By Gothamist |

MTA Now Wants To Crack Down On Bus Farebeaters: Gothamist

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After it pinned $225 million in lost annual revenue and declines in ridership on farebeaters, the MTA announced it would find new ways to prevent New Yorkers from riding the subways and buses without paying.

The MTA found that from October to December last year there was a 5.9 percent increase in fare evasion on buses, compared to the same time period in 2017.

“This is a real point of focus for my team,” NYCT President Andy Byford said at a board meeting on Monday, adding that the amount of evasion is double what comparable cities face.

On Select Bus Service routes, where there’s a kiosk that customers can use to pay fares, and there are “eagle teams” that regularly checks the receipts of riders on the bus, the number was far less: .4 percent, compared with regular buses, which saw a 6.5 percent increase.

Byford is hoping to put more “eagle teams” on subways but “the big thing that is missing is, we need cops on buses,” he said. “We need police officers to be boarding buses to make it clear to people that you can’t just get on for free. That will also have the side benefit of cutting assaults.”

In an effort to crack down, police have issued 5,000 evasion summonses on buses this year alone, focusing on three Bronx routes, two in Staten Island and another “geographic area” the MTA said has been problematic. But ultimately, adding officers is a decision for the NYPD.

“The NYPD Transit Bureau is actively working with NYC Transit to launch a pilot program that will add officers to bus routes and perform joint bus safety operations with our MTA partners,” Detective Sophia Mason told Gothamist in a statement.

The MTA doesn’t break down how many people are not paying their fares because they don’t have exact change, their MetroCard ran out of money or because the machines are down. Bus service has gotten increasingly worse since 2010, and the number of riders on buses has gone down steadily along with bus speeds.

Meanwhile, the MTA says that 3.4 percent of subway riders evaded the fare between October and December.

Byford said the MTA already has cameras at 37 percent of turnstiles in subway stations, and will be installing cameras at 50 more stations over the summer, so that 50 percent of the stations have some cameras, which he hopes will be a deterrent to fare evaders. He’s also studying whether it was effective to reactivate the alarms on some emergency exits.

Not even MENTIONED in Andy Byford's fare evasion presentation: demographics of fare evaders, and concerns that enforcement disproportionately targets POC and low income communities disadvantaged by our present criminal justice system.

— David J. Meyer (@dahvnyc) March 25, 2019

My unlimited Metrocard ran out today, so it’s time for me to take the bus a mile to my subway station (where I would transfer anyway) in order to refill it... I mean, it’s time to “evade the bus fare”...

— Katherine Willis (@sunflr85) March 26, 2019

Enraged by the MTA’s latest fare evasion statistics, MTA Board member Charles Moerdler went on a tirade on Monday afternoon, calling evaders “deadbeats” and blaming them for the need to raise fares. (The biennial fare hike was already part of the MTA’s financial plan approved last December.)

“The next time someone says to me ‘why did you raise the fares?’ It’s because you allowed the deadbeats to get away with it,” Moerdler said.

Moerdler was allegedly spotted blocking bus traffic in lower Manhattan last year, although he says it wasn't longer than for a few minutes. On another occasion he was spotted at a Muni meter without paying. Moerdler told Gothamist he hasn’t had an MTA placard since last summer, and in fact he believe he’s the only board member that doesn’t currently have a placard.

A tipster tells us that MTA board member Charles Moelder drove his Mercedes to a board meeting yesterday, blocked an express bus attempting to turn, then pulled into an illegal spot. Moelder says it was "only a moment" or "all of two or three minutes." https://t.co/4FgynmeYSi pic.twitter.com/IdAXZ1286N

— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) June 21, 2018

MTA board member David Jones reminded Moerdler and the board that the police have historically done “selective enforcement,” of fare evasion. His organization reported that in 2016, 90 percent of those arrested for fare evasion were black or Latino. A study by the Marshall Project and Gothamist published in September showed that since 2014, 89 percent of those arrested for turnstile jumping this year are black or Hispanic, virtually the same proportion it was in 2014.

Earlier this month, the NYPD gave testimony to the City Council indicating that many farebeaters are students or elderly New Yorkers.

.@NYPDTransit chief says at budget hearing that out of 572 people apprehended for turnstile jumping over the course of several recent operations in problematic stations, 421 got warnings: 309 of them were students and 112 were elderly

— Joe Anuta (@joeanuta) March 19, 2019

The Long Island Railroad didn’t receive the same level of scrutiny at the meeting, nor will there be any eagle teams on its trains, although evasion in February was at 6.1 percent, down from the 2018 annual rate of 6.9 percent. The agency’s goal is to get it down to 5 percent. MetroNorth for its part it as 4 percent so far this year for fares not collected.

As for addressing the needs of riders, the city has agreed to expand the Fair Fares program, and board member Jones said it will include CUNY, and SUNY students, as well as the disabled. He hopes once this program in effect, the fare evasion numbers will go down as well.

Stephen Nessen is the transportation reporter for WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter @s_nessen.