PubliCola breaks down a Metro report claiming that 88,000 riders a week (4.8%) fail to pay their entire fare, and over 60% of those pay no fare at all (Metro has about 400,000 boardings per weekday). The annual cost is $3.2m a year, assuming that about 30% evaders would not ride if enforcement were in place. Orphan road also has a (shorter) summary if you prefer. More after the jump.
The data was collected by all Metro operators tracking evasions using their farebox. Each base (except DART and Vashon) collected data on one weekday and one weekend day last winter. There are some types of evasion (like misused transfers) that were not easily detectable and therefore not counted.
There isn’t much fare evasion research, but other agencies (who may have used different methodology) report:
The reported percentages of trips that are evaded vary greatly: Toronto (0.7 percent), Vancouver, BC (2.5 percent), San Francisco (3.3 percent), Los Angeles (5 percent), and Portland, (8.2 percent).
On Metro-operated Sound Transit routes the rate is 4.1%, but that’s largely due to partial payment.
Metro also asked operators what to do about it:
In response to a survey, transit operators identified the following as their top ideas for reducing fare evasion: fare simplification (eliminating zones and peak surcharges), eliminating the Ride Free Area (and its pay-on-exit policy), and more Transit police and fare checkers.
Metro is also planning a fare-inspection system, similar to Link, on RapidRide.
All I’d say about the solutions is that it’s important to recognize that, however unjust it may be, fare evasion in itself is not the problem here*. It’s the c0ncurrent loss of revenue, and to a lesser extent the tendency of some fare evaders to disrupt the bus in other ways. As a result, any attempt to address the problem needs cost/benefit analysis to see if it actually improves the budget situation.
The exception I’d make is for transit police, who have additional salutary effects that are more difficult to quantify. Recovering even a fraction of that $3.2m would pay for a few teams of transit police riding different buses day and night, which has merit even if it has no net impact on Metro’s budget situation.
*To clarify, as a rider I care that Metro maximizes its net revenue and keeps disruptive riders off the bus. If those objectives are met I don’t care what the fare evasion rate is.