THE TRIMET ARGUMENT
TriMet’s top priority is keeping our riders, staff and community safe. While uniformed police
officers have a limited role in fare enforcement, they play a critical role in ensuring the safety of
TriMet opposes House Bill 4097 because it would prohibit law enforcement from conducting or
participating in fare enforcement activities.
HB 4097 would stop police from assisting fare inspectors in verifying an individual's identity
once they have been found to be without proof of payment. It would also likely prevent transit
police from providing support for fare inspectors in the event customers refuse to provide
proof of payment or valid identification or become violent toward fare inspection staff.
TriMet needs the flexibility for police officers to assist in fare enforcement efforts and, as
needed, provide safety for our employees and riders during fare checks.
Why do transit police need to be able to ask for proof of payment if they don’t often write
It is important to distinguish between asking for proof of payment and issuing citations for lack
of valid fare. While it’s uncommon for transit police officers to check fare specifically for the
purpose of fare enforcement, they need the ability to check for valid fares when they engage
with individuals for other reasons. For example, when engaging with someone who is behaving
erratically or inappropriately, police need to determine if the individual has a valid fare. If the
individual does not have valid fare, the police can immediately remove that person from the
vehicle, allowing the vehicle to travel on without disrupting service.
In addition, the proposed legislation does not simply prohibit police officers from asking for
proof of payment – it also prohibits police from “participating in activities” related to fare
enforcement. This could mean that officers cannot be present while fare enforcement
activities are underway, meaning TriMet staff and customers would be at greater risk of
Also, there may be situations (e.g. major events like Timbers/Thorns matches, Blazer games,
etc.) where transit police request proof of payment to ensure everyone is checked, ensuring
that there is no real or perceived bias toward any group. While TriMet strives to have enough
fare inspectors to validate all customer passes, there are times when circumstances prevent
this and transit police officers are asked to step in. Again, transit police aren’t writing the
citation. If someone doesn’t have fare they are transferred to an inspector. But even though
transit police officers are not writing citations, it is important that they be able to ask for proof
of a valid fare.
Are minorities or other disadvantaged populations being targeted by fare enforcers and
Not according to an independent study by Portland State University’s Criminal Justice Policy
Research Institute, which TriMet has twice engaged to determine whether there are racial and
ethnic disparities in TriMet fare enforcement. The most recent report looked at citations from
2016-2018 and found that “Differences between the fare evasion survey results and
enforcement outcomes are small and indicate little to no disparity.” The original report had
TriMet is the only transit agency in the United States that has twice engaged in this kind of in-
depth, rigorous, independent academic review of our fare evasion statistics for evidence of
The results of the original PSU analysis led TriMet to make changes to the fare enforcement
system to try and reduce the number of repeat offenders, the one area the original report
called attention to as needing more examination. The decriminalization of fare violations, in-
house resolution process, community service in lieu of a fine and implementation of the Low
Income Fare were all actions TriMet undertook to try and minimize the potential for disparate
outcomes in fare enforcement.
How many complaints has TriMet received regarding safety and security?
Over the past couple of years TriMet has received thousands of complaints for MORE security,
fare inspection and official presence. After the 2017 Hollywood MAX Station tragedy that
number has risen dramatically.
What has TriMet done to make fare enforcement and policing less punitive and fairer?
TriMet has worked with community groups, Districts Attorney, rider advocates and the
legislature to develop new approaches to fare enforcement in an attempt to address areas of
concern identified in the Portland State report. Among the steps taken are:
Working with Districts Attorney to eliminate the application of Interfering with Public
Transit (IPT) in cases of simple fare evasion
Working with Senator Lew Frederick and others to amend the IPT law to make this
Implementing a low income fare program, which now has more than 25,000
Working with the legislature to change the Circuit Court-based process of adjudicating
fare violations, which can sometimes lead to deeper entanglement in the criminal
justice system. The legislature approved the law that allows TriMet to manage an
alternate administrative process that reduces fines and offers the opportunity of
community service to resolve violations.
Linking the low income fare program to the administrative fare violation process so that
first time fare violators can reduce their fine to zero if they qualify for the low income
fare and agree to sign up for and load a low income HOP card with at least $10.
All of these changes are intended to reduce the severity of fare violation penalties and reduce
the chances that an individual will become entangled in the criminal justice system, while still
maintaining an effective fare enforcement tool.
What is TriMet’s Transit Equity Advisory Committee (TEAC) and why does matter?
For changes related to either security or fare enforcement, TriMet works with TEAC to provide
advice and feedback before making significant changes. TEAC has representation from a wide
range of community organizations representing low income, minority and marginalized
populations. A TriMet board member sits on TEAC and provides monthly reports to the full
board on the committee’s work, particularly as it relates to safety and fare enforcement.
Please Vote “NO” on House Bill 4097
THE PEOPLE'S ARGUMENT
Chair Prozanksi and committee members, Good morning.
My name is Tristan and I am a member of Bus Riders Unite here in support of HB 4097.
We are a union of transit dependent people from throughout the Portland metropolitan area advocating for a more accessible, equitable and sustainable transportation system.
As a steering committee member, I also have the pleasure of representing BRU on TriMet’s Transit Equity Advisory Committee and the Safety and Security Subcommittee therein.
Some of BRU’s recent victories include postponing TriMet’s planned fare hikes and working with the TriMet Board of Directors to create a fare holiday beginning next year in honor of Rosa Parks’ birthday as a meaningful advancement toward a fareless public transit system.
As it is with most of our membership, I am transit dependent and have been ever since moving to Portland in 2014 and even prior to that. I’ve never owned a car and I never plan to. I don’t even know how to drive and there’s no bus stop outside the capitol building.
Even if there were most of us are too busy.
TriMet riders are poorer, browner and speak more languages than almost any other demographic. Untold barriers stifle our participation. So when decisions like these are being made, the people most impacted rarely have their voice heard.
I am privileged to be speaking here today.
But who is being heard?
TriMet executives pushing an outdated agenda.
Well-founded legal consultants with reams of data.
Police association lobbyists worried about losing millions in TriMet contracts.
They’ll say it’s about safety, but what is safety?
When we canvass on the buses and trains, riders talk about safety in much different terms.
To them safety means lights at shelters, latenight bus service and high ridership because a well used transit system is a safer system.
They don’t want armed cops, bomb sniffing dogs or an $11 million transit police precinct the likes of which TriMet plans to open in July.
TriMet likes to highlight a PSU study they commissioned that allegedly found no racial bias in their fare enforcement tactics.
What the won’t tell you is that the study only accounts for TriMet employees, not transit police officers.
Their biases remain unscrutinized yet we trust them to judicially apply this tactic of fare inspection.
In all another contexts, a law enforcement detention absent individualized suspicion is undeniably a violation.
Yet under current rules simply being in the vicinity of a transit station is putting yourself at risk of an unlawful search.
This is bus stop and frisk.
Representative Hernandez’ bill proposes to correct this gross injustice that disproportionately impacts transit dependent people, lowincome folks and Black, Brown and Indigenous communities and on behalf of Bus Riders Unite I urge you to support its passage.