Op Ed: Swipe It Forward on New York's Public Transportation

Jeffrey Czum from Pexels

No one should have to risk being arrested or worse because they can't afford $2.75 for public transportation.

Public transportation is a staple in this hustle and bustle metropolis I call home. New York’s infamous transit system, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has added new signage addressing “fare beating” of $2.75 on its trains and buses. I first noticed these signs during my daily commute. They warn riders that the MTA is seeking to fine all fare evasion offenders: “Please pay your fare, not the $100 fine” reads many of the ads. The MTA says paying the fare helps it to run a better service. But what about the people who can't afford to commute to work and buy, say, lunch?

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken a hands-on role in how the public benefit corporation is run, and has added 500 additional MTA police officers to the already existing 2,800 transit police. These officers will not wear all-too important body cameras. These are not the police officers willing to give directions. Instead, these are armed officers who have the ability to treat fare evasion with the same vigor as a concealed weapon. According to New York Police Department data from May, within the first three months of 2019, 87 percent of the 1,000 people arrested for fare evasion were either Black or Latinx. Cuomo and the MTA are criminalizing poverty and using a decrease in revenue as the reason for its sub-par service that is routinely delayed.

It’s also no coincidence that Cuomo has stationed the transit officers in stations located in the poorest Black and Latinx neighborhoods in the city. Just the other day, there was an outpouring of rage on social media for two cops who tasered children over a total of $5.50 in lost revenue. It was not treated as a diplomatic fine, these boys weren’t treated as minors, and it sets a precedent that the NYPD cares more about being feared than respected.

No one should go to jail or be physically harmed for not being able to pay $2.75 for this terribly overcrowded, consistently late, traumatic hellscape of a subway. Police can even punish riders for asking for a ride or swipe through the turnstile. It is not illegal to swipe others in or offer a Metrocard to those in need, as long as you don’t accept payment for the service. Swiping is a kind act we New Yorkers can use to combat Cuomo's, the MTA's, and the NYPD’s agenda to criminalize the homeless and/or less fortunate. Swipe it forward and put your money where your politics are.

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