The Metropolitan Council passed a new set of rules Wednesday afternoon aimed at reducing fare evasion.
The change comes as part of the Transit Rider Investment Program, or TRIP. Under the program, non-sworn uniformed officers will patrol trains and buses and cite those not paying for the ride in an effort to reduce the strain on metro police departments. Unlike police officers, non-sworn uniformed officers cannot make arrests or issue criminal citations.
The program is a result of the Met Council’s long-standing efforts to shift from treating fare evasion as a criminal offense to an administrative fine. The first violation is a $35 fine, but the fine can be reduced if the offender watches an educational video on how to load a transit card. Fines after that can range from $55 to $100. After the fourth violation, riders will have a 100-day ban on riding transit.
“It is not a question of whether we’re doing this, we’ve made the promise,” said Charles Zelle, the Met Council chair. Zelle said this change was six years in the making, but is being implemented now due to the passage of TRIP, which was passed last year.
Officers are also responsible for connecting those struggling with substance use disorder, mental health, or homelessness to social services. Twin Cities social services have long been overburdened by a high demand for beds for unhoused individuals, and long wait times for mental services.
Leslie Kandaras, the general manager of Metro Transit, said the next step is negotiating with the labor union about the positions and then getting people hired. She said she expects 20 -22 people to fill the positions, and the council must submit a report on the results of TRIP by Feb. 15.