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OpinionColumnistsMike Vogel

A fare-evasion ticket that's anything but fair

The MTA is studying an area in Queens

The MTA is studying an area in Queens to see what more public transportation is needed. Photo Credit: Getty Images

I get on the M34 bus last Wednesday, insert my MetroCard, and sit down to read the newspaper. Two stops later at Park and 34th Street, a uniformed MTA guy jumps on through the rear door. "Where's your receipt?" he demands.

"Excuse me?" I ask. "I paid my fare. You can ask the driver."

"Step off the bus."

But my stop isn't --

"Step off now."


"Fare evasion."

Special Insp. Padro demands ID. I reluctantly hand over my driver's license. He then requests my Social Security number. Seriously? I refuse.

"Off the bus," he repeats, and I comply. Didn't I know to get a receipt from the machine on the street for Select Bus Service routes?

No, I usually ride the subway, and there aren't any SBS buses in my neighborhood, I tell him. If I'm supposed to present a receipt, why didn't the bus driver ask for one?

But Padro is already scribbling a ticket.

Last year, such fare evasion tickets accounted for more than three-quarters of dollars the MTA raked in from all rules violations. When I get off, I step past a bewildered, non-English-speaking woman who was also nabbed.

Supervisor Arthur Bianchini steps over to me. Pleasant enough man. He requests and inspects my MetroCard, then asks where and when I got on. If I want to contest the ticket, he tells me, I can go to court, and my MetroCard will confirm if I'm telling the truth.

Padro hands me the ticket. $100!

Smoking on the subway carries a $50 fine. Not having a bus receipt is double that?

And where is court? Somewhere in Brooklyn. Between the subway ride and the hearing, we're talking about a half-day wasted. Most people can't afford to take off from work for that. You know some just swallow hard and pay the ticket, even if they've paid the fare.

As I walk off, Bianchini calls out "just doing my job."

A few minutes later, it hits me. Why don't the inspectors carry a MetroCard scanner? They could have swiped my card and instantly known if I was telling the truth.

But then they couldn't have written a $100 ticket.

I'm going to court today. Should be a load of laughs.

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