Fare evasion sounds criminal, but it often isn’t. It could be as simple as someone tapping their Clipper Card on the bus and not realizing it didn’t register. And enforcement often disproportionately affects riders of color.
As a recent Streetsblog piece pointed out, fare evasion has a greater penalty than speeding, which has tickets but no potential jail time. And, while our public transit systems need funding, punishing people for lacking the ability to pay or for simply making a mistake isn’t the way to do it.
It’s time to decriminalize fare evasion. Tell the governor to sign AB 819.
Riders of color disproportionately impacted by fare enforcement
As in other areas of policing, fare evasion penalties often fall most heavily on people of color.
For example, a review of citation data in Seattle found that 22% of citations were given to Black riders, even though they made up only 9% of ridership. Black riders were even more disproportionately likely to face criminal charges due to fare evasion. And a study of citations on the Long Beach public transit system found that Black riders were more likely to get tickets. In Northern California, BART is currently studying whether its fare evasion enforcement has a racial bias.
We would like public transit to be free so there would be no need for fare enforcement. Until then, AB 819 is an important step toward making transit safe and accessible for all Californians.