Skip to main content

How does punishment for transit fare evasion compare to similar offenses?

It currently carries a stricter penalty than a parking violation or using a MNPass lane without a subscription.
Transit parking mnpass

The proposal to reduce the level of punishment for people who use the Twin Cities light rail without paying has generated a lot of debate since it emerged.

Currently, transit fare dodgers are charged with a misdemeanor and ticketed to the tune of $180. It's often the case that a first offense is just a warning, though that's not written into state law but is rather a Metropolitan Council policy.

Under the plan proposed by DFL legislators and backed by the Metropolitan Council,  the penalty for fare dodging on the light rail would be reduced to a petty misdemeanor. while the fine for first-time offenders would be reduced to $35.

The idea behind the plan is to ensure that those who don't pay their way – who are typically lower income people – aren't too punitively punished for dodging a ticket costing only a few bucks.

A petty misdemeanor won't go on their criminal records, which means it's less likely to have a knock-on effect to the individual's employment.

Currently it's a misdemeanor, and Rep. Brad Tabke (D–Shakopee), who is the lead author on the bill, points out that this puts it on a par with a DWI or a $500 property theft.

To put it in clearer context, we've compared the punishment as it currently is to the punishments levied from similar offenses, namely not paying for a parking meter, or using a MNPass (HOV) lane without a subscription, or when not carpooling.

Here's how it looks:

Transit fare evasion (currently)

Level of offense: Misdemeanor (goes on criminal record).

Fine: Varies depending on jurisdiction, but light rail fines can reach $180.

Transit fare evasion (proposed)

Level of offense: Petty misdemeanor (doesn't go on criminal record).

Fine: $35 total ($10 fine + $25 fee), rising up to $100 for subsequent offenses.

Not paying for parking meter

Level of offense: Petty misdemeanor.

Fine: $45 (in Minneapolis, varies in other cities).

Using MNPass lane driving alone/without subscription

Level of offense: Petty misdemeanor

Fine: $100 plus $76 surcharge in Hennepin County. Judge can go up to $300 depending on case. Penalty varies in other counties.

Only 3 percent of fare evasion fines are paid

The changes proposed in the legislative bill would mean that fare evasion would become a petty misdemeanor throughout Minnesota, not just on Metro Transit services.

As it will still involve a fine, the new transit fare evasion bill wouldn't mean fare dodging will go unpunished, but it will provide what supporters feel is a more proportionate fine level for the crime. 

It's being combined with the creation of "Transit Ambassadors," whose aim is to connect those who can't afford to pay with the relative services, as well as reduce crime on light rail trains.

Rep. Tabke points out that under the current system, only 3 percent of fare evasion fines are actually paid, and that it's putting a strain on the judicial system to pursue and prosecute offenders.

It's hoped that reducing the penalty amount and making it payable online will ensure in greater compliance and reduce administrative costs.

While fare dodging has been on the rise in recent years, evasion is still at a lower rate on transit compared to carpooling lanes, with this Star Tribune article from October revealing that one in seven users of MNPass high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes during rush hour does so illegally. 

Republican legislators are expected to release their own plans for improving light rail safety in this legislative session, with Rep. Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville) criticizing the DFL plan for its timeline of 2022 for its introduction.

Here's the press conference where Rep. Tabke and more revealed the legislative bill.

Next Up

FSmb9kkWAB0UBqk

Ferocious winds, possible tornadoes leave destruction in MN

Numerous reports of tornadoes and nearly 100 mph straight-line winds.

canoe

Canoe carrying 4 overturns near St. John's University

Of the four, only one was wearing a lifejacket when the boat capsized Wednesday.

pexels beer bar craft brewery

MN's craft alcohol makers back new push to loosen state's liquor laws

The pushback includes loosening restrictions on growler sales for bigger craft breweries and a more direct line of spirit sales to customers.

Screen Shot 2022-05-12 at 8.02.19 PM

Severe thunderstorm warnings in the Twin Cities

It's the second night in a row that severe storms are hitting the metro.

storm

Twin Cities placed in tornado watch ahead of intense line of storms

Photo above is a view from Marshall as the line of storms moved through Thursday evening.

fire pixabay stock

1 dead, 1 escapes western Wisconsin house fire

The single-story home was fully engulfed in flames when first responders arrived early Wednesday morning.

Wind storms tree

Rare 'particularly dangerous situation' weather watch issued in SW MN

The warning covers an area of Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

fire, firefighter

Dad and 2 children killed in western Wisconsin house fire

A devastating house fire happened early Thursday morning.

Screen Shot 2020-08-14 at 6.45.53 PM

2 suspects involved in Brooklyn Park armed carjacking

The incident happened Wednesday night near a shopping center and Cub.

Alexander Odegaard

Man sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for child pornography

Alexander John Odegaard was sentenced in U.S. District Court Tuesday.

Screen Shot 2022-05-12 at 12.15.21 PM

Victim in I-90 crash was storm-chasing meteorologist from Mexico

Martha Llanos Rodriguez died in the wreck on I-90.

Related

Plan to decriminalize fare dodging on light rail trains

The offense would still carry a fine, albeit a reduced one.

Here's how Metro Transit intends to improve safety on buses, light rail

It comes after a series of high profile incidents on Metro Transit services.

Republicans urge 25-cent fare increase for metro buses, rail

Supporters say higher gas prices justify higher fares, but the Metropolitan Council argues the move would violate a deal that Gov. Dayton and Republican legislators reached to help end the historic state shutdown.

Teens charged over violent attacks on Metro Transit light rail train

Four juveniles have been arrested over two separate assaults.

Metro Transit confirms it'll cut some overnight Green Line services

There will be no services between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekdays.

Transit ride tedious? Try it sans pants!

A group of Twin Cites light rail riders decided to spice up their trip by taking off their pants. Once down to their skivvies, though, they sought a return to normalcy, chatting on cell phones and playing some Angry Birds.