Here's How Not to Report on a Public Transit Crisis

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The New York City subway system is crumbling. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority that runs the system can’t seem to find the cash to fix it. But rather than self-reflect on decades of neglect, fund mismanagement, and big, flashy, money-sucking projects, the MTA blames fare evaders for its budget woes.


According to The New York Times, fare evaders make up about four percent of the subway’s ridership. Often, they are riders who cannot afford a hefty $2.75 MetroCard swipe. Sometimes, they are riders with expired MetroCards at an entrance with no or broken machines; sometimes, they are riders who are so fed up with the MTA’s shitty service it seems pointless to cough up the price equivalent of a small coffee just to sit in a tunnel for 30 minutes. Whatever the reason, they are not riders who deserve to be heckled on video by Inside Edition reporters. And yet:

Indeed, Inside Edition sent a reporter on an “investigative” journey into the subway, which consisted primarily of sticking a microphone and camera into commuters’ faces and harangue them for farebeating.

The intrepid investigation includes hard-hitting questions like, “We just caught you jumping—why did you do that?” in addition to chyrons screaming about the farebeating EPIDEMIC and exciting graphics detailing that six people in a city of 8.5 million walked through an exit door at one Manhattan station. (There’s also a particularly fun moment in which the reporter runs after an alleged farebeater and hounds him about why he didn’t pay his fare, then yells at him when he understandably tries to smack the microphone out of his face.)

It’s true that farebeating costs the MTA a lot of money. According to Inside Edition’s actual reporting, the city lost $215 million to farebeaters last year. But blaming commuters for not paying fares is kind of like blaming consumers for using plastic straws. Bad behavior doesn’t help a disintegrating system, but it’s also not the root cause. Sending a reporter to narc on people trying to get through their day isn’t going to stop intermittent track fires from transforming my A train into an F and then an N and then, I don’t know, an East River duck boat that dumps me somewhere in Queens.

You know what might? Reporting on the congressmen and MTA board members in Albany who oversee subway funding but never ride it, or the flashy station renewal projects that do not in any way improve service, or that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio would rather run for President than back congestion pricing in his own damn city. Though I suppose that’s not as click-y as stationing a hall monitor by a turnstile for 12 hours. SEE IT.




The MTA board can suck it as far as I am concerned, but I trust the opinion of Andy Byford when he says it’s a problem that has exploded. He’s the best MTA chief we have had in a while.

Unfortunately the tone of the article is click bait absolutist crap- the MTA can suck and fare beating can be a serious problem at the same time. It’s not an either or.