MTA has nothing to show for Cuomo’s $24M war on farebeating: Comptroller

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The MTA has nothing to show for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s years-long war on fare evasion, according to a damning new audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

In fact, the MTA’s estimated costs from fare evasion actually increased over the audit period — from $150 million in 2017 to over $300 million three years later, according to the report published Monday.

Transit officials “did not provide assurance” that the joint MTA-NYPD task force launched by Cuomo in 2019 had any impact, auditors said.

“By the MTA’s own account fare evasion is an increasingly serious and costly problem that predates the pandemic, but its attempts to deal with it aren’t working,” DiNapoli said.

“Lost revenue has doubled at a time when MTA needs every dollar and employees remain at risk.”

The joint farebeating task force was launched at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s behest in mid-2019.

But the comptroller found the group ceased meeting at the outset of the pandemic, and kept no minutes of the meetings it did hold. The program’s true cost, meanwhile, is “significantly understated,” the report said.

Transit officials provided comptroller auditors with an estimated price tag — $24 million per year — that does not factor in the full cost of police deployment, DiNapoli said.

Making matters worse, auditors out in the field found that some MTA operations make it easier for riders to skip the fare. Emergency exits at stations and bus back doors, for example, often stay open for long periods of time, the report said — while signage informing riders to pay their fares is often nowhere to be found.

A report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli claims that the farebeating task force has not been successful.
A report from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli claims that the farebeating task force has not been successful.

Auditors also observed transit workers inadvertently let nearly two dozen riders skip fares after using their MTA keys to open emergency gates, the report said.

At the same time, enforcement was mostly passive, and auditors observed cops, fare agents, bus operators and other MTA workers letting dozens of people ride without paying.

MTA cops issued just 1,514 farebeating violations in the 12 months after the task force launched — compared to 36,675 verbal “warnings,” which auditors found often go unreported.

DiNapoli’s report dinged officials for providing incomplete fare evasion stats to the MTA board, even as they told directors and the public those stats were cause for concern.

“If the fare evasion dilemma is as severe as MTA says, it needs to regularly and accurately update its board on the problem and the costs of addressing it,” he said.

The MTA’s methodology has previously been called into question by MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny and continues to be a work-in-progress, according to MTA sources.

“Fare evasion is a systemwide problem that deprives the transit system of critical resources and is unfair to the vast majority of customers who pay their fair share,” agency rep Meredith Daniels said in a statement.

“We appreciate the work of the State Comptroller’s Office and look forward to continuing to work with them on this important issue.”

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