A while ago, Metro released a report stating that it fails to collect about $40 million per year in bus fares (it later turned out that a significant chunk of that money was students being recorded by drivers as not paying, when students get free bus rides). A local news station then tried to whip this up into a scandal. This was followed by the typical caterwauling about freeloaders and, as you might guess, veered into bigotry (never read the comments…), especially since D.C. recently passed legislation making fare evasion a ticketed, not arrest-worthy offense. As you might expect, some people started calling for those who don’t pay the fare to be arrested.
Oddly enough, there’s another source of transit-related fee evasion that’s the same cost–over $40 million per year–which nobody says should result in arrest (boldface mine):
District taxpayers are due $835,750,067 in unpaid tickets, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act by News4.
The missing funds stem from more than 5 million tickets in Washington, D.C., some of them more than 20 years old. These include parking tickets and tickets issued via speed cameras, red light cameras or by police officers.
While D.C. has reciprocity with other states to compel drivers to pay fines, parking tickets and tickets issued by cameras are generally non-enforceable because the driver’s identification details are not included.
D.C. locals owe about $90 million, Maryland residents owe roughly $415 million and Virginians owe nearly $207 million. D.C., Maryland and Virginia make up 85% of the total fines.
Embassies owe nearly $750,000. Saudi Arabia tops the list with more than $65,000 due…
The District hires an outside collection agency to attempt to collect on these overdue tickets. If a car with two or more overdue tickets is found in Washington, D.C., it can be impounded.
So my modest proposal is this: forget impounding the car (though we could do that too), and, instead, arrest the driver. If it’s good enough for a two dollar bus fare, it’s good enough for a more expensive parking violation or a more dangerous speeding violation.
Stop the freeloaders!