The Long Island Rail Road is losing millions of dollars a year in uncollected fares, MTA heads admitted this week.
One reason for that may be because train conductors are simply unable to collect all the fares on crowded trains.
“Based on audits done of fare collections on trains, the Long Island Railroad lost about $6 million to $17 million last year,” MTA spokesman Sam Zambuto told Metro. “It’s hard to keep track. And the summertime is always busy.”
It’s an open secret to LIRR riders that conductors don’t reach all the passengers on packed trains. Summer weekends are especially difficult for fare collectors, as the LIRR adds extra service to take crowds to East End beaches.
“I can’t remember the last time my ticket was collected on a Friday or Saturday night coming into the city from the Hamptons,” said a regular LIRR rider who declined to be identified. “There’s too many people on the trains and not enough conductors. What I usually do is buy a ticket and the conductor never punches it, so I get a refund,” he said.
Due to budget cuts, the LIRR laid off 36 fare collectors in 2010. MTA officials believe those layoffs had no impact on lost revenue from uncollected fares, but MTA board member Ira Greenberg said, “Uncollected fares on the LIRR is a long-term problem. If so many fares weren’t going uncollected maybe there wouldn’t be so many service cuts.”
The MTA hopes to recoup losses with new fare technology. Next year, it will begin testing devices that would scan riders’ smartphones and bill them.