Home Asides Donohue: Time to crack down on fare-beaters

Donohue: Time to crack down on fare-beaters

by Benjamin Kabak

In his weekly column today, Daily News transit writer Pete Donohue takes on a subject near and dear to my heart: bus fare beating. It’s time, he writes, for the MTA and NYPD to crackdown on the legions of fare-beaters who hop aboard the bus without paying. The MTA says it loses out on $14 million a year, and cops in 2010 gave up a meager 1324 tickets along non-Select Bus Service routes. With numbers that small, the minuscule threat of a $100 fine won’t deter those who waltz right past the bus driver to hop in through the back door without paying.

Donohue spoke with the NYPD while researching his column, and the cops claim they can’t spare more of their 31,000 officers for fare enforcement. They would rather target the subways anyway, but Donohue rightly suggests that the NYPD or MTA reassign some personnel along the 10 worst bus routes. While Transit’s security team has been pulling in fines along the SBS routes, making sure folks pay for regular bus service is just as important.

Yet, despite the hand-wringing, I can’t help but wonder if further crackdowns on fare-beating isn’t really worth it. It’s true that the bleed rate is up slightly from 2009 when the MTA lost $8 million to fare-beaters, but the overall percentage of those skipping out on the fare is under two percent of all bus riders. Every business has a bleed rate, and it would be impossible to zero out this figure. How much should the NYPD or MTA spend to lower that $14 million total anyway?

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Donald March 14, 2011 - 12:35 pm

With murder and rape in NYC increasing, I think the NYPD should have more improtant things to do than to go after fare beaters. Is it really economical for a $76,000 a year cop to go after people avoiding a $2.25 fare?

Skip Skipson March 14, 2011 - 12:45 pm

True about avoiding the fare, though I wonder how many bus fare beaters have outstanding warrants for felonies. Would it be worth it then to catch a farebeater and find out they have an outstanding warrant for manslaughter? I wonder if there is a correlation between farebeating and larger crimes/rap sheet?

Evan March 14, 2011 - 2:42 pm

They did that in the 80’s and early 90’s to get farebeaters. They had a mobile processing van to see if these people had rap sheets. They should do that again. If you’ve ever read “The Tipping Point”, there’s a whole section on the subway.

al March 14, 2011 - 3:42 pm

There might be something to it. Kind of like broken windows in the 90’s. If they’re willing fare beaters, then what else are they already doing? Have the cops ride the bus in and around Impact Zones. That way they are visible and have a high up view along th routes. Mix in plainclothes cops with regulars. Not as fast or mobile as a squad car, but more than on foot.

Sharon March 14, 2011 - 11:43 pm

don’t need a mobile processing van just a cop with an ipad and a finger print reader. Allowing fare beating as a way of life just reinforces lawlessness and leads to other offense . take this from a family of teachers. You let one person get away with doing something before you know it you have 30.

Offenders age 16-18 should have to do community service. 80% of the fare beaters are will stop asap.

this goes on at subway stations right in front of the station agent. Free the agent from the booth and replace them with fare enforcement officers who can be deployed to help the police ala the sbs enforcers.

al March 15, 2011 - 3:26 am

Now theres an image:
Ruggedness IPads and tablet/laptops.
Fighting crime and looking techy and trendy.

al March 15, 2011 - 10:28 pm

ruggedized not ruggedness

Bolwerk March 16, 2011 - 12:23 pm

iPads? It’s good to hear the budget crisis is over and we can blow money on over-priced shiny pieces of plastic!

Billy G March 14, 2011 - 12:46 pm

Agreed. Bring in non-union fare constables that are not affiliated with the NYPD for enforcement.

Donald March 14, 2011 - 11:32 pm

That still won’t be economical. Best idea is to repalce all turnstyles with high wheels at low volume stations. But the MTA will never do that because that idea makes too much sense.

pete March 15, 2011 - 4:25 pm

Then 2 people squeeze into the HEET. Lets not begin about ADA.

Alon Levy March 14, 2011 - 2:15 pm

Pete Donohue: fighting for transit, one rounding error at a time.

Paul J. Bosco March 14, 2011 - 9:52 pm

20 undercover cops, on buses, at $76,000/yr = $1.5 million a year. If that reduces $14 million of farebeating by 11%, you’re at break-even. If 1 out of 50 riders is not paying, each cop could be writing up (or arresting) dozens of offenders daily. Word would get around. Bus drivers would benefit.

A similar observation could be made about tax enforcement. However, all the emphasis is about reducing payroll, not cost-benefit analysis. Unless ticketing cars/drivers is involved.

Alex C March 14, 2011 - 10:55 pm

Another thing to reduce fair evasion, specifically on subways: get rid of the damn “emergency doors” that can be opened by anyone. The alarm is annoying and nobody cares anymore, like the boy who cried wolf. On certain elevated stations the “emergency exits” are an incredibly easy way for fare evaders to sneak in. Just replace them with one-way HEET-style exits that don’t have any inbuilt resistance so people can quickly move through them and exit.

Sharon March 14, 2011 - 11:47 pm

You need the emergency doors for safety.

Each and every time the door opens your picture should be taken as evidence and sent to a nypd database. Put a monitor above to show it to all. when the doors are not open the monitor can show ads. this will scare off many. People walk through because they are conditioned to no penalty

Strict enforcement is the only way. Once again we have station agents that can be redeployed as fare enforcement agents. Most stations do not need fare sellers. 90% of stations don’t need fare sellers or machines or that matter. People will flock to local stores just as they do to re up their prepaid phones

Bolwerk March 16, 2011 - 12:25 pm

Strict enforcement is a waste of both time and money. Go POP, and use fare evasion to the system’s advantage.

Alon Levy March 16, 2011 - 8:57 pm

I’d much rather New York imitated Berlin of 2011 instead of East Berlin of 1980.

Alex C March 15, 2011 - 2:59 am

Any cameras placed at these doors probably would not survive vandalism. We’ve survived without these emergency exits before. I suggest simply making them high turnstile exists with no resistance to turning so as to allow people to move out quickly enough. In the end, people just use them as exits, and they are at very convenient locations as exits on some stations. Might as well use that utility and provide a quicker way for customers to leave.

Woody March 17, 2011 - 5:47 pm

NYC has plenty of cops with nothing better to do than write tickets to cyclists in Central Park who fail to stop at red lights on the roadway during traffic-free hours. Some of them could be reassigned to stop farebeaters.

But on a cost/benefit basis that might not work out. Ticket in the Park $260, ticket for farebeating, not so much.

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