Aug
07

The trouble with the Transit Adjudication Bureau

By

Let’s talk about the old City Hall loop station long out of service. Sitting under City Hall Park and, well, City Hall, it’s a Guastavino beauty that served as the launching point for the crazy, cacophonous subway system we have come to know and, at various times and various moods, love or hate. It closed to passenger service in 1945, a victim of a poorly designed platform and declining ridership. It’s open now for tours, and passengers are permitted to ride 6 trains through the loop from the southbound Brooklyn Bridge platform to the north side. Take that ride during the day if you never have. It’s the closest thing you can find to hopping into a time machine.

Let’s also talk about the Transit Adjudication Bureau. The TAB is a quasi-judicial body set up to adjudicate summons issued in the subways and buses by NYPD cops. Since the hearings concern infractions and summons that don’t rise to the level of criminal charges, civil rights advocates, while wary of the TAB, have not gone to the mats over due process concerns. The TAB need not have due process protections required of criminal courts, but so long as some process is followed, it works. When that process breaks down, though, it’s concerning.

A few weeks, Joshua Patchus wanted to catch that City Hall stop, and so he and a friend rode the 6 through the loop. His subsequent blog post gives away the ending: He got a summons and decided to fight it. He lost in front of the Transit Adjudication Bureau. He broke no rules and no laws, and he shouldn’t have received a summons. Then the TAB failed. To me, that’s concerning.

Josh and I exchanged emails this week concerning his plight, and his story is a by-the-books example of transit justice gone wrong. The 6 train Patchus boarded announced “This is the last downtown stop on this train, the Next stop on this train is the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall on the uptown platform.” That’s a clear sign that it’s safe to stay on. The train left Brooklyn Bridge and proceeded through the City Hall Loop without stopping. As Josh explained to me, it took about as long to go from the downtown platform to the uptown platform as it did for the train to go from Canal St. to Brooklyn Bridge.

When the train arrived on the uptown platform, two police officers asked Patchus and his friend to exit the train. The cops then handed out summonses alleging a violation of Rule of Conduct 1050(6)(2d) — which is a posted sign or announcement. Patchus decided to fight and had as evidence the 6 train recording and an affirmative from the conductor allowing him to stay onboard. Still, it wasn’t enough to convince the TAB judge who claimed that the summons was “legally sufficient to establish a prima facie case.” The TAB decision stated as well that the “Respondent did disregard the overhead announcement.”

Now, clearly, the TAB was wrong. There was no overhead announcement because it wasn’t a violation of any rule to ride through the City Hall Loop. The summons is more defensible because these things happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe the cops were new to the beat; maybe they weren’t trained. The MTA has since assured me that the agency will work closely with the precincts to ensure riders are not ticketed for riding through the Loop.

What happened with the TAB raises serious concerns though. The TAB’s own procedures require the ticketing officer to prove that the respondent — in this case Patchus — has violated a rule, and the person receiving the summons can then dispute this claim. It’s the bedrock American principle of innocent until proven guilty. It doesn’t seem as though the TAB adjudicator cared much for this procedure or for the rules, and a ticket for something that isn’t a ticketable offense was upheld.

Now, for Patchus, all’s well that ends well as the MTA plans to get his case dismissed, but that happened only after reporters started sniffing around the story. Patchus had in fact planned to appeal, a move that would have cost him more time. The MTA couldn’t provide much information on how TAB got this wrong, but I wouldn’t be too thrilled to have to fight an improperly issued ticket only to see it upheld. The system seems broken, and outside of concerns over the constitutionality of TAB proceedings, the consequences have real costs for subway riders.



Categories : MTA Absurdity

23 Responses to “The trouble with the Transit Adjudication Bureau”

  1. John-2 says:

    The story makes the City Hall loop situation sound like the mass transit version of the improperly calibrated red light cameras that catch drivers elsewhere and send them tickets that are hard to fight in court. You follow the law, still get caught and then have little recourse to appeal the fine without going out of your way to make you case and find corroborating evidence.

