TriMet will hire additional fare inspectors this year

For the past 25 years, a rider on TriMet's MAX trains caught without fare was more likely to be issued a warning than a ticket.

But that may be a thing of the past.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane announced last Wednesday morning that he is directing fare inspectors and police officers patrolling the region's 52 miles of MAX tracks to start issuing more citations and fewer warnings.

'We don't think it's fair to send the message 'Take a free ride on us,'' McFarlane said.

'More fare inspection and the shift to enforcement will improve the integrity of our fare system. This change sends a clear message to our riders that they need to pay their fare or face a stiff fine even for a first offense.'

The fine for not having a valid fare is $175. Exclusions from the system can last up to 90 days.

The change in direction coincides with TriMet hiring six full-time fare inspection supervisors, restoring staffing to a department the transit agency cut two years ago in the midst of the recession.

According to TriMet, warnings to passengers who failed to purchase valid fares during the past five years made up 72.39 percent of the 10,254 interactions fare inspectors and police had with riders that resulted in either a warning, citation or exclusion from buses and trains. Statistics on verbal communication with riders that didn't result in a warning or worse were not included in the numbers.

Citations made up 14 percent of the interactions, while exclusions accounted for 13 percent.

At the same time, TriMet has doubled the number of technicians who maintain the system's ticket vending machines on MAX platforms. The machines work about 93 percent of the time, and fare enforcement officers will have access to real-time information to verify if a machine is out of service.

No quotas

Shelly Lomax, TriMet executive director of operations, said most fare inspectors like the new, tougher policy. The policy doesn't have directives or guidelines yet.

'The direction that inspectors have been given for 25 years was a warning was the first go-to,' Lomax said. Inspectors will be more likely to issue a ticket to a commuter who forgot to buy a pass before hopping on MAX trains, though Lomax and McFarlane say inspectors would still have discretion to issue warnings in cases involving people like tourists or confused elderly riders.

McFarlane also said the agency's 18 full-time fare inspectors and the 58 Transit Police Division officers are also trained to help calm conflicts.

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