NEW YORK - The MTA is spending $1 million a month on more than 200 private unarmed security guards at 14 troubled NYC subway stations in an effort to stem fare evasion, agency leaders said at a New York City Council hearing on Monday.
The acting chief of the NYPD's transit bureau says he's seen rampant fare beating during his own patrols of the subway system.
"It's a free-for-all," Chief of Transit Bureau Michael Kemper testified at the hearing. "A lot of people aren't paying. I was in full uniform and people were going through the turnstile without paying. People were asking me to help them go through without paying, hold the door for them, and giving me attitude when I closed the door."
NYC fare evasion costs $500M a year
Fare beaters will cost the MTA an estimated $500 million this year alone. That’s a major problem for an agency with an already sizable budget deficit.
"The MTA spends a lot of money collecting fares as a general rule," NYC Transit President Richard Davey said. "So we see this as an important investment."
But City Council Member Darlene Mealy sees it differently.
"It's a waste of taxpayer money," she said of the security guards.
MTA officials say the private security guards are worth the price because they’re not just discouraging turnstile jumping, but they’re also making the system feel safer in the process.
Transit crime is up 30.2 percent this year versus last, according to NYPD statistics. But there has been recent progress. Major crime in the transit system decreased by nearly 13 percent last month compared to November 2021.
Riders have not fully returned to the subway system since the worst of the pandemic. Post-pandemic ridership continues to hover at barely 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels even though city officials have urged commuters to use mass transit.
There have been a series of high-profile crimes that have deterred some people from using the subway.
A man was stabbed to death in a Manhattan subway station last week. He was believed to have been at least the 11th person killed in the mass transit system this year.