State urged to decriminalize youth fare evaders

Thousands of San Francisco youth are continuing to enjoy free rides on Muni thanks in part to The City’s free Muni for youth program.

But youth who do not qualify to take part in the free Muni for low- and moderate-income youth program and ride Muni without paying could receive a fine for not having proof of payment — just like any other rider — and will also have to make a trip to court.

Supervisor Eric Mar is wants to change that, introducing a resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that calls upon the state to decriminalize youth transit fare evaders:

“The new legislation at the state level will allow for less burden on our already strained court system, fewer unnecessary conflicts with law enforcement and the option to replace fines for work in the community for many youth that ride Muni everyday.”

He said the current state law is:

“… out of step with many of our values in San Francisco.”

Adult transit citations are no longer processed in San Francisco Superior Court. Former state Sen. Carole Migden introduced a bill to decriminalize adults for transit violations. It passed in 2007 and took effect in San Francisco in Feb. 2008.

Transit citations for adults are now handled administratively just like parking tickets in The City. Mar said youth fare transit citations should be handled the same way:

“This doesn’t mean that young people who break the rules and are ineligible for free Muni passes will get a pass. It simply means that the case would be handled administratively like a parking ticket and not in the justice system.”

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the transit agency will work with the California Transit Association — an advocacy group that works to inform policymakers and the public on proposed laws and regulations related to public transportation — and other transit agencies statewide to sponsor legislation to handle youth fare evaders and other minor transit violations administratively:

“There are significant fundamental reasons to support such a policy. Incorporating administrative adjudication for fare evasion for youth syncs up with current efforts to provide free transit for youth in San Francisco and other transit systems around the state and reduces pressure on the court system.”

The CTA wrote in its 2015 legislation program that one of its priorities this year is to sponsor legislation decriminalizing of youth fare evasion citing the same reasons as Rose for the state legislature to amend the law.