SOUND Transit - Change your policies on fare enforcement

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Petition to: SOUND Transit, City of Seattle council

Today, I recieved a ticket in the mail for fare evasion. It was $124, 5 times the amount of a parking violation, for forgetting to validate my prepaid monthly unlimited card which was paid for peak fare rate. I am a fulltime student, low-income self-employed person between contracts and currently pulling in $0 a month. This ticket caused a lot of grief and came out of money for necessary living expenses, and still would have even if I'd chosen a time-payment plan. I saw no option for forgiveness based on inability to pay, and no option for forgiveness based on proof that I already paid for my unlimited rides reduced-fare card for the highest fare rate.

First, to point out a few facts about this system:

1.) The most likely people to ride transit are those who are low-income and cannot afford cars, travelers, the elderly, or those who are disabled and cannot drive cars.
2.) People with disabilities that impair vision, memory, or attention are more likely to miss the card validator than others, as are those new to the system.

These tickets can be very stressful for low or no-income people, many of whom simply forgot to tap their cards, were in a hurry to catch the train, couldn't find the validator, or were a houseless person simply taking up an empty seat at no cost to the transit company in order to get to shelter or services. I believe this to be inhumane to threaten a person with debts that they cannot afford for a non-violent "offense" that costs nothing to SOUND transit. We should be helping our disabled, low-income and houseless neighbors get to work, get clean, and take steps toward housing rather than placing more stress upon them and ruining their credit to make finding housing or loans in the future even more difficult or taking money from their paychecks that they could use for food or necessities instead.

There must be better ways that the Seattle City government can collect money than to prey upon the least fortunate citizens. As many times as I have been through the checks, I have personally never seen anyone get ticketed or get a warning for actual fare evasion - only forgetting to tap and ORCA pass, not knowing how to use the validators, or not double-checking to see that it had shown the correct message on the screen.

Please create a system and policy change to allow ticket recipients to apply for forgiveness for inability to pay or for proof of having a paid unlimited fare card or pass for the date of the ticket, and have this information on every fare evasion ticket or letter mailed out in regards to a ticket.

In the transit forum where I posted about the ticket, many people complained about the difficulty of locating the validators as well. Please make sure that the validators are easily visible on the platforms, and clearly mark them with instructions for first-time users.

- V. Snow

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