New York - 157 cheats in day at top Queens subway stop
Queens, New York - Brazen fare-beaters skip turnstiles once every 10 minutes at one Queens subway station - right under the noses of token booth clerks.
More than 157 riders were spotted sneaking through an emergency exit into the subway system at the Elmhurst Ave. station on the Queens Blvd. line during a one-day survey in March.
"It's immoral," paying straphanger Mary Barbabasi, 63, said. "It is cheating."
Leo Fernandez, 23, a college student, complained that fare-beaters deprive the system of much-needed revenue.
"Whoever you ask will tell you the same thing: It's not fair," Fernandez said. "The rest of us pay. Why don't they?"
The fare cheats made booth N325A tops in the entire city for fare-beating at a staffed subway entrance.
Over the course of three days - one each in January, February and March - clerks noted a whopping 329 fare-beaters at the station.
Some hustle through the gate after a friend who paid opens the gate from the inside.
Others saunter in after simply waiting for a passenger to exit improperly through the emergency gate.
An alarm sounds briefly each time the gate is opened.
The one-day transit survey captured only fare-beaters observed by token booth clerks, meaning dozens of others may have gone unnoticed.
The MTA this week is laying off or reassigning about 450 token booth clerks, part of a larger effort to close a budget deficit caused by declining tax revenue and state funding cuts.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 officials and some transit advocates and elected officials, predict fare evasion will get even worse with fewer clerks.
NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said the survey shows fare evasion actually dipped in March, and overall crime is at a historic low in the system.
"We work with the NYPD to fight all types of crime, including fare evasion, and we will continue to do that," Fleuranges said.
NYC Transit didn't offer any theories about why fare evasion was so rampant at the Elmhurst Ave. station.
The emergency exit gate is more than 150 feet from the booth, a distance that may embolden fare-beaters.
Token booth clerks are told not to confront fare-beaters, but to report incidents to a command center.
Police say they regularly stake out subway entrances to make sure farebeaters are ticketed or arrested.