MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber appeared live on 1010 WINS/92.3 FM with Brigitte Quinn to discuss new turnstile technology and other transportation topics.
A transcript of the interview appears below.
Brigitte Quinn: Joining us live, Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. Janno, thank you for being here. Before we talk about the redesign, how much are these deadbeats costing you guys?
Janno Lieber: Well, we estimate it's about $500 million a year which is a significant uptick since before COVID began. And that's why we, like nine months ago I said this is a much bigger problem and I created a task force of experts, both law enforcement and education experts to come up with a set of recommendations on how to deal with it. We're going to hear from that panel within a month or so. But in the meantime, we are hard at work figuring out how do we redesign the fare array because that is just like, it's too porous and it’s letting a lot of people in, and we have to have a different physical barrier to stop people from doing this.
Quinn: Yeah, I know you're still in the process. But do you have any idea Janno, what it might look like or what more of a barrier it might be to really deter people who try to beat fares?
Lieber: I mean, I think some of this stuff is things that everyday New Yorkers get. The exit gate, which is intended strictly for fire safety exiting, that we call the slam gate, the gate that you push open, from the inside of the fare zone has become the superhighway of fare evasion. One person goes in, sometimes they jump the turnstile and they pop the gate open for 5, 10, 15 people. We've all seen it and it is demoralizing. It is destructive to the sense of fairness and fair play that animates New York. We all share this space, and we all need the MTA to operate and to be funded. And it's also kind of creating, contributing to this sense of disorder in the system. So, we want to deal with the fare gate first, but we also, the turnstiles frankly, you know it seems like we're trying to cultivate a generation of world class gymnasts because you could just put your hands on the side and vault over them. We got to deal with that by whether it's raising the height or changing the design so it's not so easy for people to literally just vault and kick their legs over. We've seen it all, even people in businesses, and I don't want any more latte carrying office workers to go do the limbo under the turnstile either. So, we are going to be redesigning this to make it much less easy to fare evade. Especially that gate.
Quinn: If you can afford the latte, you should be able to afford the subway fare for sure. But Janno, how much money are you going to have to spend to save the MTA money or to make the MTA money by making people pay their fares?
Lieber: Brigitte, that's a really good point. There's no question that this will take time and money to do. I think it is not just a matter of cutting back on the you know, the loss of revenue but also restoring the sense of order and compliance and fair play. Every day New Yorkers, it's not just it's costing the MTA money, when a hardworking person swipes their MetroCard or taps their OMNY, and they see 10 people go by them through the gate, it makes you feel like a sucker. And I don't want that to be the vibe in the subway system. We already have gate guards that we are, you know unarmed in addition to the 1,200 cops who have come into the system. And by the way, fare evasion arrests are up 100% since last year. 100% up. Summonses are up 60 to 60+ percent. So, we're attacking it already. But in addition to that, at some locations where we had chronic problems with scam artists who would hold the gate open and collect money from people and break the vending machines and all that. We’ve posted MTA gate guards who are uniformed but they don't, they're not armed, and they can't wrestle people to the ground or anything. But it is deterring people from doing that scam where you just open the gate and walk in. And is actually, already shown to raise the revenue at those stations dramatically and in many cases to pay for the cost of the guard. So, we're going to attack this from all fronts. We're going to rely on the cops, we're going to bring in gate guards, we're going to redesign the system, we're going to redesign the system. We're going to work with the DAs to have a more consistent pattern of enforcement. We're on it.
Quinn: All right, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. Janno, we thank you.
Lieber: Thank you Brigitte.