The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced plans to spend $35 to 40 million on the implementation of new fare evasion gates at several stations across the District. This comes as WMATA reports significant revenue losses attributed to fare evasion. The process began this week with the installation of the first new Faregates at the Fort Totten station (550 Galloway St. NE).
The New Technology
The new fare evasion technology will utilize the existing cabinets with the addition of new motors and doors. The doors will stand 48 inches tall in an effort to minimize rider’s ability to step or jump over them to evade the fare.
The process, which will work to replace the gates at all of WMATA’s stations, is expected to take about 15 months to complete.
WMATA CEO Randy Clarke said the nine initial locations, with include Federal Center SW and Mt. Vernon Sq, chosen for the new gates are all single mezzanine and single entrance stations. Clarke said they were selected because they were “easier from an infrastructure point of view” prior to the installation and retrofitting at the busier, multi-level stations such as L’Enfant Plaza and Metro Center.
It hasn’t been that long since WMATA replaced fare gates the last time. In December 2022, WMATA completed the installation of modernized fare gates, replacing legacy faregates, which the organization said were “obsolete and unreliable.” While the gates offer bi-directional access, remote monitoring and control and include new sensors to assist with fare evasion detection, Metro has found these gates are easy for fare evaders to simply step over.
Additionally, in the fall WMATA launched a warning campaign aimed at deterring fare evasion with digital sign displays and the distribution of physical fliers to fare evaders.
Fare evasion, WMATA reports, is responsible for significant revenue losses and plays a significant role in the shortfall of nearly $185 million in the upcoming budget. In fiscal year 22, WMATA said they “conservatively estimate” $40 million in losses due to fare evasion.
WMATA says it relies heavily on the fares collected from customers to keep its buses and trains running. The new Faregate technology, WMATA says, will also allow Metro to more accurately measure the scale of the problem.
WMATA Chief Planning and Performance Officer Tom Webster reported that of the approximately 324,000 weekday trips taken on Metro, 13 percent of those are unpaid.
The organization, however, is unsure how many of those being labeled as fare evaders are exempt from Metro’s fare system such as students who ride for free.
Former Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B representative Alison Horn tweeted about the announcement expressing concern about the cost of replacement –and the true costs of enforcement.
“Call me crazy, but I would rather my tax dollars go towards letting people who can’t afford transit ride free than on imposing consequences on people who can’t afford to ride transit,” Horn said.
Other community members took to Twitter to express concern about fare evasion and its impact on their commute.
I’ve only lived here for a little over six months and have seen multiple fare evaders hop the fare gates and then proceed to cause absolute havoc on the train. Hope @wmata takes some time to find and implement a solution that will actually work. https://t.co/mtj1ra842i
— Carter Brooks Templeton (@TempletonCB) March 30, 2023
Video taken by WLJA 7 News and tweeted by reporter Tom Roussey shows riders already using tactics to maneuver the new fare evasion technology at the Fort Totten station.
Fare evasion is considered a civil offense in the District. WMATA says riders who do not pay for their ride can incur fines of $50 within the District limits and $100 in Maryland and Virginia where fare evasion is considered a crime.
Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.