EVERETT — Pay the bus fare or pay a fine.
People who regularly ride Community Transit may already have seen Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies ticketing passengers who board buses without paying.
Community Transit bus drivers are handing out informational cards to fare-evaders, warni
ng them of the $124 citation. The cards are printed in English and Spanish, he said.
“This takes the pressure off the drivers. They ask once for the fare, then hand out the card and get back to safely driving the bus,” said Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia. “This way drivers don’t have to engage in a conflict with a potentially combative rider.”
Deputies, working security under a contract with Community Transit, are riding buses to help enforce the fares. The deputies ride in uniform or in plain clothes, so passengers may not even know a deputy is on board.
So far this year, 1,428 warnings have been issued and 629 citations have been written, Munguia said.
The citations are turned over to Snohomish County Superior Court.
Deputies keep track of repeat offenders. Failure to pay bus fare is a civil offense, but repeated failure to pay a fare can lead to criminal theft charges, said Community Transit risk manager Mike Burress.
“When we get a complaint about a consistent fare evader or a problem route, we put a deputy out there to do enforcement,” Burress said.
Though only about 2 percent of people on Community Transit buses are riding without paying, faithful patrons are irritated, Munguia said.
“They say it’s not fair when someone doesn’t pay his or her full fare,” Munguia said. “The cards that drivers hand out at least send the message that we are trying to take care of the problem. Our intention is that people know they have to pay up or get off the bus.”
Bus fares range from about $1.75 for local rides up to $4.50 for commuters who travel, for example, from Monroe or Stanwood to Seattle.
The fares account for about 18 percent of Community Transit’s revenue. While an unpaid fare here or there may not seem like much, over the course of the year it adds up to about $400,000.
“And while that’s not a huge part of the CT budget, it’s enough to pay for about two days of service countywide,” Munguia said. “This ticketing program doesn’t cost Community Transit much, so we think it is worth it. We are experiencing a huge financial shortfall, so this is a way to retain some revenue.”
For more information about Community Transit, call 425-353-7433 or 800-562-1375 or go to www.communitytransit.org.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.