Thursday, July 10, 2008

MTA Raises Fine for Fare Beating


Jumping turnstiles with hopes of a free subway or bus ride has gotten a lot more expensive, with the MTA raising the penalty to $100 starting this week. It is the first such increase in nearly a quarter century.

The MTA board unanimously approved the hike last month, and it went into effect this past Monday (July 7). Since 1984, the penalty for slipping past a bus driver without paying or jumping over a subway turnstile has been $60.

A memo sent to MTA officials last month as the increase was being considered reportedly argued that “virtually every other form of civil fine in the region has increased, in many cases quite substantially.” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts told the New York Post that the authority is “looking across the board to see how to raise [fines].”

Through July 6, transit police issued 41,090 tickets for fare evasion and made an additional 8,437 arrests, the New York Times reported, citing police data. That equals 263 tickets or arrests out of more than five million riders each weekday around the city. That is in stark contract to 1990, when an estimated 200,000 people hopped the turnstiles each day. By 1997, that number had dropped to about 35,000 a day, the paper reported.

“Clearly, we believe that a deterrent such as a higher fine will get the attention of some people who would contemplate evading the fare,” a New York City Transit spokesman told the paper. “It’s not going to stop everybody, but the fact of the matter is, when they’re hit with that fine, that will give them a pause the next time they’re thinking about doing it.”

On its website, the Times presented a primer explaining “what exactly constitutes fare beating,” including situations where a turnstile machine refuses to accept a valid MetroCard. It warns that entering a station without swiping the card will lead to a ticket, even if you are in possession of a valid card.

The Times piece garnered dozens of comments from readers, including one who said she received a ticket for entering through the open emergency exit, even though she had a 30-day unlimited card. Once inside the gate, she was issued the fine. “Feeling that I was unjustly penalized for a minor infraction, I went to the Transit Adjudication Bureau to fight it,” wrote Emily S. Reub. “I explained the scenario to the officer, and although she seemed sympathetic with the situation, I was still slapped with the fine because I didn’t physically swipe my card before I entered. Who is right?”

Another reader met the move with cynicism. “How typical – focus on the low level misappropriation of service and ignore the brazen thievery and special privileged treatment at the top,” wrote Karen. “Have they given back all the free EZpasses yet?”