Amtrak should make fare evaders pay

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TheCrescent

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On a recent Acela Express trip, train staff caught two people who tried to ride without paying. However, Amtrak didn’t seem to take steps to require the fare evaders to pay for tickets. Shouldn’t Amtrak try to collect ticket prices from fare evaders?

The first was a passenger who got on in Philadelphia. The ticket collector who noticed that he didn’t have a ticket called someone on her phone and then seemed to be directed to remove him from the train, so at the next stop, she came by and walked him off the train. But that was it; he got off, was on the platform and the train left.

The second fare evader boarded at Newark and the train staff announced that the person had to leave immediately, and the train staff found him and made sure that he left. But that was it.

The first fare evader made a big fuss about Amtrak staff being racist but I didn’t see any evidence of racism. Amtrak staff seemed very discrete and polite about things.

If someone wants to ride an Amtrak train from one station to the next, then if the person is simply required to get off at the next stop anyway, then the fare evader gets what he wants: a free ride, with no other consequences.

Why not prosecute fare evaders, or at least have them arrested (if they can’t pay anyway) for theft of services?

This was not a victimless crime: the Quiet Car was not quiet due to the commotion around the fare evaders and the trip was delayed.
 

AmtrakBlue

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“This was not a victimless crime: the Quiet Car was not quiet due to the commotion around the fare evaders and the trip was delayed.”

And how much more delay & noise, for trying to get money from the passenger or having them arrested at the next station are you willing to endure?
 

TheCrescent

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“This was not a victimless crime: the Quiet Car was not quiet due to the commotion around the fare evaders and the trip was delayed.”

And how much more delay & noise, for trying to get money from the passenger or having them arrested at the next station are you willing to endure?
Plenty, if Amtrak became known for actually doing something about fare evasion, resulting in fewer fare evaders. But your point is valid, so perhaps Amtrak could prosecute fare evaders if Amtrak discharged people from trains at stations where railroad police are available.
 

Bonser

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Plenty, if Amtrak became known for actually doing something about fare evasion, resulting in fewer fare evaders. But your point is valid, so perhaps Amtrak could prosecute fare evaders if Amtrak discharged people from trains at stations where railroad police are available.
I've been riding Amtrak frequently for 50 years. In that time I've witnessed a fare evader caught hiding in bathroom once (coincidently also on a Philly-NY run). I don't think fare evasion is a big problem.
 

TheCrescent

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I've been riding Amtrak frequently for 50 years. In that time I've witnessed a fare evader caught hiding in bathroom once (coincidently also on a Philly-NY run). I don't think fare evasion is a big problem.
Well, the country is in the midst of increased crime rates. As prosecutions of NYC subway turnstile jumpers showed that a turnstile jumper likely has committed other crimes, every enforcement can result in other crimes being stopped.

I had never seen a fare evader on Amtrak before but this was two people in about 75 minutes on one ride.
 

railiner

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I don't think fare evasion is a big problem.
That's the bottom line...would it cost more in money and disruption to crack down on them then it's worth?
Perhaps in places like the NEC, with frequent trains and close together stops, they should copy European models and have a "fare control" area at all platforms, requiring a ticket scan to enter/leave?
 

AmtrakBlue

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That's the bottom line...would it cost more in money and disruption to crack down on them then it's worth?
Perhaps in places like the NEC, with frequent trains and close together stops, they should copy European models and have a "fare control" area at all platforms, requiring a ticket scan to enter/leave?
Rail fans would not like this ;)
 

Heading North

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Usually when I’ve seen people without Amtrak tickets, it’s from WIL-PHL or boarding at stops in NJ out of confusion that it’s not the SEPTA/NJT train. When someone asks at, say, New Brunswick if it’s the right train, I’d ask to see the ticket and if they show one of the pink NJT ones, clearly it’s not. (Slightly harder on phones and such.) But I haven’t seen people get very far without a ticket unless trains are crowded/conductors can’t get to everyone.

Once leaving NWK on 67, a ticketless passenger boarded BC and tried to sleep (easy to spot given the limited number of seats). He was given a warning and was asked to leave at MET. When he didn’t, the police came at TRE to escort him off. Pretty simple. But with the different stop patterns from one train to the next, someone would have to know schedules pretty solidly to succeed (and not get thrown off in the wrong place or something).
 

Willbridge

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This has been going on for a long time on the NEC, probably due to the short wait time for the next train if a fare evader is just put off on the platform. In 1969 I saw a trio of young women doing the restroom hideout on two tickets, taking turns using the restroom. In 1987 a passenger sat down next to me in Penn Station on the Night Owl and reassured me that he was only going to Metropark and told me that he didn't pay unless the conductor showed up, which rarely happened. The conductor did not show up.

I've only been on the NEC in coach a handful of times, so these random anecdotes are a high percentage.
 

Widfara

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Back in the 1990's when the Sunset Limited went all the way across to Florida, I was in a roomette, and we stopped in the middle of the night somewhere in Florida for the police to come aboard and remove a passenger who had found an empty roomette and moved up from coach without buying the space. When the train chief asked him to go back to coach, he refused, so we stopped and he was taken off.

