Your news release yesterday trumpeted, “March’s fare enforcement report continues 13-fold increase,” like that was some kind of awesome victory. But setting aside the suffering of all the poor and working-class people who will now have to pay $175 fines or be excluded from transit for 90 days, TriMet, have you done the math on this?
Thanks to your new strategy of increased enforcement, according to the press release, you expect to bring in revenue of $250,000 from citations this year. Six new supervisors hired last summer bring your team to a total of eighteen full-time fare enforcers (plus additional hours of fare enforcement by other field supervisors). Dividing $250,000 of revenue by the 18 full-time enforcers, you get just $13,889 of revenue a year per enforcer. You must be paying them a lot more than they’re bringing in, TriMet, because they’re only bringing in $6.68 an hour, and that’s less than the minimum wage.
So explain this to me. In a time when you claim to have a budget hole of millions of dollars, when you are cutting service and raising fares for the umpteenth time, why would you want to throw money away on a misery-generating program like that? Money you could be spending on transit service instead? I fear you are on the road to a Pyrrhic victory, TriMet. The day may come when, at last, not a single person evades their fare – because not a single bus or train still runs.
Think how much you’d save if you abandoned fare enforcement and went to a pay-what-you-will or suggested-donation honor system. Fare dodgers could dodge in peace, some folks would pay a little less and others a little more – and most importantly, more people would ride! I’m not convinced your total revenue would drop at all. With the money you saved on fare enforcers and tickets and ticket machines and transit police, you could increase service. The more frequently the buses ran, the more people would ride, and the more people rode, the more frequently the buses could run. Think of it: abundance, instead of scarcity!
Or we could just fund the whole system through sufficient taxes, since a transit system is good for everyone. That would make sense too. But let’s stop squandering money on enforcing fares. What a waste.