Passengers question Red Line pay system as fare skippers ride penalty free

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Most Red Line fare skippers face no penalties, according to passengers.

Vague citation protocol, staffing challenges and confusion over a temporary payment system have contributed to lax fare enforcement, workers on the rapid transit line said.

IndyGo launched its Red Line service Sept. 1 but did not begin charging passengers until Dec. 1, two months after the scheduled roll-out of “MyKey,” a permanent fare system that remained unavailable Monday.

Board members approved two free-fare extensions due to “delays from the fare system vendor,” according to Lesley Gordon, a spokesperson for IndyGo.

Gordon and other IndyGo staffers could not confirm when MyKey would be available for passenger use.

Fare vending machines were installed at stations along the 13.1-mile bus route to accommodate temporary ticketing procedures. Fare inspectors were assigned to “visually verify” tickets at stations and on buses, according to the IndyGo website.

Two inspectors who spoke to News 8 on condition of anonymity said they did not warn, cite or maintain lists of people suspected of fare evasion.

“Fare penalties are being finalized currently,” the IndyGo website stated Monday on its “MyKey FAQ” page. 

Erin Allen, a daily Red Line rider, said she was concerned passengers were taking advantage of IndyGo’s fare enforcement challenges.

“I’ve seen fare checkers who let people who didn’t pay their fare still ride the bus,” she told News 8. “People see that and say, ‘I’m not paying [to ride the Red Line] either.’”

Allen is sheltering at a facility for domestic violence survivors within walking distance of a Red Line station, she said.

A local agency that connected her with counseling and support groups provided her with a 31-day Red Line pass valued at $60.

“They gave me the bus pass to make sure I can make it to my [support] group [appointments],” Allen told News 8. “The agency paid for it but these people aren’t [paying for Red Line tickets]. I don’t think it’s fair at all.”

The fare money could have been spent supporting other survivors, she added.

Carol Mosby, a downtown resident who relies on public transportation, said she rides the Ride Line at least three times a week. 

She had never seen a fare inspector on a bus, she told News 8.

“They tell you they have [inspectors] on the bus who check your tickets,” Mosby said. “But every time I get on the bus, there’s no one checking my ticket.”

Some drivers took it upon themselves to check tickets, sparking confusion among passengers and complaints about inefficiency; Red Line operators are not responsible for checking fare.

On Twitter, IndyGo acknowledged receiving multiple reports of a driver yelling at passengers to bring their tickets to the front of the bus. 

The incident occurred Saturday night on a southbound bus at a Meridian Street station, witnesses said.

Gordon said she had no knowledge of the incident. 

“Please be patient with us as we continue to educate our bus operators,” IndyGo said in a Tweet.