WASHINGTON — One in every 25 Metro riders aren't paying their fare, and the transit agency is paying the price. Fare evasion -- the act of riders jumping over fare gates or refusing to pay bus fare -- is costing the transit agency $36 million each year. But new ways to combat the problem will start showing up in stations by the end of the year.
"We’re looking to harden the system as much as we can," WMATA COO Joe Leader said to Metro’s board on Thursday.
Metro is about to install video monitors at 13 hotspot stations. They'll look like those on Metro’s problem bus routes, but can recognize fare evaders and alert authorities.
"We’re hoping that people see their face on the monitor and we can give that to the Metro Transit Police Department and hopefully reduce fare evasion," Leaders said.
Fare evasion is a problem nationwide and Metro is looking to other major cities. On San Francisco’s BART system, the transit agency just installed a double-decker fare gate known as the guillotine. The idea is to make it impossible for anybody to jump over it.
"It’s an imposing physical barrier -- It’s six feet high,: Metro Board Member Tom Bulger, said.
Metro has awarded a contract for 1,000 new fare gates. They are three feet high but move faster to prevent piggybacking. They are laden with sensors that not only deter fare evasion but better track Metro’s multi-million-dollar problem.
"This is real," Metro Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. "This is real money. This matters."
D.C. Council decriminalized fare evasion last year, turning a $300 criminal fine into a $50 civil penalty. In Maryland, civil and criminal fines ranging from $10 to $100. In Virginia, criminal fines are as high as $250.