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Greater Cleveland RTA riders support ordinance to reduce fare evasion penalties

Proposed ordinance still makes fare evasion a crime
Greater Cleveland RTA riders support ordinance to reduce fare evasion penalties
Posted at 10:08 PM, Apr 25, 2022

CLEVELAND — Adam Bresnahan agrees with a large group of Greater Cleveland RTA bus riders who believe current city law and penalties for those caught not paying the fare for a ride are simply unfair and unjust.

Bresnahan takes the GCRTA route 55 bus into Cleveland weekly to get to work and believes the current maximum penalties for fare evasion of 30 days in jail, and a $250 fine are wrong and puts riders arrested in a potentially hazardous situation.

“It just compounds the unjustness and unfairness of this law, there have been deaths in the Cuyahoga County jail," Bresnahan said. “To think that somebody is going to be put in a situation where people have died just because they didn’t pay their fare for a reason we do not know.”

https://ewscripps.brightspotcdn.com/cb/15/d668d3e340a596a789a074868f6c/399-2022-amending-section-605.pdf
Adam Bresnahan is a Cleveland RTA rider who believes fare evasion should be completely decriminalized.

Bresnahan said aproposed emergency ordinanceintroduced to Cleveland City Council on April 25 is a big step in the right direction. The proposed legislation introduced by Ward 3 Cleveland Councilman Kerry McCormack is calling for a significant reduction in the penalty for fare evasion to a written warning for a first offense, and then a $25 fine after that. The proposed ordinance would also eliminate the possibility of jail time.

But Bresnahan, and rider group Clevelanders for Public Transit, believe the law stops short in truly decriminalizing fare evasion because riders caught would still be issued a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which would be listed on a rider's criminal record, unlike a parking ticket which is just a fine.

Bresnahan believes keeping fare evasion a criminal offense sets up a host of issues for riders who have been caught not paying for a ride for whatever reason.

“Non-payment of fare remains a misdemeanor within the City of Cleveland, so in that sense, it’s still a crime," Bresnahan said. “It’s problematic because a crime can still remain on your criminal record which can cause problems for you in the future, whether it be in housing or employment. Even if this legislation passes, it’s out of city council control as to how this non-payment of fare gets enforced.”

Cleveland attorney and RTA rider Ross DiBello told News 5 he applauds the proposed emergency ordinance but agrees the legislation is not complete in decriminalizing fare evasion and also makes riders responsible for court costs that can quickly add up.

“I don’t think trying to get from point “A” to point “B” on public transportation should ever be a crime," DiBello said. “In reality, it could be more than $25, because again its your time, time is money, it’s fees and costs associated with it. To be blunt, criminalizing fare evasion serves only to criminalize poverty.”

Cleveland City Council told News 5 the proposed emergency ordinance is now set for review by Mayor Justin Bibb's administration and will be the subject of three Cleveland council committees over the next two weeks. The measure could be up for a council vote by his coming summer. Similar legislation has already been made law in Washington D.C., Portland, and San Francisco.