NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The "chronic problem of fare evasion" has prompted a new initiative in the MTA, Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber announced Tuesday, starting with empaneling a group to figure out a way to get people to pay their fare.
Lieber, speaking at the Association for a Better New York's Power Breakfast, said that "surging fare evasion threatens our bottom line and also threatens our social norms," as well as feeding the increasing crime, noting that many criminals enter the system by not paying the fare.
New numbers revealed assaults, stabbings, and arrests are all up this year, and even with arrests up 63% this year, it doesn't appear to be slowing the violent crime.
On Monday, a man was killed on a subway platform in Queens during an argument near the turnstiles at the Jamaica Center - Parsons Avenue Station.
The suspect pulled out a gun and fired five shots, killing 24-year-old Marcus Bethea.
Lieber said the shooting involved "two guys who apparently knew each other." NYPD Chief of Transit Jason Wilcox said at Monday's press briefing that there were no officers present in the ticket booth area of the station when the fight began.
The violence came just hours after the NYPD released data showing felony assaults are up 33% from 2021 and up more than 50% from last month. Stabbings and slashings in transit are up 70% compared to last year.
The MTA will convene a "Fareness" panel to take a deep dive into how fare evasion is addressed. On buses, approximately one out of every three riders evades the fare.
"At the current rates, fare-beating is going to cost us over $500 million just this year," Lieber said. "Fare evasion is a problem we're going to have to solve together."
The panel, which includes Schools Chancellor David Banks and Association for a Better New York's first Chief Executive Officer Melva Miller, will focus on three areas -- education, equity and enforcement -- and look for "a fresh mix" of tools to curb fare evasion like "greater use of civil penalties that aren't administered by the police."
He noted that parking tickets are written by traffic agents, not police officers.
"I am not interested in sending people to jail, especially young people who make mistakes, or low in come New Yorkers," he said. "Failure to pay $2.75...shouldn't change the trajectory of anybody's life."
Lieber acknowledged that subway safety is key in the city's return but, it will not be a quick fix.
"Crime in the subway is directly connected to what's going on above ground," Lieber said. "This is not an overnight process."
"Fareness" Blue-Ribbon Panelists:
--David Banks, Chancellor, NYC Department of Education
--Matthew Fishbein, Former Executive Assistant District Attorney, Kings County; former partner, Debevoise & Plimpton; former Chief of Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York and former First Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of New York
--Michael Hardy, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, National Action Network
--David Jones, President and CEO, Community Service Society; MTA Board Member
--Roger Maldonado, Partner, Smith Gambrell LLP; former president, New York City Bar Association
--Melva Miller, CEO, Association for a Better New York
--Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, COO, McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy & Research, NYU
--Kate Slevin, Executive Vice President, Regional Plan Association
--Michael Sonberg, Retired Judge, New York City Criminal Court and Retired Acting Justice, New York Supreme Court; former President, International Association of LGBTQ Judges
--Natalia Quintero, Senior VP of Innovation, Partnership for the City of New York and Founding Director of Transit Innovation Lab
--Zachary Tumin, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University; former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Initiatives
--Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation
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