The Blazer

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The Blazer

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Fare or Foul?

A+passenger+enters+the+subway+station+by+the+New+York+Port+Authority+Bus+Terminal+following+an+attempted+detonation+during+the+morning+rush+hour%2C+in+New+York+City%2C+New+York%2C+U.S.%2C+December+11%2C+2017.++REUTERS%2FAndrew+Kelly+-+RC17ED457330
A passenger enters the subway station by the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal following an attempted detonation during the morning rush hour, in New York City, New York, U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly – RC17ED457330

From Brooklyn to the Bronx, there is a sight that is ubiquitous at subway stations: fare-beaters hopping the turnstile, saving themselves some spare change. In recent weeks, however, there has been a spate of stories of fare beaters getting beaten, harassed, and screamed at by cops. 

Ask one side of the aisle, and this is a catastrophe. Fare beaters are often poor people who use public transit the most, and it is unfair to expect them to pay a rising cost when machines do not work or when they do not have any cash. 

Ask another side of the aisle, and they pull up an MTA statistic that they stand to lose $260 million in 2019, as a CBSN NY report points out. Furthermore, they claim that fare beaters are often flouting the rules for its own sake, out of stinginess.

Of course, the annoying truth of the issue is that both sides are partially correct. The MTA is hemorrhaging money, but the police crackdown appears to be focusing on stations in low income neighborhoods, where the $100 fine and misdemeanor on a record can only make things worse. 

So what is to be done? Why not look at bit down south at Philadelphia? The city has gone in the opposite direction, decriminalizing fare evasion. When someone does not comply, the person is given a $25 fine and is not charged with a crime. Repeat offenders are charged with a misdemeanor and taken to court.

Yet, why stop there? Let us acknowledge the type of person repeatedly hopping the turnstile, and consider them for the Fair Fares program, which hands poor New Yorkers a half-price Metrocard. Expand the entrance requirements a bit, do it on a case by case basis, and we might have a better solution in our hands. With the way the issue is going right now, no one is happy.

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