The fight against unfair fares

On Nov. 1 in a downtown Brooklyn, New York, subway, crowds of people marched in waves, jumping turnstiles and engaging with law enforcement in protest to the over-policing in New York subways. This was a result of the viral video that surfaced on social media of a young man being tackled to the ground for fare beating. 

Fare beating describes any action involving an individual using the subway without purchasing a pass. This includes hopping the turnstile, being let in through the emergency door without paying and bending a MetroCard to trick the scanner into giving you a free ride. The current cost to ride the subway is $2.75, but the issue the state has is the growing fare debt that has reached $215 million in 2018, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The lost revenue is totaled from the $119 million lost from the bus system and $96 million stemming from subway fare beating.

According to the New York Times, the MTA agency that oversees the subway and buses said fare evasion is on the rise on the subway and buses, costing the system $225 million in lost revenue last year. But the problem is far worse on buses, where nearly 22% of riders do not pay, compared with 3.4% of subway riders. 

The question raised is: Why are people not paying the fare? According to New York City Economic Development Corporation, only 45% of the citizens that live in New York drive cars — that is about 1.3 million out of the 3.8 million New Yorkers and the percentage of car owners fluctuates in different boroughs. Although the average NYC commuter knows how to manipulate through a crowd of thousands of people and can calculate delays every day, it does not negate the fact that the fast-paced lifestyle can sometimes be inconvenient.

Junior communication studies major and New York native Elizabeth Curcio commutes an hour from Staten Island, New York, to Rider.

“Compared to the rest of my immediate family, I rarely commuted to the city unless it was for an event, a day out with my friends or family, or a school trip. However, some of my family members travel to the city every day and it takes a toll on them after a while. The hustle and bustle of the city is no joke. You are constantly in the midst of so much traffic, whether it’s cars and buses, people walking, bike riders or even horse carriages,” said Curcio. 

According to the New York Times, an informal survey on several routes found that fare evasion was widespread and the reasons varied. Riders did not have exact change. They knew they would not get in trouble. And some simply felt no obligation to pay for a transit system plagued by unreliable service and constant fare increases.

“I don’t think it’s justified because I feel like if you’re using a service, you should be paying for it. It’s how the city makes money. The people who aren’t paying for it are cheating the system,” said Curcio. 

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who controls the transportation authority, has applied pressure on transit leaders to tackle fare evasion as part of his plans to address the system’s financial crisis. According to the New York Times, on the subway, loud alarms were installed at some emergency exits to dissuade riders who use them to sneak inside. New signs warn: “Fare Evasion Will Cost You.” 

Although fare beating is at an all-time high, I do not believe that the installment of new surveillance cameras in the subways and the need for more police is depleting the amount of costs either, especially when there are higher public transportation priorities that need to be tended to. 

Sophomore TV, film and radio major and Brooklyn native Jaden Ewan has been using public transportation since an adolescent, making it a significant part of his life. 

“Since I was 11 or 12 I was taking the bus to and from school, trains across Brooklyn to get to school clubs or programs. I have been using MTA for about eight years or so. I cannot complain about not paying the fare when the train system is not working properly and the city raises the fares so they can add all these new trains and features when they have not fixed the delays, electrical problems and much more,” said Ewan. 

The reason New Yorkers were protesting in the first place was to combat the police presence in the subways, the unnecessary use of force of law enforcement for $2.75. There has to be a more progressive and safe way to enforce the law. 

“We need action whether in the streets or in city hall, we still undergo police brutality more frequently and more and more we see protest but no actual change. Are we just to show up and demand our rights? What if they say no, then what? We must change our leadership,” said Ewan.  

I look at fare beating as an act of civil disobedience. American philosopher Henry David Thoreau was known for his ideals on civil disobedience to sometimes go against set laws issued by the government that feel unjust. The citizens of New York are engaging in the disobedience of an unjust law that issues commuters to pay a fee for rundown, safety hazardous transportation vehicles. It seems that surveillance cameras and excessive police force are not enacting laws for justice, but for power. It is time to stop criminalizing poverty. 

This editorial expresses the unanimous opinion of The Rider News Editorial Board. This week’s editorial was written by Opinion Editor Qur’an Hansford.

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