The Metropolitan Transit System board voted unanimously Thursday to take more aggressive steps to reduce the burden of fare evasion tickets than initially proposed by agency staff a day after a Voice of San Diego story laid out how those tickets can terrorize those who receive them .
The board voted to approve a pilot diversion program set to roll out in September that will reduce fines to $25 if fare evaders pay within 120 days. There will also be options to complete community service and to appeal tickets. The board, made up of more than a dozen local government officials, also ordered MTS officials to allow those who can not prove they have a fare to immediately deboard to buy a ticket. Tickets that are not addressed within 120 days would be sent to the San Diego County Superior Court.
More change is likely coming. At City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery’s urging, the board also directed MTS staff to develop a plan to establish a civil citation process for fare evasion. This would mean citations would no longer be sent to the Superior Court, where unpaid tickets can balloon to $500 and be sent to collections.
VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt found 86 percent of nearly 1,500 fare evasion citations MTS gave out in a single week last June remained unpaid and unaddressed nearly a year later, leading virtually all of them to be referred to collections. Tickets sent to collections can wreak havoc on the credit and lives of those who receive them and can lead the state to garnish funds from fare evaders’ paychecks, bank accounts and tax returns.