By Avis Lang
Who are the subway fare beaters who cost the MTA $285 million last year? If you think they’re all lithe young male turnstile jumpers, I want to undercut that image.
Picture this. It’s late afternoon on an early June Saturday on the crowded downtown platform of the 1 train at 79th Street. I’m standing a bit south of the southerly entrance—the one with a single barred turnstile, not something anybody could jump. Just north of that turnstile is an “emergency exit.”
Several yards away, I happen to see a solidly built woman wearing noticeably non-Manhattan clothing opening the exit door to let her two companions onto the platform without paying. Is she doing this stealthily? Not at all. More like the straightforward way one might pull out a shopping cart from a cluster beside the door at CVS or Zabar’s.
Every woman in this trio is well past middle age—younger than I but certainly not young and certainly familiar with paying for services. All appear to be standard-issue tourists from the Heartland. Are they heading for Times Square? Had they splurged on $200 tickets for a Broadway show? Will they be having dinner and a glass of wine nearby, where it will cost them at least $50 apiece? Are they staying at a large hotel in our neighborhood, at a likely price of more than $300 a night?
No, I did not walk over to them and deliver an I-saw-what-you-did denunciation. Instead I’m resorting to a post-mortem on a screen. But please, next time you hear a reference to fare beating, don’t assume it’s just done by athletic teenage boys.
In fact, for the MTA to have lost out on $690 million worth of unpaid bus fares, subway fares, train tickets, and vehicle tolls in 2022, every category of person must be committing petty crimes—with extremely non-petty consequences for the city.