Fare Evasion – DON’T EVEN TRY IT!

Post updated on 3/27/14

I know that it’s been a while since I’ve posted my monthly Transit Tips segment, so here we go!

Have you ever been aboard a train or bus without paying your fare? Perhaps you’ve jumped a turnstile at a subway station, or have had an expired pass while boarding a bus. While skipping out on required transit fares may sound appealing to some who would rather sneak thorough transit systems than to pay, there are strict penalties for fare evasion. In many countries and transit districts, fare evasion is constituted as theft and therefore entails stiff fines and even jail time. In this post, I will profile all four transit districts that I cover through my Transit Focus Pages, as well as the fare evasion situation in Jakarta, Indonesia. I will also go through how each transit district is combating fare evasion.

Tampa, FL – Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART)

Let’s first start out with the Tampa Bay area (and Florida as a whole). In the state of Florida, fare evasion is constituted as theft and violators are therefore punishable under the Florida State Statutes, Chapter 812 Sect. 015 (812.015). This chapter clearly outlines the penalties involved should someone decide to not pay their fare when boarding a bus or train.

Though I haven’t heard of any sophisticated operations in Florida to combat fare evasion, don’t think for a moment that it isn’t a problem just because there aren’t too many big headlines. Violators are often arrested and face a fine if caught.

A huge kudos to HART for providing me with the FL Statute info!

New York City, NY – New York City MTA

For many larger transit districts; fare evasion has become a widespread problem, especially when it comes to buses. In the New York City metro area, the NYCMTA has a dedicated team that helps deter fare evasion. This specialized team is known as the Eagle Team, which was created in 2007. The Eagle Team has been credited with reducing fare evasion incidents throughout the MTA system. In addition to helping deter fare evasion, the Eagle Team routinely collaborates with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to locate “hot spots” where increased fare evasion activity could become a problem. The Eagle Team also helps combat vandalism (including graffiti) throughout the MTA system, including at train and bus depots.

Since their inception in 2007, the Eagle Team’s area of responsibility has expanded. The team now patrols every bus route on the MTA system to help combat fare evasion, and its force was recently increased from about 60 team members to about 120. The Eagle Team comprises of mostly retired police officers and former military personnel, so each member of the team has the experience and know-how to help keep the New York City transit system safe.

Violators face a very stiff fine (over $100) if caught.

An amendment to this post ~ 6/24/13

I’ve been able to locate the New York City Transit Rules of Conduct (part of the NY State Statutes; 21 NYCRR, Chapter XXI, Part 1050), which outlines fare regulations.

Norfolk, VA – Hampton Roads Transit (HRT)

Fare evaders may be more enticed to jump the gun when it comes to light rail lines, and the Tide in Norfolk is no exception. When the line opened in August, 2011, city and state officials established fare collection and enforcement laws that dealt specifically with light rail. Violators face a fine of $250.00 and repeat offenders may be barred from riding for a certain period of time, according to this article from August, 2011.

Although many light rail lines operate on an honor system when it comes to fare payment, transit inspectors and supervisors do board trains periodically to make sure that all passengers have valid tickets. In addition, HRT works with local law enforcement to make sure that laws regarding fare payment are being enforced.

Paris, France – RATP

Fare evasion is nothing new to the city of lights, which possesses a large rail system. Fare evaders often find cleaver ways to jump subway turnstiles in order to catch a free train ride. When caught, violators are often slapped with a fine of up to €72 (roughly $93.00 US). The economic loss to the Parisian Metro system however, is estimated to be at €80m [or a whopping $103,760,000.00 ($103 billion) in US funds] each year. That is certainly a lot of money lost to people not paying for their tickets!

Like many European countries, the Paris Metro, among other transport systems, are littered with transit inspectors and supervisors, who routinely check to make sure that everyone has a valid ticket. The system is also equipped with surveillance cameras at each turnstile to make sure that no one tries to jump the turnstiles. In addition, the turnstiles themselves have been upgraded in recent years with full-length gate panels to further deter fare evaders. Sometimes though, even these measures aren’t enough. So it’s no surprise in a way that Paris has come up with an “insurance fund” or mutuelle to help offset the costs of passengers not paying their fares. Members of this “fund” pay anywhere from €5-€7 (roughly $6.50 to $9.10 US) per month.

Jakarta, Indonesia – Commuter Rail

One of the most problematic areas of the world when it comes to fare evasion is Jakarta, Indonesia. In Jakarta, people literally try to “escape” overcrowded commuter trains by riding on top of them, creating a huge safety hazard. However, deterring these fare evaders has not been easy because there are literally crowds to people who ride on top of commuter rail trains each day. From several news articles that I’ve read, passengers have long complained that there are not enough trains to handle the mass influx of rush hour traffic.

Authorities in Jakarta have tried several different measures to try and deter fare evasion. These methods are rather extreme, and unfortunately, have been largely unsuccessful. Such measures included lowering transmission lines, swating roof riders with brooms covered in goop, and installing grapefruit sized concrete balls that are suspended from support poles. Now why has Jakarta resorted to such extreme measures to deal with fare evasion? Because many times, police are met with heavy resistance and often violence from angry passengers when they attempt to apprehend violators.

An amendment to this post ~ 3/27/14

The problem with riders on top of commuter trains in Jakarta also stems from the rail lines being severely overcrowded and not enough trains being available to help ease congestion. If you think riding the New York City Subway was congested enough, you’ll want to avoid riding the commuter trains in Jakarta as much as possible if you visit the city.


No matter which part of the world you use transit, chances are that some form of law and order exists to keep passengers in check when it comes to making sure that everyone is paying appropriate fares. Even though each transit district tends to enforce fare payment differently in some areas of the world, many transit officials will agree that everyone must pay their fare, or face penalties.


Published by hartride2012tampa

Blogging about public transportation in Florida & beyond.

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