Don’t Criminalize Transit Riders!

Sign our Petition! And see below for organizations that have signed on to our public letter and an FAQ about the Port Authority’s Proof of Payment proposal.

 

Watch this Powerful Video of Testimony on this Issue At the June 2017 Port Authority Board Meeting!

Port Authority is Proposing Fare Changes to Make Riding the T More Efficient. Unfortunately, their plan includes using armed Port Authority Police Officers and Criminal Charges to Enforce Fare Payment. This Will Endanger People. There’s Another Solution.

October 27, 2017

Coalition partner Krystle Knight of The Thomas Merton Center shared the response from Latinx transit riders to the use of public transit as an immigration checkpoint. Check out her powerful testimony here.

September 29th, 2017

Great testimony today at the Port Authority board meeting about why we should not have criminal penalties and Port Authority police doing fare enforcement on the T! Speakers included representatives from The Women and Girls Foundation, Aryse, PIIN, Urban Kind, Fight for LIfers West, LCLAA, the Center for Independent Living and Beechview Area Concerned Citizens.

Additionally, groups that signed onto a letter of support for a civil enforcement process are listed below:

 

To: Port Authority of Allegheny County

We are writing to demand that the Port Authority of Allegheny County halts the implementation of their fare enforcement policy – “the proof of payment system” – on the light rail, until public concerns have been adequately addressed.  

Our concerns for the implementation of the currently proposed proof of payment policy can be summarized as follows. For the black and brown community, we know that even police officers with the best of intentions practice racial profiling (selective enforcement). Across the country, requiring armed police to have thousands of extra encounters with the public a week has proven to result in unnecessary confrontations and use of force incidents. These disproportionately impact black and brown communities. There have been incidents involving Port Authority police in the past, including but not limited to the murder of Bruce Kelley, Jr. and a confrontation with Somali youth downtown. Many communities still remember the recent and tragic deaths of Oscar Grant and Chad Robertson at the hands of transit police in their own cities.

For the immigrant community: when police run their names to check for prior fare violations, this can trigger contact with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and begin an unjust and destructive process of detainment and deportation. No one should be detained and deported for the suspicion of failing to pay a $2.50 fare. The recent case of Ariel Vences-Lopez having his immigration status questioned by Metro Transit Police in Minneapolis led to Mr. Vences-Lopez being detained by I.C.E. and scheduled for deportation.  

For youth: many students ride the T to school and after-school activities everyday. If they forget their bus pass 3 times, they are subject to both a Theft of Services and Criminal Trespass charge, which will result in a $300 fine or arrest. In NYC, 70% of arrestees were 16-17 years old. This will worsen the school-to-prison pipeline, lead to constitutional rights violations and future ACLU lawsuits.

In regard to those with mental health challenges, or intellectual disabilities: those with disabilities often respond in ways that police have misinterpreted as threats or defiance, and police have unnecessarily responded with force, leading to injury and death.

Finally, for the poor: this proposal results in the criminalization of an everyday necessity.

We support a civil fare enforcement process, where a civilian “fare ambassador” checks for fare payment, and writes a citation if someone cannot prove payment after several offences. Those citations would ultimately go to a bill collector, similar to the process that the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and Southwest PA Turnpike Commission follow. In addition, we believe that the Port Authority should have a policy limiting coordination and communication with ICE, should implement rigorous racial bias training for Port Authority Police and fare ambassadors, and have transparency and accountability with enforcement data.

There is ample evidence that demonstrates that the U.S. cities that have civilian fare checkers- with non-police powers- do not have a high rate of fare evasion. Our coalition is not proposing to duplicate any of these example cities’ fare enforcement practices entirely, but follow the best proof-of-payment practices that the Transit Cooperative Research Program of the Federal Transit Administration identifies: namely, to have a customer service approach rather than a traditional policing approach. It is important to note that concern over fare evasion is not the reason why PAAC is considering implementation of Proof-of- Payment. The only goal of the proof of payment is to increase efficiency, by allowing riders to board at any door on the T, without waiting in line to pay the driver or off-board fare collector. This goal would be accomplished regardless of whether or not enforcement were performed by Port Authority police or civilian fare ambassadors, and whether or not fare evasion had civil or criminal consequences, without any of the harm we foresee happening under the Port Authority’s current policy proposal.

