The King County Auditor laid into the RapidRide bus system in a report released Thursday, saying that the county spends $1.7 million per year on fare enforcement that primarily harms homeless and unstably housed people.
The auditor found that the vast majority of tickets go unpaid, resulting in a recovery of less than 1.3 percent of court processing costs. The problem has become so extreme that the District Court decided to begin charging the Department of Transit for court costs related to processing unpaid tickets.
The practices have a particularly deleterious effect on people experiencing homelessness and low-income people who cannot afford the $124 tickets assessed for being caught skipping the fare. The charges totaled $290,000 between 2015 and 2017.
Parking tickets in Seattle, in contrast, typically cost $47.
When a ticket goes into collections, it can impact a person’s ability to get housing and other services, the report found.
The report was met with outrage from the Transit Riders Union, an organization that lobbies for improved, equitable public transit.
“This situation is absurd and despicable,” Katie Wilson, general secretary of TRU, wrote in a release. “It traps the King County residents who most need public transit and are least able to pay fines. And to what end?”
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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