Now that off-board payment and all-door boarding are in full-swing on Third Avenue, riders will see more fare enforcement officers along that transit corridor—just like on Metro’s RapidRide routes.

While using off-board ORCA card readers decreases the time buses spend loading and unloading passengers, it also increases the possibility of riders mistakenly or deliberately boarding without paying a valid fare.

King County Metro’s new Fare Violation Program, launched in January, is Metro’s in-house program for resolving fare violations and aims to mitigate negative, inequitable impacts to King County’s most vulnerable people, particularly riders who are experiencing homelessness.

The goal is to eliminate the chance that a rider—especially one with very little or no income—ends up in a cycle of debt and court interactions.

Metro’s new program now offers a reduced violation fee as well as multiple alternatives, including non-monetary options, for resolving a fare violation.

The options to resolve a fare evasion infraction are outlined at Metro’s fare violation website.

Fare enforcement is an essential component to Metro’s operations, as Metro is required to recover at least 25 percent of its operating costs from fare box revenues under King County Code.

Metro revamped its fare enforcement model in response to a report published by the King County Auditor’s Office in April 2018, which concluded that Metro’s former program was restricting access to public transportation to those who were homeless.

Working with transit stakeholders and community-based advocates, Metro temporarily suspended issuing fare evasion violations last year to develop a more customer-centered fare enforcement program model.

Previously, fare-related citations were administered as civil infractions in the courts. Now Metro has a resolution process that is administered in-house. Metro’s goal is to ensure that all people in King County can use transit without fear of being criminally penalized for a low-level offense like not paying fare.

After a survey period, fare enforcement officers again began issuing fare violation citations on Jan. 7, 2019.

They actively monitor fare payment by requesting proof of payment from passengers. If a rider has an ORCA or a reduced-fare ORCA LIFT card, the results from an ORCA card reader scan will validate the fare payment. For customers using cash or bus tickets, a valid paper transfer is proof of payment – so riders should take steps to have a proper paper transfer or request one from the driver.

If a customer does not provide fare enforcement officers with valid proof of payment, officers will request personal identification information from the customer and either issue a verbal warning or notice of violation. Officers can also ask passengers to leave the bus and, in some cases, will summon Metro Transit Police if they are posing a safety or security threat to the driver or other passengers.

Metro fare enforcement officers do not work with or share information with immigration agencies.

The penalty for fare evasion is $50 and had previously been $124. However, the fine is reduced to $25 if paid within 30 days of the violation date.

There are other resolution options offered as well, including adding money to existing ORCA or ORCA LIFT cards, enrolling in ORCA LIFT or obtaining a new youth fare card or Regional Reduced Fare Permit, or performing two hours of community service. Riders can also appeal the violation. Alternative resolution options may be available for extenuating circumstances or demonstrated need.

Details are outlined in brochures that fare enforcement officers provide when a notice of violation is issued, and also on our website. For more information, read the annual report on King County Metro fare enforcement and fare violation programs.