Fare evasion among the city's public transportation continues to be "an epidemic," according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority -- prompting the agency to form a panel to look at solutions and deterrents to the issue, which they hope will also curb overall violence in the subway system.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber formed a "blue-ribbon panel" aimed at finding solutions on education, equity and enforcement when it comes to fare evasion.
The panel is tasked with finding possible solutions and presenting its recommendations by summer, Leiber said.
Schools Chancellor David Banks is among the panelists who will help guide policy when it comes to city students who do not pay their fares.
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According to Lieber, 12% of subway riders and one in three bus riders are not paying their fares. This number could translate to a loss of revenue totaling $500 million this year alone.
The MTA found that subway fare evasion cost the agency $245 million, the most of any form of transportation. Fare evasion on buses cost $205 million, while toll evasion for bridges and tunnels cost $50 million and uncollected fares on railroads coast $25 million. The transit agency said that in total, fare evasion cost them $525 million.
However, Leiber said that he doesn't want those who skip paying to go to jail, adding that an upgrade on gates and stations can also function as a stronger deterrent.
The hope is that recommendations from the panel will also translate into curbing the violence that has plagued the city's subway system in recent months.
As Lieber said, "when riders see people breaking the rules" they wonder "what else might that person do to me" -- and New York City commuters have seen more than a few terrifying realities in the last few weeks alone.
So far this year, through April 17, there have been 664 MTA transit crimes -- an increase of 67% compared to the same time last year.
Commuters have been on high alert due to the rise in transit crimes -- including the Brooklyn subway shooting on April 12 during which, officials said, 10 subway riders were shot after a man dressed in a construction vest tossed two smoke canisters in the train car to distract the rush hour crowd before opening fire.
"There have been more shootings. I may start taking the bus or I'll even walk," Eddie Ríos, a Queens resident, told News 4 New York. "It's a 45-minute walk, but I'll do it if it comes to that point. It's a matter of safety."
Aside from the recent uptick in crimes within the subway system, fare evasion has been an issue that the MTA has been grappling with for years.
The MTA faced a flurry of protests in 2020 across dozens of its stations in the city's five boroughs over the heavy presence of police and the city's crackdown on fare evasion. The MTA said that damage from these protests over the span of a week cost taxpayers $100,000.