The Impacts and Ethics of NYC’s Subway Fare Evasion Crackdown

We’re all guilty of skipping the fare at least once or twice. You don’t have any rides left on your metrocard so you jump over the subway turnstile or ask the bus driver to let you hop on for free. Well all those rides eventually add up.

The MTA lost an estimated $690 million to fare evasion on buses and subways in 2022. The city is beginning to adopt new methods in order to combat these losses, sparking debates about its effectiveness and consequences. 

Mayor and former transit officer, Eric Adams, suggests that there are links between fare-skipping and violence. A plan to deploy at least 800 police officers into subway stations was announced on March 25, 2024. Officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, will specifically keep a watch on turnstiles. Over 1,700 people have been arrested and over 28,000 issued tickets so far this year. 

“I’m pretty cautious nowadays” says student enrolled in Hunter College, Mithila Pandit. “I was about to hop the turnstile but I saw this guy that looked kind of suspicious.” In order to not risk a ticket, she paid and received a “nod of approval” from the assumed-to-be plainclothes police officer. 

So, it seems that the new tactics are effective. It is getting people to pay who would otherwise not. However, this isn’t exciting news for everyone. For many, it has called into question the ethics of such methods. 

As it turns out, fare evasion enforcement is highly disproportionate. It targets lower-income New Yorkers, the majority being non-white. Many also criticize that police are focused on the wrong things. 

Violent crime in the subways has been running rampant in recent years. Multiple shootings and stabbings have already taken place this year. Several people have been pushed to their deaths, both targeted and at random. 

“Why are the police more focused on $2.90 than people being murdered?” says Edison student, Leah Jarvis. 

The debate over fare evasion enforcement reflects broader concerns about equity and resource allocation. It is crucial to find a balance between fare compliance and fostering a safer subway system. The conversation is still open, so let your opinion on the matter as a New Yorker be heard. 

Priodarshini Pandit

Hi, my name is Priodarshini, but I typically go by Prio. I am a senior at Thomas A. Edison CTE HS. I love to make art and watch movies/shows!