’re getting back to how things were,” said Kandaras.

The community service officers will also act as “eyes and ears” for public safety on buses and light rail trains, and at stations. Since the public transit agency is shifting fare inspection from police to the community service officers, Kandaras said the police department can focus more on “illegal behavior” on the transit system.

“Public safety on transit is our top priority. People, both our customers and our own employees, need to feel safe when on our system. So this new change in how we handle fare inspection is one of several steps we’re taking around that,” Kandaras said.

Penalties will increase for repeat violations, up to a $100 fine for fourth and subsequent offenses, as well as being banned from transit for 120 days. Metro Transit said unlike in the past, the administrative citations to be issued under the new program will not show up on criminal background checks.

Riders can pay their fines at a Metro Transit store, by phone or by mailing a check. But Kandaras said the goal is having people pay their fare and not be fined.

“My hope is that as we roll out and grow this new approach to fare inspection, is people will have a sense that Metro Transit officials are present on the system and are there to ensure that people who are riding our system are following the rules,” said Kandaras.