MTS pilot program set to reduce fines

Courtesy of MTS

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System board of directors recently approved a fare enforcement pilot program that reduces fines. 

“MTS and the board of directors took some important steps to make systemic improvements to our transit system — the agency is taking a new approach to fare enforcement,” stated MTS board chair Nathan Fletcher in a press release. “I’d like to thank my colleagues on the board for their leadership and helping create this path forward for the future of transit in San Diego.”

The one-year pilot Fare Enforcement Diversion Program will begin in early September.

The pilot program reduces fines, offers a variety of payment options to provide more flexibility for passengers who receive citations for not having valid fare while riding buses and trolleys.

Under the new policy citations are reduced from $75 to $25 and people have 120 days to pay the fine to MTS in person in lieu of heading straight to the court system.

The plan also has a community service option for those who cannot afford the fines by completing three to four hours of community service through the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank.

MTS said it is working to add more community service locations prior to the pilot period. During the pilot, only citations that are not paid within 120 days will proceed to criminal courts, where substantial fees may be added to the fines — up to $382.50 on the current $75 fare evasion fine.

MTS Director of Marketing and Communications Rob Schupp said for fines going to the court system, the court added statutory fees on top.

“Your $75 fare evasion ticket quickly bloomed to $150 for first offenders,” said Schupp.

“That was impacting a lot of our passengers negatively. They couldn’t afford a $2.25 fare, they got caught, it went to the courts and they couldn’t pay that. Many passengers didn’t even go to the court to bother to pay. The fines that the courts added ended with passengers getting their wages garnished and more.”

Schupp said MTS’s Public Safety Committee spent several months trying to find a more equitable approach.

“With this, people can come down to MTS and pay their fine, and our board suggested the fine should be only $25. That gives people a better opportunity to rectify their fine before it goes to the court system,” he continued.

Schupp said the pilot program is not retroactive for active fine assessments currently in the court system.