MTA unveils redesign of NYC subway turnstile as fare evasion solution

Posted On Thu, May 18, 2023 By

Posted On Thu, May 18, 2023 By In Policy, Transportation

Image courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

To deter the roughly 400,000 subway riders who don’t pay the fare every day, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to redesign the turnstiles for the first time in modern history. The agency on Wednesday unveiled a potential design of a new subway fare gate that includes glass doors that slide open, replacing the rotating turnstiles that have been part of the system since its inception. The new gates would remove the need for emergency exit doors, which the MTA said accounts for more than half of all fare evasion.


The MTA shares the final report from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Fare Evasion and demonstrates prototype fare gates at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal. Image courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

The reveal of the turnstile prototype follows the release of a report by the MTA’s Blue-Ribbon Panel on Fare Evasion. The report found the MTA lost $690 million in unpaid fares and tolls across the system last year, with subway fare evasion costing the transit agency roughly $285 million in 2022. Approximately 400,000 daily riders, or 10 to 15 percent of riders, did not pay a fare last year.

In 2022, fare evasion on NYC buses cost the transit agency more than on the subway system, with the MTA losing an estimated $310 million in revenue. Approximately 700,000 bus riders failed to pay the fair, making up 37 percent of all bus riders on an average weekday. The panel recommended an expansion of NYC Transit’s Eagle Team, civil agents who work on Select Bus Service routes and enforce fare payment. The MTA plans to hire an additional 100 agents and deploy them on bus routes that experience the highest rates of fare evasion.

“Fare and toll evasion isn’t just an economics problem: it tears at the social contract that supports mass transit in New York City. New Yorkers are sick of feeling like suckers seeing their neighbors beat the fare or cheat the toll while they pony up their fair share,” Janno Lieber, MTA Chair and CEO said.

“The report findings address this emerging crisis with a comprehensive plan across all MTA services, while also acknowledging that enforcement alone will not solve this problem. The MTA will look to implement some of the Panel’s key recommendations, and we thank them for their tremendous work.”

While the installation of these new modernized gates is a long-term project, the MTA is exploring immediate solutions to make the system better equipped to combat evasion.

The agency has coordinated with the NYPD to carry out “precision enforcement” in the subway system for fare evaders. Over the past year, the number of summonses for fare evaders has risen nearly 60 percent. The panel has called for the use of emerging technology and data sources to focus on fare evasion hotspots and to align itself with local organizations that will help promote fare payment.

 

An additional recommendation by the panel includes doubling the eligibility threshold for Fair Fares to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, which will allow 500,000 more New Yorkers to pay half-priced fares for public transit.

Transit officials have stated they will also work to educate New Yorkers on top of enforcing the payment of fares. Part of the reason the panel was formed was to address the concerns of advocacy groups who spoke about the historically disproportionate fare evasion enforcement of people of color.

NYPD data revealed that 93 percent of people arrested for fare evasion in the subway system in the last three months of 2022 were Black or Hispanic, and 66 percent of those issued summonses for fare evasion were Black and Hispanic, according to Gothamist. Lieber has said that the MTA is planning on working with the NYPD to ensure that their crackdown on fare evasion doesn’t target people of color.

As amNY reported, four companies presented prototype turnstiles this week and will be subject to a competitive procurement process.

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