Back door fare-beaters

February 4, 2009 6:12:07 PM PST
In some parts of the city, the back door of the buses may as well have a "ride for free" sign on them. Numerous times, our cameras caught lines of people avoiding the front door fare box by pushing through the back door.

"It's running rampant. There's millions of dollars being lost," said one bus driver, who agreed to talk to us if not identified.

He said fare jumping is spinning out of control.

"There's no police on the bus. There's no one there to stop them," he said.

Passengers know it. There's no need to "sneak or slip" onto the bus. The fare-beaters we observed made free-riding look routine, and the numbers seem to prove it. New York City Transit admits at least 137-thousand passengers every week steal a free ride. That's a loss of more than one million dollars every a month.

"The real problem is the paying customer is actually subsidizing the fare-beater," Frank O'Hare said.

O'Hare, a former NYPD deputy transit inspector, said one solution is to bring back the bus squads that patrolled buses until they were done away with when transit police merged with the NYPD.

"We had detectives and plainclothes officers assigned. They'd go on those routes and arrest the perpetrators," he said.

To protect bus drivers from dangerous confrontations, the MTA advises them "to request that customers pay." When they refuse, the driver is trained not to push it, and instead, to "continue boarding other customers."

Two weeks ago, a fare-beater fatally stabbed driver Edwin Thomas.

We wanted to sit down with New York City transit to talk about fare evasion and what they plan to do about it, but they declined an interview. They did release a statement in which the agency admits it's a serious problem and that they're working closely with the NYPD to "curtail fare beating."

With steep fare hikes coming, more and more riders might ask, if they can get away with it, why should i pay?"

"It has grown to almost enormous proportions. If they put a toll on the back door, they'd make more money than putting a toll on the Brooklyn Bridge," the bus driver said.

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