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Unpaid fares may cost MTA millions

Times Staff Writer

About 5% of weekday passengers on Los Angeles’ subway, light rail lines and Orange Line buses are getting a free ride by failing to pay fares.

A study for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority found that the percentage of fare evaders on the subway, most light rail lines and the Orange Line busway across the San Fernando Valley increases at night and on weekends.

MTA Chief Executive Officer Roger Snoble said there were more fare evaders during off-peak periods when fewer fare inspectors were on duty.

Unlike in other major cities, MTA’s entire rail network and Orange Line busway operates on an honor system. There are no turnstiles or entry gates.

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Riders must produce proof of payment when asked for it by a sheriff’s deputy or inspector. It is no secret that the open architecture of the stations and the absence of station agents has allowed some riders to avoid paying fares.

Concerned that fare evasion is costing millions of dollars in lost revenue, MTA officials are looking into possible solutions, including what it might cost to install entry gates.

A Carlsbad-based consulting firm, Transportation Management and Design Inc., was hired to determine the magnitude of the fare-evasion problem.

Consultant Joe Forgiarini said three-member teams consisting of a sheriff’s deputy, MTA security officer and representative of the consulting firm randomly boarded rail cars and Orange Line buses during a two-week period in October.

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Passengers were asked for their tickets or transit passes as the train or bus traveled between stations.

Violators were not issued citations during the study.

The study found that 4.4% of weekday passengers on the Red Line subway had not paid or paid an incorrect amount. The percentage on weekends was between 6% and 7%.

The Green Line from Norwalk to Redondo Beach had the highest percentage of passengers without tickets. Six percent of weekday riders on the Green Line had no proof of payment or paid incorrect fares. The percentage rose to nearly 8% on Saturday. One of every 10 passengers Sunday was a fare evader.

On the Blue Line from Los Angeles to Long Beach, the percentage ranged from slightly more than 5% on weekdays and Saturdays to 8.2% on Sundays.

The Gold Line between Los Angeles and Pasadena had the lowest level of fare evasion -- 3% during the week and a little more than 4% on weekends.

Orange Line buses had a fare evasion rate of 5% weekdays and Sundays and 6% on Saturdays.

jeff.rabin@latimes.com

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