City spending $1 million to determine why commuters dodge fares

By Around the Web

(Image by Robert Hovor from Pixabay)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Wire.]

By Adam Andrzejewski
Real Clear Wire

Topline: Ever hop the turnstile at the subway station?

Ethics aside, it’s not such a head-scratching decision. Those who do, want to save a few bucks when they can.

But the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority is apparently baffled by the practice, and it’s spending up to $1 million to figure out why commuters dodge subway fares, according to a new procurement notice.

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Key facts: The MTA will hire behavioral scientists to write a report on the “personas” of subway and bus riders, categorized by the different “psycho-behavioral drivers” that motivate them to evade fares.

For its part, the MTA has already identified six “personas” by using what must be cutting-edge sociology. Some New Yorkers dodge fares because they “think it is cool and edgy,” while others are “uneducated about the importance of paying the fare,” according to the notice.

Researchers will be asked to go beyond “punitive enforcement” and brainstorm ways to convince riders to pay their fare willingly.

The scientists will also be responsible for creating an advertising campaign based on their findings. The MTA suggests “filming an educational video for TikTok” or designing posters.

Finally, the scientists must analyze the return on investment for the MTA. Will they include the $1 million sunk cost of this study?

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Background: The MTA lost $600 million to fare evasion in 2022, which the notice says is a “historic high.” Only 50% of bus riders pay the fare.

The impact might be softened if the MTA wasn’t spending $98 million on its payroll. Railroad president Catherine Rinaldi made nearly $338,000 in 2023, according to data at, and 23 others made over $200,000.

Other recent gaffes include New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent decision this month to cancel an upcoming “congestion pricing” toll for driving into lower Manhattan — after the MTA had already spent $507 million to implement the program.

Supporting quote: The MTA says the study is necessary because traditional enforcement methods are no longer working.

“Physical barriers, fare inspection, penalties, and messages emphasizing the potential consequences of evading the fare are the most common tactics used. However, these costly and sometimes controversial methods have had limited success in reversing the upward trend in riders who do not pay,” the notice says.

Summary: If MTA officials need to spend $1 million to understand why a free bus ride is appealing, there are larger issues at play than fare evasion.

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This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.


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