“New” Enforcement for Proof of Payment on Light Rail Lines

A sunset provides a dome of pink clouds on Target Field during a Twins game.

Twins game sky, this is normal right?

On the METRO System fares are supposed to use a proof of payment system, where you are required to have your ticket or pass with you while riding. Recently, a report detailed how fare evasion had been measured on both rail lines, and a strange tidbit many people overlooked when discussing “those” people who had to be the criminal cheaters were the numbers for people I would expect to have the funds for a $1.75 ticket: sports fans. With game day evasion rates similar to standard times, sports fans were finding ways to avoid paying to see the Vikings do… whatever they do at the TCF Bank Stadium or, as the NFL prefers to call it, the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

Shortly after the release of the report I started noticing other enforcement methods I hadn’t seen previously (MetroTransit says that this style of fare checking was present before, I just hadn’t seen it). Officers started checking everyone getting off a station platform, creating checkpoints at every egress. I have observed this technique at stations around the U of MN campus and downtown Minneapolis, and in particular have seen this at many home Twins games. With the amount of crowd control already set up to keep the trains moving the approximately several hundred fans, there are natural checkpoints for tickets, and as Target Field is the last station on the system, it does not allow for riders to ride to the next station or for the Green Line, even buy a ticket (as the machines are on the other platform).

I called Metro Transit police on this and was told that this strategy had been in use at occasional Twins games and also at certain Blue Line stations since the trains started running. The department further said that the checks are not to “catch” fare evasion as much as to ensure it isn’t happening.

Transit police officers check tickets at the end of Target Field Station (2) platform during a Twins game.

Platform fare checks at Target Field Station (2) with no ticket machines and no further station. You’re caught!

Using these techniques in addition to fare checks on trains themselves mixes up how enforcement can occur and makes it more difficult to successfully evade fares. These checks added to special events ensure that fare evasion for special events will be negligible and not worth the citations it will result in.

Joseph Totten

About Joseph Totten

Joe is a graduate of Civil Engineering-Transportation and Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota, and has a masters degree from Portland State University. Born and raised in Saint Paul, Joe has worked with nonprofits and public agencies in MSP and Portland.

7 thoughts on ““New” Enforcement for Proof of Payment on Light Rail Lines

  1. Monica Millsap RasmussenMonica Rasmussen

    I’m happy to see more enforcement during games and other special events. I used to see large numbers of fare evaders on the Blue Line following Twins games at the Metrodome. Having season tickets at the time, I went to plenty of games, too, but never noticed the level of enforcement that happens now.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten Post author

      Ditto, I usually did 10-15 games a year (probably 8+ by rail) and was never checked exiting trains before, but according to MetroTransit police, these types of checks, especially for special events, has been happening since the line opened. Hopefully it keeps up, or they find ways to increase it even.

    2. Mary G

      In order to get on the LRT or Northstar after a special event, you need to pass through a temporary “gate” (queuing area) that is staffed by Metro Transit PD or other Metro Transit personnel who check your transit pass. This has been the case since Blue Line opened. There are ticket booths for purchasing tickets at the main platforms in order to prevent big lines at the ticket vending machines. If you don’t have a valid fare for the post-event trip, you will be sent back to the ticket booth to purchase a fare. So, I’m not sure how people could have evaded fares after the special events. Although there are always some who can manage to do it. I like that they are checking people coming off the trains pre-event though.

      It is very, very difficult to know who is evading fares on the METRO LRT lines without a physical check. There are many special events that allow for free rides with a downloadable (paper or phone) pass or a ticket stub. As mentioned here before there are go-to cards and other scan-able passes. So I try to reserve judgment.

  2. Wayne

    They’ve been doing that at the MOA for a long time. Probably having a center station hemmed in by fences helps with forcing people into convenient choke points.

    But yeah, it just gets people to pay their fare, which is good, but doesn’t really instill the kind of fear of a several hundred dollar ticket to shape future behavior.

    I also remember from when I was daily train rider that the sports fans are not only the most awful human beings to ride public transit with (seriously try getting off before the stadium stop with a bike on a game day), but think it’s cute and funny when they ‘don’t know how it works’ and don’t pay their fare. There’s signs everywhere yet they would coyly speak to one another about “oh how are you supposed to pay for this thing?” like anyone believed their ignorance. They *deserve* the tickets. They need to be corralled from behind too so they can’t get back onto the platform to pay the fare and do get their $200-something dollar ticket. We all know metro transit could use the revenue, and pardon me if as a daily commuter I feel no pity for people who only ride the train to sports events and never pay for it.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten Post author

      For the Green Line, this has been happening, because Target Field (2) is split platform, and the WB track leads nowhere, so there are no ticket machines on it, nor can they go an extra stop.

      The Blue Line should have a similar set up for Twins, and overall for the Vikings and Gophers as there are separate ticket machines and booths off of the platforms for all these locations. Manning them while these checks are happening allows for bagging of the machines on the platform and nabbing every cheater doing this.

      Lastly, I do think these large numbers of people exiting in one way all at once is annoying to commuters and other ‘regular’ transit users, but it is also a good way to expose people to transit and builds ridership. (That kind of ‘Oh, I could use this for XYZ’, in fact a coworker of mine used it for jury duty after having ridden to special events with his son, when he realized it was an okay ride, and easier than driving downtown.)

      1. Wayne

        I don’t buy the ‘oh it attracts new riders’ rationale for allowing game day riders to flout the rules with impunity. Really what are their other options? Drive into town and pay several times as much for parking and then sit in traffic for hours on either end of the event? Skip out on going to sporting events? Either way, I don’t really care. And I think the amount of people who *actually* convert over to riding transit more than extremely occasionally after taking it to a sporting event is probably far lower than anyone using this excuse claims. I know metro transit probably loves how it inflates ridership numbers, but their ridership is doing quite well without freeloading sports fans, thank you very much.

        The only possible excuse I could see is that it somehow convinces exurban nitwits to consider supporting transit on a political level, but considering how our political system works even this is of extremely limited utility.

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