What to know about Metro Transit's new fare enforcement program

A woman stands Infront of a bus.
In July of 2023 the Metropolitan Council announced Lesley Kandara's as the first woman to fill the position of the Metro Transit general manager.
Courtesy of Drew Kerr

If you ride Metro Transit in the Twin Cities, expect to see agents enforcing fares on buses and light rail trains soon. 

The change is in response to a new law, called the Transit Rider Investment Program, or TRIP, that makes fare evasion a civil offense.

Lesley Kandaras is the general manager for Metro Transit. She talked to All Things Considered host Tom Crann about what riders can expect.

For the full conversation, click play on the audio player above or read the transcript below. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Can you tell us what changes we will see? 

The Transit Rider Investment Program has two components to it. One, it changes how we handle fare inspection on our system. And also, it creates a new type of employee, TRIP agents, who will be available to assist customers and provide a friendly, visible presence on our system.

TRIP agents will also be the ones inspecting fares, which is a change of how we've done that in the past. It had been done by our police officers.

When can riders expect to see these changes? 

In the next few months, customers will start to see personnel out there inspecting fares, and if necessary, issuing the administrative citation.

These administrative citations come with fines. What kind of fines are we talking about here?

The fine structure that the Metropolitan Council approved earlier this month starts with the first violation being a $35 fine. But there are also alternatives for the first time you’re found to be in violation of the fare policy. If you violate a second and third time, the fines increase with each subsequent violation.

For people who need transportation to get to and from work but can’t afford it, along with the reality that light rail trains are used by people who need shelter – how did you balance those realities with these fines?

Metro Transit has what we call our Transit Assistance Program or TAP, which allows people from lower income households to qualify to ride transit for $1 per ride. And so one of the advantages of having the trip agents out on our system is they’ll be trained to help educate people about that opportunity to enroll in that program and get discounted transit fare.

Will TRIP agents be uniformed?

Yes. They'll have a clear uniform. They’ll be labeled as trip agents. And the idea is that they’ll be easily visible, and our customers can find them and access them as needed.

Will TRIP agents be involved in any way with either prohibited or illegal behavior that we have seen on light rail lines?

Yes. One advantage of having the TRIP agents out there is there is another set of eyes and ears on our system, and we think that them just being visibly present should help deter some problematic behaviors we're seeing.

Does the new state law provide funding for these new TRIP agents?

Yes, so part of the transportation omnibus legislation this year included a new metro area sales tax for transportation. So in the future, that will be an ongoing source of funding for many public safety activities we're doing and will also be a source of funding we can use for the TRIP program.