The MTA is increasing efforts to catch fare beaters on city buses, which it estimates cost the city tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.
Since 2008, the “Eagle Team” has patrolled the budding Select Bus Service fleet to fight fare cheaters, a new form of express bus service that has off-board fare collection, which critics say has spurred on fare beaters. Now, the team of approximately 60 ex-police officers and military veterans will double in size as they prepare to patrol regular city buses. The group members coordinate with police and have the power to issue $100 summonses.
Thomas Prendergast, the head of the MTA’s transit division, explained that the Eagle Team will cost $6 million to deploy, and they will be “chasing $50 million” in revenue lost to fare beaters.
In 2010 the MTA estimated it lost $14 million in would-be fare, but admit that the statistic is hard to track. Drivers are instructed to press a button when someone enters without paying.
The Eagle Team is deployed with a mission to balance customer service with enforcement, said Vincent DeMarino, the transit division’s vice president of security.
“Just the way the police, I’m sure, want people to always wonder is there a cop on every corner, we want them to wonder if one of us is on every bus,” said Vincent DeMarino, the transit division’s vice president of security.