To determine the extent of implementation of the 19 recommendations included in our initial audit report, Fare Evasion (2019-S-7).
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is North America’s largest transportation network, serving a population of 15.3 million people in the 5,000-square-mile area fanning out from New York City through Long Island, southeastern New York State, and Connecticut. The MTA has two agencies that provide bus and subway service within New York City: New York City Transit (Transit) and MTA Bus. Transit is responsible for operating the subways and the majority of public bus service throughout New York City as well as the Staten Island Railway. MTA Bus provides service throughout the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn as well as express bus routes from those boroughs to Manhattan.
The MTA has the authority to collect fares from the riding public, pursuant to the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations. Riders who enter the subway system or ride buses without paying the fare are subject to a $50 or $100 fine. Fare evaders are also subject to issuance of a summons; however, MTA officials stated that it is not the MTA’s goal to give summonses to fare evaders but to get its riders to pay the appropriate fare.
Passengers on Regular Bus Service pay their fare on the bus. Select Bus Service (SBS) passengers pay their fare before boarding at ticket purchase machines located at SBS bus stops. Transit’s Division of Operations Planning is responsible for generating random samples of subway stations for traffic checkers to observe and record whether passengers pay their fare. The results of these observations are used to determine fare evasion rates and revenue loss estimates, which are reported to the MTA Board of Directors (Board) quarterly.
The objective of our initial audit, issued April 15, 2021, was to determine whether Transit and MTA Bus reported accurate estimates of revenue losses from fare evasion to the Board, and whether the MTA has taken action through the Fare Enforcement and Worker Safety Program to ensure all riders pay the appropriate fare on New York City buses and subways. The audit covered the period from January 1, 2017 to March 4, 2020. The audit found that MTA officials did not provide assurance that the Fare Enforcement and Worker Safety Program was effective in achieving its goal of reducing annual fare evasion losses below 2017 levels ($150 million). Instead, Transit estimated that it lost more than $300 million to fare evasion in 2019.
We found that certain aspects of the Transit system contributed to increased fare evasion. For example, Transit designed several subway emergency exit doors to remain open for an extended period of time, providing an easy way for passengers to evade the fare. Also, much of the fare evasion and payment signage we saw was defaced, misleading, not prominently displayed, and/or not in the appropriate language for the neighborhood. We also found that fare evasion and payment signage was often missing, which was especially problematic for SBS, where passengers pay the fare before boarding the bus.
Since our initial report was issued, the subway and bus fare evasion rates have increased. The first quarter of 2023 (January–March) saw an increase of 11.1% (± 0.9%) for subways and an estimated increase of 37.6% for buses. After the audit’s release, the MTA created a Blue-Ribbon Panel to reduce fare evasion across the MTA system. The panel released its report on May 17, 2023. The report incorporates several of the recommendations of the initial audit report.
MTA officials made progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial audit. Of the initial report’s 19 audit recommendations, 13 were implemented, four were partially implemented, one was not implemented, and one is no longer applicable.
Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of this report to provide information on any actions planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this follow-up.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236