Light rail fare evasion doubles

Increase in number of light rail free riders

MINNEAPOLIS - With no one watching as they board, some light rail passengers say the temptation to skip the pay station is too much.

"If I'm trying to go somewhere, and I don't feel like paying, I just hop on that," said one young man at the light rail station in the Warehouse District on Tuesday afternoon.

Attitudes like that cost Metro Transit millions of dollars. According to an audit paid for by the Metropolitan Council, the number of free riders has doubled since 2014.

At about $2 per ride, that would about total $3.8mil to $4.8 million in unpaid fares this year.

"What the report doesn't tell us is why that is," said Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla.

Padilla said it is a balancing act between taking a loss of a few million dollars every year, or investing much more to try to make everyone pay.

"What we do know is that they are expensive. For example, I think our colleagues in Los Angeles spent $46 million to put up barriers, turnstiles, in some of their stops," Padilla said.

The Twin Cities' fare evasion numbers are now on the high end, compared to numbers provided to KARE 11 from other similar-sized light rail systems that all rely on the same honor system as Metro Transit.

The question remains, what else can be done to lower the numbers?

That same light rail rider who admits to not paying, says he would hesitate if he saw uniformed police officers on board.

According to the audit, by September, Metro Transit police had made more ticket checks than in all of 2014. 

Increasing patrols further, again, they say is a resource balancing act.

Metro Transit police's internal number show a much lower number of people riding for free, as low as 1 percent in September. But according to the audit, riders are probably extra careful when they see police, which could explain those lower numbers.  

The Met Council will discuss the audit at a meeting Wednesday night.
 

 


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