About that Mass SantaCon Subway Fare Evasion

Posted on: December 17th, 2019 at 5:01 am by

Photo: @solublefischel

Amidst the SantaCon madness this past Saturday, a gaggle of costumed activists jumped the turnstiles at the Astor Place subway station in the East Village.

A video showing the mass action immediately went viral on Twitter. It was unclear at the time whether this was coordinated or just a bunch of revelers partying for SantaCon.

However, it turns out the group effort was apparently a demonstration in support of decriminalizing fare evasion in the city’s subways (i.e. fines instead of jail time).

The MTA this year renewed its attention to dodging at high costs. More cameras and more cops to combat an annual bleed of about $300 million from the illegal practice.

Opponents feel that money spent on thwarting dodgers is better suited toward upgrading the system. And that policing the subways in this manner unjustly affects low-income communities and riders of color.

This wouldn’t be the first such protest in New York, either. According to a long-read in Vox:

Riders’ resistance and disdain for the MTA in New York overflowed into a protest in early November against increased policing on the MTA. The outrage was prompted by multiple videos of viral arrests that appeared to involve unnecessary force by police toward passengers of color. Hundreds of people occupied a subway platform and took to the streets in downtown Brooklyn. They hopped turnstiles and posted stickers to encourage mass fare evasion, a tactic taken from demonstrations in Santiago, Chile.

The MTA, despite approving a much-needed $54 billion plan in September, is expected to reach a $1 billion operating budget deficit by 2023. The authority board voted to raise fares in April, and the city deployed an additional 500 transit and NYPD police to 50 subway stations and 50 bus routes where evasion is most common.

The deployment would cost the MTA $249 million over the next four years, according to chief financial officer Bob Foran during the 2020 budget proposal on November 14. The agency is also expected to raise fares and tolls in 2021 and 2023 and cut back on 2,700 jobs.

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