WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — From January 1 through March 16 of this year, Metrorail averaged 321,000 trips on weekdays. 13 percent of those trips went unpaid, according to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) documents. That adds up to roughly 40,000 instances each weekday where a rider enters the system without tapping a SmarTrip card to pay their fare.
The new insights into fare evasion come after the transit agency finished a year-long project to upgrade its nearly 1,200 fare gates across 97 stations. The newly-installed fare gates feature sensors that make it possible to measure fare compliance.
Metro has previously noted that fare evasion caused a $40 million loss in revenue in FY2022, and the transit agency is testing out modifications to its current fare gates in an effort to make it harder to get away without paying.
“Fare evasion creates a sense of disorder and elevates concerns with safety and security in the system among customers and employees,” said Metro officials in board documents.
In late January 2023, Metro began testing modifications to the fare gates at Fort Totten Station. Two designs were implemented: arches and saloon-style doors.
The arches, which were mounted to the top of fare gates, were supposed to prevent riders from vaulting over them. Officials deemed them ineffective deterrents because people were still able to grab onto the arches and jump over the gates.
But it’s a totally different story for the saloon-style doors. “Observations demonstrated an immediate change in customer behavior and non-tap entries were reduced at these gates. Jumping and stepovers continued at the not yet retrofitted gates,” officials noted.
Given their apparent effectiveness, the saloon-style doors are now being modified and strengthened. Metro plans to install saloon-style doors on all fare gates at Fort Totten. The next step includes retrofitting nine additional stations across the Metro map over the coming months.
Officials plan to install the retrofitted fare gate modifications systemwide over the next 15 months. The estimated cost of the project totals $40 million.