I wrote a letter on behalf of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and recruited cosponsors, calling for cancelation of a request for proposals for Montgomery County FLASH bus service traffic enforcement. We call for “an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs.” Our message is below and also posted on the SSJC Web site.
Director Conklin and Division Chief Hibbert,
Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the additional undersigned partners call for the cancellation of this solicitation and for reform of Montgomery County’s Transit Services fare policy, including an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs. The reasons are as follows:
- Fare enforcement is discriminatory. Studies in Washington DC, New York City, Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Cleveland have shown that fare enforcement disproportionately targets Black and Brown people, and that people of color face harsher penalties when they are stopped. In Washington, a report found that 91% of citations and summonses were issued to Black people, according to a TransitCenter.org article.
- Police referrals risk escalating minor incidents into problematic encounters. These problematic encounters are likely to disproportionately harm Black and Brown people.
- Fear of fare-evasion challenges could discourage immigrant use of transit. Some community members fear that interactions with authorities could lead to referral to immigration enforcement.
- It has not been established that fare enforcement affects evasion rates.
- Enforcement actions, even educational interventions, may disrupt transit service and degrade performance. This will harm riders who depend on punctual service.
- The loss of revenue due to fare evasion will not pay for contemplated enforcement action. Enforcement is costly, and fares are set at approximately $2.
By contrast, free FLASH service (and making Ride On service free permanently) would have a host of benefits. It would boost ridership and lead to fewer cars on the road, decreasing traffic congestion and transportation energy consumption. It would eliminate the question of enforcement and its assorted costs. Further, free service would disproportionately assist Montgomery County’s most needy residents and visitors. It would help the County recover from the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many thousands of our neighbors unemployed or barely getting by.
In short, the cancellation of the fare-evasion solicitation, an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime, and free bus service would have enormous benefits for the County and its residents.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.