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Key Initiative

Fair Fare Enforcement – Fostering a Welcoming Transit System For All

Move Minnesota and allies are fighting to stop fare enforcement policy that criminalizes poverty—and replace it with a better system.

The Issue

Everyone should be able to ride our public transit systems with dignity. Right now, when people don’t—or can’t—pay for transit fare, they’re faced with a heavy-handed fine and a permanent criminal record. Imagine spending time in jail—and then being denied housing, employment, and access to transportation—simply because you couldn’t afford a $2 bus ride. We wouldn’t enforce parking tickets with a $200 fine and criminalization, so why are we criminalizing people who rely on public transportation?

The Solution

To create a transportation system that is more equitable and just, Move Minnesota is working to change how transit fares are enforced. We demand that the Minnesota Legislature end the harmful fare enforcement practice currently mandated by state law, and replace it with a support-based ambassadors system that addresses the underlying reasons why fares sometimes go unpaid. Fares should be checked by non-police transit ambassadors who have access to information about social services, safe housing, and other resources. Move Minnesota supports a complete solution—that provides ambassadors and fully decriminalizes fare evasion—because the problems created by a partial solution are too big to ignore.

Why It Matters

A new approach to fare enforcement is urgently needed in both the metro region and across our state. The criminalization of fare evasion is the criminalization of poverty and creates harmful inequities in our transit system, failing people most in need. In the Twin Cities, criminal citations and arrests under the current system have disproportionately been enforced on people of color. Criminalization and incarceration have life-changing consequences for individuals and families, with damaging ripple effects in our communities as a whole. Further, police presence on transit is often not appropriate or safe for riders—creating an alternative program will make the transit experience more safe and welcoming for all riders.

Our Objective

We need transit systems in the metro and around the state to work for everyone–Black, white, and brown, immigrant and Native, rich and poor. To get there, we need the Minnesota legislature to pass a fair fare enforcement policy bill that includes decriminalization and a transit ambassador program.

Change is possible if more state lawmakers lead on this issue during the 2021 legislative session. Move Minnesota and allies are building and mobilizing support to make that happen.

The Challenges

  • Minnesota lawmakers turned fare evasion into a crime under state law in 1983, creating the enforcement mandate currently tying the hands of transit agencies statewide. 
  • Because state law says riding without a fare is a crime, state law also says transit fares have to be enforced by police—placing uniformed officers with guns in situations where it’s just not necessary. 
  • While similar efforts across the country have earned bipartisan support, legislative gridlock in Minnesota is preventing us from passing commonsense fare enforcement legislation and other basic criminal justice reform measures.
  • Some elected officials are using proven-false “tough on crime” rhetoric instead of effective violence-prevention solutions.
  • Even some elected officials interested in transit ambassadors have been unwilling to take a stand for decriminalization, creating problems as big as the ones we need to solve.
  • A focus on ticketing has led to Metro Transit being the fastest-growing police force in the state, eating up valuable resources across the system.

Initiative Milestones

  • 2018: Move Minnesota launched the fair fare enforcement initiative.
  • 2019: Move Minnesota developed a core coalition of partners to shape our fair fare enforcement policy demands.
  • 2020: Move Minnesota successfully worked with legislative allies to introduce a bill that would decriminalize fare evasion. Unfortunately, opposition changed the bill so drastically it became harmful. Ultimately the bill stalled out.

Being unable to pay for bus fare
should not be a crime.

Move Minnesota is currently working with our partners to reintroduce a bill in 2021 that upholds the vision of decriminalization and a transit ambassador program.

How can you take action?

Share your experience.

Sharing real stories reminds everyone that this work is about people–not just laws on the books. If you are interested in testifying personally before the legislature about this important issue, let us know that in your story submission.

How can you take action?

Contact your legislator.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle need to hear that we’re expecting action on this issue in 2021. Help Move Minnesota and allies stop fare enforcement that criminalizes people who ride transit—and express your support for transit ambassadors.

Our Partners