CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - MARTA Police have locked a man up after officers say he evaded paying the $2.50 fare.
The transit agency says it has always had the authority to arrest fare evaders, but began an aggressive campaign in November. That left 47-year-old Marlon Williams was handcuffed, arrested, taken to jail and hauled in front of a judge.
Clayton County Magistrate Judge Betrice Scott told Williams he faces a charge of Obtaining Entry to Rail by Unlawful Means.
“In that you did unlawfully enter the breeze gate at the Atlanta Airport Marta station by following behind a paying patron without rendering the required $2.50 charge," she said, reading from the arrest warrant.
MARTA Spokesperson Lyle Harris told Channel 2s Tom Jones this is a part of the transit system's new Code of Conduct policy, and allowed by state law. The policy also allows customers to be suspended from riding for unruly behavior and evading paying their fare.
"Your bond is $2000," Judge Scott told Williams, who responded he wouldn't be able to pay it.
MARTA says it is losing millions of dollars because of fare jumpers. The transit system it's stealing from taxpayers.
Some riders agree, but they say arresting people is going a little too far. "For it to be an arrest? Maybe a slight fine at the most. But not arrest, "Quinn Newton said.
Rider Fred Frank wonders if arresting people is cost-prohibitive. Obviously it's costing the city more than 2.50 cents," he said, referring to the costs municipalities incur from locking up offenders.
But many other riders were in favor of arresting fare jumpers. You know what. That's a beautiful measure. They got to get their revenue. And we gotta have a decent transportation system. It's not a waste of money and we got to set an example," Richard Harriot said.
Others say if someone is bold enough to fare jump, they're more likely to commit other crimes while riding. They say locking them up prevents that. "You know if you don't maintain the law, if you don't keep the law right. Everything will just go chaos," one rider said.
MARTA says it's not fair that most riders pay and a select few refuse to.
The transit system says most of the suspensions have been for fare evasion.