Light-Rail Freeloaders to Get $50 Fine, Not $500 as today's Arizona Republic Reports

The headline on today sure got our attention: "Light-rail riders who don't pay will be fined $500."

That's a whole lot more for the same offense than people pay in other cities. For example, New York City charges scofflaws who "jump the turnstile" only $100, bumping up the fine last summer from $60.

Then we noticed the article by veteran Arizona Republic reporter Kerry Fehr-Snyder dilutes the strong headline with the phrase "up to $500 plus court fees..."

We checked in with Metro light rail spokeswoman Hillary Foose to find out the real story behind the fines.

In fact, Foose explains, light-rail freeloaders will be handed a ticket with a more reasonable fine: $50.

Now, if you're the type who'll get tons of these tickets, and when you get them, you'll have a habit of failing to pay the fines (and you anger a municipal judge) -- yes, then maybe you'll get a $500 fine.

But that's a lot different than getting a $500 ticket. In fact, the Republic's headline is kind of like saying motorists who get a speeding ticket will be arrested the next time they get stopped by a cop. Sure, it

Foose says the ticket-collectors will be randomly dispersed so that frequent light-rail riders will face a one-in-five chance of getting questioned. Even then, folks who seem to have honestly forgotten to pay won't get a fine at all -- they'll just be asked to step off the train at the next station, pay, then re-board, Foose says. It's only the habitual freeloaders who'll end up in the most trouble. -- Ray Stern

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern