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Transit Implements Control Tactics to Combat Fare Evasion

Posted on September 24, 2012 by Nicole Schlosser, Senior Editor - Also by this author

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Inspector sweeps
Spurred on by a fare increase, MBTA kicked off “Operation Fare Game” in July and issued 636 tickets, explains Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan.
The operation consisted of both uniformed and plainclothes officers monitoring the fare gates. Uniformed officers are sometimes used as a visible presence to deter riders from dodging fares. However, people will sometimes skip paying even with a uniformed officer there, MacMillan says.

Before the fare increase went into effect, the public asked the agency to step up its efforts to capture people who were not paying, MacMillan says. In response, MBTA started “Operation Fare Game” to conduct fare enforcement at some of its larger stations, where evasion was more likely to take place.

Citation crackdown
On top of a fare hike, the fee for fare evasion increased from $15 to $50 on July 1. MBTA also asked the state legislature to increase the fine and shorten the time frame that someone who received a fare citation was able to pay. The old system required almost 18 months before payment was due.

“There was a notification period where we had to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles that the [person’s] license could not be renewed and there was a time period that delayed the payment of the fine,” MacMillan explains. “We asked the legislature to shorten that. Now, you have to pay your fine in 30 days or we’ll notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles to not renew your license.”

The idea is similar to when a vehicle owner doesn’t pay a parking ticket: their vehicle registration won’t be renewed until they pay.

As a result of the sweeps, MBTA increased the number of fare citations for this year over last year, so far. In August, 2011, it issued approximately 2,000 fare evasions, and in August 2012, it gave out over 3,000 showing an increase of about 53%.

The next step, MacMillan says, is working with the state legislature on a sanction for fare evaders who don’t have a driver’s license.

Creative deployment
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has a limited number of fare inspectors, so it has to be creative in how it deploys them. When concentrating most of the inspectors in problem areas on the system wasn’t proving effective, Lea Militello, director of security, investigations, and enforcement, SFMTA, found a better way to stop fare cheats.

Militello says that the previous method was “singularly focused.” When she came on board about one year ago, Militello read several studies done on San Francisco’s municipal service and found that fare evasion was a problem system-wide.

Her solution was to have the fare inspectors operate by a deployment calendar. Every month the proof of payment manager produces a calendar that shows fare inspectors where they’re going to be in the system. They are now placed system-wide and rotate where they are and where they do saturations — boarding a bus and checking every passengers’ proof of payment — every day. By being everywhere on the system, SFMTA started to see a reduction in fare evasion.

“We’re not just randomly checking people,” Militello says. “The only way we’ll get an accurate percentage of fare evasion is if we’re checking 100% of the people on any given bus.”

FMTA reviews its statistics and real-time data daily and adjusts its deployment strategy accordingly.

“The feedback from people that ride our system regularly is, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been asked for my proof of payment,’” Militello says. “Our citations are static, but in some instances we’re seeing more compliance. What that tells me is that what we’re doing and how we’re deploying our fare inspectors is working.”

Now, the public calls with tips on specific areas to check. Saturations are sometimes scheduled based on customer feedback.

“People who pay their fare don’t like when others [game] the system,” Militello says. “They expect everyone to pay.”

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