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Seattle Fare Enforcement Disproportionately Punishes Blacks, Data Show

Sound Transit says its fare enforcement system is design to be unbiased, but analysis about fare evader data indicates disparities.
October 11, 2019, 9am PDT | Camille Fink
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Sound Transit

Heidi Groover reports that data from Sound Transit in the Seattle area show that black riders are disproportionately caught in the fare enforcement system. While blacks make up 9 percent of riders on light rail and commuter rail trains, 22 percent of riders who were warned or penalized since 2015 were black.

"For black riders, the disparity grows as the punishment gets more severe, from warnings to $124 tickets to misdemeanor theft charges. In the last four years, about half the riders who faced a misdemeanor charge for failing to pay a fare were black," notes Groover.

Approximately a third of Sound Transit’s rail operating revenue comes from fares, and fare evasion affects the agency's bottom line, says Groover. Critics argue the findings show that fare enforcement measures are problematic and affect those riders least able to pay fines. Still, officials say the reasons behind the disparity and people not paying fares are not entirely clear, and the agency plans to conduct surveys later this year to gain more insight.

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Published on Friday, October 4, 2019 in The Seattle Times
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