Home New York City Transit Study: Nearly half of fare-jumpers kids

Study: Nearly half of fare-jumpers kids

by Benjamin Kabak

Well over 40 percent of all fare-jumpers are children taller than 44 inches who duck under turnstiles anyway, the MTA unveiled yesterday in an unofficial study. The Daily News has more, including some choice quotes from parents:

Kids taller than 44 inches – the height limit for a free ride – made up 43% of fare-beaters observed by NYC Transit surveyors last year, an agency staff report says. The “predominant mode of evasion is children over 44 inches ducking under turnstiles,” the report says.

The surveyors noted that a subway surveillance camera even spotted a young boy enter without paying – and then open an emergency exit gate from the inside so his stroller-pushing mother could also ride free. The lost revenue from the pint-size scofflaws is not small change. It costs the agency millions of dollars a year, the report says.

Some parents told the Daily News Tuesday they had no qualms about beating the system. “The MTA’s dumb. … As long as they don’t enforce it, we’ll keep doing it,” west Harlem mom Janet Carrion, 42, said. Carrion, who works as a baby-sitter, doesn’t pay for her own boys, ages 8 and 9, to ride the subway. “We pay for every little thing, and the fare is too expensive to begin with,” she said. “I don’t feel guilty.”

Store clerk Aricellis Maldonado, 28, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, never pays for her 9-year-old son, who is about 2 inches over the limit. “No one’s ever stopped me, and until they do, we’ll keep doing this,” Maldonado said.

I’m going to start trying that with my half-gallon of milk. I pay for everything else at the grocery store even though I think the prices are getting too high. I won’t feel guilty about stealing some milk. I hope Key Food agrees with me.

The News says that evasion rates peak at around 3 p.m. when kids get let out of school, and the MTA is considering placing signs near turnstiles to remind straphangers of the height restrictions. Currently, those are buried only on the MTA’s website. Meanwhile, other findings included 24 percent who walked through exit gates and 32 percent who engaged in good old fashioned turnstile jumping or went through with two riders on one swipe.

Of course, combatting these pint-sized fare-jumpers is a bit of a challenge. The MTA can’t start ticketing 10-year-olds, but all it would take are a few high-profile PR incidents to get parents to start swiping through. The captured revenue from fare jumpers wouldn’t be insignificant.

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RailBus63 July 20, 2011 - 12:17 pm

When I visit the city with the family, we always buy one pay-per-ride Metrocard for the four of us to use. On our last visit, I actually caught a woman ready to push my daughter aside and steal our ride after I swiped at a Midtown station turnstile. Her unapologetic stare showed no remorse whatsoever – I’m sure she’s ripped off other tourists in the past.

pea-jay July 20, 2011 - 12:21 pm

MTA isnt always consistent with enforcing this rule. My smallest @ 46″ always gets waved aboard by bus drivers and never looked at in the station going under turnstiles. Her 52″ sibling always swipes in and even then, I have had more than a few bus drivers tell her no fare needed. Honestly though, I’d prefer if the NYCTA would offer half price fares between the free period of life and adulthood. Age limits would make more sense…why have an overly tall kindergartner be charged as an adult while allowing a 10-yo short kid ride free.

On a related note do actual adults who are less than 44 inches ride free too?

My suggestion would be under 5 ride free, 5-11 half price and 12+ full fare. probably would make more money this way too

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 12:36 pm

Pretty sure the regulation is children under 44 inches ride free, up to three children.

John July 20, 2011 - 12:47 pm

I agree. Jumping from “free” to “full fare” doesn’t seem like the best idea. Most places I’ve seen, including other transit agencies, have three tiers: Free (under age 5 or so), Child/Senior (Under 12, Over 65), and Adult. A lot of times the Child/Senior fare isn’t much less than the Adult fare, but I think even if it’s a little less they’d be more likely to pay it.

Some places also incorporate rush hour pricing, which often eliminate the Child/Senior discounts, but that’s another discussion.

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 1:27 pm

After a certain age, children are often riding alone. I don’t see the big deal in charging them a full fare, at least if they don’t get a student MetroCard. It’d be nice if there were bulk family passes – say, four or five unlimiteds at a discount.

John July 20, 2011 - 1:38 pm

Yeah, after age 11 or 12 I’d say. That was the cutoff I listed. I don’t think a ton of 5-11 year olds are riding the subways alone, and even if they are I don’t think that should be the criteria for whether or not they pay full fare.

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 2:03 pm

I definitely see groups of what look like 10-year-olds doing it.

sharon July 21, 2011 - 11:08 am

Children should ride free with a parent until they are in High School

Why? Parents of young children are often forces to take children with them everywhere.

As a child, my mom and 3 children would take transit all over brooklyn(mom did not drive, dafa did) . She could not afford to pay for all of us all the time. We would make the driver say something before we would pay.

The mta should focus on adult fare evasion.

Eliminate the role of station agent and train conductors

CREATE A FARE ENFORcer rule enforcer title that has the ability to write tickets and enforce other rules. They would be modeled on the ticket checker on select bus service.

