SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - In the last three years the Utah Transit Authority increased fares by 50 cents, and now it wants to hike the price of your ticket again.
That's upsetting some riders who believe others are cheating the system and riding for free everyday, costing UTA hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost fares every year.
ABC 4 went undercover to see how often tickets are checked on Utah's mass transit lines.
After riding TRAX and FrontRunner on different days at different times and from different locations, no one ever asked for proof of purchase.
One passenger said she has been riding TRAX about five years regularly and they've checked her ticket maybe five times.
Some riders said sneaking on would be a breeze. They said you could stand near the door and if the police come on you can get off quickly.
Riders say it's hard to see people riding for free and not be upset with a rate hike.
That's when ABC 4 took action and brought these riders questions to UTA Spokesperson Gerry Carpenter.
"Fare evasion is actually a much smaller problem than people tend to think," Carpenter said.
Here's the math UTA showed us.
TRAX and FrontRunner make nearly 15 million trips a year. Their police force check about 5% of those trips.
That means about 700 thousand riders are asked to show their ticket each year, and out of those riders about 1% did not pay, which Carpenter says adds up to a couple hundred thousand dollars in lost revenue a year.
And its important to note some of that money is made up with citations at $150 a pop.
"Its much, much more expensive to increase enforcement than it is to just try and randomly check and trust that most people are going to honest," Carpenter said.
He also said the alternatives are not feasible.
"It's pretty hard to keep them out unless you have 100% enforcement, you're checking tickets on every passenger which would be very, very expensive to do or you're engineering some type of closed system with gates and fences, which is very expensive to install and maintain and manage," Carpenter said.
So for now, enforcement will remain as is, but to the riders who continue to dodge their payment Carpenter says their time will come.
"The message here is that if you're not gonna have valid proof of payment you're going to be slapped with a hefty fine and possibly even a criminal citation," said Carpenter.
Currently an adult fare is $2.25, which includes a .25 fuel surcharge. UTA wants to raise the base fare to $2.25 in May and change the fuel surcharge program so it only activates when gas goes above $4 a gallon then up it to $2.35 in April 2012 and again to $2.50 in April 2013.
Count on ABC4 to keep you informed. The first of 7 public hearings is set for tomorrow in Utah County and we have all of the hearing dates posted in the orange box on ABC4.com.