The dawn of Fair Fares should bring fresh enforcement of fare evasion
Soon, New York City will let its poorest residents ride the buses and subways for half price. Under the new Fair Fares program, possibly as many 800,000 New Yorkers who live below the federal poverty line — about $25,000 for a family of four — will be eligible to buy discounted rides. The city has funded a six-month pilot program, costing $106 million. The plan is in line with the kinds of equity-focused progressive initiatives that Mayor de Blasio has defined his administration around.
Meanwhile, the city’s subways and buses have been swamped by riders who seem to think that paying the fare — any fare — is unfair. According to an MTA survey, fare-beating has more than doubled in the last 18 months, and more than 200,000 daily subway fare evaders cost the system $215 million in lost revenue in 2018.
At a time when the physical structure of the subway system is in dire shape and employee and retiree health-care costs are soaring, every penny counts. People who don’t pay their fare are stealing from the system, and making suckers out of everyone who does.
Yet starting at the beginning of 2016, the NYPD relaxed enforcement of fare-beating, prioritizing summonses over arrests. According to Mayor de Blasio, enforcement of the law was biased, because 90% of the people being arrested for fare-beating were black or Latino. The number of daily arrests for “theft of service” has dropped about 80%, though there has been a recent uptick in summonses.
Seth Barron is an associate editor of City Journal and project director of the NYC Initiative at the Manhattan Institute.
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