Tuesday’s Headlines: Why Don’t MTA Board Members Use the MTA Edition

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Yes, it’s going to get tiring, but Streetsblog has launched its annual December donation drive, which is what we’ll be talking about all month. Please do what you can to help keep the Streetsblog NYC team of Gersh Kuntzman and David Meyer, and Streetsblog USA reporter Angie Schmitt, fighting the livable streets battle for another year. We’ve had some great victories this year and want to keep the momentum going. So click that yellow rectangle and give if you can.

And here’s today’s non-donation-related news:

  • There was lots of coverage of the MTA board meeting on fare evasion on Monday. While amNY and the Wall Street Journal focused on what is most likely an overstated problem, the Post and the Daily News led with NYC Transit President Andy Byford’s claim that he’ll deploy MTA front office workers to block would-be turnstile jumpers (no, really). And, as always, Aaron Gordon took the whole thing down with a single tweet.
  • Also, your subway is about to become like a McDLT: Hot stays hot, cold stays cold. (NY Post, NYDN) (H/T Lawrence “Lucky” Gardner)
  • Then again, the trains were so bad on Monday that you might not care. (NY Post).
  • Monday was also a lousy day for Citi Bike, as Streetsblog’s Gersh Kuntzman reported.
  • Next time you complain about subway workers, consider this: Rats get into their workplaces! Viewer discretion advised: This is literally a rat chasing a token-booth clerk out of her post. (NY Post)
  • Queens Borough President Melinda Katz demands that Amazon help pay for Mayor de Blasio’s BQX folly, er, we mean trolley. (amNY) Meanwhile, Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris is upset at real-estate speculation near the retail giant’s new HQ2. (WSJ)
  • Politico Pro subscribers will love Dana Rubinstein’s story about Corey Johnson’s call for mayoral control of the subway — which is exactly what people call for…when they intend to be mayor.
  • This should outrage everyone, but hopefully force DOT to do something: A private bus company that was kicked out of the Port Authority for not paying its usage fees ended up getting a city permit to load its passengers on the street — worsening congestion and creating dangerous road conditions. (NY Times)
  • We often complain about FedEx trucks illegally parked in bike lanes, but we have to admit this is worst: A FedEx driver apparently struck a mourner outside a Brooklyn funeral. (Pro tip: Don’t bother tweeting @fedexhelp — the account does nothing.) (NY Post, NYDN)
  • Our editor, Gersh Kuntzman, was on the Curtis and Cosby show on WABC77 on Monday. Listen to how exhausted he gets trying to convey basic statistics to an audience of fact-free, Trump-style belligerents who say they are more afraid of bikes than cars. (Reminder: Drivers have caused all of the 145 fatalities through September). It’s a short segment that speaks volumes about real fear vs. manufactured fear. (WABC77)
  • And, finally, our Streetfilms pal Clarence Eckerson Jr. put together a montage of how much better the city looks, thanks to protected bike lanes. Enjoy his video here or below:
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  • Larry Littlefield

    Is everyone happy with the increase in social justice fair evasion? Reminds of the Republican campaign against the IRS a couple of decades ago. If we can’t cut taxes, let’s “cut taxes.” “Starve the beast!”

    Funny how the meaning of words changes over time. A century ago, being progressive meant building the system — against the opposition of Tammany Hall public employees and contractors who didn’t want to produce the public services they were paid for, and Robber Barons who didn’t want to pay taxes so their employees and customers could have the support for a better life.

    Today, being progressive means beating the system.

  • qrt145

    I listened to the podcast, and I have to say Gersh, you are a saint! I don’t think I could remain calm in the face of such nonsense.

  • Elizabeth F

    > This should outrage everyone, but hopefully force DOT to do something: A private bus company that was kicked out of the Port Authority for not paying its usage fees

    You’re not being fair here. Bieber Bus may be private, but it performs a public service; no different from NJ Transit or a zillion other private bus companies west of the Hudson. It’s easy to claim that Bieber Bus is increasing congestion; but if it stops running, more people driving could increase congestion too.

    The real issue here is the failure to build and maintain enough trans-Hudson capacity, resulting in more buses than space at PABT.

