CLEVELAND- Today, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority announced a special meeting tomorrow morning at 9:15am regarding juvenile fare evasion penalties. The controversial topic was tabled at last week’s RTA Board meeting in response to public concern. At the time, the RTA Board said that the topic merited more discussion and would be revisited at their next regularly scheduled meeting on December 7, 2010.
ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James L. Hardiman said, "The RTA board set a date when they would next address this issue, and there are many concerned residents on both sides of the issue who would like the chance to speak out. By moving the date up with little or no notice, the public's ability to weigh in on this issue is greatly diminished."
The RTA recently announced a plan to issue citations to minors who cannot show proof of fare payment. The initial plan proposed a $150 fine for fare evasion, but RTA has since discussed reducing the fine to $50. Minors who fail to pay the fine will be turned over to the juvenile court and some may be eligible for a yet-to-be-determined diversion program. The ACLU of Ohio and other community members have expressed concern about the effect of criminalizing more young people and how that might add to the community’s already high number of youth in the justice system. In addition, many advocates have raised concerns about creating a costly new juvenile court diversion program to address a two-dollar bus fare.
In a letter to the editor printed in the Friday, November 19, 2010 Cleveland Plain Dealer, RTA Board President George Dixon acknowledged that additional discussion of the topic is needed and it would be discussed at the December board meeting.
“Community members have raised numerous questions and concerns about RTA’s ever changing policy proposal. The RTA Board should not rush to pass a new policy without answers to those questions,” added Hardiman. “Clearly, many people are concerned about this issue, which means our leaders need to take additional strides to ensure all sides are heard and the public is kept informed well in advance of any decision.”