Metro fare evasion: Transit police may add alarms

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Watch these guys – they’re about the cheat the system.

Using the emergency exit gate at the Tenleytown Metro station to skip the turnstile can mean a free ride. And with a hidden camera, we watched people do it over and over, both coming and going.

Jason West got so frustrated watching cheaters ride for free that he called ABC’s 7 On Your Side to ask our Watchdog Unit to find out what Metro is going to do to stop it.

“What really set me off, there was another delay on Metro and I was on it for two hours for what should have taken two minutes, and all I could think of was all these people bumping me, hitting me, stepping on me -- how many didn't pay?" he said.

Metro calls it fare evasion, and the agency believes it accounts for less than one-percent of daily trips.

On Wednesday of this week, the system recorded 743,600 people entering the system, but only 736,800 exited – which means that at least 6,800 fares may not have been paid that day.

"Metro has a word for it, so they're aware of it, but I've never seen anybody ticketed for it," said Jason.

But transit police say they’ve stepped up enforcement, resulting in a 20-percent increase in fare evasion citations and arrests this year. Fines can range anywhere from $50 to $300.

During one evening rush, our hidden camera monitored transit officers who were looking for fare evaders. They stopped this family who used the emergency exit gate, and sent them back to the turnstile to pay for their metro ride

“It’s silly to do it, you aren't really saving that much money, it's just not treating your fellow passengers right," said Richard Sarles, WMATA's General Manager & CEO.

But that didn’t stop dozens of people we saw cheating the system for a free ride. And while riders like Jason West pay their way, Metro says it is looking at adding localized alarms that will go off if the emergency gate is opened.

Also, as the new payment system is integrated, Metro believes new fare gates will make it harder for fare evaders to sneak through behind a paying customer.