purple people leaders

MTA Sticks on Decals to Deter Subway Farebeaters

A commuter ignores an MTA sign at Herald Square urging riders to use turnstiles to exit, July 16, 2019.
A commuter ignores an MTA sign at Herald Square, on July 16, 2019. Photo: Jose Martinez/THE CITY

That’s one way to stick it to farebeaters.

Decals directing commuters to exit the subway system through turnstiles —and not emergency gates — have begun appearing at stations citywide as part of a $40 million fight against fare evasion.

“I don’t need an arrow telling me which way to go,” said Amadou Cici, 50, of Brooklyn, after he walked through a turnstile at the 34th Street — Herald Square station, with a large purple arrow on the floor pointing to it. “I didn’t even notice it.”

The MTA’s seals-and-signs campaign — which officials said is being paid for with criminal forfeiture funds from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office — extends from turnstiles and emergency gates to 1,140 subway cars, 4,800 buses and digital screens.

It’s being introduced as the MTA projects it will lose more than a quarter billion dollars in 2019 to fare evasion, a major surge over last year.

“We must address this growing problem through deterrence, and this campaign will help us do that,” Max Young, an MTA spokesperson, told THE CITY. “Make no mistake about it, the increasing rates of fare evasion are having a devastating impact on the system and we must tackle this challenge using all tools we have available.”

Those tools include the purple arrow decals, which began arriving in subway stations last week. The MTA expects to have them in 50 stations by the end of the month, along with signs on buses and in subway cars. More police officers also have been posted in stations.

“Please pay the fare. It helps us run better service,” reads one of the cards installed on subway cars.

“We’d rather your $2.75 fare than your $100 fine,” reads another.

‘A Prevention Model’

A Vance spokesperson described the campaign as an investment in “New York’s shift from a criminalization model to a prevention model for fare evasion.” Under Vance, who took office in 2010, criminal prosecutions for fare evasion in Manhattan have decreased by 96%.

“Our investment in design improvements and other prevention and deterrence measures mean that more fares get collected while fewer New Yorkers end up in the criminal legal system, with life-altering consequences, for this low-level offense,” said the spokesperson, Justin Henry.

The MTA has posted arrows in stations urging people to exit at the turnstiles and not emergency exits. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Through June, “theft of service” arrests for farebeating in the subway system are down 50% from the same period a year earlier — dropping from 3,434 in the first six months of last year to 1,718 in the first half of 2019. But farebeating summonses that carry a $100 fine are up by almost 60% so far this year, to 42,578, according to NYPD figures.

As part of the anti-farebeating efforts, forfeiture funds from Vance’s office also will go toward installing more cameras and monitors in stations, as well as adding “security enhancements” to low-slung emergency gates that offer easy access to a free ride.

The MTA installed those easy-open emergency doors at 19 stops as part of a $1 billion station overhaul program unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016.

Subway riders who had the new signs and arrows pointed out to them at 34th Street – Herald Square said they doubted the additions would change behavior.

“They won’t make a bit of difference,” said Raul DeJesus, 22. “People don’t look down. They only look at what is in front of them.”

The signs also beseech people to not sneak into stations through emergency exits.
The signs also beseech people to not sneak into stations through emergency exits. Photo: Rachel Holliday Smith/THE CITY

Even where decals were prominently placed, many riders still exited through the emergency gates — where several people looking for a free ride were waiting.

“I get $90 on welfare, I can’t pay the $2.75,” one man told THE CITY after slipping past an open emergency gate. “This will always happen. People who don’t have the money to pay the fare won’t care about some signs.”

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