$500 Fine for riding light rail without a ticket

Posted: Updated:
Fines for light rail cheaters
azfamily.com

PHOENIX --

In less than three weeks, there will be a new way to get around the Valley.

Light rail officially launches on December 27th.

For the first five days, everyone rides for free.

After that, it's better to pay or else it'll cost you big time.

The price could be up to $500 depending on how many times you're caught trying to ride the rail for free.

They system is still being tested, but in a couple of weeks, light rail trains will be making regular runs with passengers on board.

"We're expecting about 26,000 daily boarders within our first year," says Hillary Foose, Metro Light Rail Spokesperson.

Security officers employed by Metro Light Rail will be making sure all 26,000 are paying customers.

"There will be men and women in uniform that will hop on and want to see at random people's fares," says Foose.

"They have a hand-held device to swipe to know if that pass has been validated or not."

It's important to know exactly how to buy the correct fare, because anyone caught riding without paying, will be cited and fined.

Fines start at $50.00.

"It's much like a parking ticket," says Foose. "So depending on how many parking tickets you rack up, at the Court's discretion, they can decide where your fee is, what you have to pay," says Foose.

"And the max it can go is $500."

That's right: $500.

Although the train is clean, and the ride relatively smooth, there doesn't appear to be a destination on its route that's worth $500.

All that aside, bus ridership in October was up more than %13 over the year before.

That bodes well for public transit in general, and the light rail, specifically, because ridership is crucial to the system's success.

"We hope to recoup about 25% of our operating costs from fares," says Foose, "so yeah, we need some ridership to make this system successful."

The rest of the system's funding comes from the three cities in which the light rail runs: Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe.

All three cities are experiencing some severe financial problems which makes the ridership issue even more critical.

Given all the political and financial capital poured into the light rail, it's very difficult to imagine a scenario in where the system will be allowed to fail.