  • Daphna

    Two common methods of fare evasion:
    1) At the 125th Street station of the A,B,C,D the gate is never locked. People regularly enter through it and skip paying the fare.
    2) In upper Manhattan and the Bronx bus riders regularly give their Select Bus Service receipts to people who are waiting to get on the bus saving those who are boarding from having to pay the fare. It is so common that waiting bus riders expect this of those exiting the bus.

  • Carl S

    This turnstile jumping has become so common since the DA suspended prosecution. I see it all the time nowadays. People who are well dressed and certainly don’t look like they can’t afford it duck under turnstiles, climb over them or enter buses through the back doors. I even heard that my son’s friend decided to do it.

  • sbauman

    The change has been to make fare evasion a civil rather than a criminal offense. There’s no reduction in the fine. The police elected to reduce their enforcement. What about parking/standing or stopping in bike lanes? The lack of enforcement for certain civil penalties is part of police nullification.

    There’s also the question of parity compared to toll evasion on MTA bridges. That’s a civil penalty. Toll evasion has increased since the introduction of cashless tolls. The law that the police protest views toll evaders different than fare evaders.

    I don’t condone fare or toll evasion. However, its enforcement must be fair. Studies have shown selective police enforcement that is reminiscent of stop and frisk and marijuana possession arrests. The enforcement was dictated more by racial profiling than by universal enforcement of existing laws.

    I applaud Mr. Byford’s choice that future enhanced enforcement locations will be randomly chosen. I hope the NYPD follows that directive.

  • bolwerk

    This really is preferable. Giving poor people convictions, even for trivial offenses, is a lifelong assault on their ability to find employment. If the sheer cruelty of that doesn’t convince you, you should be convinced that it drives people to more illicit activity to survive. There is also no moral equivalence between often desperate people failing to pay fares and high net worth donors refusing to pay their taxes.

    Other than, what sbauman said. This can be fixed with a measured and proportional response. That response could even involve the police, at least if the police could be trusted to handle it competently.

  • Dr. Bones

    Wow those people on that show… And the c wow those people on that show… And the callers! It’s classic bullcrap TV “news” theater though… To the hosts it’s a game… you can’t even tell if they are serious about their positions. Emotions over thought of any kind. Obviously they are using Gersch as a foil, for listener engagement.

    I have to say though that it’s not just Trumpie style people who Hate bikes… I get into arguments every now and then with a very liberal friend of mine who thinks that “New York City is not for bikes. Let’s get serious.” She also uses the common disclaimer “I am a bike lover. I used to ride all the time In my home town where biking was sunny and happy”

    and she doesn’t even have a car… She’s afraid to drive in New York City.

    Go figure

  • Dr. Bones

    ….and the guy who thanks bicycles riding around his car in traffic are “menacing” him… whew

  • Larry Littlefield

    Are we sure poor people are the ones evading the fare?

    “Toll evasion has increased since the introduction of cashless tolls.”
    Are they evading the tolls because they are poor? That is more beating the system.

    At some point, the suckers are going ask why are they paying in just to allow others to put in less or take out more? Might was well just view the community as something to exploit yourself, since it’s going down anyway.


  • bolwerk

    We can probably be sure there’s a whole spectrum of fare evasion motivators, ranging from desperation to stress to self-serving convenience to sticking it to the man. More than one can be operative at once.

    It’s a bit harder to credit that toll evaders fall into the first category as often, but I’m sure it happens. Usually if you can afford a car you can probably afford a toll.

    And seven-figure tax evaders? They are the most antisocial of all, but they also have the pull to legalize their own behavior.

  • sbauman

    “Toll evasion has increased since the introduction of cashless tolls.”
    Are they evading the tolls because they are poor? That is more beating the system.

    If my experience is any example, part of the explanation can be traced to EZ Pass incompetence. I don’t have an tag. I’m supposed to get a bill by mail within 15 days. None arrives. I can go on their website and get my bill through my license plate number. There’s a delay that can extend for over one week before one can access unpaid tolls by license plate. After that delay, the payment procedure requires having a cellphone with a restricted number of carriers to complete the transaction over the web. I did receive an email notification 38 days after I took the trip, demanding payment within 1 month. However, the link to print the bill did not work. There’s no way to contact them via their website nor speak to a human via their telephone number. There’s a 2 hour wait for service, if one tries to resolve a problem at the EZ Pass Whitestone office.

