The Problem and the Solution of Fare Evasion in City Subway
The issue of people evading subway fare has been a problem for a long time. It mostly caused by poor people, who cannot afford the ticket. In New York City, between $60 and $80 million is lost annually as the result of fare evasion (Weidner, n.d). This problem not only causes financial crisis for the subway company, but also influences the behavior of kids negatively. The rising tendency of fare evasion these years makes it a serious social issue.
The Current Situation of Fare Evasion
Public transportation plays a significant role in effective movement of people and goods around New York and plays an important role in reducing the city`s traffic congestion. The public transport services are highly subsidized ($ 2.75 per person) and the cost to the state is increasing as more services are offered. The cost of operating the New York subway is approximately $11 billion per annum. In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) requires an additional $5 billion for maintaining and improving the subway. Given the high operating costs, the MTA makes zero profits from these operations because the fares charged meet less than 50% of the cost of running the subways (Tri-State Transportation Campaign, 2015). Therefore, proper protection of fare revenues not only reduced the taxpayers` burden, but also permits the services to be expanded to meet future demands. It is important that passengers pay the appropriate fare and contribute their intended share of the cost of providing the service. Fare evasion can be defined as using public transportation without a validated ticket. It includes buying a ticket, but failing to validate it or using another person`s ticket without proof of entitlement. As at 2014, the MTA estimated that it loses approximately $100 million annually courtesy of fare evasion (Paddock&Ryley, 2014). The level of fare evasion in the city`s subway continues to increase by the day. According to Paddock &Ryley (2014), fare evasion arrests increased from its 2008 level of 14,681 to 24,747 in 2013, representing an increase of 69%, and the figures are projected to increase even further in the coming years(Paddock &Ryley, 2014).
Types of People Who Evade Fares
The majority of people who are engaged in fare evasion are predominantly young people of color who come from poor communities. As at 2014, approximately 37,500 people had been sentenced for fare evasion, out of this number, 1,802 were children (Paddock &Ryley, 2014).According to Kapp& Donohue (2011), 43% of persons who evade fares in the New York subways are children.As a matter of fact, fare evasion reaches its peak at about 3 p.m. a few minutes after students are released from school. However, there, are poor adults too who evade fares. These adults are predominantly people of color from underprivileged communities. Those who evade fares are individuals attempting to get to school, to work, to home, and to visit their loved ones but do not have the money to pay.
Other than children and poor adults, criminals are also involved in fare evasion. According to Nagy&Podolny (2008), when New York police decided to arrest fare evaders, the city also managed to reduce crime levels. During the operation, one in every seven people arrested for fare evasion was found to be on the wanted list for crimes committed in the past. In addition, out of 21 people arrested for fare evasion, one was found with a weapon (Nagy &Podolny, 2008).
Social Consequences of Fare Evasion
The New York City subway is one of the most complex and heavily used and operates thousands of subway cars over longer routes and with hundreds of stations. The subway serves nearly 2 billion passengers each year (Weidner, n.d). Other than the financial losses associated with fare evasion, there are also social consequences. Firstly, if the problem is not tackled, it sends the wrong signal that nobody cares, which leads to overall breakdown of societal controls. Because of this, others are likely to copy the same habit of fare evasion making it a commonplace. Secondly, prevalent fare evasion leads to reduced quality of life. If fare aversion is not checked, the number of vagrants using it could increase and this is likely to encourage criminals to shift their activities from the streets to the subway. When this happens, there is a high probability of passengers fearing the subway (Weidner, n.d). Such fears are indeed genuine because the majority of criminals who come to the subway to commit crimes such as robbery begin their activities by evading fare. As already noted above, one in every seven people arrested had an outstanding arrest warrant for past crimes(Nagy &Podolny, 2008).
Reasons why People Take the Take Subway without Buying Tickets
According to a survey conducted by New York City transit surveyors, the most cited reasons why these people evade fares are poverty and high ticket prices, damaged ticketing machines, parents` lack of knowledge on height guidelines (44-inch benchmark) and lack of enforcement (low risk of being caught) (Kapp& Donohue, 2011).
