For years, there have been complaints that drivers don't do enough to make people pay their fares. In fact, the agency's policy was for drivers to ask for fare once then not argue with a rider. The policy is to ensure the safety of the driver and other riders, and to keep the driver focused on driving the bus.
If you ask some people, they'll say fare evasion on buses is rampant. On some routes, in some areas, with some riders, it is a problem. But we had our drivers and monitors do a survey recently and found that on all Community Transit buses the fare evasion rate (those who underpay or don't pay at all) is about 2 percent. One can say that's a small number, 2 out of 100 people, but with ridership in the millions it adds up.
When we started Swift bus rapid transit, with its off-board fare payment and no fare box, we stepped up the practice of having deputies ride on buses. In the past it was more a symbol of security, but with changes to state law authorizing civil citations for non-fare payment, the deputies had a new job - fare enforcement.
Our drivers started keeping logs of fare evasion, filling out forms to indicate which routes, which locations and which times of day fare evasion was occuring most often. The deputies use this information to decide which buses to ride, in uniform or in plain clothes. A problem arose, however, when deputies encountered a fare evader and their excuse was "Well, the driver let me ride anyway."
By handing the fare evader the new card, the rider is warned and has no excuse. In fact, one supervisor told me last week that a driver handed a card to a gentleman who had underpaid. The guy sat down, read the card then came back to the front and paid the rest of his fare. Good call!
On Swift, the ambassadors are there to check fares and educate riders about how to pay fares on this different type of service. Because it's an honor-payment system, fare evasion is higher than on the rest of the system (up to 6 percent), but there is also a greater risk of getting caught as we have more patrols checking for fare evasion.
Our hope is, with this new reminder, more people will pay their fare without hassle. Drivers can remain focused on the road and deputies can do their job without worrying that a fare evader "has an excuse."