You won’t find turnstiles in the region’s transit stations. Instead, after passengers board, fare enforcement officers move through the aisles checking riders’ ORCA cards and tickets to confirm they’ve paid.

The system is designed to be unbiased, but data shows disproportionality by race and income regarding who is penalized.

Black or African American riders, despite representing 9% of Sound Transit light rail and Sounder commuter train ridership, receive 19% of warnings, 43% of tickets and are charged in 57% of theft cases, as shown in data over four years.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Madrona Venture Group and PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

A King County Metro Transit audit last year found that fewer than 1% of riders received 6% of all penalties. According to the audit, a majority of those were people of color, people who experienced housing instability or both. Citing security concerns, Seattle is considering adding fare enforcement to its streetcars.

We are continuing to report on fare enforcement, and we’d like your help.

Have you had an experience with a fare enforcement officer you’d like to share with a reporter? Do you work within the fare enforcement or transit system?


We want to know about your experiences with transit fare enforcement and how it could better serve the community.

Please provide as much information as possible in the form, which should take less than 5 minutes to complete, below.

We won’t publish any information you share without your consent.

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