Fare evasion a problem on MAX trains

TriMet acknowledges the fare evasion rate on MAX trains is high. (KATU Photo)

On any given day, according to a 2016 TriMet study, at least one out of every 10 people boarding MAX isn’t paying their fare. That compares to a 1-percent fare on TriMet buses, what the agency calls an “evasion rate.”

MAX riders like Ron Saroff know fare freeloaders are a problem on MAX and may reflect bigger security issues.

“People fare-jumping,” says Saroff, “and people cheating on the fares aren’t controlled. Then that leads me to conclude that perhaps other kinds of factors are also not being controlled as well as they should.”

Court records show, Jeremy Christian, accused of stabbing three people on a MAX train in May, had been cited seven times since 2011, most recently in 2017, for “no fare” and “no proof of payment.”

Christian told an officer in one incident that “he left his pass at home.”

TriMet says Christian was excluded from riding public transportation once in 2015.

After doing community service to work off early tickets, Christian no-showed on most of his citations, racking up unpaid fines of more than $1,500.

“Jeremy Christian did not have an active exclusion on May 26,” says TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt.

Two of the stabbing victims died that day. The third was seriously wounded.

But it’s also unclear whether Christian paid any fare that day or if he was once again riding MAX without paying.

“We found about a 10 to 14 percent fare evasion rate. That is high. That is concerning for us,” says Altstadt about the problem of riders not paying fare.

TriMet says installing gates to stop fare-jumpers at many MAX stations is impractical because they were designed to operate on the honor system.

Instead, the agency’s more than doubled its private security force by hiring 20 more private, unarmed security patrol officers. And it may hire more.

“It’s something that we are dedicated to increasing, our security, and making people feel safe on the system,” Altstadt says.

A survey of 33 transit systems in North America found that, just like TriMet, 30 used proof of purchase to verify if riders had paid for their ride.

The Translink system in Vancouver, British Columbia installed fare gates in April 2016. This June, officials reported a 10 percent revenue increase and a decrease in fare evasion tickets -- from 33,000 to 23,000.

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