    I resolved the problem by filing a complaint on the MTA website. I got an email response within 24 hours and a telephone number to a real live person who was closer than Banglore. Her attempt to send me a pdf of the bill through the MTA’s email system failed. She then sent me the bill via her private account.

    Waiting in line at the few remaining toll booths took a lot less time and effort.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Incompetence goes both ways. I have a tag, and had it in a rental car.

    I got charged on my tag. And I got a bill and a surcharge from the rental car company for having to pay for a picture-based charge. That’s $25 to drive the Thruway from NYC to Schenectady.

    I called EZ Pass. They said it was a system error. I asked if they had a procedure to send corrections to the rental car companies so I could get a refund. They said no, I would have to send a copy of my bill to the rental car company to protest the charge.

    I don’t drive often, and haven’t gotten a bill recently. They said they’d send one, so I could use it to protest the charge.

    This is how they treat suckers, losers and fools in New York while those who matter are busy working the system and beating taxes and tolls.

  • Joe R.

    Part of it may even be a reaction to poor service which isn’t worth paying for in the minds of many. I can’t condone fare evasion, but at the same time I don’t feel the subway in its current state is worth $2.75 a ride. $0.50 is more like it.

    In a sane society there would be no fare. Collecting a fare costs money, in some cases more than the amount you collect. Instead, the subway should be fully funded via taxes. If NYC demanded grants from the federal government to make the amount they were receiving equal to what they were sending to Washington there would be enough money to run the subway without fares.

  • Larry Littlefield

    For nearly four decades tax evasion was justified by the fact that government spending goes to “waste, fraud and abuse” — and minorities on welfare.

    The Republicans made the case, during the debate on the Reagan tax cuts, that one reason tax revenues would rise is that tax evasion would decrease if affluent taxpayers thought taxes were fair.

    The same case was made with regard to “Fair Fares” — fare evasion would decrease. But I guess those reduced fares are only available to the actual poor.

    One thing nearly everyone has been against since the early 1990s is the subway system ten years from now. Still the case. It has no defenders, no advocates.

  • Joe R.

    In the scheme of things fare and toll evaders are nickel and diming, regardless of their rationale for doing so. The 40 year push by the super wealthy to avoid paying their fare share of taxes is the reason many public services are starved of funds. But as you say, they unfortunately have the pull to legalize their behavior. If we put a combination of a middle class tax cut and a drastic increase in taxes on the wealthy to a popular vote, it would pass with flying colors. If we had a true democracy such thing would also pass with flying colors. Under the current system of 1 dollar = 1 vote such a proposal would be DOA.

  • Daphna

    As much as turnstile jumping and passing through subway gates is mentioned, by the numbers, fare evasion by bus riders eclipses that of subway riders considering the vastly different ridership numbers of each. MTA estimates $96M per year lost from subway riders and $119M per year lost from bus riders — 208,000 subway riders per day do not pay, and 348,000 bus riders per day do not pay. So subway fare beaters are a tiny percentage overall whereas bus fare beaters are a much larger percentage of bus ridership.

  • AnoNYC

    I haven’t noticed the same.

    You can still be fined for it.

  • AnoNYC

    How many of those bus riders are transferring to or from the subway, where they are much more likely to pay due to the presence of the turnstile.

  • AnoNYC

    I want official numbers because I have not noticed an increase in fare evasion due to a lack of prosecution. You can still be fined, and that alone discourages people enough.

    Any increase I have noticed in evasion comes from poorer service, like waiting 20 minutes for a bus in the cold and everyone running for whatever door is open.

  • bolwerk

    Concur, but under a remotely sane enforcement regime damage from evasion (toll or fare) would be neutralized or better. That people who complain about evasion seem to ignore this should tell you they either are incompetent, or they like evasion because it gives them an excuse to overpolice the populace.