MTA’s Fare-Evasion Crackdown To Save ‘Spirit’ Of New York

Turnstile-jumping isn't the biggest threat to the MTA's solvency — weekday ridership is still around half of what it was pre-pan
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Photos: Twitter\YouTube

The MTA announced this week that it's creating a blue ribbon panel to examine ways to reduce fare and toll evasion, which is causing a $500 million shortfall, according to the agency's chair, Janno Lieber. Turnstile-jumping isn't the biggest threat to the MTA's solvency — weekday ridership is still around half of what it was pre-pandemic, and the agency is looking at a $2 billion operating deficit when federal funds run out in 2025.

But Lieber insisted on Tuesday that this is about more than money.

"Pervasive fare evasion is a threat to the spirit that makes New York not just a great city, but a great community," he told a group of business and civic leaders at a breakfast meeting. "The transit system is our most important public space. It may not remind you of a church, a mosque or a synagogue, but I kinda think the transit system is a sacred space."

So, in an effort to protect that space, a blue-ribbon panel called "Fareness" will be charged with reducing fare evasion using education and design — and with finding ways to ticket people that won’t result in a criminal charge.

“I'm especially not interested in targeting kids who need a second chance, kids make mistakes,” Lieber said. He added that fare evasion isn't just about poverty, and that he's seen "countless images of people in designer clothes, carrying $7 lattes, waltzing through emergency gates at Wall Street or on the Upper East Side."

The Fareness panel will include New York City Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, as well as the president and CEO of the Community Service Society David Jones, an MTA board member who has criticized previous fare evasion crackdowns for targeting Black and brown New Yorkers.

The MTA reports that one out of three bus riders doesn’t pay the fare, and that 12% of people taking the subway don’t pay.

Lieber said the panel would also look at ways to create a fare-gate system that isn’t as "porous" as the current system, which allows riders to easily come in and out through the emergency exit.

The panel is expected to issue a full report by the fall.

Reporting by Stephen Nessen\Gothamist

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