Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More Groups Press Port Authority to Use Civilian Fare Checkers, Not Armed Officers

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More Groups Press Port Authority to Use Civilian Fare Checkers, Not Armed Officers

Article excerpt

Port Authority administrators are reviewing the agency's proposed policy to use armed officers to enforce fare payment when the light-rail system goes cashless early next year.

The announcement Friday that the agency is reviewing other enforcement options came after a broader coalition of groups renewed the call for the authority to use civilian fare checkers and treat nonpayment as a civil matter rather than a criminal offense. More than 15 speakers at the authority board's monthly meeting called for the change, as speakers have at every meeting since February.

David Donahoe, the authority's interim executive director, said after Friday's meeting that the board had asked him over the summer to review enforcement policies at other agencies across the country. The policy was developed as the authority expected to begin a cashless fare system on its light-rail vehicles in July, but that was delayed to at least early next year because of problems with the machines that would read ConnectCard payments and issue cards.

Agencies across the country use several types of enforcement policies, Mr. Donahoe said, and some are more successful than others. He said he's trying to determine whether civilian fare checkers would be legal in Pennsylvania, because current law says only police officers can issue citations.

"I'm not recommending any changes to the fare policy so far," Mr. Donahoe said.

Any change likely would have to take place under current law because Mr. Donahoe said the authority has no plans to ask the Legislature to change the law or approve an exception for the authority. Although the issue is an administrative policy not requiring board approval, Mr. Donahoe said he expects the board will take a formal vote on it later this year.

Under the policy, riders will use their prepaid ConnectCard or buy a single-fare voucher at the station. Armed officers will use special machines to check ConnectCards or vouchers for all riders in a designated area for paid passengers at the station or all riders on a light-rail vehicle to avoid concerns about racial profiling.

Violators will get a warning the first time and could face a fine of up to $300 for a second offense. …

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