Current Solutions for Fare Evasion
In an attempt to combat fare evasion, many strategies have been employed over the years, and at present technology has brought new methods for fighting this social problem. However, given the numerous issues surrounding fare evasion, transit authorities across the globe have not found a single solution that meets their needs. As result, multiple methods can be used concurrently. These include:
Policing of Riders
The city`s subway already has a transit police and security personnel who patrol the transit system. The duties of these officers should be enhanced to include checking riders’ fares. If a person is found to have evaded paying the fare, he/she should be fined. The fines should be punitive enough, for example $500 and the fine increases if it is not paid. In Canada, the province of British Columbia is already using a similar approach, and for riders who fail to pay the $173 fine, their accounts are forwarded to collection agencies or to the province`s auto insurer(Petrie, 2014). Consequently, they cannot insure their cars or renew their driving licenses until they pay the fine. Because of this measure, the number of tickets issued in the province has reduced compared to period before, an indication that many people are today paying their subway fares whenever they enter the transit system. The province has achieved higher levels of compliance because many users are aware of the penalties associated with non-compliance if they are caught. However, fare evasion cannot only be a preserve of police officers and security personnel. Everyone working for agencies such as MTA have to be involved in developing a ticketing system that is simple to use and easy to understand, with numerous channels through which passes can be bought. Moreover, MTA should engage in marketing campaigns to remind riders to reload their Metro Cards. In addition, riders lacking these cards should be allowed to use automatic payments. Each of these aspects is important because no single element can be sufficient on its own. Whereas enforcement is a significant component in ensuring compliance, it has to be accompanied by other measures intended to develop a culture of fare compliance. Such a culture, makes it easier for riders to pay their fares and difficult to evade the same(Petrie, 2014).
A gated system has been found to be effective in reducing fare evasion by up to 34%. Different subway operators across the globe have employed gating solutions basing on various factors such as the volume of passenger traffic, the configuration of the stations, and economic considerations. For a heavy operator such as the New York subway system that serves nearly 2 billion people per year, deploying gates is much efficient compared using a proof of purchase model. For such a large scale operation, too much labor is required to check each passenger and high costs are involved(Petrie, 2014). Yet, without checking the tickets for the individual riders, revenues can be lost and information about passenger loads may not be captured. The non-gated system that MTA currently uses allows passengers to cheat the system and gives them the feeling paying the fares denies them the opportunity to save some money. Therefore, gating is the best alternative considering that technology has made it possible to have devices such as NFC –enabled devices and contactless bankcards that can significantly enhance the gating system(Petrie, 2014). Such systems offer self-service and, therefore, fewer members of staff are required because they only provide support to clients when needed. With such arrangement, riders find fewer excuses for not paying their fares.
Communication and Incentives
Some of the fare evasion cases happen because of lack of information. For example, many people in New York have no knowledge of the 44 inch height limit; they simply know that children ride free provided they are accompanied by a paying adult. Such evaders need to be educated and this in turn reduces fare evasion among those who do so innocently. Such strategies have already been employed in cities such as Melbourne, Australia, whereby because of the education provided by the operator (Keolis), fare evasion declined from 20.3% in 2011 to only 8% in 2012. In Dijon, France, those who evade fares are not penalized immediately; rather, they are given another chance by giving them the opportunity to become customers (for example by selling them the Metro cards)(Petrie, 2014). Rather than paying the fines, they are encouraged to purchase a travel plan that is valid for a month or two. Later they are contacted by the company as a way of getting them subscribed in a monthly or yearly rider plan. The city of Dijon launched this initiative in 2013 March, and by December the same year, it had managed to turn 13% of fare evaders into long-term customers by subscribing them to a pass. Even with such measures, it is important for customers to know that cheating the system has consequences (Petrie, 2014). The objective of promoting such a culture is not to penalize the customers, but to have them meet their fair share of the transport costs.
Kapp, T., & Donohue, P. (2011).43% of subway fare-beaters are kids, report finds, costing the MTA millions. Nydailynews.com. Retrieved 7 April 2015, from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/43-subway-fare-beaters-kids-report-finds-costing-mta-millions-article-1.160091
Nagy, R. &Podolny, J. (2008).Crime Control through Middle Management Reform.Yale case 07-015. Retrieved on 7 April 2015 from http://som.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Case_Bratton_2nd_ed_Final_and_Complete.pdf
Paddock, B., &Ryley, S. (2014). Fare evasion arrests surge in recent years, making it among city’s top offenses leading to jail: Daily News analysis. Nydailynews.com. Retrieved 7 April 2015, from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/fare-evasion-arrests-surge-years-article-1.1906667
Petrie, J. (2014). Innovative ways to stop mass transit fare evasion. Mass Transit. Retrieved 7 April 2015, from http://www.masstransitmag.com/article/11303444/innovative-ways-to-stop-mass-transit-fare-evasion
Tri-State Transportation Campaign.(2015). Transportation 101. Retrieved 7 April 2015, from http://www.tstc.org/101/mta.php
Weidner, R. (n.d).Target-hardening at a New York City subway station: decreased fare evasion-at what price? Retrieved on 7 April 2014, from http://www.popcenter.org/library/crimeprevention/volume_06/03_weidner.pdf