    • nycitizen says:

      The New York City Transit Authority Bureau is a group of scoundrels, robbers, and criminals who should be removed from the public service immediately. If we blame so much the top 1%, this group is the root cause of the top 1% who is so eager to grab. While the style may be different, the intentions are the same.

      My personal experience is a forced ticket of $100 the day before Thanksgiving 2014 (so the amount will contribute to their pockets). The ‘violation’ is the evasion of the M15 bus ticket on the 2nd avenue, where (1) the ticket machine on the bus is covered (and the payment machines on the street are nowhere seen while you wait at the bus pole) (2) the bus driver was not willing to wait for you to pay when you realize that you had to pay outside of the bus (a practice never seen in my last 30 years living on the Westside and not even today), and (3) the inspectors will not take your valid MetroCard to pay after you explained to them the situation so they can write a $100 ticket.

      Of course you spend so much time seeking justice to file the appeal and then they tell you that your statement will not be read until you make the $100 payment first. Of course they would take things out of the context and claim that their decision of ‘violation’ is valid.

      If we want to get rid of the terrorism overseas so much, this is worse than the terrorists we see as these crimes in the name of law are protected by the City Hall! Think about the root-causes of the terrorism everywhere – they start from examples such as those in the NYC Transit Bureau!!

      The world will be a much worse place for humans if we do not remove these criminals immediately!!!

  2. Bolwerk says:

    They should compensate him for his time. Or the bumblefuck NYPD should.

    Remember all the hysteria from police state advocates about Bill de Blasio dismantling the police state? It was all for naught. He only expanded the Giualiani/Bloomberg police state. Instead of laser focus on bullying poor brown people, he has expanded it to bullying more of everyone and pushed more poor brown people into the arrest-on-sight category. Or murder-on-sight category.

    • tacony says:

      Do these kinds of courts ever compensate people for their time? I was under the impression that this is never the case, and of course all this small claims type stuff doesn’t work for working people because of that. If you’re retired or unemployed, go for it. But it’s not worth it to take off work when what you’re really fighting is that your time was wasted for the bogus infraction in the first place.

      A friend of mine told me that to contest a bogus parking ticket in some little upstate town he understood that he’d have to pay some kind of “court fee” if he wanted to take off work and make the trip back up there to fight it. So even if he’d win he’d still lose. Much easier to just pay the fine and forget it, even if you know you’re right. Aint no such thing as justice.

      • Bolwerk says:

        No, it’s not worth it. They are kangaroo courts designed to humiliate people and maybe make the city money. And that’s not to say I’m against citing legitimate infractions; that might be one of the few things I’d be kinda hard-ass about. It’s just the way they do it is dumb. They shouldn’t be elevating dumb kid antics to arrests or citing people who didn’t break laws. They shouldn’t even be citing people who technically are in violation but happened to doze off after their late shift was over or who take two seats on an otherwise empty train.

        The number of frivolous citations in this city would drop drastically if the police had to pay for their own fuckups, at least the grotesque ones where there wasn’t even a law broken, out of pocket.

        A friend of mine told me that to contest a bogus parking ticket in some little upstate town he understood that he’d have to pay some kind of “court fee”….

        I think TAB does the same thing. NYC definitely does with traffic.

        It’s not fair there either. Transit riders and POV drivers are both victims here.

  3. Matthias says:

    I was alarmed to read about this. I’ve taken this ride several times and proudly taken friends to show them the City Hall station. It’s always mildly terrifying to realize that the NYPD can detain and cite you for doing nothing wrong and you suddenly have the great burden of proving your innocence. I worry about this when exploring stations or taking photos and I’ve had close calls when making a left turn on my bike or just riding outside the bike lane. The NYPD needs to know and obey the law before enforcing it.

    • Nathanael says:

      The real problem is that nobody arrests the NYPD members. Making a blatantly false arrest is a crime, you know. But nobody arrests the cops when they do it.

      I think legally citizen’s arrests are still possible, but you’d have to have an organization and a posse to successfully arrest one of the armed thugs in the police department.

      • Bolwerk says:

        In a citizen’s arrest, the burden of proof is incredibly high or the citizen has probably committed a felony. S/he has also committed a felony if he gets the charges wrong (e.g., a misdemeanor instead of a felony was committed).

