NoVa Pushes Back on D.C. Fare Decriminalization

When last we visited the matter of turn-stile jumping and other ways of cheating the Washington Metro mass transit system, Washington City Council had voted to decriminalize the nonpayment of fares. It wasn’t hard to predict that Virginians would not look kindly upon the decision.

Now comes the inevitable reaction.

Paul C. Smedburg, chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, has written Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser asking the city to consider the implications of its action.  Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials, the letter said, project that decriminalization would result in the loss of revenue and shift of “tens of millions of dollars … to Virginia taxpayers and riders.”

We believe that decriminalizing fare evasion in the District sends the wrong message and is unfair to the overwhelming majority of WMATA’s riders who pay their fares. It also places an undue financial burden on our taxpayers and riders.

In Virginia and Maryland, the same legislation that provided dedicated funding for WMATA also instituted a 3 percent cap on increases in WMATA’s operating subsidy for our jurisdictions. The Council’s action will jeopardize WMATA’s operating revenues and we fear this could necessitate service cuts or fare increases to meet the requirements of the 3 percent cap.

Smedburg suggested that Washington City Council consider WMATA’s invitation to create a program to provide subsidized fare cards to low-income residents.

The District has already developed “fare buydown” programs, like Kids Ride Free, for specific categories of riders. With your leadership, we are confident that the District could develop and fund such a program that would preserve equity for all riders, protect the riding public across the region, and maintain the political framework that has led us to achieve dedicated funding for the WMATA.

In other news today… The Virginia Department of Transportation announced that state police would intensify HOV enforcement on Interstate 66 express lanes inside the Beltway this Thursday. The last HOV enforcement netted a total of 32 HOV violators and 19 other citations.

Violation of HOV rules is a traffic infraction punishable by fines including $125 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense within a period of five years from a first offense, $500 for a third offense within a period of five years from a first offense, and $1,000 for a fourth or subsequent offense within a period of five years from a first offense.

No mention in the VDOT press release of HOV violations being a criminal offense.

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22 responses to “NoVa Pushes Back on D.C. Fare Decriminalization

  1. this is much ado about nothing and here’s why:

    this is the Metro turnstiles:

    in the next post – take a look at how NYC does turnstiles

    • The juxtaposition of these two things cannot be lost on you, right?
      VA says DC must keep fare evasion a criminal offense (despite the fact that it’s been a civil offense in VA for years), followed by, VA uses civil fines for HOV violations.
      Why is it that everyone is OK with civil fines for parking, tolls, or HOV violations, but when enforcement falls heavily on Black and Brown and poor people, “we have to lock ’em up?” Seems like Mr. Smedburg might be a little bit racist.

  2. this is at least one way that NYC handles fare turnstiles:

    I’d say that the METRO turnstiles really do invite the scofflaws… and the NYC turnstiles deal much more effectively with the realities.

  3. In the last comment made in BR earlier article, Washington City Council Puts Virginia Taxpayers, Metro Riders at Risk,” the reader AlongThePike posted this very fine article, showing that DC Metro considers fare jumping to be a HUGE and growing problem, draining large amounts of income monies out of Metro coffers.

    Indeed 1 in 10 Metro bus rider are fare jumpers, stealing money out of the pockets of Metro. The losses are in the tens of millions and rising. Metro also argued that fare jumping led to a host of other crimes within Metro, and places nearby Metro stops. Metro confirmed opinions earlier expressed here n on BR, and more importantly pleaded with the city council not to pass this ordinance.

    Along the way, AlongThePike suggested that, fare evasion is a criminal offense in Maryland and a civil offense in Virginia,” an interesting twist. The article linked in below is well worth reading.

    Source: https://wamu.org/story/18/12/04/skip-the-fare-get-fined-what-decriminalizing-fare-evasion-could-mean-for-metro/
    Which references: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title18.2/chapter5/section18.2-160.1/

  4. In the last comment made in BR earlier article, Washington City Council Puts Virginia Taxpayers, Metro Riders at Risk,” the reader AlongThePike posted this very fine article, showing that DC Metro considers fare jumping to be a HUGE and growing problem, draining large amounts of income monies out of Metro coffers.

    Indeed 1 in 10 Metro bus rider are fare jumpers, stealing money out of the pockets of Metro. The losses are in the tens of millions and rising. Metro also argued that fare jumping led to a host of other crimes within Metro, and places nearby Metro stops. Metro confirmed opinions earlier expressed here n on BR, and more importantly pleaded with the city council not to pass this ordinance.

    Along the way, AlongThePike suggested that, fare evasion is a criminal offense in Maryland and a civil offense in Virginia,” an interesting twist. The article linked in below is well worth reading.

    Source: https://wamu.org/story/18/12/04/skip-the-fare-get-fined-what-decriminalizing-fare-evasion-could-mean-for-metro/

  5. The juxtaposition of these two things cannot be lost on you, right?
    VA says DC must keep fare evasion a criminal offense (despite the fact that it’s been a civil offense in VA for years), followed by, VA uses civil fines for HOV violations.
    Why is it that folks like Mr. Smedburg are just fine with civil fines for parking, tolls, or HOV violations, but when enforcement falls heavily on Black and Brown and poor people, “we have to lock ’em up?”
    Mr. Smedburg and co shouldn’t tell other jurisdictions what to do. But since they are, this DC resident has some suggestions for VA: invest much more public funding in public transit to take cars off the roads, which would produce huge cost savings for VA in road construction and maintenance, and to VA residents in gas and car maintenance. Think deeper, Paul.

