Children and Transit’s fare evasion conundrumBy
Earlier this week, during the MTA Board Committee meetings, the Transit Committee materials let slip an interesting fact: Fare evasion is higher than previously reported. Facing pressure from within and without, Transit has upped its estimate of lost revenue to around $100 million. Based on the latest budget projections, that puts the agency’s bleed rate at around 2.7 percent, not unmanageable but higher than anyone would like.
Now, it’s all well and good to target fare evasion, but there’s a potential PR problem looming. What do you if many of those evading the fares are children? According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, children who duck under turnstiles could account for up to 43 percent of the subway fare evasion problem. Sumathi Reddy had more to say:
Last year, the Daily News reported that an agency staff report presented at a conference found that 43% of fare-beaters were kids taller than 44 inches ducking under turnstiles. At the time, the Daily News said the authority was considering placing signs near turnstiles to make riders aware of the rule.
Bowling Green is the only subway station that has one: Near the turnstiles at every subway entrance is a blue sign with a yellow ruler. The 44-inch point is marked and the sign says: “When accompanied by an adult, up to 3 children under 44 inches in height, ride free.”
Hmmm. So if you have four babies in tow, you have to pay for one. Who knew? But it doesn’t clearly spell out that if a parent has even one child over 44 inches, he or she must pay (though that information is posted on booths).
A spokesman for the MTA said the Bowling Green sign was part of a pilot program that began last year to inform commuters that the requirement exists. He said the agency is studying whether it’s feasible to put them up across the entire system.
Of course, the sign, as Reddy notes, is having no effect. She noticed parents opening the emergency exits for her children, two children doubling up on one swipe at the urging of their parents and a general disregard for the height requirement.
What to do? What to do? Reddy offers up this child-friendly take: “It’s hard to complain about the MTA not cracking down on child fare-beaters. In fact, we should probably applaud them, though one has to wonder why the rule exists to begin with.” Still, with the stories she tells, parents should be under the microscope here, and neither age nor height should excuse a proper fare payment.
Yet, it’s a tough question to address. If the MTA is going to cut down on fare evasion, it will have to focus on the fact that a lot of children who should be paying for the rides have not been, and that’s an uncomfortable conundrum for parents and transit executives alike.