Sincerely,

The Hill District Consensus Group

Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pittsburgh

One PA

ACCESS Mob

Black Political Empowerment Project (BPEP)

Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship (PICC)

Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh

Allentown CDC

Zone Three Public Safety Council

Bloomfield Livable Streets

Bike Pittsburgh

LCLAA

Fight for Lifers West

The Alliance for Police Accountability (APA)

Pittsburghers for Public Transit

The Thomas Merton Center

Casa San Jose

PCRG

Sierra Club Allegheny Chapter

Human Rights City Alliance

Pittsburgh United

Coalition of Organized Residents of East Liberty (COR)

UrbanKind

National Mobilization Against Police Brutality and the FOP

New Afrikan Independence Party

Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE)

LCLAA

PIIN

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. What does it mean to have a “Proof of Payment” fare enforcement system? It is essentially an honor system, where riders would pay their fares off-board, before entering the train. Riders could then enter any door to take their seat on the train; it is intended as a way to increase transit efficiency and allow for a faster boarding process. In this case, Port Authority has proposed a policy that would have armed Port Authority police doing random checks and scanning riders’ CONNECT cards to see if they have paid. If someone cannot prove that they have paid, the policy calls for escalating criminal consequences, with repeat instances calling for a $300 fine, and possible arrest.
  2.  Is Pittsburghers for Public Transit and its coalition partners The Thomas Merton Center, CASA San Jose,  and the Alliance for Police Accountability Opposed to a Proof of Payment fare-enforcement system? No. We can see the benefit of having a proof of payment system, but we have serious concerns about the fare enforcement process as a criminal one, implemented by armed police.
  3. Are you proposing that all riders just ride for free? PPT believes that transit is a human right. However, in this case, our coalition would support a civil fare enforcement process, where a civilian “fare ambassador” checks for fare payment, and writes a citation if someone cannot prove payment after several offences. Those citations would ultimately go to a bill collector, similar to the process that the Pittsburgh Parking Authority and Southwest PA Turnpike Commission follow. So no.
  4. Why don’t you want Port Authority police to check fares? We have a lot of concerns. Here’s the shorthand:

 For the black and brown community:

-We know that even police officers with the best of intentions practice racial profiling (selective enforcement).

-Requiring armed police to have thousands of extra encounters with the public a week has proven to result in unecessary confrontations and use of force incidents. These disproportionately impact black and brown communities. There have been incidents involving Port Authority police in the past, including but limited to the murder of Bruce Kelley, Jr. and a confrontation with Somali youth downtown (Regarding transit police, see also: Oscar Grant, Chad Robertson).

For the immigrant community:

-When police run their names to check for prior fare violations, this can trigger interactions with ICE, and begin an unconstitutional process of detainment and deportation. No one should be detained and deported for the suspicion of failing to pay a $2.50 fare like Ariel Vences-Lopez in Minneapolis, and transit should not create another situation like that of Lucia Vega Jimenez, who committed suicide after detainment by Vancouver transit police.

For youth

-Many students ride the T to school and after-school activities everyday. If they forget their bus pass 3 times, they are subject to both a Theft of Services and Criminal Trespass charge, which will result in a $300 fine or arrest. In NYC, 70% of arrestees were 16-17 years oldThis will worsen the school-to-prison pipeline.

For those with mental health challenges, or intellectual disabilities:

-Those with disabilities often respond in ways that police have misinterpreted as threats or defiance, and police have unnecessarily responded with force, leading to injury and death.

For the poor:

-This proposal results in the criminalization of an everyday necessity.

