WASHINGTON (7News) — For the first time, Metro released detailed numbers on Monday showing that roughly one out of eight trips on the rail this year has been by a rider who did not swipe a SmarTrip card. The transit agency also released a plan to reduce fare evasion.
The new numbers show that so far this year, about 13% of trips on the Metrorail system are classified by Metro as “non-tap entries.” On weekdays through last week, Metro says rail riders have made an average of 321,000 trips per day. Out of those, 40,000 trips a day were not paid for using a SmarTrip card.
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Including weekends, the Metro numbers indicate that between Jan. 1, and March 16 of this year, several million trips were “non-tap entries.”
As a result, Metro released a plan to modify gates to try to reduce fare evasion. The transit system has been testing different deterrents at the Fort Totten station recently. Metro has concluded plastic arches meant to make it harder to get a handhold to jump a gate have not been effective, but the transit agency believes swinging doors it has also been testing show a lot more promise at deterring people.
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The transit agency plans to use two “saloon door” style gates at the wider entrances wheelchair users can pass through, and to use a single swinging door at all other fare gates.
Metro says installing the gate modifications will cost between $35-$40 million. That will come after the transit agency just spent $70 million installing new modern fare gates that proved very easy to jump over for many riders.
Metro says it will take about 15 months to install the new gates at every station. Fort Totten will be the first station to get them, with Metro estimating they will be installed by the end of this month. After that, the next nine stations to get them according to Metro will be Addison Road, Bethesda, Congress Heights, Court House, Federal Center SW, Mt. Vernon Square, Pentagon City, Vienna, and Wheaton. Metro says those stations are all “single mezzanine” and have fewer gates, and therefore won’t require as much work as many other stations will.
Metro has estimated that the average rider pays $2.76 per trip, meaning fare evasion is costing the company millions of dollars. However, some of the fare evaders are D.C. school children who are supposed to ride for free anyway, but for various reasons are not using the card the school system is supposed to provide them. Some parents have complained about the availability of the cards.
On the other hand, the number of people not tapping cards may be even larger than Metro is reporting. The Metro numbers only include people who are evading fares at fare gates and do not include the many people who open or step over emergency exits.
Metro’s board of directors is scheduled to discuss the fare evasion numbers and Metro’s plan to reduce fare evasion at a meeting this coming Thursday.