Eagle Eyes: Trying to Crack Down on Bus Fare Evasion Which Costs City over $315M/Yr...and Rising

NYC Transit loses more fare revenue on buses than the subways; easy on and off, potential violence to drivers and COVID all played a part in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars on the City’s over 5,800 buses, the largest in the nation. Added Eagle inspection teams and the NYPD may help regain rightful revenue.

| 23 Feb 2024 | 08:30

Fare evasion took a quantum leap with COVID, almost tripling from pre-Pandemic levels, surging to $315 million in 2022 with even greater losses expected when the fully year 2023 numbers are tallied.

Now the MTA is hoping a new push by what it calls its Eagle inspection team can help to bring back some sanity to the bus fare problem.

The 2024 NY State budget allowed the MTA to hire over 100 new Eagle Team staff this year, with 40 new hires being trained at the end of January, in addition to the current staff at the three areas—Kips Bay, Manhattan; Downtown Brooklyn; and the ferry terminal on Staten Island.

Many trace the increased fare evasion to the darkest days of the pandemic when buses were free. The MTA said 136 of its employees died from COVID in 2020-21. In response, NYC buses were initially set up for free rides; as health conditions improved, fares were reinstated—and many people started to completely disregard paying their fare by walking past the driver without paying, boarding through the back door, short-changing the farebox, or failing to purchase a ticket for Select Bus Service.

While Los Angeles, second largest populated U.S. city, has 1,800 buses, the MTA has 4,000 more to carry almost three million people on a weekday making 14,000 bus stops. And, if everyone on those paid their fare, great. But the problem is worsening.

Chairman Janno Lieber convened a Blue Ribbon Panel in 2022 to make recommendations as to how to decrease fare evasions,

Last August, as one of the Panels suggestions, Eagle inspection teams were employed at both local and Select Bus Service (SBS) bus stop at bus hubs with high rates of fare evasion, selected with certain parameters.

And now, plainclothes Eagle team members, who are unarmed, have been taken as part of the total Eagle inspection team. NYPD officers have been added, said NYC Transit President after a recent MTA Committee Meeting.

In response to a media question after the conclusion of the January 2024 MTA aboard Meeting on the 31st, it was noted that many students who boarded buses neglect to show their prepaid, city-funded, Metrocards also adding to the fair evasion mix, which needed to be corrected a change of behavior on those rider’s parts and education about proper use of the transit cards,

During that post-Board Meeting Q&A, Lieber noted, “In the three clusters, we’ve seen improvement but we have a long way to go.”

From last September 11 to January 1, 2024, Eagle Team enforcement , in concert with the NYPD at the three hubs, issued 6,746 warnings, which carry no fine and 9,746 summonses, which are $100 each. It could not be learned how much of the nearly $1 million in summonses were actually collected.