From Portland Afoot
Fare jumping or fare evasion, failing to pay a required transit fare, happens regularly on MAX because the stations have no turnstiles or on-site employees. It also happens on buses, sometimes when people simply refuse to pay the operator.
TriMet estimated that its total fare evasion rate for July 2010 through Dec 2010 was 5.9 percent, spokeswoman Bekki Witt said.
Riders are punished either with citations (typically a $175 fine, under TriMet Code 28.15), with verbal warnings or with "exclusions," which ban them from TriMet for a period. In July 2011, TriMet announced that it would begin issuing $175 fines even to first-time offenders, in an effort to reduce fare evasion on the system.
 Why do I see so few people buy tickets?
Because so many TriMet riders use monthly passes, fare jumping is less common than some occasional riders imagine.
"Half of the people on a MAX train have a monthly pass," TriMet executive Carolyn Young said in October 2010.
 Declining enforcement
As reported in Portland Afoot's 10-minute newsmagazine for March 2011, TriMet fare enforcement entered a sharp decline following the September 2010 TriMet cuts, when the agency cut 17 fare inspector positions.
 11 full-time fare inspectors on TriMet
As of July 2011, the agency employs 11 full-time fare inspectors, up from seven in fiscal year 2011 but down from 24 in 2010. Additional shift supervisors try, and sometimes fail, to devote one hour per shift to fare enforcement, theoretically bringing the total to 18 full-time enforcement positions.
Transit police are also allowed to check fares, though it is not their first priority.
Explaining the new fare inspection budget in June 2011, McFarlane said the agency's plan was "to deploy these fare inspectors in a very scientific way, where we actually go out and survey where evasion may be occurring" and deploy inspectors based on that data.
Most of the expense of enforcing fares on TriMet comes from the fare inspector's pay. TriMet pays inspectors, who are unionized, a $67,000 annual wage plus health and pension benefits. As of 2011, their hourly wage starts at $32.54, for a total cost of $46.93 as TriMet calculates their benefits.
 Small revenue from fare citations
TriMet collects less than 16 cents for every $1 in a typical fare citation, presumably because many people never pay for their citations. This does not include the extra expense of sending its staff to court.
TriMet collected only $179,000 in fiscal year 2010 from tickets and court fees, despite issuing 6,469 fare citations, according to spokeswoman Bekki Witt. If TriMet had collected $69 on each of those citations (its income after subtracting court fees), its revenue from fare enforcement alone would have been $446,361.
TriMet's low revenue from fare citations, in addition to the high cost of collecting fines through the court system, suggests that the agency would not see more revenue if it hired more fare inspectors.
"If you pull them off the system (to make a court appearance) you are going to have to put a replacement supervisor there, and that would be time and a half," TriMet Executive Director for Operations Shelly Lomax said in February 2011.
 Lost fare revenue
Because of TriMet's low return on fare citations, the greatest effect of fare enforcement on the TriMet budget is probably fare revenue, which brought the agency about $95,000,000 in fiscal year 2011. If people think they can ride TriMet without being caught, they may be less likely to buy fares.
 Where does fare jumping take place?
 On buses
More than 200 times on a typical day, someone boards a TriMet bus, but refuses to pay. Though under TriMet policy bus operators are not required to personally enforce the fares, they are supposed to push a button on their dashboard to notify the agency of where the incident has taken place.
 Most common locations for fare-jumping
In that week, the five most common locations for bus fare-jumping were:
- NE 82nd Avenue MAX overpass: 33 incidents
- N Lombard Street and Interstate Avenue: 23
- E 6th and Burnside Street: 18
- SW 5th and Pine Street: 15
- SW 5th and Salmon Street: 14
 Most common lines for fare-jumping
In that week, the five most common bus lines for fare-jumping were:
 Criticism of TriMet practice by operator
In the following video, posted in December 2010 by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, and posted in a comment on this page by Beaver Journal publisher Benjamin Kerensa, a woman identified as a TriMet bus operator describes what she saw as the agency's lack of support for drivers.
Among the alleged incidents she describes:
- Having "teenagers from Madison" threaten to slash her throat, then having a dispatcher refuse to send police because didn't seem to be in immediate danger.
- Having her door kicked in by a threatening passenger, then waiting 7 and 1/2 minutes for a call from the dispatcher. At this point she says she was told to "just proceed on. If the glass falls out, then call us back."
"They've cut our supervisors back so far that they don't have any people left to cover it," the operator says. "It's not worth my life to have them pay five cents.
"Drivers, most of them will say they don't even check fares," the operator adds. "I do, and then I get called in with false claims because I checked fares."
 On MAX
Portland Afoot doesn't yet have data about the most common locations for MAX riders to be caught without fare. It's possible that we wouldn't reveal this if we did, because it might be a useful tool for fare evasion.
 Penalty patterns vary by county
Typical penalties for evasion vary by county. In Clackamas County, most riders caught in 2009-2010 were banned from TriMet. In Multnomah and Washington counties, most fare jumpers got off with warnings, but Multnomah County was more likely to issue either a citation or an exclusion than Washington County, the most permissive.
 Clackamas County
- Citations: 7 (2%)
- Warnings: 107 (35%)
- Exclusions: 195 (63%)
 Multnomah County
- Citations: 3,512 (22%)
- Warnings: 10,501 (66%)
- Exclusions: 2,008 (13%)
 Washington County
- Citations: 358 (10%)
- Warnings: 2,810 (76%)
- Exclusions: 516 (14%)
 Enforcement of immigration laws on fare-jumpers
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency sometimes pursues deportation for illegal immigrants who are arrested for TriMet fare jumping, according to a September 2010 article in the Portland Mercury.
 Advice for people who get caught without fare
In a February 2012 interview about fare enforcement, longtime TriMet fare inspector Gary Radford told the Portland Tribune that "Crying does not get you off"; nor does taking a cellphone photo of a malfunctioning ticket vending machine. "Give me an excuse that’s believable, that I haven’t heard before, I’m going to let you go."
Excuses, as reporter Peter Korn wrote, like the one from "the guy who produced a ticket from his mouth, wet with spit and hardly decipherable, because, he claimed, when he got nervous he habitually chewed on random things and his transfer just happened to be in his hand.
"Radford let that guy off."
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