Unpaid Metro fare evasion fines not enforced in D.C.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen told The Post that he expects WMATA and D.C. officials to resolve the enforcement issue soon.

No government agency is tracking whether or not Metro riders caught evading fares in Washington, D.C., are paying their fines, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

A Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spokesman told The Post that it was in D.C.’s interest to collect the fine because the money benefits the city, while a spokeswoman for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said WMATA issues and collects fines. WMATA issued 13,649 fare evasion citations in D.C. totaling about $682,450 between October 2017 and May 8 of this year, but the District has collected only $115,772 in payment, officials told The Post.

The D.C. Council overrode a mayoral veto earlier this year to approve a measure that decriminalized fare evasion, effective May 3. The maximum punishment WMATA can issue to a fare dodger is a $50 fine, but the transit agency has collected just under 17 percent of the fines it has charged for fare evasion for almost two years, according to The Post.

To pay their fines, fare evaders who have received citations are supposed to send to WMATA a check or money order made out to the D.C. Superior Court, The Post reported. Metro will then pass the payment onto D.C.’s Office of Finance and Treasury, which deposits the payment in the Superior Court’s compensation fund for crime victims, according to The Post.

But neither D.C. nor WMATA officials could name a regulation or rule that stipulated which agency is responsible for tracking unpaid fines, The Post reported.

The District’s neighboring jurisdictions take a different approach to fare evasion fines. Arlington County and Montgomery County officials track payments for Metro-related citations and penalize those who do not pay with a court summons or driver’s license suspension, according to The Post.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen told The Post that he anticipated the city and WMATA would resolve the confusion over enforcement in the coming weeks.

“Laws change frequently and agencies charged with enforcement adjust to those changes, so I fully expect any process for collecting fines to stabilize after more than one month of the new law being effective,” Allen said.

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