Bus fare evasion now a $50 million problemBy
One question I’ve struggled with over the past few months has concerned fare-jumping. Does the New York City media place too much of an emphasis on the revenue lost to fare-jumping? Should we care that a small percentage of transit riders try to duck their fares? At what point does the cost of increased enforcement outweigh the benefits?
When it comes to subway fare enforcement efforts, I’ve been firmly on the side of ignoring it. I think the media has spent all together too much time focusing on subway fare jumping as it is mostly just an inconvenience. Steeper fines are likely a sufficient deterrent by themselves. But what about buses?
For a while, the MTA had pegged bus fare evasion as a $14 million problem. Despite anecdotal reports of rampant fare jumping on certain bus lines, Transit had downplayed their bleed rate. Now, it seems, it may be worse than they thought. Pete Donohue had the report:
The MTA loses about $50 million in revenue each year to bus farebeaters — more than triple what it previously estimated, the Daily News has learned. The staggering figure is partly the result of a new way the authority calculates fare-dodging, but also indicates that the longstanding problem has worsened because of lax enforcement, sources said.
The authority previously had estimated that bus farebeaters were stealing $14 million worth of free rides annually. Gauging bus freeloading levels has been an inexact science. Drivers are supposed to keep tallies by pushing a button every time someone boards without paying. The authority also has used video to estimate the frequency of bus farebeating.
“This is situation we have to get under control,” MTA board member Allen Cappelli said. “Not only is it a significant amount of revenue, but you’re allowing people to behave in a lawless manner.”
At a certain point, some bleed is inevitable, but if the MTA’s $50 million estimate is accurate, the new bleed rate on the buses has jumped from around 1.5 percent of annual revenue to 5.5 percent of annual revenue. It’s probably time to address the problem.
As folks enter without paying their fares, it creates a disincentive for others to swipe their MetroCards, and enforcement has been lax. According to Donohue, the MTA is working to propose a citywide plan to “deter fare evasion,” and politicians are calling for more police activity aboard buses. It’s tough to say though what the golden ticket will be here. Until these figures decline though, bus fare evasion will garner headlines one way or another.