Exclusive: Most aren't paying fines for Metro fare evasion

The majority of fines issued by Metro Transit Police for fare evasion go unpaid, according to estimates from Metro and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

According to the D.C. Treasurer, a part of the OCFO, in the last three years it has collected approximately $190,000 in fines that stem from fare evasion citations. At $50 a citation, that would be about 3,800 paid fines.

Metro's data shows in the last three it has issued more than 34,000 fare evasion citations, the majority of which originate in the District.

In June the citations will be the only way to hold people who ride Metro without paying accountable. In late January, the D.C. Council overrode Mayor Muriel Bowser's veto of legislation that would decriminalize fare evasion. It is scheduled to take effect on June 6, making fare evasion solely a civil offense punishable by a fine.

It's unclear if there are any penalties for failure to pay a fare evasion fine. The Office of the Attorney General told FOX 5 it hasn't prosecuted a case related to failure to pay a fare evasion citation in at least two years.

"If someone's not able to pay a $2 fare, it's highly unlikely that they're going to pay a $50 fine and I think in order to address that we have to look beyond sort of the criminal justice system or Metro Transit Police and figure out ways that we can have a more fair and equitable transit system," said Marques Banks of the Washington Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Banks' group helped fight for the fare evasion decriminalization legislation and provided underlying research demonstrating the enforcement was racially disproportionate.

Meanwhile, Metro Transit Police continue to arrest people for fare evasion, in some instances solely for that offense.

Recent arrest logs from the D.C. Police Department show several arrests in March for fare evasion.

Metro says it doesn't typically arrest people only for the offense of fare evasion, yet in at least 55 cases in a 42-day period officers did.

In a statement to FOX 5 Metro said, "Metro's officers have a sworn duty to enforce the law as it currently stands. Fare enforcement is a matter of fairness to every customer that pays their fair share day in and day out and creating an environment for people to follow the rules."