Provision to decriminalize Metro Transit fare violations not included in the Legislative Assembly Transportation Bill
Remember that apparent deal between Republicans in the Minnesota Senate and House DFLers to decriminalize non-payment of fares on Metro Transit buses and trains?
It does not matter.
After two years of testing – even after a prominent opponent changed his mind about moving tariff violations from criminal penalties to something akin to a parking ticket – the provision failed. not incorporated into the Minnesota Legislative Assembly omnibus. transport invoice published this week. This means that non-payment of fares will continue to be punished with a fine of $ 180 for misdemeanor, a mismatch between punishment and violation that has led to infrequent ticketing – and rarely to prosecution. Also outside the final bill: allow fare enforcement to be handled by a new corps of non-police transportation staff similar to the staff of the Downtown Improvement District in Minneapolis, an approach that has been used in other cities to defuse clashes.
House of Commons Transport Committee Chairman Frank Hornstein said the issue had been discussed during negotiations, “but in the end it was one of the remaining points and the Senate was not d ‘agreement”.
Civil citations and transit ambassadors had been priorities for the Metropolitan Council and House DFLers. Republicans, however, have expressed concern that this could make public transit less safe at a time when crime was a concern for passengers and law enforcement.
Still, a breakthrough seemed possible earlier this session when Senate Transport Committee Chairman Scott Newman, an influential Republican from Hutchinson, appeared to change his stance. “Last year, when this was announced, I have to admit I was quite adamant in my belief that we should maintain the criminal penalties,” Newman said. during a meeting of its committee on March 1. “I changed my mind on this.”
Newman said he would work with Senator Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, the head of transportation for the DFL, to resolve the remaining disputes. Said Newman: “Just wish us luck. ”
This was not enough, although similar language had already received strong bipartisan support in the House transport committee. Newman was unavailable for comment on Monday, but Hornstein said he was told most of the Senate GOP caucus disagreed on the issue. “We will continue to fight for our position because it makes no sense that fare evasion on public transport is an offense punishable by a fine of $ 180 when someone pays $ 30 for a parking ticket.” said Hornstein, a DFLer from Minneapolis.
Between the start of the 2019 session and this year, the GOP’s position had gone from “devilishly no” to “maybe yes”. The difference between yesterday and today is that lawmakers from both parties worked through the summer and fall to educate themselves on the issue and seek common answers to it. Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, had led the interim work on the issue with former Rep. Brad Tabke, DFL-Shakopee. Metro Transit also used the interval between sessions to implement changes in response to GOP complaints about crime and safety on the system.
Fare evasion is mostly a problem on light rail and rapid transit lines, where fares are collected at stations, not by drivers. The execution therefore requires people – currently the police – to board vehicles and ask passengers to show proof of payment. Even when tickets are written, county prosecutors did not consider time well spent prosecuting violators, given other attorney time requirements. Less than 5 percent of tariff violations have already been subject to legal sanctions.
Although included in the House version of the transport bill, civilian citations and transit ambassadors disappeared during closed-door negotiation sessions with the Senate. When the bill was introduced this week, both provisions were gone.
Charlie Zelle, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, said in a statement he was disappointed with the failure of the change to the tariff enforcement system. “The Metropolitan Council has continued this language since the 2019 session, as it is an opportunity to develop a fairer and more efficient approach to fare inspection,” Zelle said. “Without the power of administrative citation, we remain with the status quo. Summons can only be issued by police officers and will continue to be misdemeanor offenses. “
Additional funding for public transit
While Hornstein was disappointed with the outcome on the application of fares, he said he was satisfied with the funding of public transit in general. While the DFL had favored an increase in fuel taxes to increase spending on roads and public transit, the budget is using cash now available to pay for a new bus rapid transit line, the E line, and for most of the funding of another, line F. This is in addition to the funding of two other lines of a state bond bill passed last fall. This made it possible to finance lines B and D of rapid bus transport (BRT). “This means that in the last year, if you include the bond bill, we now have four lines funded,” Hornstein said. “I am very happy.”
Rapid bus transportation uses buses that allow front and rear loading and unloading with ticketing at stations for faster boarding. The stations are further away than on traditional bus lines and the buses have a certain prioritization of signals. They tend to run along the most used transit corridors and intersect with the green and blue tram lines. The existing BRT lines are Line A on Snelling and Line C from the Brooklyn Center in downtown Minneapolis.
According to Metro Transit, line E would follow bus line 6 on avenues France, Hennepin and Université. Line F would serve the corridor of the central avenue in Blaine now served by bus line 10. Line B would follow the 21 bus route from West Lake Street to downtown St. Paul via Marshall and Selby avenues. And the Line D Would take the 5 bus route from the Mall of America to the Brooklyn Center transit station through downtown Minneapolis.
The budget also provides for state funding for a second Amtrak train per day to Chicago.