Monday, March 13, 2017

I Won't Pay, And You Can't Make Me!


Our transit agency has some serious problems with fare evasion. On my route alone, I press the "Fare Evasion" button at least 10-20 times every day. Now local district attorneys are further eroding transit operators' authority by saying they will no longer prosecute fare evaders, except for various repeat offenders.

It's a great deal these days to ride the bus or light rail here. A mere $2.50 gets you almost anywhere in the Portland metropolitan area, good for 2.5 hours from the time of purchase. Try getting a cab ride at that rate. You'd grow gills and swim there faster. Given the extreme rainfall totals we've amassed this winter, I wouldn't be surprised if some residents had so evolved.

The economy is still a bit rancid in these parts. Yet what rankles me most is the guy who can be seen smacking down a new pack of smokes at the shelter, looking at his cell phone while sporting the latest pair of athletic shoes, getting on the bus with a poorly-concocted story as to why he doesn't have fare. "I'm just going a few stops anyway, can I just have a 'courtesy ride'?" Now what the hell is that? If he was 88, pushing a beat-up walker and too broke to afford a raincoat, I'd feel pity. I'd stop for the old guy in between stops just to help him out. But the young slacker who doesn't have a job, borrows $50 from Aunt Peggy every week for smokes, and causes a ruckus on the bus? Why shouldn't he have to pay? Now evidently, he doesn't even have to fear prosecution for theft of a public service.

There are scores of people who need to ride the bus and actually can't afford it. I accept this reality; once upon a time I was one of them. But they are much fewer in number than those who just don't want to put transit fares in their budget. They get on reeking of the local pot shop's finest strains, theatrically patting their pockets in the comical "I just had my fare, where did it go?" dance, then shrug and take a seat. When you inform them of our fare policy, they just shrug. "I'll take my chances... just drive, asshole."

Some are calling for transit to provide free rides to the "poor." If it has value, it shouldn't be free. By not charging people even a minimal fee, it severely devalues the exemplary service my brothers and sisters provide Portland's populace. Operators can tell the cons from the honest, hardworking people just scraping by. Most of us are willing to help out the honest folks, but we occasionally let the cons slip through. Sometimes regulars forget their pass, or they truly lose it. I give them a ride without a second thought because I know they're truthful. Now we have no authoritative threat. We can't even say, with a straight face, "If a fare inspector gets on, you're on your own."

We already have a pseudo low income fare, called "Honored Citizen." It's half the price of a regular Adult fare. It is enormously abused, because people don't have the identification card required or fail to show it when paying fare. Asking them to prove their status can, and has many a time, lead to an argument at the fare box. This is something we're trained to avoid, in an effort to increase our safety.

The district attorneys and our agency are proving soft on transit crime. The court system allows violent assailants to plead down their charges, and all transit can come up with is caging operators like monkeys. No wonder we suffer a massive lack of respect from the community we serve. Now we're pressured to make transit a free ride to anyone without requiring basic common decency to rule their behavior.

On Friday comes "Driver Appreciation Day." It seems more of a theatrical con job to make transit management feel better about its poor treatment of us by putting on a big media event. Put your money where your verbal jabs blast forth, fellas. I get more appreciation from my daily regulars than from your once-a-year dog and pony show. They at least have a better understanding of my job than management does. I take them home or to work, safely and smoothly with a welcoming smile on my face. It's better than some cabbies would give, and it's a helluva lot cheaper.

20 comments:

  1. How about a transit agency allowing persons aged 12 and under to ride for free? It's amazing how many 12 year olds have facial hair and take the bus at 3am.

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    1. Well, my grade-school pal John had a full beard in 7th grade lol. Our age limit here is 7 for a free ride. Still hard to guess a kid's gender let alone their true age. Honest parents will pay; honest poor parents will tell the truth and ask for leniency (which I am likely to oblige due to their morals); still others won't say a word and it's just not worth the discussion.

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  2. Sounds a lot like Denver. Then throw in the fake monthly passes

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  3. I supoort free public transportation since it's all funded by tax revenues in the first place. If it can't be free it should be nominal, like a buck a ride.