        Absurdly, police have more protections than private citizens when they make a mistake. Of course, their judgment might be worse than average too.

        And who do you think the citizen is supposed to hand the suspect over to after making the arrest?

        • Bolwerk says:

          (Well, s/he has committed false arrest. Not sure if that’s a felony, but I think it is.)

        • Nathanael says:

          Like I say, you’d have to have an entire posse. Best if you’re backed by a grand jury. DA backing would do the trick too. Actually, though, I think you only need the backing of a couple of judges.

          Since there is no police department in New York City (defining a police department as an organization which investigates crimes and arrests, at least, those criminals who are caught on camera), someone’s probably going to have to organize something like this eventually; it’s no good to have no police.

          Preferably the mayor or city council would organize this, but it seems to be hard to elect anyone decent — de Blasio seems to have been a complete fraud.

  4. BrooklynBus says:

    Ben you are right on target with this one. The same amount of “justice” is carried out with some PVB hearing officers. You are guilty no matter what evidence you present. Are TAB hearing officers also reappointed according to the number of guilty verdicts tey hand out? There is something very wrong about that to reward hearing officers for guilty verdicts, not for administering justice.

    Until I read your report, I was certain the charge had to be failing to follow te instructions of train personnel. To find out there were no instructions of train personnel and the people were found guilty without TAB having to prove any wrongdoing makes one wonder if there is any chance at all of soeone bing found innocent and why this is allowed to continue.

    It shouldn’t take a news report to get the MTA involved. Fear of doing nothing wrong and having to pay dearly certainly encourage the use of transit.

  5. Christopher says:

    What frightens me about this, as someone who is deaf, is the idea that the train announcements (which I can’t hear) are some kind of legally binding order. In addition, I assume the TAB would be more inaccessible than the NYS courts (which have a terrible record when dealing with deaf defendants).

  6. Rob says:

    “The system seems broken” – because of ONE case??? Might we be jumping 2 conclusions?

  7. normative says:

    Part of this is also a police culture problem. Cops issue tickets all the time, when they really can admonish you with a warning.

    Fighting a ticket in court costs you a day’s pay from not going to work. Inevitably a second day is scheduled, so that is two days. If the cop does not show up in court, the case is thrown out, but its a waste of every one’s time and money. If there is a good reason for a ticket, then please ticket, but any free society understands there is always room to breath with the minor laws.

    The courts are clogged with cases like this everyday. I think on both ends–in how tickets are issued, and how citizens can deal with them–there needs to be changes.

  8. skippapotamus says:

    glad this is being taken care of, but I worry too much stink makes this something they start legally changing, i.e., start changing the law/announcements.

    That would suck, because essentially anytime I would be able, I’d want to ride the 6 change to northbound.

  9. NCarlson says:

    Ok, seriously, what does establishing a prima facie case have to do with convicting him? Unless I’ve missed something that only means that there is sufficient evidence to actually have a hearing and says nothing about what actually happened…

    Does anyone have insight into what the hearing officer could have been thinking (beyond that these hearings in general are terrible)?

  10. Michael says:

    Today, Saturday, August 10th, 2014 at about 7:15pm the downtown #6 train on approach to the Brooklyn Bridge station the conductor announced that Brooklyn Bridge would be the last stop and for all passengers to leave the train. In addition the computerized announcement came on that said for all passengers to leave the train at Brooklyn Bridge the last stop.

    All of the passengers at Brooklyn Bridge left the train, except for two young adult males who stayed on the train, and round past the City Hall Station.

    On the uptown side of the Brooklyn Bridge at that time sat another #6 train waiting for its scheduled time to leave. From the switchboard that could be seen through the windows from the old downtown local platform, the #6 train that I rode left the City Hall station. As soon that train approached the awaiting #6 train, the awaiting #6 left the platform. The two young adult males were still in their seats on the arriving train.

    Just an observation

    Mike

  11. jojo says:

    There is an MTA mafia which works hand in hand w the police. It’s all about having a fied games—-SCAM— all about pulling out as much money as poss from people and that is all there’s to it.

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