As usual, the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority is its own worst enemy – using as evidence of the city’s current fare-cheating crisis a four-year-old video that shows a woman rocking a coffee at the milk go through the motions of swiping a MetroCard and then stooping under the turnstile after it fails. But don’t let bureaucratic idiocy distract from the bigger problem: too many people don’t pay for their tickets.
To back up MTA chief Janno Lieber’s case last month that fare evasion is at a “tipping point,” proven by “countless images of people dressed in designer clothes, wearing lattes at $7, waltzing through emergency doors on Wall Street or the Upper East Side,” the MTA posted video of a lady in a cute coat bending under the turnstile.
With “countless” images to choose from, this wasn’t the best. The clip predates the pandemic by 18 months. (Hint: the woman is not wearing a mask.)
And, as The Post discovered, the fugitive woman in question tries to swipe her MetroCard before crouching down, a prelude the MTA conveniently left out.
It’s yet another reminder: what’s in a few seconds of video is almost never the full story.
And yet the stubborn fact remains: New York Is have a fare evasion problem as well as a violent crime crisis on the subway, and the two are not unrelated.
Just over a week ago, just after Daniel Enriquez was murdered on the Q train, another suspect boarded a 6 train on the Upper East Side, brandished a knife and threatened to behead a strap hanger.
How did the suspect get on the train? He jumped over the turnstile. If the cops had caught him jumping the fare and detained him, they could have arrested him for smuggling a weapon on the subway and preventing the armed threat.
In fact, the cops did arrested a turnstile jumper last month at Coney Island and removed a loaded gun.
Aside from the MTA’s inability to find current footage, there is no dispute that a plot people are beating the fare. The MTA puts the figure at 12.5%, more than three times the pre-COVID level.
A third of bus riders board without paying — a figure confirmed by my two bus trips down the South Spine to the middle of the Bronx and back two weeks ago.
As the NYPD steps up tariff enforcement, officers need to be, well, fair. They can’t just target young minority men in casual attire, as these two suspects were, and assume that a well-dressed white woman who slips and then bends down means good, as a respectable white lady would. never deliberately beat the fare.
Maybe that latte-loving lady from Before Times in the MTA’s 2018 short film Zapruder paid his fare, and he failed to register. Maybe she didn’t have any money on her MetroCard or it had expired. Maybe she was in a hurry and didn’t want to stop to top up her card.
Or maybe she steals the fare every day, and pretending to slip is her cover – while maybe the black kid in the sweatpants is paying the fare every day but lost his wallet.
The thing is, we can’t make these judgments based on looks or attempts. If the turnstile does not move, it does not move. By all means, if you think you paid for your ticket, it’s not the crime of the century to take a chance and slip away, but be aware that there could be a consequence, a $100 fine.
Give people excuses to say goodbye, and Everybody going to have an excuse. I forgot my MetroCard. My credit card is not working. I couldn’t miss my train, so I had to run through the door.
They don’t accept those excuses in Paris or London, where a ticket inserted into a machine upside down or a credit card that doesn’t work correctly won’t win you any sympathy.
In the early 1990s, when Transit Police Chief Bill Bratton cracked down on fare evasion, the marketing genius of his sweeps was that he was dragging everybody — “insurance salesmen, artists, messengers, students and even grandmothers.”
A white-collar worker pleaded he forgot his wallet – and said he felt ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ to be caught sneaking out. The natural impulse is to tell him to let him go. But then you have to let everyone go. It’s not entirely clear that New York is ready for the honor system.
Nicole Gelinas is editor-in-chief of the City Journal at the Manhattan Institute.