    First time I've disagreed with the Deke!

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    1. I respect your opinion Al, so no worries about disagreement. But won't your idea make taxes go up drastically? I know fares can't even begin to cover cost, but they do help. I'm afraid free rides will translate into an even bigger tax burden.

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    2. Well Mr. Deacon I seen Neil McFarland at $300,000 a year

      I see Randy Stedman at $200,000 a year

      I see Fred Hanson with a convention of $18,000 a month

      I see another 90 executives making six-figure incomes

      I see 1.5 billion for a light rail line to a town of 20,000 people

      Need I continue?

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    3. If so many people were not getting wealthy off public transportation I would have less sympathy for fare evaders.

      have you ever wondered why there's never been a study of the Fare evader and why they do it?

      They do it because they don't have the $2.50. Don't start talking about they shouldn't be doing this or shouldn't be doing that. Judge not that you be not judged

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    4. Many people truly do not have the fare money. I agree, it's sad. A reduced fare for the poor is one option; how to prove their qualifying for this would be a nightmare, causing incredible embarrassment for some. For others, it's a simple choice. Smokes or fare? Then you have the masses who always have their fare or passes. A great majority of my riders pay for their transit service. Are there any figures on how much this would cost? At 325,000(?) rides per day, that's a pretty huge tax burden.

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  4. A vast majority of our driver assaults happen from fare evaders, a driver gave 4 shitheads free rides and they punched him in the face getting off the bus. Thinking we should have a international sick out ro make polititians smarten up.

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  5. It's NOT a great deal, though. If my husband and I and our two children want to ride the MAX, it will take an hour or more to get anywhere at all from Hillsboro, and it will cost us $20 round trip! No wonder people drive!

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  6. I think honor passes should only be available through social welfare programs... Grandpa can choose to have it come out of his SSI. I've had several employers have optional pass purchases that come straight out of your check, which they subsided.

    As far as fair avoiders, it's hard as the cost of the fair inspector, plus the courts time, vastly overwhelms any chance of recouping the fare... Not to mention those most flippant likely already owe thousands in fines.

    I'm not sure what the answer is. Do you feel this situation has become better or worse in relation to ending Fairless square?

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  7. Why do the folks who work and pay their fares have to put up with the deadbeats that gets the courtesy rides, then eat or talk crazy on the bus? When you ignore the minor problems with safety on transit, it will support the felling of a system that is unsafe and drive away those who have other options .

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  8. I do know fare abiding citizens resent the fact that they budget or scrape together the fare it takes to ride and there are people that now, because of our new SOP, require nothing to get a ticket. Our fare inspectors can't tell now who pays or doesn't because they get a ticket no matter what they put in the box. I've had two people this last week get really pissed because i gave a customer who did not pay a ticket. I don't blame them either. It's not right, but trimet is playing into the mentality of some people who think that the world owes them something for nothing.. It's sad

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  9. Sorry about all my misspelled words. It's the iPhone.

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    1. No grammar cop here today. Lots of interesting comments though. Love the feedback and conversation from everyone!

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  10. Since the Limited Space I published my response on my Personal Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/dan.christensen.739978 and on my Facebook for Roll Easy Blog https://www.facebook.com/rolleasyblog/

    Dan Christensen

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  11. Those SOPs that you frown upon are also there to protect the driver from assault. We see a great deal of fare evasions on our system too. The drivers safety is so much more important than the 1.25 we charge. Seems to be a problem only for the drivers who like having power struggles. A driver is paid to drive, not play God.

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    1. I totally agree. When drivers watch the TV show "COPS" in the drivers room before their shift they rush out and become ball busters and want to call police to arrest anyone on their bus they dont like.

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    2. I agree with you 100% some drivers are hell bent on making their job difficult. Were bus drivers not cops. Do your job and drive.

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  12. Personally, I've let some ride and others they pay the fare or they don't ride. Police are called if they go ballistic. For the regular fare evaders, they do not board my bus. I write the individuals up so it on file and the supervisor serves them with paperwork. By doing this, in my view it keeps safety on board for those who budget to pay the fare.

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