Port Authority says it won't use racial profiling when T system goes cashless
February 25, 2017 12:21 AM
A PAT Bus makes its way along Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh .
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although it’s still putting together its enforcement policy for when the light-rail system goes cashless in July, Port Authority said Friday it does not intend to use racial profiling or other methods to identify illegal immigrants.
The authority explained its plans after a handful of riders expressed concerns at the agency’s monthly board meeting that it would use fare checks to identify people with improper immigration papers.
The authority expects to switch to a pre-paid system on the T in July, where riders will be on the honor system for paying their fare. To encourage payment, the authority will assign its police officers to conduct random checks on T cars and issue citations to those who can’t prove they paid with a pre-paid ConnectCard or a receipt for an individual fare.
Christina Castillo of the South Hills said she is “concerned” that fare checks also will serve as immigration checks. Chandana Cherukupalli of Pittsburghers for Public Transit said other transit systems across the country have used racial profiling when picking which riders to check for payment.
“Public transit is not a border check point,” Ms. Castillo said.
Although the authority board by policy doesn’t respond to public comments at its meeting, Chairman Bob Hurley said after the meeting immigration status will not be a consideration in fare checks. The plan is for officers to check all passengers in the vehicle when they do a random check.
“Do you have a fare to use our system? That’s what we will be checking,” Mr. Hurley said.
When an officer identifies a passenger who hasn’t paid, said authority spokesman Jim Ritchey, that person’s name with be run through criminal records to see whether there are any outstanding warrants against them. If not, they will be issued a citation, which calls for a maximum fine of $300 for a first offense and could involve up to 30 days in jail for repeat offenders, both at the discretion of a district judge.
The authority will begin installing equipment in the next few months at light-rail stops where customers can pay before they enter the vehicle. The agency plans an extensive ad campaign to educate the public before the cashless system begins.
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