Farebox and toll revenue account for half of the corporation's operating budget and the MTA says fare evasion has nearly tripled on the subway in recent years, up from about 3% to more than 12%.
In addition, approximately one out of three bus riders dodge the fare and fare evasion on bridge and tunnel crossings has also become an issue, with an increase in fake and obscured license plates designed to evade tolling cameras.
It is projected to cost the authority $500 million in 2022.
On Tuesday, MTA CEO Janno Lieber announced the creation of a blue-ribbon panel that is set to tackle the issue, developing "fresh approaches to reducing fare evasion" across MTA subways, buses, commuter rails, bridges and tunnels.
The panel uses education, equity and enforcement to encourage fare payment and examine how technological, design and personnel solutions can limit fare evasion.
The panel will explore how the MTA can work with city partners to expand access to the MTA system for low-income New Yorkers so that no one is denied connections to jobs and educational opportunities due to an inability to pay.
It will review New York City's Fair Fares program, which provides MetroCards discounted at 50% of the regular fare to New Yorkers living below the poverty line.
"Critics of past approaches to fare evasion enforcement have raised serious questions about equity and racial justice," the MTA said. "The panel will look at those questions and recommend fresh solutions that respond to them – considering, for example, greater use of civil penalties, possible increased reliance on civilian MTA staff to do fare compliance checks and reserving criminal law enforcement for the most serious cases of recidivism or of evasion linked to violent crime."
"Our New York sense of fairness and community is violated when rule-abiding, honest folks – people who tap or swipe because they know it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s a stretch economically – see others dodging the fare," Lieber said in a statement.
"What hardworking, fare-paying New Yorkers tell us, in a word, is that seeing fare evasion makes them feel like suckers. Fare evasion is a problem we need to solve together. That’s why I am convening a panel of distinguished New Yorkers to take a deep dive into the issue. The goal is to hit the reset button on how we approach fare evasion at the MTA and across government," he added.
According to the day-by-day ridership numbers, more than 2.9 million passengers rode the subway – including the Staten Island Railway – on Monday. Nearly 1.3 million people took the bus, 159,600 rode the Long Island Rail Road and 139,000 took the Metro-North Railroad on the same day. Roughly 884,000 were tallied crossing bridges and tunnels.