Measuring and Controlling Subway Fare Evasion Improving Safety and Security at New York City Transit Authority

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - fare revenue, mode - subway/metro, place - north america, planning - safety/accidents, policy - fares


fare evasion, New York City Transit (NYCT), compliance


New York City Transit (NYCT) has a comprehensive framework for assessing, managing, and combating subway fare evasion. The automated fare collection system, implemented between 1994 and 1997, features lessons learned from field trials of prototypes specifically designed to limit fare abuse. Subway crime has decreased 68% since 2000, and the annual average subway evasion rate remains low at approximately 1.3%. Today, the transit authority measures fare evasion with independent silent observers who use stratified random sampling techniques and classify passenger entries into 19 categories. Evasion rates peak at 3 p.m., when students are dismissed, but otherwise hover around 0.9% at peak and 1.9% at off-peak hours. Busy times and locations have higher evasions per hour but lower evasions per passenger. More evasions occur in lower-income neighborhoods. Staff presence apparently does not reduce evasions. Results are released to the press on request, which promotes transparency and accountability. As an evasion deterrent, NYCT increased fines from 60 to100 in 2008. Police issued 68,000 summonses and made 19,000 evasion arrests in 2009. Arrests are a more effective deterrent than summonses; the proportion of arrests versus summonses increased in 2010. Video monitoring equipment is used to identify and apprehend chronic fare abusers, particularly swipers who sell subway entries by abusing unlimited fare media.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.