Metro Transit police officers congregate on a station platform. Photo by Henry Pan/Minnesota Reformer.
The Metropolitan Council said in an email to the Reformer on Wednesday that Metro Transit, which they oversee, will resume using their police force to enforce fares on transit vehicles after a 15-month pandemic hiatus.
The message came after House Republicans lamented the $7 billion transportation budget bill, which passed Wednesday, does nothing to address transit safety. Crime on transit was increasing before the pandemic began.
Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, told the Reformer that he was not aware that Metro Transit had paused enforcement. Riders who do not have proof of fare can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined $180. “Does this lead to more individuals, who are intent on violence, riding the trains, buses, etc., without worrying about being checked? I don’t know, but it does lead one to wonder about it,” said Petersburg in an email.
The Met Council, along with transportation advocates, have long fought for decriminalized fare evasion citations and to allow non-sworn personnel to enforce them. This year’s legislation, which had bipartisan support, failed to make it into the final bill because of Senate GOP opposition. Advocates said it would have allowed Metro Transit’s police force to address more pressing crimes, which rose markedly in 2019.
Advocates were also concerned about fare enforcement disproportionately harming riders of color. For example, Black people made up 24% of transit ridership in 2016, yet half of the defendants cited for fare evasion in Minneapolis and Saint Paul were Black.
“The current state policy mandating this approach has harmed Black and Native transit riders disproportionately, and it must change if we want transit systems that are welcoming, just, and well-functioning,” said Finn McGarrity, an organizer for Move Minnesota.
Metro Transit Police issued its last two fare evasion citations to one person in May 2020 at Raymond Avenue Station in Saint Paul.
Meanwhile, the Met Council is working with the Citizens League — a local urban policy think tank — to change policies addressing transit policing and safety. They invite riders to complete a survey in English, Hmong, Karen (pronounced ‘kuh-rin’), Oromo, Somali, or Spanish, and to register by Friday to attend a virtual forum on the evening of June 29.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.