LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — In Loudoun County, individuals evading the metro can now be punished with $50-100 civil fines.
In its 9-0 decision, the board created a new Chapter in Part Six of the Loudoun County Codified Ordinances to prohibit fare evasion, smoking, stopping a railcar and carrying hazardous substances, among other things. Any metro riders found in violation of this ordinance will be charged with either an “unclassified” or Class 1 misdemeanor.
“I believe the Board was able to strike a happy medium where we resolve the issue of fare evasion by fining violators while eliminating the threat of jail time for fare evasion,” wrote Vice Chair Koran T. Saines in a statement. “I also am pleased that during the process we were able to reduce the draft penalties for other behaviors, such as eating or smoking on trains.”
This subject has been proposed before the board in the past and reappeared Tuesday at the request of WMATA and the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD). After consultation with both the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) and MTPD, the board decided to criminalize fare evasion, and give law enforcement authority to detain individuals for being suspected of or having committed the offense.
The Chapter classifies most of the offenses—including fare evasion, smoking, spitting, littering, walking with bare feet, and marking or drawing on a rail car—as “unclassified” misdemeanors. Such misdemeanors fall under subsection (a) of the Chapter, meaning that individuals can be fined up to $50 for the first offense, and $100 for further misconduct.
“We value having Metrorail in Loudoun and want all riders to have a good experience using Metrorail while paying their fair share," Saines said. "Those who are not behaving in a manner consistent with that must be and will be punished under our ordinance. However, we also do not want someone to go to jail for something like evading a $4 fare and the ordinance avoids that as well."
The board also included in its ordinance other offenses which staff and law enforcement consider more direct and immediate threats to public safety. These offenses include carrying flammable liquids, opening a door or window on a rail car without good reason, interfering with an escalator or elevator, being on a track, tunnel, catwalk or any other part of the railcar system, riding on top or on the side of, or between two rail cars.
The last of these offenses is called “train-surfing."
"It’s one of these terrible things out there on TikTok and stuff. Do not do it. Do not watch it. But it’s happened,” said board member Matthew F. Letourneau at last night’s hearing. “That’s one of the items that’s covered in it. I believe that one is a higher-level crime because we really don’t want people to do that.”
These offenses will be classified as class 1 misdemeanors, under subsection (b) of the ordinance.
The board is still discussing ways to address the dangers of illegal firearms on the metro.
“I really want to start having some conversations about how we can prohibit firearms on metro, and we’ll be working on that through Metro Washington Council of Governments,” said board member Juli E. Briskman, at last night’s hearing.
It typically takes a few weeks for new ordinance and edits to existing ordinances to be published online. Once the ordinance is posted, it will be available at: loudoun.gov/ordinances