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Plan to decriminalize fare dodging on light rail trains

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

Democratic lawmakers are proposing to decriminalize fare dodging on Twin Cities light rail trains, while making extra efforts to connect those struggling to pay with help.

The proposal has been laid out in a bill put forward this week, which argues that the current punishment for riding the trains without paying is too punitive on low-income riders.

Currently, fare dodging is a misdemeanor offense that goes onto the rider's criminal record, and comes with a $180 penalty.

Under the plan, fare dodging would be a petty misdemeanor, and the fine would be reduced to $25, payable online.

The bill, first reported by the Star Tribune, is expected to be backed by DFL legislators and also the Metropolitan Council, with supporters believing it to be a more proportional response to failing to pay a $2 fare.

It would also lead to the creation of "transit ambassadors" who ride the trains, connecting the struggling to pay for their fares with services. It's hoped that their presence will also reduce crime on the trains.

There has been growing concern about crime on light rail trains recently after a spate of robberies, assaults and even a fatal stabbing.

In November, FOX 9 reported that aggravated assaults on light rail trains totaled 59 between January 1 and July 31, 2019. The year before, there were 52 in the entire year.

At the time, Republican Rep. Paul Torkelson (Hanska) suggested alternative ways of tackling the problems on the light rail, including making it a crime to loiter on platforms, increase Metro Transit officers on trains, and add more fare inspectors to trains.

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