Sometime in 2017-18, we stopped in Alton, IL for the same reason, and this time the train chief told me later that Amtrak did (at that time) press charges, for theft of service, and that Amtrak was good about getting train chiefs back for hearings, and paying them for their time.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Why not prosecute fare evaders, or at least have them arrested (if they can’t pay anyway) for theft of services?
Lack of aggressive enforcement likely comes from a desire to keep trains running smoothly for everyone else and the realization that it would cost more to prosecute than would be recovered.

This was not a victimless crime: the Quiet Car was not quiet due to the commotion around the fare evaders and the trip was delayed.
If you think that's bad imagine if they held everyone back while waiting for the police to respond.

I had never seen a fare evader on Amtrak before but this was two people in about 75 minutes on one ride.
I guess twice in one lifetime is far too often for something as serious as fare jumping.
 
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Sometimes it seems that it's an honest mistake. About a year ago, I was riding Acela 2153 to WAS in first class to rack up QTPs during double QTP promotion. I prefer sitting at a table for four as I can spread out with my laptop, have a soda, and even a meal on the table simultaneously. I think it was Newark that a woman came aboard and sat across the table from me. We chatted amicably. When the conductor came around, she showed her ticket for a regional train to Baltimore. He let her stay at the table until the next stop, PHL. No yelling, no screaming, no unruly passenger. Just an all-to-common mistake aboard an Acela.
 
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Well, the country is in the midst of increased crime rates. As prosecutions of NYC subway turnstile jumpers showed that a turnstile jumper likely has committed other crimes, every enforcement can result in other crimes being stopped.

I had never seen a fare evader on Amtrak before but this was two people in about 75 minutes on one ride.
So what's the purpose of:

'If you see something, say something.'

if no one does anything?
 

jebr

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So what's the purpose of:

'If you see something, say something.'

if no one does anything?

My understanding is that the "see something say something" has little to do with fare evaders and more people watching out for suspicious activity that may lead to significant violence. I would hope that agencies aren't expecting patrons to call the police over every turnstile jumper!
 

TheCrescent

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So what's the purpose of:

'If you see something, say something.'

if no one does anything?
Exactly. The “see something, say something” campaigns ask people to alert the police for anything suspicious, including anyone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right. The police can decide if alerts are worth acting on.

And on my Acela, the second fare evader was caught at Newark. The Acela was ending at NYP and was heading to the yard. In that case, the staff could certainly have gotten off and handled it without delaying the train.

And if all fare evaders were prosecuted, then the fare evader’s claim that he was targeted due to racism would be harder to support.
 
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AmtrakBlue

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Exactly. The “see something, say something” campaigns ask people to alert the police for anything suspicious, including anyone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right. The police can decide if alerts are worth acting on.

And on my Acela, the second fare evader was caught at Newark. The Acela was ending at NYP and was heading to the yard. In that case, the staff could certainly have gotten off and handled it without delaying the train.

And if all fare evaders were prosecuted, then the fare evader’s claim that he was targeted due to racism would be harder to support.
🤔 the staff are the conductors. The train cannot move without them.
 

TheCrescent

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🤔 the staff are the conductors. The train cannot move without them.
The person who handled both fare evaders was the person who checks tickets. There were several, and by NWK, there were no more tickets to check, as the end of the line was the next stop, NYP.
 

TheCrescent

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The people who check tickets are the conductors.
Then get someone else to get off the train with the fare evader.

The points that you and others have made are certainly valid: it’s not worth delaying a train or causing a ruckus over a modest amount of fare loss.

Surely Amtrak could develop a policy of taking actions against fare evaders that would minimize costs to Amtrak: for example, involve police if they can be waiting at a station when the train arrives and is the delay isn’t expected to be more than 15 minutes, or otherwise simply collect payment.
 

jebr

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Exactly. The “see something, say something” campaigns ask people to alert the police for anything suspicious, including anyone’s behavior that doesn’t seem quite right. The police can decide if alerts are worth acting on.
Feel free to call the police every time you suspect someone is fare evading. However, make sure to also do so for every other transportation crime that's committed. Someone going 1mph over the speed limit? Call the police! Rolling through a stop sign? Call the police! Expired registration? Call the police! As for victimless crimes, the first two especially are not victimless crimes - tens of thousands of people die on the roads annually in the US, and some of those are through inattentive driving or speeding.

I'm going to guess that within a couple of days of diligently reporting every crime you see you'll get, at minimum, a very stern warning by the 911 dispatchers to stop calling them for such things.

Surely Amtrak could develop a policy of taking actions against fare evaders that would minimize costs to Amtrak: for example, involve police if they can be waiting at a station when the train arrives and is the delay isn’t expected to be more than 15 minutes, or otherwise simply collect payment.

And if the passenger refuses to pay the fare? It's going to be impossible to know how long the train is delayed if the passenger is non-cooperative, if a more important emergency comes up for the police en route, etc.
 
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