5.   Well I’m not really concerned about equity and civil rights. How’s this going to affect Port Authority’s bottom line? We care about funding for transit too! As a criminal process, any revenue from fare evasion fines (of $300) goes to the municipality that the incident happened in, and Port Authority would receive only the lost $2.50. With a civil process, all of the money from citations would go to support public transit. Also, it costs on average $1000 in taxpayer money to process fare evasions of $2.50 through the court system, and contributes to the massive legal backup that already exists. Issues with policing and racial profiling are very likely to lead to constitutional rights violations and expensive ACLU lawsuits. We are also collecting data to show that there will be a likely boycott of T service by immigrants in our community, particularly those in the Latino community, because of fear of detainment by ICE. These members of our community make up a significant portion of the transit ridership on the T, and Port Authority will lose their fare revenue. Finally, having armed police officers asking for proof of fare as the main point of contact between Port Authority and the riding public is not the way to build a positive public image for our transit agency. Civilian “fare ambassadors” could help passengers learn the fare system, plan their routes and welcome new ridership in addition to their role checking fares.

     6.  Why don’t all the riders just pay, and they won’t have a problem? Data shows that almost everyone will pay, almost all of the time. Also notably, Port Authority is neither currently concerned about fare evasion nor do they have any data about fare evasion. But here’s the deal: The CONNECT card machinery doesn’t always work, and riders won’t be able to prove they paid. An old lady or tourist may not know the system, and may board without paying. Don’t have the money and need to go to work? You might just take that chance of a fine or jail-time. Requiring police to have thousands of extra encounters with the public a week has proven to result in unnecessary confrontations and use of force incidents.

     7.  Do any other cities have a civil fare enforcement process? Yes! We recommend the San Francisco model, and the Sound Transit has a lot of helpful material on best practices for avoiding racial profiling and fare officer training (although we disagree with having the punishment be a misdemeanor on the third offence). Ultimately, we believe that we don’t need to have a model that is perfectly identical to any other city, but can pick the best practices of proof of payment systems that will work in here Pittsburgh!

  1.  But we’ve already hired all these Port Authority police officers! What are we going to do with them? They should be available to do what they are hired for, to protect driver and rider safety. Having them as fare enforcers actually lowers rider safety and increases the risk of harm for many communities. In addition, there should be extensive, annual training for both Port Authority police and civilian fare inspectors that includes cultural responsiveness, preventing racial profiling, de-escalation, and in interacting with people with mental health challenges and disabilities. With all of these skills in their toolbox, they will be keeping all of us safer.
  1. Is it legal to implement a civil fare enforcement process? Well, here’s the Port Authority Second Class Act Section 3 b.

It says: “An authority shall have and may exercise all powers necessary or convenient for the carrying out of the aforesaid purposes, including but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following rights or powers: … (9) To fix, alter, charge and collect fares, rates, rentals and other charges for its facilities by zones or otherwise at reasonable rates to be determined exclusively by it, subject to appeal, as hereinafter provided, for the purpose of providing for the payment of the expenses of the authority…”

Seems like it’s fair (fare) game to us! And we still have not received a response from the Port Authority legal team to prove that it’s not.

  1. I’m convinced! How can I get involved? Sign our petition, and get your organization to support the call for fare enforcement to be a civil process! Send an email to chandana@pittsburghforpublictransit.org to join our action list, or find out more.

Find out more:

Read the Coalition’s demands letter below.

The current policy for fare enforcement is here.

Port Authority police page is here.

 

Groups train volunteers to oppose Port Authority fare enforcement policy

Post Gazette article by Ed Blazina about our meeting “Don’t Criminalize Transit Riders!”

“We’re talking about for less than $5, we’re going to give people a citation up to $300,” Brandi Fisher of the Alliance for Police Accountability said during a presentation about the policy before training began. “We’ve already seen across America where very small incidents can lead to someone’s death.”

Sign the petition HERE to voice community concerns about the new “proof of payment” policy proposed for the T.

The current policy for fare enforcement is here.

Port Authority police page is here.

Coalition ‘disappointed’ with Port Authority fare enforcement policy meeting” by Ed Blazina

A coalition of groups concerned about Port Authority’s plan to use armed police officers for fare enforcement is turning up the heat against the policy.

The coalition began gathering signatures on petitions at light-rail stations Wednesday and posted a petition online to collect more signatures. In addition, there will be a public meeting at 6 p.m. June 15 at 1 Smithfield St., Downtown, for people to air concerns about the policy.

