The MBTA Transit Police spent the last two days staked out at various train stations—some in plain clothes, while others were in their uniforms—trying to thwart piggybacking riders from slipping through the fare gets without paying.
The enforcement is a new tactic, dubbed “Operation Fare Game,” and started at Downtown Crossing on Monday night, where officials dished out 51 citations to riders that decided not to pay the $2.50 to ride the T.
On Tuesday night, the blitz continued, this time at Park Street Station, where MBTA Transit Police officers said they netted roughly 36 non-paying customers and issued them tickets.
Each citation, for a first time offense, is $50. The fine amount increases dramatically for each subsequent offense with a third strike costing those who try and sneak on the MBTA a whopping $300.
On Wednesday, reports of plain clothes officers riding the Green Line were tweeted out by customers, warning others not to try and sneak on the light rail system, or risk being caught by the people incognito. There have been no reports yet on whether or not citations were issued during the morning commute, however.
Now, if you do the math, in just two days the T police stopped 87 people from getting through the fare gates for free. That means they handed out $4, 350 worth of citations, assuming each person caught was a first-time offender.
Each blitz has only lasted roughly three hours, most times during the busy evening commute times.
Lets assume (always assume) the T police conducted similar crackdowns, unannounced, five days a week at various problem stations throughout the system.
If on average they stopped even 30 people per blitz—around 150 people per week—they would be bringing in $7,500 over the span of five days, or, $390,000 per year.
And that is all non-fare revenue. That revenue would chip away at the projected million-dollar-plus budget shortfall the T is expecting to deal with next fiscal year. It might even save the transit agency from having to increase fares even more next July.
According to Brian Kane, Budget and Policy Analyst at the MBTA Advisory Board, that money goes to the operating fund of the budget for the MBTA.
Kane said while he thinks the MBTA transit Police are doing a good job by increasing patrols at select stations, more needs to be done.
“Blitzes are great, but there needs to be a more sustained effort to make this more common place,” he said. “I think we’d all like to see more officers riding the system. Especially buses.”
Kane said chief operators and operators at various stops, while not officers, have the legal authority to dish out citations as well, which could increase the amount of revenue brought in by those not paying the fare, if enforced.
Of course, this constant level of enforcement would most likely discourage riders from trying to skimp on putting money towards a trip on the T, and the police might not have the chance to hand out this many tickets consecutively each day.