Fare-jumping: A $31 million problem or an inconvenience?By
Every few months, the MTA rolls out another report on the revenue lost to fare-jumping, and every few months, the same report leads to a bunch of outrage. How could the MTA give up so much fare revenue? Why aren’t more cops patrolling the stations? This is why we can’t trust the authority do anything properly. And over and over and over again.
This year’s story rings true to form. After finding that the MTA lost approximately $27 million to fare-jumpers in 2009, a report covering 2010 found $31 million in lost revenue due to fare-beaters in 2010. According to coverage of the report, fare-jumpers entered the system in 2009 18.5 million times without paying. That’s 50,684 per day, and cops handed out 120,000 summonses all year.
Per The Daily News, turnstile-hopping seems to be the rare case where crime does pay. As The Daily News notes, a fare-jumper who gets caught just once every six weeks would gain money. Six 7-day MetroCards cost $174 while the summons sets them back $100. This year, with the economy stagnant and the fares up over early 2010, the MTA estimates that’s 1.5 percent of riders jumped the fare as compared with 0.9 percent last year.
Pete Donohue had more on the MTA’s response:
The MTA said the report – presented at a transportation think tank’s conference this year – was not an official document. Average weekday ridership is about 5.4 million.
“New York City Transit takes fare evasion very seriously and is continually working with the NYPD on cost-effective strategies to combat it, such as targeting high-incidence locations and placing cameras in key areas,” MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said.
She said transit cops have made 12,468 arrests for fare evasion this year, up 5.5% from the same time last year. Officers have issued 37,825 summonses to evaders this year, a 1.7% increase from the same period in 2010.
Whether or not there is an actual problem, police officers have called upon politicians to raise the fine. A 2009 effort to jack up fare-jumping penalties to $250 went nowhere in Albany, but NYPD officials want a renewed effort. “I think the state legislature should consider raising the fine,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said. “It would probably be a good idea.”
What would be a good idea though? Perhaps raising the fine makes sense. If the price is high enough to deter fare-jumping, then the penalty would be ideal. If, as the News says, jumpers get caught on average of once every 6-13 week, it would have to be a substantial fine.
Beyond that though, the MTA and the NYPD probably shouldn’t do much. While the pure numbers sound high — 18.5 million! — in percentage terms, they’re not. As even the News noted, only 1.5 percent of riders are jumping this year. For any business that’s more than an acceptable bleed rate, and it’s tough to tell how much extra revenue one police office at nearly $80,000 a year would net. Perhaps it would make sense, but perhaps it wouldn’t be the best use of police resources.
Basically, fare-jumping is a sunk cost for the MTA. It is the price of doing business in a system that can’t station a cop in 468 stations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A higher fine should temper the problem, but anything else is simply overkill.