TriMet—Portland’s self-proclaimed “#1 Transit” provider—celebrated Independence Day week by making moves to liberate Portlanders from the financial burdens of taking public transportation and unveiled two new policies: a reduced fare option for low-income riders and a new and improved approach to fare evasion citations.
Riders with household incomes less than double the national poverty line will be able to purchase day passes at a 50 percent discount and month passes at 38 percent of the standard rate. Riders can visit TriMet’s website for instructions on how to apply for the reduced fare passes. Those who are enrolled in Oregon Health Plan, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other eligible programs will be approved automatically, while those who are not will be required to provide one of many accepted forms of income verification.
TriMet has also come forward with an attempt to settle citations for fare evasion out of court. The new policy allows first-time offenders to settle their citations within 90 days by either paying a fine of $75, compared to the previous amount of $175–250, or four hours of community service, with both forms of settlement increasing with subsequent violations.
The new angle on citations follows the March arrest of Ana del Rocio, which sparked outrage among the Portland community and resulted in the legal involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union.
On March 13th, Rocio—a school board member for Portland’s David Douglas High School—was arrested on charges of providing false information to a police officer after being removed from a MAX train for being unable to provide proof of fare to TriMet officials, OregonLive reported. After being removed from the MAX, Rocio reportedly refused to provide ID, lied about their name and was subsequently arrested.
The arrest sparked controversy among Portland residents who claimed TriMet officials discriminated against Rocio—a Latinx person—by targeting minorities when checking fares. The hashtag #trimetwhilewhite began to trend following the incident and was used alongside stories from TriMet riders describing what they perceived as racially discriminatory practices on the part of TriMet employees.
The ACLU has stated it will provide legal defense for Rocio, who has yet to be given a date for their trial. In the aftermath of the incident, TriMet denied Rocio’s account of the events and defended the conduct of the employees involved.
Meanwhile, the new policies will likely serve to improve the relationship between TriMet and Portlanders who, as shown by TriMet’s annually published Attitude & Awareness Surveys, tend to hold the public transportation service in high regard.