In response to what MBTA police call a public call for stricter fare enforcement, transit officers are cracking down on riders who hop free rides.
MBTA police kicked off "Operation Fare Game" during rush hour yesterday by citing 51 people they caught dodging fare at Downtown Crossing, totaling about $2,550 worth of tickets.
The $50 tickets were issued between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. by plain clothes officers who were staked out at every entrance of the Downtown Crossing station. One Quincy man who was caught "piggybacking" behind a paying customer was arrested on a warrant, police said.
"We can’t be everywhere all the time, but we could be anywhere at any time," said Superintendent Joseph O'Connor on the method of using plain clothes officers.
The primary method of evasion, O'Connor said, was "piggybacking," when a person enters the gate immediately after someone else. Fare dodgers yesterday were also caught jumping over the gates and triggering the gates to open by reaching over and waving something in front of the motion detectors on the other side.
"Most of our riders are honest, hard working people. Those who evade fares make up a small percentage of our riders," O'Connor said. "Going back to last fall we began to hear from our customers and riders through the meetings about the fare hikes. People have said that they’re paying for their passes, and they believe as we do, that everyone should be paying."
MBTA Spokesman Joshua Robin said the amped up efforts to crack down on fare evasion have been in place across the transit system, particularly with "fare blitzes" on the Green Line.
A group calling itself "Boston Fare Strike" has recently protested the July 1 fare hikes, which increased the cost to ride the T by an average of 23 percent, by holding open gates for hundreds of people. The group has said it plans to hold more fare evasion demonstrations.
"The bottom line on those fare evasion activities is that they only hurt the system, and other riders, and frankly they are disrespectful to riders," Robin said.