New entrance gates at Metrorail stations will be 1 foot higher than previously expected to deter fare evaders, the agency announced at a board meeting Thursday.
The new model gates have already been installed at the Fort Totten station, which serves the Red and Green lines, plus the Yellow Line once it reopens on May 7.
Although Metro had installed modernized fare gates without evasion deterrents from May 2021 to last December, the continued loss of revenue led Metro to try out deterrent options at Fort Totten. These included 4-foot swinging doors.
Part of the jump in fare evasion stems from a District of Columbia law decriminalizing fare evasion that took effect on May 3, 2019.
As of mid-March, 13% of all entries into Metro stations this year have been nontap, meaning payment was neither entered by a SmarTrip card nor received by the system. There are about 40,000 fare-evaded trips daily in the Metro system on average.
Fare evasion costs Metro around $40 million yearly, and the system is running a budget deficit of $185 million for fiscal 2024.
Since the swinging doors were implemented at Fort Totten, fare evasion at that station has dropped by 50%. The persistence of evaders, some of whom vault the doors, led Metro to order 5-foot swinging doors and reinforced hinges for the rest of the gate installations.
The new specifications will be used for the next nine stations in Metro’s gate installation plan: Wheaton, Bethesda, Vienna, Court House, Federal Center SW, Addison Road, Pentagon City, Mount Vernon Square and Congress Heights.
While Metro awaits the new glass barriers and hinges, installation work at those stations, which began last month, will be paused. Updating all 97 Metro stations is projected to cost $40 million.
Metro Transit Police were also placed into some stations. Criminal and civil citations over fares have jumped by 420% after the agency resumed issuing tickets and warnings last fall. Total crime in Metro stations has dropped by 20%.
Both Metro and riders have connected fare evasion with the general perception of crime on Metro vehicles and in Metro facilities.
“I feel unsafe on the train. They smell like weed. People are jumping turnstiles rushing up behind me to plow through. No one from Metro or security cares or helps. It’s scary every time,” wrote one unnamed rider as a public comment for Metro’s 2024 budget.