New-York News

MTA looks to modernize fare gates to get more riders to pay

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New York City transit officials are looking to modernize fare gates as part of a long-term plan to deter riders from skipping the fee, a problem that’s expected to cost nearly $800 million this year on subways and buses.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to include projects in its next multi-year capital plan that will help combat fare evasion by upgrading turnstiles and adding physical barriers to limit riders’ ability to jump over or manipulate entryways to the subway system.

Fare evasion on subways and buses may cost the MTA $700 million to $800 million of lost revenue this year, Janno Lieber, the agency’s chief executive, told reporters Wednesday following the MTA’s monthly board meeting. With weekday subway ridership at about 70% of prepandemic levels, the transit agency needs to reduce fare evasion to help boost revenue.

“We have to win,” Lieber said during the meeting about getting more riders to pay their fares. “We have to win or else the system’s gone.”

Fare evasion is not only a financial problem for the MTA, it weakens public moral for the system when people are openly disregarding intrinsic rules, according to Lieber. It’s also happening as the subway has endured high-profile and disturbing crimes.

About 13% of subway rides and 30% to 50% of bus rides aren’t paid for, according to Lieber. The MTA temporarily made buses free during the pandemic, with some customers now accustomed to not paying.

Since the pandemic, skipping the fare has increased across all demographics. Riders in many different neighborhoods are opting to manipulate turnstiles to squeeze through without paying or groups of customers walking through open emergency exit doors, one of the biggest sources of revenue loss.

“Every time I see some rich person walk in — I’ve said it before — with an $8 latte in their hand wearing a suit and walk through the gate with their Metrocard in their hand, it burns me and it should burn every New Yorker who cares about this system,” Lieber said during the meeting.

The MTA is working to add a 15-second delay when opening emergency exit doors as a way to encourage riders to leave those doors closed and exit through a turnstile instead.

Fare enforcement has also increased. The New York Police Department this year has issued about 43,000 summonses for people skipping the fare, up 60% from 2022, according to MTA data. The agency is also reaching out to schools and students to encourage paying the fare as a way to engage and educate younger riders.

Investing in new subway gates and reducing fare evasion will be one of the MTA’s most important priorities in its 2025—2029 capital budget, Jamie Torres-Springer, head of the MTA’s construction and development, said during the meeting. The MTA will release its next capital program by Oct. 1.

“We expect to dedicate substantial resources to replacing fare arrays in the next capital plan once we’ve settled on a new technology for that,” Torres-Springer said. “And really that should pay for itself because the incremental revenue that we’re going to get will help to support evolution of the fare array in the system.”

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Michelle Kaske, Bloomberg , 2024-05-24 12:03:03

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