There role would include
1) utilizing cctv in station, buses and trains to identify fare beaters and other rule violators . Send images to police or fare enforcers in the field on IPAD like devices.
2) sit in booth in the fare control or stations and ride buses. Bus driver often are put in a bad spot having to enforce the fare and drive the bus

Bolwerk July 21, 2011 - 1:58 pm

I find it funny that people always bitching about waste at the MTA often end up wanting to impose more costly operating rules on the agency. The MTA handles children quite fairly as is, and if children need a free ride the responsibility should be the government’s or the parent’s, not the MTA’s.

petey July 20, 2011 - 12:21 pm

children i can understand. but more than half of fare jumpers are “adults”?

Benjamin Kabak July 20, 2011 - 12:23 pm

It’s the same attitude as that expressed in the quotes above but just applied to themselves instead of children.

Henry Man July 20, 2011 - 12:47 pm

Perhaps a 30-day card is expensive, and perhaps – indeed the subway is relatively pricey these days – but I don’t see how just an occasional subway ride is “too expensive to begin with.”
I’m not specifically telling her, Ms Carrion about what she should do. But for people have a similar mindset, hey if it’s a several station hop, just walk leisurely. I mean, the hell, I walk from my place in the Lower East Side, then to FiDi, before heading all the way up to Midtown – all on foot. But if it’s an interborough haul, $2.25 isn’t that much of a pain in the ass. Come on, say Midtown to Coney Island for a little over $2? That’s a deal. Try doing the same with a taxi – during rush hour traffic. And then we can talk “expensive.”

I always wondered, how about a discounted fare option for children. Other cities around the world are doing it. In the last century, we were the pioneers when it came to rapid transit. This one, we are severely lagging behind.

sharon July 21, 2011 - 11:18 am

The fare is very inexpensive for one person. If you have a family PUBLIC TRANSIT IS WAY TO EXPENSIVE and that is why most families except the dirt poor drive.

As someone who lived in a household who owned a car my entire life and also took transit all over brooklyn because my mom was afraid to drive I have a unique perspective.

Children up until HS should ride free with a paid parent. When got older and my mom got stuck paying for 4 people, the extra money spent on transit came out of our lunch meals thus sucking money out of the economy.

It is the best interest of people, the economy and jobs to allow children to ride free with parent or move towards more people on monthly passes. This could be done if we eliminated unneeded roles and create job roles to enforce fare and rules.

We spend far too much money on selling metrocards(station agents) and cleaning after people who litter at will because of no enforcement.

I saw fare swippers at 34th street station the other day as the agent watched. Where are the police?

I saw two police officers playing on their IPHONES at stillwelll terminal the other day as people walked through the gate

VLM July 21, 2011 - 11:32 am


Compared to what exactly? Any student has a student MetroCard. Anyone else would have to pay far more than $9 to get anywhere or park in the city. More arguments from you devoid of any facts.

sharon July 21, 2011 - 12:08 pm

You have to get out of this manhattan centric thinking about everything. The average new york city resident does not live in manhattan and does not travel into “the city” on a daily basis.

Student metrocards are not unlimited and are not available on weekends and al summer Most students don’t have student metrocards . You must live a certain distance from your school to get one. IF you are a parent with 3 kids and you have to pay for all of them to travel you are cutting deep into your money pot. A person running everyday errands may need to make multiple stops thus multiple fares.

It does not cost $8-10 each way to go shopping or doctors office or visiting is quite expensive for families. That is money that comes out of spending on other areas of the economy. Children with parents should be free. They are not traveling during rush hours for the most part and thus are not taking away a seat from paying customers.

Most families except the dirt poor and illegal immigrants drive most places. Parking is free or a reasonable sum at a meter. You need a car to have a decent quality of life in most parts of the outer boroughs . Thus the variable cost of each trip is far less than taking the bus or train.

VLM July 21, 2011 - 12:12 pm

If “most families…drive most places,” how do you explain a car ownership rate of barely 50 percent in all of New York City? Most families don’t drive most places. Get out of your suburban fantasyland.

The variable cost of each car ride is never less than taking the bus or train unless you’re driving two blocks. Get off it. I’ve been reading your comments here for years, and you really have no idea what you’re talking about. I wonder why you live in New York City if you hate urban life so much.

Bolwerk July 21, 2011 - 2:04 pm

Kids have legs. Most do anyway, and most of them can walk and bike. Of course, suburbanites want the bikes out of the way so they can drive faster and neurotic parents don’t want their kids leaving their yards, but that’s another discussion.

And yes, New York City kids in public schools get student metrocards. Their mobility shouldn’t be much of an issue. The only people who might be hit with onerous transit fees are tourists, and…well, who gives that much of a shit? They’re tourists.

Anyway, worst-case scenario: Four unlimited Metrocards * $104 = $416/month for a family of four. Gas + insurance + wear & tear on a car + parking + tolls easily will exceed that for a family that really needs that much mobility.

Face it, moving around is expensive, which is why it’s unfortunate that society forces us to do it so much.

jon July 20, 2011 - 2:00 pm

I think there are a couple of reasons for the MTA using height as opposed to age for children.

