Fare Evaders Cost NYC Transit Close to $285M/yr; Now Hope is New Gates Will Thwart Them

Fare evasion has become epidemic on the Transit Authority’s buses and subways, contributing to huge shortfalls in revenue. While there has been stepped up enforcement by police, on Dec. 26 Governor Kathy Hochul announced a more permanent solution for subways--hard gates that hopefully make it impossible to jump turnstiles.

| 29 Dec 2023 | 09:32

Fare evasion has become rampant on our subways and buses—with an estimated 12 percent jumping the turnstiles on subways and 40 percent not paying a fare on the bus. The MTA estimates that cost them close to $285 million a year in 2022.

While increased police enforcement has been put into place on surface transit, new fare collection systems are being evaluated for subway fare collection. An MTA blue ribbon panel in May deemed these gates necessary to halt the hemorrhaging of fare collection that has so badly impacted MTA revenues. By comparison, in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, subway fare evasion was only about six percent.

On Dec. 26, Governor Hochul said the MTA has begun the process of trying to find the new generation of secure, accessible, and modern fare gates, with initial use intended for New York City Transit. These eventually will replace the current low rise fare gates and emergency gates, ensuring fare compliance and preventing fare evasion, with better ADA accessibility. The Request for Information is the first phase of a multi-step procurement process to modernize the fare gates.

Similar gates have already been installed in the Paris Metro and Boston subway systems with much success. NY Transit has installed them as a test basis at three subway hubs—Atlantic Avenue, Astoria Blvd, and Sutphin Boulevard, which has new wide-aisle gates, replacing the emergency gates.

Technical specifications on this request for information, as reported by Daily News, include the need for each machine to collect fares from 25 riders a minute, and allow 50 people to leave in a minute; they must be vandal-resistant, free of “sharp edges or corners,” and made of materials capable of handling New York’s extreme ridership volumes. Not only would they need to be ADA compliant, but capable of handing strollers and large suitcases.

NYC Transit President Richard Davey noted, “While there is no one blanket solution, new designs can trim down on riders skipping out on paying while making it easier and more accessible for customers to enter the system.”

In addition to looking for an eventual system-wide new fare collection system, other immediate measures have been implemented; 777 turnstiles at 95 fare gate areas in 42 stations now prevent back-cocking. 432 unarmed gate guards are in place at key stations, and all emergency exit access key locks in the system have been re-keyed.

A pilot program has been launched to prevent entry through the emergency gates,

MTA Construction & Development President Jamie Torres-Springer noted during a Capital Program Committee Meeting in the Spring, “Combining more secure entry components to replace turnstiles, like the paddles that you see in the wide-aisle gates pilot, with sensors and machine-learning technology. So look out for that.”

The MTA is not only looking at new fare gates to stem revenue loss. Increased personnel to combat bus fare evasion has been enacted. A pre-boarding inspection pilot program on both Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North at Grand Central and Penn Station is now in place. Crews check tickets before customers board to discourage delayed e-tickets activation and boarding without a ticket.

But, rail commuters should note that in Boston, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority rail commuters have—fare collection gates—installed to prevent fare evasion, in NYC, this could be the shape of things to come.