On the eve of a D.C. Council vote to decriminalize fare cheating on Metrobus and Metrorail, the News4 I-Team found fare evasion remains rampant on the transit system.
Public records released by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority show one of every three bus passengers skips paying the fare on two heavily used bus lines. The records also show more than 1,300 people stopped by police for fare cheating at the one major rail station this year.
Proponents and opponents of the Council’s decriminalization legislation disagree on the impact it would have on future fare evasion. But the I-Team’s review showed cheating has reached systemic levels in certain sections of the system.
According to WMATA records reviewed by the I-Team, nearly 560,000 of the 1.5 million passengers aboard the Metrobus W4 route from Deanwood to Alabama Avenue cheated paying their fares this year. On the Metrobus 92 route from U Street to Garfield, 438,242 of the 1.4 million passengers skipped the fare box this year, records show.
“Fare evasion comes in all shapes and sizes. It happens every day,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik. “It’s going to put our riders at risk. It’s going to put more employees at risk.”
Agency records show people cheating the fares most frequently at five of the system’s 91 rail stations. At least 200 people have been stopped this year for fare evasion at the Southern Avenue, Columbia Heights and Pentagon City stations. Metro Transit Police have stopped nearly 800 people for doing so this year at the Anacostia Station. They stopped more than 1,300 for fare cheating at Gallery Place.
I-Team cameras captured a series of nearly a dozen fare evaders at an elevator entrance at a Red Line rail station over the course six minutes on a Wednesday afternoon.
Pavlik said certain rail station elevator entrances, which have separate small sets of fare gates, are known hot spots for evasions.
“People have learned to bypass the system, so to speak,” he said. “The elevator in particular is where people fare evade every day.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.