DC Mayor Vetoes Bill to Decriminalize Metro Fare Evasion

"We should not encourage lawlessness on Metro"

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has vetoed a bill that would decriminalize cheating fares on Metro.

The D.C. Council passed the bill, which would eliminated jail time for fare evasion in the District, 10-2 on Dec. 4.

On Wednesday, Bowser said the bill could have a negative affect on Metro's budget and operations in a letter addressed to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. 

"WMATA estimates that Metro loses between $25 million and $50 million per year due to fare evasion, and I am concerned that Bill 22-408 would exacerbate the problem," she wrote.

Bowser goes on to say that "the bill simply removes criminal penalties while failing to set up a new civil adjudicative process. This leaves WMATA without any meaningful tools to enforce the payment of fares and will encourage fare evasion, which will result in additional lost revenue for the Metro system."

Bowser says in the letter that she has reintroduced another bill focuses on criminal justice system reform.

"We should not encourage lawlessness on Metro," she says.

Metro gave the following statement on Wednesday:

"We truly appreciate Mayor Bowser’s leadership on this issue and stand ready to work with the Council to develop solutions that address their stated goal of making Metro accessible to people of limited means, while maintaining safety and fairness for the customers we serve."

The Council is expected to overturn the mayor's veto.

Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans was one of the D.C. Council members to vote against the bill last month.

Council member Trayon White, who represents Ward 8, introduced the bill, saying he believes enforcement is unfair.

"We're not saying everybody should hop the train and go for free, but locking people up is too much," White said.

Metro and Metro Transit Police lobbied heavily against the new law.

"It's gonna create challenges we can't even fathom right now," Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said.

He said many of the people arrested for fare evasion committed other crimes.

"We've done that hundreds of times in the District alone — first-degree murder, sexual offenses, numerous guns off the streets," Pavlik said.

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Metro Stations With Most Frequent Fare Evasion

Source: WMATA

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