Dori: Taxpayers on bigger hook after Sound Transit makes fare evasion even easier

Apr 30, 2022, 8:34 AM | Updated: 9:07 am

(Flickr Creative Commons)...

(Flickr Creative Commons)

(Flickr Creative Commons)

Even if you never board a local light rail train or a Sound Transit bus for the rest of your life, each Puget Sound-area family’s personal share for ST’s total estimated $100 billion cost will run about $125,000, The Dori Monson Show has calculated.

And now, it might cost taxpayers a whole lot more.

With already lax enforcement on rider fares and blatant disregard for paying fares running rampant throughout the region, Thursday night action by the Sound Transit Board will make it even easier to avoid paying fares.

Why the changes? Dori asked KIRO Newsradio transportation specialist Chris “Sully” Sullivan.

Sullivan: Sound Transit passes fare reform with diminished ridership accountability checks –

“Concern that they were disproportionately asking for payment from people of color,” Sully explained.

“For three years, they’ve been looking at how we can adjust our fare system so that it is more equitable – make it so people can get low-income fares, lower-priced ORCA cards,” he continued. “What they have now created (is a system) that allows people to ride for free if they choose to.”

Bottom line: Sound Transit now projects it will lose about $1.3 billion over the next 30 years at the fare box alone, Sully told Dori’s listeners.

And that, Dori points out, means the loss will need to be recovered from taxpayers.

Listeners tell Dori they wonder why fare enforcers don’t for ask for proof of ORCA cards or rider tickets. Can’t these teams check whether riders have paid? Dori asked Sully.

From a three-year ST study, Sully said, “people on the trains said they don’t feel comfortable seeing King County Sheriff’s deputies who (were) the fare enforcers. They didn’t feel safe because it felt like it was the police state. So, they (Sound Transit) kicked (enforcers) off and they created new `fare ambassadors’ who basically have no power or authority to do anything.”

Combine that with the new multi-tiered system of warnings and fee structures approved Thursday night, Sully added, “and there is zero way to enforce it.”

These “ambassadors” may ask for proof of fare, he continued – but passengers are not required to show it. And if asked for their ID, passengers don’t have to show that either – so there is no way of knowing how many violations a fare evader racks up.

Then why would anyone even think about paying the fare, Dori wondered?

According to Sound Transit studies, 42 to 44 percent of current riders aren’t even paying the fare now, Sully told him. If you add in frequency of current fare inspection, a typical rider might take 23 trips before they would even see a fare ambassador, the same report shows.

“Even in New York City they have turnstiles to get on the subway,” Dori said. “This is the craziest public transportation system ever.”

Listen to Friday’s edition of Dori’s Big Lead– KIRO Newsradio’s Chris Sullivan stops by for the latest on Sound Transit fare enforcement 

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: Taxpayers on bigger hook after Sound Transit makes fare evasion even easier