By Livia Hirsch
Fare evasion has skyrocketed since 2015. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.) expects to lose $215 million dollars in 2019 due to fare evasion on subway and buses. Close to 208,000 people ride the subway every day without paying. This equals to approximately 4% of all daily commuters.
The agency can measure this by posting staff throughout the year at various subway stations and bus routes to count the number of people who dodge paying. That sample number is then extrapolated to calculate to total number of people across the entire system.
Multiple factors could be at play. Firstly, some locals cannot afford the price of the tickets which has steadily risen every two years for the past decade. It is difficult to hold those people accountable as they often sneak past controllers using silent emergency exits. Connor, a young man seen jumping the tourniquet says “I’m angry because my job has stopped reimbursing me for my subway ticket. I’m unwilling to pay for this shitty service. You know, I have to deal with this on a daily basis. It’s a struggle. I don’t feel good about doing so but it saves me quite a fair amount of money.” Subway and bus fares are expected to rise again in March 2019.
Additionally, bus drivers especially are hesitant to confront riders who avoid paying ever since the incident in 2008 when a bus driver was killed during an argument with a passenger over the fare.
Another potential explanation is people are silently protesting the system because prices continuously rise for a necessary commodity, while the quality goes down. Connor comments, “I would understand if prices and quality both went up at the same time. But the delays are constant at this point and the repairs never seem to be enough. Everything is filthy and stinky. Why am I forced to pay more when the quality goes down?” Many locals agree with Connor but will not go so far as not to pay the fare to convey their message.
The head of M.T.A. Andy Byford told reporters after a budget presentation, “until we can get sustainable additional revenue streams, we really have no choice but to look everywhere, including to our riders, to help us fill those holes.” Without a new revenue stream or significant service cuts, fares might have to rise an additional 15 percent in the next couple of years to help deal with the agency’s growing deficits. The M.T.A currently has 42 million dollars’ worth of debt and that number continues to grow each year.
It’s a vicious circle that needs to be broken. People are refusing to pay partially because they are unhappy with a necessity, yet the M.T.A. desperately need funding to renovate and upkeep their current services. Every penny counts in this scenario. However, because of their lackluster track record, it seems the M.T.A. might have to make the first move to win back their credibility and the trust of the riders and regulars.
New York is a city that thrives on tourism. One tourist who wishes to stay anonymous comments, “it’s absolutely mesmerizing. The subway represents a postmodern novel, there is an endless tunnel system that practically awaits you getting consumed by it. It’s messy and unclear, the signs point in opposing directions and the warm breeze and virulent jazz will never let you out of its grip. Always busy and somewhat iconic. An accurate representation of what New York advertises itself to be.”