WMATA launches warning campaign to deter fare evasion
WMATA’s campaign is designed to raise awareness of fines currently associated with Maryland and Virginia, as well as inform fare evaders of the new civil penalties that will take effect in the District of Columbia from November 2022.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA/Metro) has announced that it has launched a warning campaign to alert people who neglect to pay fares that there are fines associated with fare evasion in each jurisdiction.
The warning campaign will begin with notices displayed on digital signs throughout the system. After the digital signs run for two weeks, Metro Transit Police (MTPD) officers and other Metro personnel will start distributing physical fliers to fare evaders with the same warning information.
“As I mentioned previously, the region needs to decide what we want Metro to be, and fare policy should be part of the conversation,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke. “Many people have mentioned going to a fare-free model, but fare-free does not mean free. There are costs associated with running the community’s transit system and therefore, the necessary revenues must exist to deliver the services the community needs.”
The warning period will conclude in November 2022, and MTPD officers will issue citations to anyone caught not tapping their fare cards or mobile phones at fare gates, exiting emergency gates in stations and not tapping fare boxes on Metrobuses.
Fare recovery is a major issue and has been mentioned as one of the top concerns of customers when talking with Metro staff and Metro Board Members. Revenue from fares allows Metro to keep buses, trains and MetroAccess services running.
The campaign is designed to raise awareness of fines currently associated with Maryland and Virginia and inform fare evaders of the new civil penalties in the District of Columbia that will take effect in November 2022. In Maryland and Virginia, fare evasion is a criminal offense, while the District of Columbia has now put in place newly established procedures necessary for MTPD to proceed with enforcing civil citations systemwide.
Tickets are provided by each jurisdiction and until recent action in the District establishing an adjudication and appeals process, WMATA did not have tickets to use. Therefore, the authority did not have the ability to issue fare evasion citations in the region.
Fare evasion is responsible for significant revenue losses and is part of the focus to close a shortfall of nearly $185 million in the upcoming budget. Using data from Metrobus and pre-pandemic industry averages for Metrorail, WMATA conservatively estimates revenue losses due to fare evasion totalling $40 million in fiscal year 2022 or 22 per cent of the total upcoming budget gap. New faregate technology, currently being installed, will allow Metro to more accurately measure the scale of the problem.
As part of the campaign, the authority is working with its local partners to offer resources to make public transit more equitable and affordable for those in need. A low-income fare pilot is getting underway in the District of Columbia, in addition to a proposal to provide $100 in SmarTrip credit for qualified residents to ride buses and trains.
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