    • No, the juxtaposition is not lost. That’s why I added the VDOT press release to the original post.

    • Yes, race and income should be irrelevant to this issue. Virginia should conform its laws to Md. and DC do the same. Rampant theft of public monies should be criminalized, no matter who they are. That should include the elites. Let’s put them in jail too. That will shut down the government, allowing us to reform it, too. Lock ’em all up, until they stop stealing public monies and services.

      • We agree on your first point. By decriminalizing fare evasion, DC is conforming its law to Virginia’s.
        But again, all jurisdictions should invest much more in transit. Roads are (generally, except all your tolls in VA) publicly-funded through general tax funds that everyone pays for. And they are (mostly) free to use. Transit should be the same. Or there could be some mix of an equivalent to a gas tax that is paid by transit users, in addition to funds from general tax revenue.
        It would be better, cheaper, more efficient, decrease traffic, increase fairness, and help the environment. Even if collective action isn’t appealing to you, individuals who drive pay tens of thousands per year to own and use cars, so better transit would save money for individuals even if taxes go up a bit.

  6. Larry – the NYC and WDC subways are totally different. NYC charges a flat fare for any ride — one station or from Manhattan to Coney Island. And, of course, WMATA charges based on distance and time of day. When you enter the NYC system, you put your fare card through the gate and take it with you. (It often covers multiple rides.) You don’t need the ticket to exit.

    When you enter the WMATA system the card notes the station where the ride began and when you insert the card when exiting, the card calculates and subtracts the fare. You need a card to exit the station.

    Each system built fare gate infrastructure that fits its operations. If WMATA used the NYC infrastructure, it would have to change its entire pricing policy. That’s crazy.

    • TMT – yes I’m also aware of the different pricing schemes and that may well be a debatable issue but it’s entirely a separate issue from fare jumping and the type of turnstiles used.

      Jim makes this more about race than should be. It’s really about the fact that some places in some towns and regions – like NYC or Washington or other places – some stations have more fare jumping than others and they are USUALLY handled with CIVIL fines AND more restrictive turnstiles. Yes the turnstiles are more expensive more over thousands and thousands of fares – the cost is negligible. It’s just what has to be done – the same way we have to pay meter maids and tow trucks for parking or additional technology and police to catch toll evaders.

      Why does Jim always have to try to make this about certain classes of people and”broken windows” and all that to start with?

      We have scofflaws in our society. It has nothing to do with race or class of people – or the “broken windows” theory except in the minds of some who want to make it the issue.

      • “Jim makes this more about race than should be.”

        What?!?!?! Washington City Council made the issue about race as explicitly as it’s possible to make it. Now you’re accusing me of making it about race? Are you serious?

        • The great majority of members of the Washington City Council view most every issue affecting city through the lens of race. It’s a racist council, race is the primary motivating factor behind most all council decisions. This has been the case continually since passage of Home Rule in 1973.

      • So WMATA is still struggling financially to get maintenance and service quality back to normal but you want to force users and taxpayers to build new faregate infrastructure because of a lawless element in society. It’s sounds so Washington Posty! Pay more so society doesn’t need to hold people accountable.

        Keep in mind that the Fairfax County police monitor fare jumpers at the Tysons stations, alert Mall security and track the individuals into the Mall as many of them are there to steal property. And police statistics indicate that at least a plurality are professional thieves. No lefties talk about that. It seems that a clear minority of fare jumpers are kids looking for a high.

        As far as comparing citations and criminal punishment among transportation offenses, I think it’s worth while. I have no trouble with a first offense being subject to a fine or civil penalty for these types of offences. But repeat offenders need to dealt with more harshly.

        And broken windows policing is what brought NYC back to a livable place.

        • I agree totally.

        • “New York Needs to Take Fare Evasion Seriously

          The New York Times ran an article this week on increasing levels of fare evasion on New York City transit.

          The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to lose about $215 million this year from fare evasion on the subway and buses, officials said during a presentation to the agency’s board. About 208,000 people ride the subway each day without paying — nearly 4 percent of all subway riders during the fourth quarter of this year.

          Fare evasion has accounted for about one-third of the drop in subway ridership since 2015 and about half of the bus ridership decline during that period, officials said.

          Lost revenue is a problem for the transit agency, which is facing a budget crisis. Without new revenue sources, subway officials said they will have to approve huge fare increases or cut service…”

          The full text of this excellent article by Aaron Renn can be found here:

          https://www.urbanophile.com/2018/12/07/new-york-needs-to-take-fare-evasion-seriously/

  7. New York has been trying to walk back the Guiliani-era broken window policing and this is likely part of it. DC was taking cues.

    • Yes, Izzo –

      We are watching yet another swing into leftist progressiveness in New York City, the third major swing that way in my adulthood. Here the city’s services and functions, and society itself, particularly among the disadvantaged, veer toward a kind of lawless collapse. So vulnerable among us, in NYC, are the first and the hardest hit, though their rulers blame the “Other.”

      Rudy in the 1990s stopped the last swing and he put NYC back back together. Now its being taken apart by Bill de Blasio, and his crowd.

      Same thing goes on now in Chicago under Rahm Emanuel, his city today is closer to the edge of effective collapse than NYC. Baltimore is not far behind. And DC, now in its third swing toward collapse since the 1970s, veers to dysfunction. Congress saves that city each time, given it is the Nation’s Capital.

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