Transit advocates say the penalties are still not severe enough.
“With turnstile jumpers being tackled and handcuffed by the NYPD over $2.75, drivers committing fraud should get more than just a slap on the wrist,” Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director with the advocacy group Riders Alliance, said. “Plate fraud not only robs the MTA, it also evades speed and red light cameras, intensifying the clear and present danger on our roads. Driving is a privilege not a right. Fraudsters behind the wheel should lose their license and registration.”
The MTA recently announced the creation of a blue ribbon panel to address fare evasion across its system, including buses, subways, commuter rails, bridges and tunnels. The agency said it expects to lose $50 million this year to toll evasion, compared to $245 million on subways and $205 million on lost bus fares.
NYPD Deputy Inspector Conor Wynne noted there was often a connection between people who use fraudulent license plates and other crimes. Drivers will use these vehicles as getaway cars after robberies, or worse, he said.
“There’s a nexus to shootings, because when detectives go to do their investigation it’s a roadblock to them because that plate is either illegitimate, not assigned to that vehicle or unreadable,” Wynne said.
MTA Chairman Janno Lieber said great evasion is also theft of money the agency needs to cover operating expenses. The MTA’s $18.5 billion budget relies on fares and tolls to cover half its operating costs.
“It’s safety, it’s honesty, it also means you’re stealing from other New Yorkers if you’re not paying the tolls that help us run our bus, subway, and commuter rail system,” Lieber said. “So don’t do it, have a great driving season, but please make sure you follow the law on license plates.”
Last year, an MTA worker was busted driving a vehicle with covered plates who also registered his vehicle multiple times to avoid paying over $100,000 in tolls and fees.