500,000 skip bus, subway fare every day, costing city $300 million annually: Transit Authority

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- MTA officials last year sounded the alarm and released surveillance videos that publicized transit riders committing fare evasion on New York City's buses and subways.

According to the Transit Authority, more than half a million people push their way onto buses or breeze past the turnstiles every day.

"It happens a lot," MTA bus operator William Rodriguez said. "Out of 10 or 15 people, I'd say five people pay."

It happens so often that drivers say it's become an epidemic.

Bus operator Ramon Robles has been driving for 20 years, and he's never seen it like this.

"It's all different kinds of people," he said. "Young people, old people. It isn't even always poor people. It's out of hand. It's out of hand. My hands are tied, can't do anything."

The annual losses were estimated then to be $215 million. Now, that estimate has climbed to $300 million.

MTA Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye says the agency has an obligation to report fare evasion, and bus drivers insist that the more people get away with it, the more other people will do it.

"I've had a few people ask me that, 'He didn't pay, why do I have to pay?'' Rodriguez said.

It all comes as the agency faces operating deficits of nearly a billion dollars, large-scale staff reductions, and an angry unionized workforce. Fare evasion makes all of it worse.

"It messes everything up," Bronx resident Ray Torres said. "It just don't sit right."

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