Commuters on Sacramento Regional Transit’s Light Rail cars may have noticed a sharp increase in fare enforcement. For years, regional transit had just ten transit officers riding the trains and checking tickets. This left room for people riding the light rail for free.
In June, the agency added 25 new fare inspectors or transit agents. As a result, fare evasion dropped from 15.5 percent in May to 5.1 percent in August.
Nadia Alcaraz is one of the new agents. Her day starts at 8:40 a.m. and she rides the Gold Line out to Sunrise Boulevard and back.
“I like it, people are not as angry as we thought they were going to be,” says Alcaraz. “They are very nice. A lot of people are happy that we’re on there. And a lot of people thank us for checking their fare, the trains are cleaner. People are happy.”
Norm Leong is the Sacramento Police Department Captain assigned to Regional Transit Police Services.
“The agents have provided a customer service level that riders haven’t experienced before, in a long time and they are also just making sure that RT is collecting the revenue needed for the system to expand and improve,” says Leong.
Susie Marcketti has been with the agency for 12 years as a transit officer. She says the extra people are making a big difference.
“Not only are we enforcing fares, but we have a little bit more control over each one of our trains,” says Marcketti. “Our passenger ridership, I feel, has improved. I get compliments every day on the light rail.”
Marcketti has fun with her job; sometimes she does trivia with the riders on her trains. On a recent Friday, she does a little dance as she approaches frequent rider Jimmy Johnson to check his fare.
Johnson rides the trains every day, about three times a day and he’s certainly noticed the increased enforcement.
“I always have my tickets and pass, so it doesn’t really affect me,” he says. “It’s just more of a hassle. I have to always make sure I have my pass out, but it’s to be expected I guess.”
Johnson says before this summer he got checked maybe once a week. Now, it’s every trip, sometimes multiple times on one train. He says he hasn’t noticed many other changes.
“It doesn’t help us or hurt us in any kind of way,” says Johnson. “It’s public transportation, you can’t really expect too much from it.”
After checking Johnson’s ticket, Marcketti gets off the train at the 65th Street station to take down a sign taped to the fence. She hopes as the officers and agents work to keep the stations and trains clean, the riders will begin to take care of the system as well.
Leong says the staffing increase isn’t just about fare evasion — it’s part of a culture shift.
“As we clean our trains and our stations and we show that we care and we provide a response to their concerns and needs the behaviors changing too,” Leong says. “It starts with us and we’re trying to do our part to make sure the experience is good.”
The fine for riding without a valid ticket is more than $150. Regional Transit recently raised fares to combat a $2.7 million budget deficit.