I am a wanted man.
I am a fugitive from Sacramento County. Lock your doors and keep your children close. There is a warrant out for my arrest. Clearly, I am a threat to the community.
No, I’m not making this up.
I truly love this city, and have been looking forward to blogging here about all the wonderful things Sacto has to offer. Then $#!+ like this happens, and all I want to do is move back to Paris and live out my days as an itinerant street musician…
On January 27 of this year, I had an appointment in East Sacramento. Not Fab 40s East; waaaay out there. I had to take the light rail. On my way back, I discovered I hadn’t counted my change correctly. I was 5 cents short for the return ticket. It was getting late, and my only option for getting home was the light rail.
Long story short: I hopped the next train. Three stops later an RT cop got on and asked to see my (non-existant) ticket. I showed him the $2.45 in change in my pocket and explained it was an honest mistake. He gave me a citation that looked like a parking ticket.
I support public transit wholeheartedly, and wish Sacramento had a better system. To be fair, the light rail trains really do run on time — impressively so. But the stops must have been planned by someone who’s never actually visited Sacramento, let alone lived here. No station in Old Sac and no viable option to the airport?!! The next politician who complains about Sacramento not being a WCC (i.e. “World Class City”) better don their hardhat and get their butt out there digging ditches and laying track…
You don’t get an arrest warrant for failing to pay a parking ticket. Or even five. Sure, your car will probably get booted, but habeas corpus doesn’t come into play. I had planned on going to court to contest the fine — ahem, excuse me, my “bail.” But both of my daughters had spring break that week, as did my wife, who’s a teacher, and we went out of town. I simply forgot about it.
Okay, so I blew my chance to contest a ridiculously high fine — $167 v. a $2.50 light rail ticket?!! I expected the fine would go up when I realized I’d missed court. But from $167 to $384?! AND the threat of arrest?!!
I recognize and sympathize with Sacramento’s dire financial straits, and realize that they’re trying every avenue of revenue recovery (um…say it with me: “Interceptor”?) But the whole idea of public transit is to provide an affordable, economic, and ecologically-friendly way for urban residents to get around, which in turn provides economic strength to the community, and the state. These sorts of fines and penalties are not punitive or even onerous; they’re draconian. Threatening someone with physical arrest for riding the light rail without a ticket is pure thuggery.
So I decided to do a bit of research: I grew up in and around Boston, and enjoyed their excellent public transit system — subway as well as buses. I called and spoke to an MBTA police officer, who said that the fine for hopping a turnstile was $15 first offense, $100 second, and $200 third. I inquired about additional penalties, such as arrest or Sheriff’s work programs. His verbatim response: “What are you talking about?!” He was incredulous that I’d even asked such a question.
Here, for the record, is the first sentence of the letter I received yesterday:
A WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE ARREST.Â ANY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA MAY ARREST YOU ANYWHERE, INCLUDING YOUR HOME OR PLACE OF BUSINESS.
So if you see me, turn your head. Do not associate with me in any way, lest you be targeted through guilt by association. I am a pariah…an outcast…a wanderer, doomed to walk the lonely streets of Sacramento, watching each light rail train pass me by.
P.S. But if we all clap our hands Tinkerbell-style, the K Street Mall will come back to life! 🙂