Washington DC’s Metrorail system is experiencing a spike in citations of passengers caught trying to ride trains for free: A public records request and undercover investigation by the News4 I-Team found a 20 percent surge in people slipping through fare gates without paying in recent months.
The investigation also revealed the Pentagon City station is the most frequently targeted by fare evaders.
Metro police records show 3,202 passengers have been issued citations or – in some cases, when combined with other crimes – arrested for fare evasion in 2013. Last year, 2,666 were cited or arrested. Metro officials attribute the increase to stricter police enforcement and frequent abuse of emergency exit gates by fare cheaters.
The News4 I-Team and its cameras, staging an investigation at the Tenleytown and Gallery Place stations, witnessed dozens of passengers slipping through emergency exit gates, entering stations without paying their fares.
The cheating was particularly frequent at about 3 p.m. at a platform-level emergency exit gate at the Tenleytown station. The bulk of the offenders were stopped and issued citations by Metro police officers.
The majority of those fare evaders were teenagers.
Metro police records obtained by the News4 I-Team show the stations most often targeted by cheaters include end-of-the-line stations where fares are highest, including the Red Line’s Shady Grove, the Blue Line’s Largo Town Center and the Orange Line’s New Carrollton stations.
But the most frequently targeted is the Yellow Line’s Pentagon City stop, which has been hit by at least 236 fare evaders in 2013.
Metro police chief Ron Pavlik said, "We notice it’s often (happening) where there’s a mall or attraction, somewhere younger riders might want to go."
Metro police have issued 195 citations or formal warnings to fare cheaters at its Anacostia station this year. They’ve done so 182 times at the Prince George's Plaza station in 2013, according to agency records reviewed by the News4 I-Team.
The transit system uses plainclothes police officers and a series of surveillance cameras to police emergency exit gates. The News4 I-Team witnessed officers issuing about a dozen citations during a two-hour span at the Tenleytown and Gallery Place stations on a weekday afternoon.
Pavlik said passengers face fines, ranging from $10 to $300. Repeat offenders, and fare cheaters cited for additional crimes, face the possibility of arrest.
View Top 20 Fare Evasion Stations in a full screen map