Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Port Authority CEO Pledges to Study Fare Enforcement Policy Coalition Protests Proposal to Use Armed Officers to Guard against Fare Evasion

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Port Authority CEO Pledges to Study Fare Enforcement Policy Coalition Protests Proposal to Use Armed Officers to Guard against Fare Evasion

Article excerpt

Protests by a coalition of groups Thursday reinforced new Port Authority CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman's decision to make reviewing the proposed policy to use armed police officers to enforce fare payment her first priority.

In her first action at her first staff meeting on Tuesday, Ms. Kelleman said Thursday, she asked for a review of fare evasion to determine whether the transit agency has a widespread problem. The coalition held demonstrations against treating fare evasion as a criminal matter rather than a civil issue at Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's office and the Gateway T station later Thursday.

The issue won't become a factor until the agency switches to a cashless fare on the light-rail system, which isn't expected until the second quarter of the year. But Ms. Kelleman said she expects the agency to decide the enforcement policy before the cashless system begins.

"The issue is in front of us now," Ms. Kelleman said after an authority board committee meeting. "As a planning person, I want to gather the information first and see what kind of problem we have. Then we have to decide what's best for Allegheny County to deal with that."

Once she reviews the information, Ms. Kelleman said, she will discuss the issue with staff and informal groups before recommending a policy. She said the policy probably will be decided long before the agency begins cashless fares on the light-rail system, which isn't expected until at least April because a vendor is adjusting software for machines to issue day passes and ConnectCard updates.

Port Authority announced last spring that it would treat fare evasion as a criminal matter enforced by armed police officers. Violators would be subject to a $300 fine, and a criminal background check would be conducted when a citation is issued.

The coalition, which includes Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Thomas Merton Center, Casa San Jose and the Alliance for Police Accountability, has been lobbying for civil enforcement by unarmed fare checkers that would treat fare evasion like a parking fine. …

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