And That’s How You End Up with Donald Trump: Turnstile Jumping Edition

Turnstile jumper. (Image credit: Boston globe.)

The Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority (MWATA) has a big revenue problem. Not only is ridership declining, but it appears that an increasing number of riders aren’t paying their fares. To recapture riders, Metro is asking billions of dollars from member states and localities to patch up everything from rail lines to escalators. And to plug its revenue losses from fare jumpers, the authority is cracking down on fare evasion.

Metro Transit Police Chief Ronald A. Pavlik Jr. estimated that the agency loses up to $25 million a year in unpaid fares, reports the Washington Post. From January to June of this year, the number of fare-evasion citations issued more than doubled from the year before to about 6,000 tickets. About 65 percent of those tickets were issued to rail users; 8 percent of the tickets resulted in an arrest. Metro doesn’t collect any money from the fines, but it will benefit if tougher enforcement reduces turnstile jumping.

Many people applaud the crackdown on cheaters. WMATA desperately needs the money to maintain the rail service, which has been plagued with safety issues and delays. Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedenfield has said that people feel a sense of injustice that some riders flout the rules and ride for free while others dig deep to pay their fares. “I think it’s right that everybody pay their fare.”

But not everyone agrees.

Washington City Council is considering legislation that would decriminalize fare evasion, eliminate jail time, and lower the maximum possible fine from $300 to $100. The move, says the Washington Post, “mirrors a trend in cities across the country based on a growing awareness among lawmakers of how issues such as legacy policing practices, unconscious bias and systemic racism, can unfairly target communities based on race or age — even in the seemingly mundane case of fare jumping.”

Some legislators are questioning whether fare evasion should be a crime at all, arguing that targeted enforcement campaigns are bound to ensnare poor and low-income people who don’t have the money to pay their fares — let alone fines.

“Absolutely there’s been a raised consciousness on this that did not exist 20 or 30 years ago,” said Nassim Moshiree, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia. “Activism like the Movement for Black Lives has had a positive impact on raising awareness that policing — and the explicit and implicit bias in policing — means that certain communities are impacted in unfair ways. Even when it comes to something like fare evasion.”

Bacon’s bottom line: The MWATA board already keeps fares artificially low out of concern for the impact on low-income riders, with the difference to be made up by state and local governments. These low fares, incidentally, are a big reason why the system is desperate financial straits today. But apparently, that’s not enough. Now, invoking vague charges of systemic racism — no one has made the case that Metro is systemically racist, just that systemic racism exists — they want to end the crackdown on fare jumping.

It is thinking like this that puts the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, and allied movements in such ill repute. The mere fact that “systemic racism” exists somewhere in the country becomes grounds for engaging in what might be called “systemic reverse racism” in which one group, Metro fare jumpers who are predominantly African-American, get off easy while shifting the cost to taxpayers, a group dominated by whites. (Actually, MWATA does not track the racial identity of fare jumpers. I am simply following the lead of the ACLU’s Mr. Moshiree, whose statements would make no sense if he did not believe that fare jumpers were mainly African-American.)

This is identity politics run amok, and it is becoming all-pervasive in our society. And the most evil, insidious part of it is this: The more that blacks embrace identity politics, the more many whites will as well — particularly lower-income whites whose lives belie the notion that they benefit from “white privilege.” And that’s how you end up with Donald Trump.

Martin Luther King had a dream that one day people would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of that skin. Tragically, that dream seems to be dying.

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4 responses to “And That’s How You End Up with Donald Trump: Turnstile Jumping Edition

  1. Let’s get to the root of the problem. All reckless, daredevil stunts by teenagers, such as leaping over fare gates, should be decriminalized. Indeed, we should shower any teenager’s exercise of initiative with praise and monetary rewards. Ditto for senior citizens and vagrants. Ordinary working stiffs should get out of their way.

    Meanwhile, let’s not blame this on racial politics but on a devastating lack of common sense. Which only reflects ill on those voting for it.

  2. jeezey peezy … scofflaws have been around for a while.. in time immemorial… who knew they were the cause of Trumpism or racism?

    I swear I don’t know how Bacon gets himself into these black holes but I suspect he’s nipping at more of those rancid websites.

    Lemme see.. I wonder how all of this fits into toll scofflaws.. and trumpism…

    😉

  3. According to the Fairfax County Police Department, there is a strong correlation between gate jumpers and big-ticket shoplifting at the Tysons Malls. Mall owners, WMATA and the FCPD are working together to tie cameras together so that Mall security and the Police can watch for the gate jumpers if and when they enter one of the Malls.

    I can see treating a first-time jumper with a non-criminal consequence, but there reaches a point where it’s a crime and it also forces others, especially taxpayers to pony up more to support WMATA.

    • I agree. Of course this runs in cycles. Recall NYC in late 1970s, 80s, and early 1990s, its edging towards the abyss first started by the Squeegee armies that grew ever more aggressive until Rudi brought the entire City back with his war on rampant pretty crime, a war that rippled up all society, cleaning up the city, slashing crime and criminal behavior of all kinds, giving the place hope and pride again. Boy, remember too how Rudi at the time was attacked by the city’s liberal establishment as a fascist. And now how the cycle there has begun to swing back all over again.

      With regard to the fellow jumping the toll in Jim’s picture. What do you think he is thinking? Imagine how the reactions of the DC’s leaders to his conduct affect his thinking, his character, and his chances for a productive future.

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