Reporting Vanessa Borge
PALM BEACH COUNTY (CBSMiami) – The sounds of South Florida’s Tri-Rail includes clicking wheels, churning engines and blaring horns. But getting lost in all that noise is the money that apparently isn’t collected each day from riders who don’t purchase a ticket.
Thousands of violators each year are getting their trip on the tracks for free and it does have an effect on everyone else.
Tri-Rail officials estimate 40,000 people rode the Tri-Rail tracks without paying a dime in 2012.
During a recent ride, a producer and photographer from our sister station WPEC CBS12 in West Palm Beach hopped on the Tri-Rail during a normal afternoon to see which one would have their ticket checked and which one wouldn’t.
During the two hour train ride, neither had their tickets checked.
A passenger named Rick doesn’t believe in free rides on the rails. He’s a regular rider with a pass that allows him to get on and off when he needs to. Rick said he sees other people get a lift on the train without paying and he said those free riders need to be checked by the guards who walk the aisles but that the checking process is sporadic at best.
Tired of waiting for her ticket to be checked, the WPEC producer approached a guard asked him if they check tickets or not.
“It’s random,” he replied and then directed additional questions to Tri-Rail officials.
Steven Abrams, who is the Mayor of Palm Beach County, said plans are in the works to make improvements.
“We are in fact redoubling our efforts to check passengers,” said Abrams.
Abrams confirmed 30,000 warnings were given out in 2012 to Tri-Rail passengers who did not have a ticket to ride, so that means tax payers are footing the bill so others can ride free.
“We don’t want to have people riding the system for free and we try and prevent that,” explained Abrams.
Abrams added that roughly 520 citations were handed out to riders sneaking on-board last year. At $50.00 a pop, Abrams hopes that sets the tone for any other travelers looking to cruise without putting up the cash.
“Fifty dollars is a pretty steep price to pay to ride a train. I think people will want to avoid that by properly purchasing a ticket,” he said.
Tri-Rail officials said many of the violators that they have come across are people who rarely use the public transportation system. They say on average, regular riders do have their ticket or have their pass ready before hopping on board.