Wednesday, December 05, 2018

2027 Long Island Fare Beaters

Help me out here, please.  New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says LIRR riders beat $20 million in fares each year.  How does that happen?

As a rider for about 50 years, most as a regular commuter, it’s hard to believe that figure even if it’s only a small part of the Long Island Railroad’s projected multi-zillion dollar deficit.

For the uninitiated, the LIRR is an ancient formation of several railroads, most of which combined so long ago no one now living can think of the names of any of them.  Unlike many commuter rail lines, its routes are tangled and complicated.

The parent body, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was formed to bring sense to trains, subways and buses and bridges in the region.  Anyone who rides the NYC Subways, Metro North, and the other arms of this monstrosity knows it can’t work, but can’t not work either.

The Authority’s regionalization was only part of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s plan. Plan? Yes, plan to blunt the still-sharp talons of bridge, tunnel and highway czar Robert Moses.  That part was not terribly well publicized, is meaningless in the 21st Century and worked perfectly.  The regionalization? Well…

Fare beaters on the New York subway system are legendarily ahead of efforts to stop them.  Jumping or crawling under turnstiles, entering exits and stealing MetroCards is a competition sport.

But how do jump a fare when uniformed conductors snail-walk through every train demanding to see and -- depending on the era -- punch tickets?

You can’t forge the tickets.  You can’t bribe the conductor without spending more than the fare you’re trying to beat.  You can’t seduce them. You can’t threaten them.  And crowded as many of the cars have become, your chances of successfully hiding are pretty slim.

How does it happen?  Well, to find out you first need to accept Long Island Railroad Logic.  The railroad sends secret agents onto trains.  They hunt down slack conductors, passengers- in- hiding and some others.  Then they crunch the numbers.  The system they use is similar to the way the Pentagon calculated “enemy” casualties in Viet Nam.

Private Dogface reports to his sergeant that “my unit may have wounded a North Viet regular.”  The Sgt. reports to his Lieutenant that a North Viet detail was “wiped out.” As the story makes its way up the chain of command, the count grows. Often exponentially. And by the time it’s reported to Washington it has become an “enemy brigade.”  Spin Colonels and Generals at the Pentagon then tell the press that a North Division was knocked out.


So the Secret Agents of the railroad gather in a coffee shop near Jamaica Station and compare notes. And before you know it, the number of fare evaders has grown to a crowd worth $20 million in tickets.

Since the railroad takes in about $750 million a year in legitimate fares this looks major.  And it would be if it is real.  But numbers have a funny way of growing or shrinking with the stated needs and goals of any organization.

If you don’t believe that, try to wade your way through the morass of GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Practices.  Or the US Tax Code.

This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of fare escapees.  But one thing is for sure: If you try it, you’ll be the one who gets caught.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018 (and so much for our present efforts to abolish the letter W and replace it with Uu.

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