New York City Transit fails to collect nearly half of fines

MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) has failed to collect more than $13 million in fines and fees issued between January 2013 and June 2015, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced yesterday.

The sum represents nearly half of the total amount owed to the agency during the period, according to a press release issued by DiNapoli’s office.

Not adequately collecting the money has cost the agency “tens of millions” of dollars over the years, DiNapoli’s release said.

“With trains bursting at the seams and delays on the rise [NYCT] needs every dollar it can get to improve the subway service for straphangers,” DiNapoli said. “Fines are meant to deter bad behavior, but when [the agency] fails to enforce its own fines, it risks sending the message that its rules are made to be broken. ”

NYCT’s transit adjudication bureau (TAB) processes and adjudicates summonses for violations of NYCT rules such as fare evasion, graffiti or littering. The bureau’s ability to collect fines — as well as the fees that come with late payment — depends on reaching the respondents by phone and by mail. The audit found that the information on summonses often is not sufficient or is inaccurate for the necessary followup.

For example, in a sample of 150 uncollected fines, auditors found that the TAB’s records for 60 had the wrong address.

The audit recommended that the TAB meet with the New York City Police Department and NYCT inspectors to improve the quality of information recorded on summonses, ensure sufficient staff to make calls seeking unpaid fines, prioritize calls to maximize collection and explore other collection methods.

In response, the agency said it would explore the use of new software that could help identify respondents with multiple violations. In addition, the agency said it makes numerous efforts to collect unpaid fines.

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