Washington Metro installs new gates to limit fare evasion

As Beege pointed out last week, the NYC subway system is struggling with a big budget deficit thanks to lower ridership but also thanks to frequent fare evasion which cost the system nearly $700 million last year alone.


Another city having problems with the subway system is Washington, DC. As crime increased on the Metro system, DC announced a return to fare evasion citations, a problem which had risen during the pandemic. This was a big change of course for DC which had decriminalized fare evasion just a few years ago making it a civil offense which can only be dealt with through fines.

Metro will begin issuing tickets to nonpaying riders in the District to curb a pandemic-era rise in fare evasion, a dramatic shift for a transit agency that has mostly ignored the issue since the city decriminalized the act four years ago.

The enforcement campaign, which extends systemwide, began Tuesday with transit police officers being told to issue warnings this month to violators on Metrorail and Metrobus. Police will begin issuing citations in November.

The change comes as Metro is facing a significant shortfall in its operating budget next year and in subsequent years because of a shift to telework. It also follows a steep drop in fare-evasion tickets and arrests in recent years, with 15,000 such cases in 2017 falling to fewer than 300 last year.

DC decriminalized fare evasion and stopped giving out tickets and suddenly fare evasion spiked as people came to the conclusion that payment was optional. The return to writing tickets was an effort to get the problem under control in hopes it would also help deal with the rising crime happening on the trains.


Aggravated assaults are up 26 percent compared with the same time last year, Metro Transit Police crime statistics show. Larceny is up 90 percent, while pickpocketing and purse-snatching is up 84 percent. Robberies are up 127 percent, and destruction/vandalism is up 110 percent. Incidents involving weapons violations, indecent exposure, fondling and trespassing have also risen. Rail ridership has also been on the rise in recent months.

Five people have been killed on Metro property this year, including two teenagers in separate incidents in May, as well as a Metro worker who tried to intervene during a shooting rampage in February. No homicides had occurred in the transit system at the same time last year…

“The vast majority of crimes on Metro are committed by individuals who enter the system without paying their fare,” Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta said in a statement.

But writing tickets for fare evasion isn’t as simple as it used to be. In Virginia, any person stopped for fare evasion is required to give their name and information to the police which ensures they can be held accountable with a ticket. In Maryland and Washington DC people are not required to give their names or other information, meaning there’s no way to hold anyone accountable. This is one more problem the city has created for itself.


Yesterday the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced it was installing new gates designed to create a more significant physical barrier to fare jumpers.

Metro has begun installing new higher, stronger faregates at Fort Totten Station as part of a systemwide rollout. The design improves upon the original prototype door following months of testing and modifications. The new doors are now 55-inches tall, twice as strong, and more resilient.

The installation at Fort Totten is expected to be completed overnight, followed by Pentagon City. The faregate modifications will be installed in phases with plans to retrofit faregates throughout the system over the next year. The first 10 stations are expected to be completed by early fall.

“Over the past several months, our team has been testing different prototypes to get to this final design. We have already seen a reduction in fare evasion and expect the higher gates will be more of a deterrent,” said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer, Randy Clarke. “The bottom line is fare evasion is not okay, and we will continue our efforts to ensure everyone is respecting the community’s system and each other.”

This graphic shows how the new gates compare to the prototypes as well as to the existing gates. Those ones on the left are the ones I remember growing up. Obviously they make it pretty easy on fare jumpers.


Here’s what the new gates look like installed:

I’m sure this will be deemed a terrible thing by some group of activists somewhere but it seems like common sense to me. Why should the system tolerate people who won’t pay? Why should other riders be expected to pay when many of their fellow riders refuse to do so?

The new gates will be more of a challenge for the fare jumpers but, as local news outlets quickly discovered, they won’t stop everyone. NBC 4 saw a dozen people sliding through the new gates in an hour.

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