I always pay my Max fare -- always, always, always. There have been a few times - and I mean a few - when I found myself standing on a moving Max car and realizing I had not paid the fare. Those incidents were strictly due to forgetfulness. I had intended to pay, I had the money or unvalidated ticket with me, and I had paid the prior 100 fares in a row. So I don't count those failures to pay as fare jumping or stealing from Trimet.
You should know that only the fare inspectors check fares on Max. Entry is on the honor system. A rider can board a Max train on any platform without paying and no one will know. A lucky fare jumper could ride the Max many times for free. By the same token, even the most well-intentioned passenger can easily forget to pay one time and get busted.
There are multiple signs at the platforms warning against smoking, riding skateboards or bicycles, and being there without a fare. At the Hollywood Transit Center there's a large "No Smoking" sign at the top left of the single stairway. At the right side of the stairway is a sign saying you must have a paid fare to go any further.
There are "No Smoking" signs on each of the two kiosks on the platform. There are other signs on the platform reminding us to have our proof of fare with us at all times.
Every morning, I marvel at the hundreds and hundreds of cigarette butts that litter the Max tracks next to the platform. About half the time, someone is actually smoking on the platform. I have never seen anyone cited for smoking.
The other day, a woman left her three children alone on the platform while she smoked. The oldest kid was about four. The youngest one was in a stroller. The woman walked down the platform 10 yards to have a nice inhale. Maybe she meant to be polite by creating distance between herself and the rest of us while she was getting her fix. Fortunately, the kids barely moved from their spots. If one of them had decided to take a header onto the tracks, she was too far away to have stopped him.
I often wonder how dozens or hundreds of people can indulge their habit so blatantly, ignoring the signs and the possibility of a big fine. Eventually, surveillance will reach the point where if you break a smoking ordinance you'll be identified automatically and receive a ticket on your phone. Meanwhile, it's still the Wild West. Smokers smoke and fare jumpers get busted.
As I said, I have inadvertently failed to pay the fare a few times. On one of these occasions a few years ago I was busted. I walked out of a train right there at Hollywood and into a semicircle of fare inspectors. One of them took me aside, wrote down my name and address and let me off with a warning.
Because a ticket would cost $175, I have been very careful since that first mistake. Then last week, I had another lapse. I had been at a doctor appointment at Kaiser. I had run to catch the Yellow Line Max and was still panting when a familiar inspector was suddenly next to me, asking his familiar question.
"Can I see your fare, please?"
Never a good liar, I said "I don't have it."
He asked why. I told him about the appointment, the running for the train. I showed him the stitches in my arm. He had me get off at the next stop with him. It was the Rose Quarter.
As we stepped off and he raised his citation book, I explained that I was medicated and "not myself." I flashed my book of All-Day tickets and opened my wallet to show a stack of used tickets from the prior week.
"I ride every day with an All-Day ticket."
Without showing emotion, the inspector lowered his book and said he was letting me off.
"I'm allowed to grant a certain number of warnings each day. You're one of today's lucky winners."
I thanked him. I did not hang around for small talk.