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Transit authority addressing fare dodging

The Butler Transit Authority board voted Tuesday, May 14, to implement a policy that would ban people who do not pay the full fare from riding the bus.

John Paul, executive director of the Butler Transit Authority, said at April’s board meeting that bus drivers have either just let people continue riding the buses, or have paid part or all of the fare for riders who don’t have enough money.

Under the new policy, which is being rolled out starting May 20, drivers would give notices to people who don’t pay the full fare, who would then have three days to pay their outstanding balance at the bus terminal, or face a seven-day ban. Paul said the bus security cameras capture video and audio, which would also be used to reference people who have been given payment notices.

“It’s fundamental fairness too, because if they keep avoiding these fares, then we’re going to have to increase fares again,” said Rebecca Black, solicitor for the transit authority. “That will affect every other rider, who is going to have to pay those increased fares because a handful of riders refuse to pay the fare implemented.”

The authority is also in the midst of increasing the fare for a single trip on the bus from $1.25 to $1.50. Black said the agency also wants to ensure people adhere to the new price, so it was important to enact a policy now. The new policies will be advertised on buses and at the bus terminal on West New Castle Street.

Black also said the authority tries to avoid having bus drivers take action against riders, but the drivers are typically the most familiar with riders and may be the only ones who have contact with them.

“The problem that we have is because we don’t have fare cards that everybody has to use that’s tied to their name and address. There are a lot of people we don’t know,” Black said. “We don’t really have a big enough operation where we can have a police force and the legislature that is on our side saying, ‘Here, we’ll give you a specific summary violation for fare evasion.’”

Black said a riders could escalate their punishment if they continue trying to ride the bus after receiving a suspension notice.

“Pursuant to our exclusion policy, if you are excluded from service during a certain period of time and you try to board the bus, you are considered a trespasser,” she said. “In that situation, if you won’t get off the bus, then we have the ability to call the police and involve them.”

In other business, Paul said no members of the public attended the hearing the authority hosted May 9 for input on its proposed fare increase, but people can still submit comments until 4:30 p.m. June 10. People can mail comments to 130 Hollywood Drive, Suite 101 Butler, PA 16001, email or submit comments in person at a transit authority board meeting or at the terminal at 128 W. New Castle St. in Butler.

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