Metro’s modified fare gates have cut fare evasion by 70 percent, agency says
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Metro’s modified fare gates have cut fare evasion by 70 percent, agency says

Jul 07, 2023

Metro’s modified fare gates have cut fare evasion by 70 percent at stations where they are already in place, the agency said Tuesday.

The transit agency is in the middle of a project installing the tall plexiglass doors at all 98 Metrorail stations in an attempt to cut down on people jumping over or sliding by the fare gates without paying.

Fare evasion proliferated during the pandemic, costing the agency about $40 million a year in unpaid fares on bus and rail, and fueling complaints about crime and disorder in the Metro system. On Metrorail, the agency said it estimates about 13 percent of fares go unpaid.

Metro began adding doors to fare gates in March, a $35 million project expected to take months to complete. The gates are nearly five feet tall and made of polycarbonate, which transit officials said is 200 times stronger than glass, but lighter and more durable. Metro workers also have added stronger hinges for the swing doors and a more powerful motor to withstand people who try to push their way through.

Metro just installed new fare gates. It’s spending $35 million to make them taller.

Preliminary data collected at Fort Totten, Pentagon City, Bethesda, Vienna, Mount Vernon Square and Addison Road — the first six stations completed — show that the new fare gates have collectively led to a more than 70 percent drop in fare evasion. The biggest change occurred at Mount Vernon Square in the District, where Metro said 15 percent of people had been evading fares. That figure is down to 2 percent, Metro said. At Addison Road, where 39 percent of riders were not paying fares, now just 11 percent are evading.

“After testing multiple prototypes and getting feedback from customers, the new fare gate design is having its intended effect — reducing fare evasion,” Metro General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke said in a statement. “It is critical for Metro to collect as much fare revenue as possible and keep the system safe so we have a transit system worthy of this great region.”

The latest station to add modified fare gates is Congress Heights; its barriers were completed on Tuesday, transit officials said. Installation at Federal Center SW, Wheaton and Court House is expected to be completed by early September.

Metro said Tuesday that it has also started posting data showing daily paid and unpaid ridership on its website “to provide transparency on the effectiveness of fare evasion reduction strategies.”

The move to install plexiglass barriers comes not long after the transit agency had replaced all its Metrorail fare gates. The new gates, installed over the last few years at a cost of $70 million, are better equipped to handle mobile fare payments and record more accurate ridership data. But they did not include the plexiglass barriers.

Transit officials first attempted to modify the gates with plexiglass doors that were four feet tall. But the barriers proved to be too easy for offenders to avoid, prompting Metro to announce earlier this year that it would order taller doors and stronger hinges. The agency last fall also ordered Metro Transit Police to more actively stop and cite those suspected of fare evasion, after it had gone largely unenforced for nearly five years.

Through July, transit police had cited 2,670 people for fare evasion, including nearly 600 in July, according to Metro records. That’s up from 291 during the first seven months of 2022.

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