Home MTA Absurdity The trouble with the Transit Adjudication Bureau

The trouble with the Transit Adjudication Bureau

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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John-2 August 7, 2014 - 8:32 am

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 February 1, 2015 - 11:29 pm

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!!!

Afua El September 13, 2017 - 8:51 am

Good Day Nyccitizen, I too was given a ticket earlier this year after transferring from one bus to a “SBS B46” in Brooklyn on Utica Ave. The problem was similar 1. I never saw any machines 2. The bus itself, had no physical or visual signs stating it was an SBS bus, and when I went to pay my fare the ticket machine was blocked. I thought the machine on the bus was broken. But here’s what’s even more spalling!, I asked the bus driver to inform me of a particular stop that I had to get off because I wasn’t familiar with the area or that bus line. He never mentioned as I asked him for assistance that I was on an SBS bus and needed to get a ticket from the machines. Needless to say, after two police officers raided the bus, asking for tickets I was purely complexed about what was unfolding and explained to the officers that I tried paying my fare but the machine was broke. They then explained that I was in an SBS bus and that I needed to get a ticket from an outside machine. Still confused and at this point annoyed, the officer had to actually walk me to the machine and once she put my card in she saw that I had a transfer on my card. But she still wrote me a ticket. When I went to fight it, I was told by the adjudication judge ( after she also made a copy of my metro card activity and saw I had the transfer)that ignorance or being I’ll informed was not an excuse for not paying my fare and enforced the $100 ticket. I am currently not working and don’t have the now $173 this thing is costing me. It’s that much now because I didn’t have the money to pay during the 1 month payment plan and now they’ve involved the sheriff’s office. I went to ALL of my State and city officials to help me fight this. Only Senator Montgomery office called and wrote a letter on my behalf. They are still helping me to fight this. But I am truly stressed and disappointed in this city. A city I was born and raised in and when I was working from 13 until about 3 years ago I paid taxes to maintain this city and now I need help and No one not even t
he Mayor’s office can help. I thought about going to the and I am. I want to gather more constituents who have also been unfairly ticketed by T.A.B and fight this publicly. Let me know if you’re willing to sign a petition against the MTA

Darya September 27, 2017 - 3:20 pm

I would definitely sign a petition. Same thing happened to me. They are horrible.

Ben Gamoran November 22, 2017 - 4:08 pm


DMA July 25, 2019 - 8:32 pm

Mr. Gamoran, how exactly did you reach the NYCTA Legal Department for your claim? I only am getting options for accidents and damages whereas this issue is a fare beating decision that I want them to review in all seriousness.
I have gone ahead and left a message for a claim but I have a feeling they will simply refer me to Transit Adjudication Bureau as they have done the past two times I tried to contact MTA to complain about this unfair treatment.

I didn’t want to call abruptly since you dealth with this so long ago but you can email me at dinamohamedaly@gmail.com and I will exchange my number there if you can talk about it.


T'Challa March 20, 2018 - 11:26 am

Yes willing to sign a petition. Same shit happened to me!

Dina M Aly July 11, 2019 - 9:51 pm

Yes I will sign your petition and I am currently fighting this as well. Not only do they have my ID showing I am not from NYC and was not familiar with receipt of required payment but I also had a transfer on my card during this time and encountered a broken ticket machine and lazy or spiteful bus driver. I have emailed the mayor and governor as well as TAB and MTA board. I will be mailing my statement to them as well and if you want me to include yours please let me know. The kind not authority that the MTA has gotten over the regular fair due process is inexcusable and a gross abuse of power. It leaves me wondering where this corruption is stemming from. See this case about a woman who fought for two years to have TAB ordered by sSupreme Court to reverse their summons and fee. I plan to go that far of necessary and anyone who wants to join is welcome to.
Email me Dinamohamedaly@gmail.com

Dina M Aly July 11, 2019 - 10:01 pm

I want to sign your petition if you still have it. I am going through this recently myself and it has been a frustrating process. I am taking it to the mayor and governor as well. See post below. They should not have as much authority as they do to oversee these cases. It is criminal.

BrooklynBus July 11, 2019 - 10:39 pm

What I don’t understand is TAB claiming the fine is for not paying your fare (clearly not the case) or for not having the correct fare media? I can understand a $100 fine for evading the fare, but if someone clearly paid the fare, and also charging them $100 just for the Incorrect fare media is unfair and ridiculous. A $10 fine for the wrong fare media would be more appropriate.

Dina M Aly July 14, 2019 - 11:28 pm

Agreed. Not that I expect them to be responsive but I’ll present this to the governor and mayor offices as well as the MTA leadership.

This is the same organization that will refund you $2.75 if it looks like your transfer wasn’t honored but they will fine you $100 if you were unable to validate a transfer that you’ve already paid for?? It’s absolutely ridiculous.

BrooklynBus July 15, 2019 - 7:25 am

Did you try going to one of the TV stations like 7 on Your Side? They once helped me and were very efficient. I sent them an email and they got back to me in three days and I was on TV two days later. They got me my $120 back. It’s not the amount they are interested in but what the story is and you have a good story.

Dina M Aly July 17, 2019 - 12:58 am

Thanks for the suggestion. I didn’t think it would be found newsworthy tbh so I hadn’t but with your example I think I will contact them. Look for me on the news! But seriously, thank you. I just want them to be more logical about how they handle actual fare beaters vs regular paying customers.

Bolwerk August 7, 2014 - 8:40 am

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 August 7, 2014 - 10:48 am

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 August 7, 2014 - 11:30 am

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.

Matthias August 7, 2014 - 9:09 am

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 August 8, 2014 - 3:58 am

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 August 8, 2014 - 7:50 pm

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 August 8, 2014 - 7:52 pm

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

Nathanael August 17, 2014 - 6:45 am

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.

BrooklynBus August 7, 2014 - 10:05 am

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.

Christopher August 7, 2014 - 10:41 am

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).

Bolwerk August 7, 2014 - 11:33 am

God, that sucks. I’d hate to think what could happen to you if you don’t understand some meathead cop’s order.

BrooklynBus August 7, 2014 - 12:08 pm

And what if someone doesn’t understand English?

Bolwerk August 7, 2014 - 12:30 pm Reply
Rob August 7, 2014 - 2:14 pm

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

Benjamin Kabak August 7, 2014 - 2:31 pm

Nah. This happens all the time. This is just indicative of the problem with TAB and the way it operates.

normative August 7, 2014 - 2:58 pm

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.

Nathanael August 8, 2014 - 3:59 am

The judges can, theoretically, sanction the cops for contempt of court.

But they don’t.

skippapotamus August 7, 2014 - 3:25 pm

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.

NCarlson August 8, 2014 - 2:28 am

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)?

Michael August 10, 2014 - 11:03 pm

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


jojo October 20, 2014 - 10:24 pm

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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