“We are responding to concerns from residents,” said Gabriel McMorland, incoming director of the Thomas Merton Center. The coalition also includes Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Casa San Jose and the Alliance for Police Accountability.

The groups say they fear the system could result in racial profiling, a criminal record for not paying a $2.50 fare and problems including possible deportation for undocumented immigrants. They want nonpayment of fares handled as a civil matter enforced by unarmed fare compliance officers, with unpaid citations turned over to a collection agency.

Come Join PPT, Casa San Jose, Alliance for Police Accountability, and the Thomas Merton Center for a Public Meeting on June 15th at 6pm at 1 Smithfield

THIS SUMMER, Port Authority plans to have ARMED police Officers checking fare payment on the T……

We demand that the Port Authority delay implementation of this policy until we have a PUBLIC process, a commitement NOT to work with ICE, and a commitment of NO arrests or criminal charges for “fare evasion.”

Join Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Casa San Jose, the Alliance for Police Accountability and the Thomas Merton Center to find out how to get involved to stop the criminalization of transit riders.

The meeting with be in the Liberty Room, 1 Smithfield St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

See ya’ll there!

Check out the facebook page for the event here.

PPT Has Serious Concerns about Fare Enforcement Policy

Port Authority released their fare enforcement policy:

Here is the coalition’s earlier request to meet with the Port Authority about the policy, including our specific requests. We think a policy with such significant impact on riders should be influenced by the public.

May 9th 2017

Dear Ellen McLean and Jeff Letwin,

We understand that the Port Authority has decided to delay implementation of the proof of payment policy on the T, but this step is not sufficient. Our coalition is asking the agency to halt the implementation of the policy until it has gone through a legitimate public process. A policy with such significant ramifications should be influenced by public input. We expect the policy to include the following:

  • The de-criminalization of fare evasion
    • Unpaid citations will not lead to criminal charges or jail time. Instead, a debt collector will be contacted
  • The fare inspectors will not be armed police officers
  • A model that encourages ridership rather than punishes fare evaders
  • Extensive, annual training for fare inspectors and Port Authority police that includes
    • Cultural responsiveness
    • Preventing racial profiling
    • De-escalation
    • Interacting with people with mental health challenges and disabilities

The policy will explicitly state:

  • The constitutional rights of all immigrants will be upheld.
  • Port Authority police will not inquire about anyone’s immigration status
  • The names and information of individuals who are cited will never be shared publicly or with Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Port Authority police will not grant any ICE requests to detain individuals without a judicial warrant
    • If an individual’s name is run through the system, Port Authority police will not comply with ICE requests to hold an individual
    • If an individual’s name is run through the system and comes up as having an ICE warrant (rather than a judicial warrant), Port Authority police will not hold the individual for ICE

*holding an individual based on ICE’s request without a judicial warrant is unconstitutional

  • Internal and external accountability measures must be in place for all fare inspectors and Port Authority police
  • Port Authority police policies should be open and available on their website
  • Police need to track data and share an annual report to the public (number of stops, reason person was stopped, location, race and age of person stopped, if stop equated with arrest or conviction)
  • Port Authority police should not use dogs to attack people
  • More inclusiveness and diversity in the Port Authority police’s hiring and promoting practices

We would like to meet and discuss these concerns and requests with you in the next 2 weeks and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Chandana Cherukupalli, Molly Nichols, DéPree Hopkins, chandana@pittsburghforpublictransit.org, 718-309-0853, Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Christina Castillo, Gabriel McMorland, Christina@thomasmertoncenter.org, Thomas Merton Center

Monica Ruiz, Jeimy Sanchez Ruiz, ruizcsj@gmail.com, Casa San Jose

Brandi Fisher, Brandifisher33@gmail.com, Alliance for Police Accountability

cc:

Chief Executive of Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald

Port Authority Director of Operations Bill Miller

Port Authority Communications Officer Jim Ritchie

Port Authority Police Chief Matt Porter

Port Authority board member Jennifer Liptak