"Riders swipe fares over MetroSnafus"

By Carl Campanile, Transit Reporter

New York Post, Thursday March 12 1998

Malfunctioning MetroCards are turning law-abiding citizens into fare dodgers. Scores of frustrated MetroCard users who can't get through the turnstile with the first few swipes are simply jumping the turnstile. Most of the fare-beating is occurring during the rush-hour crush, when turnstile troubles cause a huge backlog of straphangers worried that they'll miss their trains. The problem is worse where thousands of riders are trying to get through as few as three turnstiles.

Take the 30th Avenue Station in Astoria, Queens, which serves the N line. As of midday yesterday, 49 riders had jumped the turnstile.

"It's enough to turn me back to the token," said one woman as she ducked under the turnstile when her perfectly good card was rejected. A token [sic] clerk at the station said half of those who beat the fare on his watch do so because their cards failed to register after a few swipes.

"People lose their patience," he said. "They see people standing behind them. They swipe it a whole bunch of times and nothing happens." When passengers become fare-beaters "that's bad," he said. "But what am I going to do? I can't stop them."

Transit sources acknowledged that the rejection rate on computer-equipped turnstiles increases when the card-reading mechanisms become dirty. A maintenance worker was assigned to clean the turnstiles and swipe [the] machine at the Astoria station with rubbing alcohol just hours after the morning fare-dodging spree. Transit officials insisted they were unaware of widespread fare-beating because of MetroCard problems.

"That's new to me," said Tom Kelly, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The problem has become worse since the MTA installed more sensitive computer equipment in January to stop hackers from scamming free rides. Exasperated straphangers complain the new system is more apt to flash: "Swipe Again."



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