First, it can be very difficult to tell if a kid is 10, 11, 12, or even 13. The differences in size, not to mention the other outward signs of physical maturity are so vast at that age, that is just asking for trouble to have the bus drivers or ticket agents having to decide if the adult is lying about the kids age. If the height limit is 44″, all that is needed is a piece of tape that is 44″ inches above a flat surface.

Second, a 7 year old that is 5′ takes up as much space on the subway as many adults. Certainly any difference is pretty much negligible. A kid that is 44″ can sit on a parents lap, not comfortable, but possible, and in general does not take up much space.

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 2:04 pm

44″ is 3’8″. That’s pretty small for an 8-year-old I think.

sharon July 21, 2011 - 11:19 am

Your right the height limit is too short.

They also should put stickers on turnstyles and on buses that show the height at which you must pay similar to what is used at amusement parks.

Bolwerk July 21, 2011 - 2:07 pm

The turnstile might be 44″ off the ground anyway.

Besides, they seem to allow a lot of leeway for kids over the limit, so why bother?

Mistral July 20, 2011 - 2:12 pm

I’m going to start trying that with my half-gallon of milk. I pay for everything else at the grocery store even though I think the prices are getting too high. I won’t feel guilty about stealing some milk. I hope Key Food agrees with me.

You aren’t an impoverished parent for whom a MetroCard is the difference between their kid getting to an after-school program and sitting out on the dangerous streets for 2 to 3 hours after school. Things are fucking tough for a lot of people out there. I’m not saying every fare-cutter has this excuse, and all of them are, of course, legally wrong in doing so, but come on.

Benjamin Kabak July 20, 2011 - 2:18 pm

That’s what the Student MetroCard program is for though. Anyone who lives a subway ride away from school is eligible for the free ride, and the student gets 3 free rides + transfers every day.

ajedrez July 21, 2011 - 1:59 am

But the parent doesn’t. If a child is 9 years old, the parent might want to supervise them while they ride the subway.

Bolwerk July 21, 2011 - 2:07 pm

They can buy a farecard. Or if they need to supervise their kids on the subway every single day, they can buy an unlimited. It’s a steal at $104.

Lawrence Velázquez July 21, 2011 - 9:53 am

So is it okay for Ms. Carrion to steal milk as well?

sharon July 21, 2011 - 12:22 pm

I think the difference here is that the law is wrong and people including mta staff and police look the other way.

We seriously have to address the cost structure of living in NYC. We pay far too much for labor above and beyond what neighboring states and the private sector pays.

This leads to higher costs in all areas of life and crushes anyone who does not have mid income skill sets. The solution is not to subsidize people’s rent and food regardless of there willingness to improve themselves or ability to improve themselves

Rents are high due to taxes on everything from electricity, gas, mortgage recording tax and the criminal union labor costs. It is not just the hourly rate but the work rules that drives up costs and housing cost to boot.

What we end up with is people like this lady who have to find ways to save money. It does not cost the mta a rat cent more to move these children. The fare structure should change to allow children who are too young to be by themselves to ride free with a parent.

Cuomo has to take on this issue head on. MTA union contracts and operating procedure book needs to be rewritten not modified for the 21th century with the rider in mind. The current contract is bloated with work roles that are very narrow and some cases not aligned with the needs of transit

GO AFTER ADULT FARE BEATERS. Many of the 40% children fare beaters would not be converted into paid fares if the parent had to pay and the strict rules were enforced. That has negative economic consequences .

I have been accused as a pro auto extremist on this board . There has to be balance. Labor of all stripes in this city needs to work for the greater good. Government agencies and interest groups need to do the right thing for the people they represent instead of themselves. Many low income New yorkers would be far better moving out of state then staying in the city even with all the subsidies that get’s showered on them to make it more affordable .

It is a sad facts that labor union PROFIT OFF low income people to provide “needed services”.

ant6n July 20, 2011 - 5:11 pm

Having a policy that says 44″>x free, x>44″ full fare is not very smart. It’s a rough threshold, hard for parents to understand, and hard to enforce. So I think it’s the MTAs own fault for not implementing something more sensible as previously mentioned.

Bolwerk July 20, 2011 - 5:48 pm

It doesn’t need hard, fast enforcement. Seems to me 44″ is about the height of a where a turnstile hits your torso – maybe a bit more.

sharon July 21, 2011 - 11:22 am

I think fare evasion of children with parents is a non issue. It is the adult fare beating that needs to be adressed

As I stated above we need to redeploy money spent on station agents and conductors to hire fare enforcers on buses and in stations. A flexible role that enforces rules, enforce fares and provide customer service..

Bus fare evasion can be observed on virtually every bus trip

Research Recap, July 25: Metro Fare-Evaders, Hydrogen Fuel Stations, Chicago Bus Rapid Transit, | TheCityFix July 25, 2011 - 6:10 pm

[…] study by New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority found that 40 percent of all metro fare-evaders are children taller than 44 inches who duck under the metro turnstiles. New York City’s metro rule is that children under the height […]


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