King County decriminalizes evading youth bus fares

transferticketKing County Council member Dave Upthegrove said he was shocked to learn that youth can be charged with misdemeanors for evading bus fares. The charge could also lead to longterm bans from riding the bus. This week, the Council adopted a motion to reduce the penalty to a civil infraction.

“Young bus riders should be held accountable for evading a fare but not charged criminally, and I am pleased that the Council supported me in changing this policy,” Upthegrove said.

The motion also calls on the county to allow cited transit riders to resolve their infractions at courthouses closer to where they live. Currently, all transit infraction hearings are held at the Shoreline Courthouse in a policy known as the “Shoreline rule.” It’s particularly a problem for younger riders, who are most frequently cited in South King County.

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Issuing a longterm bus suspension for a juvenile must may also be limited to court orders under Upthegrove’s bill. The motion calls for the county to work towards implementing the policies by March. Unfortunately, adult offenders will still have to settle such matters in Shoreline.

The motion also calls on the county to ensure all transit security officers receive specific training to work with adolescents.

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15 thoughts on “King County decriminalizes evading youth bus fares

  1. I’ve been a transit rider here for ten years and I have NEVER seen fare evaders held accountable in ANY way. Drivers just let them on. This is a non issue that someone wants to get some media time protesting.

  2. I disagree. This is a major issue. I worked with at risk youth in south Seattle who all had school paid orca cards. The light rail was confusing and they often forgot to tap. On more occasions than I can count the youth would get in trouble for not paying ( even though they had unlimited fare). Consequences included court dates, misdeanors and fines. All of the youth who were charged were minorities and low income. Youth have enough barriers getting to and from school.
    I am very glad to hear that this problem is getting attention.

    • Something about the light rail makes it really easy to forget to tap — I’ve done it myself and would have done it again last week if a friend hadn’t pointed it out. (I’ve got an unlimited ORCA card too, so there’s no incentive to not tapping.)

    • Yes. We should never, ever hold “youth” accountable in any way whatsoever, because they are basically our pets (or making excuses for them out is our meal ticket).

      They will never get old and have to face life. JUST LET THEM BE!!!!

      • Back in your day (probably), youth were held accountable by their parents and did a bunch of crazy shit anyway that you didn’t know about because there were no news sources like this blog to report of them.

        Now, people like yourself look to punishment as the solution to what you perceive are all of these increased problems with today’s youth… you know, the same problems you had relative to the previous generation who thought you were running roughshod on manners, social norms, etc. And yeah, punishment works fantastic; just look at our criminal justice system. It’s fair (to white people), balanced (for white people), and never gets anything wrong( for white people).

        The fact is, crime is lower than it was 20-30 years ago, and wasting time on this kind of useless shit is a waste of resources and does nothing but encourage cops to focus on kids who probably already have a few strikes against them.

  3. The commenters are raising two separate but valid issues:

    1: The station signage and light rail ticketing system is pretty godawful and confusing. I pity tourists trying to figure out Westlake Station: the correct platform, the correct exits, and where to get tickets. It’s an unintuitive mess in most stations.

    2. “Scofflaws” not paying their fare. You know…I’m going to go out on a limb here. I have an ORCA card that my work puts in $90/month for. And I’ve had jobs with no bus pass, so I just pay it myself because I can afford it. Buses are not meant to be profitable. They’re part of the city infrastructure to keep this city going, like water, electricity, police and fire, etc. As such, I really couldn’t care less when some homeless guy or a kid “sneaks” on the bus, or gives the driver some sob story. Often, I see people just pay whatever spare change they have that amounts to less than the fare.

    The buses are a public service, and I’m not going to be some Scrooge begrudging someone a ride on the bus. The bus system is primarily supported by taxes anyway, so let anyone who can’t afford the fare ride anyway. As long as I have money, I don’t mind paying in. Nobody’s “shoplifting” private property here, or violating people’s rights. I say pay if you can (and most of us do), but if you’re so broke you can’t afford bus fare, hop on anyway.

    • I doubt that most fare-evaders can’t afford the fare. They are just being cheap and irresponsible, and want to spend their money on the latest cell phone or tennis shoe.

      • And those damn kids should get off your lawn, right?

        It’s amazing how tone deaf people get as they age, as if they totally forget that the exact same criticisms were thrown at them by older generations, and how much it sucked to be held to some weird standards in an ever-changing world.

        In your days as a kid, what was the excuse the older generation used to criticize and demonize your generation? Was it that crazy rock n’ roll you were spending your money on? Was it watching too much TV? Was it playing too much stickball in the streets?

        You probably weren’t aware of their grumbling because you didn’t have the kind of blanket media coverage that makes some people think the world has gone completely to hell (when, in fact, crime is down across the country, though coverage of crime is way, way up). Now you get daily thinkpieces about narcissistic generations, and everyone is like, “yes! That’s it! It’s not me that’s changed. Those kids really do suck!” While they may very well suck, you can’t make these claims without at least acknowledging that you may not be the best judge of a world where you’ve become more of an observer than an active participant, at least compared to teens and twentysomethings.

        So I’m a Gen-Xer, and man, the so-called “greatest generation” gave us shit. Of course the same “greatest generation” screwed over the planet, destroyed jobs, and has acted like the most entitled little crybabies, while we… gave them all of the toys they use to call everyone else crybabies.

        Give me today’s youths, who actually face a level of uncertainty and chaos in the world that few previous (living) generations have faced. And seriously, who can blame them for wanting a phone? It’s the most required piece of technology we currently have.

  4. This seems kind of ridiculous. I can see providing bus passes to low income kids as a form of welfare, but maintaining that it’s wrong and just decriminalizing it altogether? Should we also decriminalize shoplifting and burglary in case consequences for stealing are too burdensome?

    • We’re talking about something valued at less than $5 and a necessary resource for those who ride it. I’d rather they talk to the driver if they can’t pay, but I’ve seen drivers leave people stranded in Auburn on a Sunday night. They aren’t always sympathetic.

    • Equating fare avoidance with shoplifting and burglary is ludicrous; the bus is still going to traverse its route no matter how many people are aboard, or even if there are no riders at all. What exactly is being stolen? Not the driver’s time; not the time of the people riding; not the gas that’s going to be consumed whether the rider is on-board or not. Yes, one could argue there’s a minuscule amount of operating revenue being lost, but how much of a fraction of a fraction of a percent are we actually talking about here? Enough to justify the added cost of court appearances or of exacting fines that in all likelihood will never be paid?

      “Penny-wise, pound-foolish” as my grandmother used to say.

    • “This week, the Council adopted a motion to reduce the penalty to a civil infraction.”

      It’s a reduction in penalty. Should a kid’s life be ruined because they couldn’t figure out how to use an ORCA machine?

  5. Leave the young people alone. Raise them up in a good way. Sorry they are having so many troubles. I will pray God will help in this situation.