Rantz: Fare enforcement is now racist in Seattle because… equity
Enforcing fares on Sound Transit is racist and our woke leaders on its board are using equity to tackle the apparent problem of punishing theft.
Using misleading data that doesn’t mean what they imply it does, the Sound Transit Board of Directors unanimously approved a new policy in a pilot that effectively allows fare scofflaws to get away with their crime. And in the process, the board takes a swipe at police because in 2020, the Left’s new enemy is law enforcement.
But what’s worse is that the race-obsessed politicians ignore an opportunity to actually address a potential issue.
Fare enforcement is racist or something
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott is the board member behind the policy move.
Citing the wholly unrelated issue of systemic and institutionalized racism, McDermott says fare enforcement disproportionally impacts people of color. He doesn’t explain why or how. He just states it as fact because, according to data from 2016, 9% of Black passengers make up 22% of those caught up in the fare enforcement process.
“People experiencing poverty should not be jeopardized for not being able to pay their fare for being transit-dependent, by being involved in the court system, in collections,” McDermott explained at a recent meeting, momentarily mixing up the issue of race and income.
Under the policy change, so-called “ambassadors” would be in charge of enforcing the rules instead of fare enforcement officers. Instead of doling out tickets, they’ll be focused on educating people on paying fares. McDermott claims, citing a survey, that riders are confused about paying fares so they need education, not tickets. I don’t need a study to know the vast majority of people claiming confusion are simply lying to get out of paying their fares. I’ve seen it in real-time during fare enforcement on Sound Transit. People very clearly lie to try to get out of tickets.
Though the effort passed, Sound Transit board members/white saviors like King County Executive Dow Constantine and failing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan argued it doesn’t go far enough. The end goal is take fare enforcement completely out of the courts, which effectively means there would be no enforcement on fares.
Reality: Fare enforcement isn’t selective
The weaponizing of disproportionality is a disingenuous one.
Rather than explain why a data point exists, activist politicians like those on the Sound Transit board merely note its existence and pretend the why is irrelevant. But it is not.
Why does the 9% of Black passengers make up 22% of those caught up in the fare enforcement process? The implication, without any supportive data, is that racism is involved.
If Black passengers are being targeted, then we should identify and fire the racist employees doling out the tickets. If Black riders happen to be responsible for more repeat offenses, then it’s not racism. Simply citing this as “disproportionate” is hardly instructive. Would board members be up in arms if white riders over-represented the number of riders being ticketed? Hardly.
So what does the data actually say? It doesn’t say what the race-obsessed Sound Transit board would have you believe.
No, it’s not racism
Here’s how the system works: Sound Transit enforcement officers board a Sound Transit train from either end and work their way toward the middle.
Every passenger is asked to show proof of payment. If they didn’t buy a ticket, they get a warning. If they’ve already been warned, they get a citation. Don’t pay your citation? It can escalate to misdemeanor charges for theft.
There were only 1,925 theft cases over the four-year period, with Black riders representing 48%.
For this process to be racist, you’d have to target people of color during the fare checks or offer citations at higher rates, while giving whites a pass. There’s no evidence this is happening or politicians would say that. But since that data doesn’t exist, they merely imply it’s happening. They get help from Seattle reporters to uncritically present data.
Over at the Seattle Times, we’re told the “data showed that Black riders were punished disproportionately” when the data actually shows Black riders were violating fare rules at higher rates. KIRO 7 definitively lauds the move as “a step … toward[s] racial equity.” They’re heroes!
All we have are higher rates of Black riders getting citations over a four year period (2015-2019). This means more Black passengers who have been warned for not paying fares are reoffending. And some of the data includes duplicate citations or misdemeanor offenses.
Equity — the buzzword of clueless, woke, white activists
This whole fight is centered on the progressive concept of equity. But in this case, it doesn’t really mean anything that a reasonable person would identify with.
If an end result isn’t equal, then progressive activists deem the policy racist. In other words, if white, Latino, or Asian passengers aren’t reaching the same high percentages of enforcement action as Black riders, then the policy is racist because it’s having a disproportionate effect. This is a ludicrous argument.
The argument doesn’t even claim the crime of theft isn’t occurring; it’s simply saying it should be given a pass because too many Black riders are being caught. Does that make sense? Using the same ridiculous logic, we should tweak the policy because Asians represent 12% of riders, but only 5% of citations and 3% of theft. How offensive! We must create a system that punishes more Asians! Or perhaps we should change the policy to punish fewer white riders, to be more in line with Asian stats.
Either racist fare enforcement officers are giving a pass to white riders, which should result in more enforcement of white riders, or Black riders are violating the rules more often. If the latter is true, shouldn’t we look at the underlying reasons?
In fact, the Sound Transit board — and proponents of the new policy — keep talking around the underlying reason.
It’s about income
Why are Black riders “disproportionately” impacted? Probably because Black area-residents have a higher likelihood of being low-income. In fact, when you listen to the words of the activists, this is about socio-economic issues, not race.
“This is an approach that helps people pay their fare and ride trains as opposed to punishing people because they can’t afford it,” Kelsey Mesher, advocacy director for Transportation Choices Coalition, told the Seattle Times.
Remember, McDermott himself notes we shouldn’t punish people who are low income when they depend on Sound Transit.
The policy changes don’t solely impact people on the basis of race. In fact, when you take out those who choose not to pay because they don’t want to, the policy helps low income folks of all races. A more focused approach to the socio-economic issue could come up with better solutions. Instead, woke politicians like Constantine, Durkan, and McDermott are spinning wheels trying to out-woke one another for social currency.
So why not focus on what this is really about, rather than pushing this as some kind of racial crusade for equity? It’s pretty simple: Talking about race is considerably more hip in 2020-2021. Less sexy? Discussing issues in terms of socio-economic status of riders, since that issue impacts all races, not just the ones condescending, white politicians are trying to pander to.
Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook.