MTA bd. calls
BY VINCENT BARONE
MTA board members Monday called for a
more targeted enforcement of fare evasion
and questioned the authority’s move to hire
hundreds of new police offi cers.
The members joined advocates in fearing that the
cost of hiring 500 new cops would lead to worsening
transit service as the MTA faces massive budget
gaps. The ramp up in offi cers comes while crime in
the transit system generally trends down, but as Governor
Andrew Cuomo and his MTA have focused on
“quality of life” concerns, including subway homelessness
and an increase in fare evasion.
“We need to make sure, in the scarce resources
that we have, that we are using dollars as effectively
as possible. I worry that we’re not,” said MTA board
member Robert Linn, on the millions that would have
to go toward paying new offi cers, during a board
The MTA has estimated that it lost about $225 million
in revenue to fare evasion last year and expects
that number to rise in 2019. At the same time, the
additional cops, as well as 81 new supervisors, would
cost the authority $260 million over the course of the
next fi ve years, according to a calculation from the
Citizens Budget Commission.
Advocates said every added expense counts at an
authority that is facing a billion-dollar operating budget
gap in the offi ng.
“Our groups are concerned that increasing spending
on mat police will reduce the MTA’s ability to
maintain a high level of transit service,” said Rachael
Fauss, of the good government group Reinvent Albany,
during public testimony Monday. “This is the
MTA’s core responsibility and its budget woes have
already led to changes in bus service and reductions
of subway cleaning staff with more cuts likely in the
month ahead as the 2020 budget is fi nalized.”
Some board members, like Larry Schwartz, have
pushed for a host of new techniques to fi ght the offense.
Schwartz has called for adding more cops;
installing more subway surveillance cameras and
even bringing back the shrieking siren of the subway
emergency gates—only with an increased, deafening
volume. The MTA has already tried piloting the old
sirens at several busy stations.
Transit President Andy Byford has begun discussing
new subway turnstile designs — an albeit costly solution.
Byford said the MTA would be testing a wider
fare entry system, using paddles instead of turnstiles.
The design would eliminate the MTA’s dependence
on its emergency gates, which facilitate fare evasion
but are necessary access points for certain riders, according
to the MTA.
But fare evasion rates are higher on the bus, where
roughly one in four riders don’t pay to ride, according
to MTA data. The lost revenue from the top fi ve bus
routes with the worst fare evasion rates equal about
the same in lost revenue from the top 50 subway stations
with the worst rates, according to data Linn said
he had acquired from the MTA.
“We do need a targeted tragedy for some of the
most egregious losses of revenue in our system. Let’s
focus our resources there,” said Veronica Vanterpool,
another MTA board member.
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14 October 24, 2019 Schneps Media