Decriminalizing Youth Fare Evasion

metro-trainThe Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted unanimously to decriminalize fare evasion by youth boarding public buses and trains, acting on a motion by Metro Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Metro Board Chairman and Duarte Councilman John Fasana, Board Member and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Board Member and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti coauthored the motion.

“For many youth, riding without paying the fare due to economic hardship, or being perceived as riding without paying the fare, has tainted the experience of using the Metro system,” Metro Board Member and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “Youth of color in particular have been disproportionately cited for fare evasion – black youth represented 24% of Metro riders under age 18 years, but receive more than half of all youth citations for fare evasion.”

Often out of necessity, many youth rely heavily on the Metro system to travel to and from home, school, work and elsewhere. Paying the fare can be difficult, with about 23 percent of Los Angeles youth living below the poverty level. About 13 percent of Los Angeles youth are in a household without access to a car, and many more live in a household with only one car.

The motion seeks to ensure that youth are not punished for fare evasion with fines they are unable to pay, or be required to interact with law enforcement agencies or county probation.

“Policies must be put in place that meaningfully decriminalize and minimize rates of youth fare evasion in order to better focus law enforcement and transit security services, support school attendance, reduce youth contact with the justice system, and further encourage youth to become lifelong transit users,” Metro Board member and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.