Transit officers check passengers’ trolley tickets. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Transit officers check passengers’ trolley tickets. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

At the same time officials are talking about ways to make transit more appealing, the agency that oversees San Diego’s trolleys has been aggressively citing people who can’t prove they paid for a ride.

Lisa Halverstadt reports that MTS issues more tickets than transit systems across the United States, including several with far more riders. Yet MTS has not seen a dramatic decline in the rate of unpaid trolley trips. MTS officers, for instance, wrote 61,560 fare evasion citations in 2018, more than double the number they handed out just two years earlier.

MTS leaders said a board-approved decision in 2017 to add 30 code compliance officers who can write tickets has kept the fare evasion rate low — just under 3 percent — and kept crime off the trolley. Some MTS board members, however, are urging an overhaul of the agency’s approach. Other transit systems allow tickets to be resolved through a civil administrative process rather than a criminal one.

A citation for failing to pay the $2.50 fare can lead to far more substantial charges once court fees are factored in. One homeless man said he owes more than $4,000 in fees and interest after failing to appear in court for a handful of trolley tickets.

MTS leaders believe that routine fare checks contribute to an overall sense of security, and a survey they conducted in early 2019 suggests that an overwhelming number of riders find that the presence of officers makes them feel safer. 

Speaking of Transit …

The Union-Tribune also reports that a long-envisioned trolley line between Chula Vista and the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego is in limbo. 

MTS “now appears to be leaning away from paying for the line as part of a roughly $24 billion tax measure slated to go before voters later this year.” SANDAG, however, seems interested in incorporating the proposed Purple Line’s alignment into larger plans for a regional high-speed rail system.

What Do Voters Really Care About in D3?

In Andrew Keatts’ story last week about the future of the local Republican Party, the consultant running Kristin Gaspar’s re-election campaign in the County Board of Supervisors’ District 3 race said roads, traffic and infrastructure were the top concerns among voters. He cited some polling. 

But another consultant told us in the Politics Report this weekend that his own polling suggests otherwise. Voters are most concerned about homelessness, the cost of housing and climate change

The March primary and November election will be instructive. 

In the meantime, a judge has ruled that one of the Democrats in the D3 race, Terra Lawson-Remer, can not be designated as an “environmental attorney” on the ballot because she’s registered in New York, not California. Instead, she can go by “community activist.” 

Long Live the AB 5 Debate

A law written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that puts limits on the gig economy is the subject of yet another lawsuit, and there’s also a constitutional amendment in the works. It’s not immediately clear, however, how the state might roll back AB 5 while still complying with the Supreme Court decision that formed the basis for it. 

Scott Lewis and Sara Libby talked about all this and more on the podcast. We all chuckled at a recent New York Times piece on the continuing frustration of the law for suggesting that Gonzalez became a fiery presence on Twitter “in recent weeks.” Our hosts also took a moment to single out what they’re excited for in 2020, and it’s not all about politics. There’s a global sports event happening next summer with weird opening ceremony outfits. You might’ve heard of it.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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