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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has suggested that more people are piggy-backing or tailgating since the D.C. Council decriminalized fare evasion in July 2019. (It should be noted that transit police can still issue civil citations.) WMATA estimates a revenue loss of $40 million to fare evasions for 2019, $29 million for buses and $11 million for the rail system. 

But a new study by the D.C. Policy Center casts doubt on whether fare evasion is actually increasing as WMATA suggests. 

The study points out that the way WMATA tracks fare evasion is questionable because it doesn’t have a complete tally of paid and unpaid total ridership. While WMATA systematically tracks ridership on Metrobus, it lacks the tools to do the same for Metrorail. 

The way WMATA calculates Metrobus fare evasion is also subject to human error. Estimates on the number of unpaid fares generally come from bus operators, who are required to record these instances by pressing a key. Apparently, this system was first introduced in 2016, so it’s unclear if the increase in reported fare evasion over time reflects training and comfortability with the key press. Meanwhile, estimates for Metrorail fare evasion are based on reports and data from other transit systems because WMATA does not currently have a way to mark unpaid ridership on trains. Although, WMATA is trying to pilot a program now.  

Transit police chief Ronald Pavlik also told the Council estimates on fare evasion include the rides of 15,000 students who haven’t received their Kids Ride Free cards.

The study concludes: “Without a clear understanding of the relative share of total fare evasion attributable to these various causes, it is extremely difficult to estimate how much revenue is actually being ‘lost’ under present conditions, and how much additional revenue could be recaptured. But while more comprehensive data collection and improved collection methods will help form a clearer picture of ridership patterns in D.C. and the metropolitan area, increased farebox collection does not need to be the prevailing policy goal, and increased enforcement does not need to be the main response—particularly if that enforcement would continue to be targeted predominately at D.C.’s young Black residents.” 

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allenhighlighted the report on Twitter because it confirmed his own suspicions of WMATA’s claims. 

On an unrelated note: City Paper’s arts editor Kayla Randall was awarded a grant through the Facebook Journalism Project Community Network to further amplify the mothers of D.C. She’s hoping to learn more about the experiences of pregnant people, so please email her at if you are interested in sharing your story. She wants to reach mothers of every quadrant and ward, so please consider forwarding this newsletter to a friend. —Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? Email  

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • Dedicated bus lane, redesigned bike lanes, and ride-share/taxi pick-up and drop-off zones coming to Columbia Heights this summer. [DCist, WUSA9]  

  • Mount Vernon agrees to stop selling souvenirs of the first president’s dentures after a historian tweeted George Washington’s teeth belonged to enslaved people. [DCist

  • Landlord uses a legal loophole to undermine a rent-controlled apartment building in NW. [GGW]

  • Why was D.C. trying to scrap a court-ordered plan to keep sewage out of the Potomac? [WAMU]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips?

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser parrotsMikeBloomberg’s talking points again. [Slate,Twitter]

  • David Julyan, a lobbyist friend of Jack Evans, backs Patrick Kennedy for the Ward 2 seat. [Twitter]

  • Former Director of D.C. Office of Human Rights Mónica Palacio announces at-large candidacy. [DCist]

  • Chamber of Commerce CEO Vincent Orange defends his leadership. [WBJ]

  • ICYMI: Attorney General Karl Racine rebukes President Donald Trump for “deceitful diatribe” against Roger Stone’s sentencing judge. [Post, Guardian]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips?

  • Trash Panda pops up inside Showtime Lounge on Wednesday nights serving Chinese street food and dandan noodles. [WCP]

  • Washingtonians have complicated thoughts about new technology used to summon servers at a local restaurant. [Washingtonian]

  • Glover Park’s Whole Foods is set to reopen after a lot of drama. [DCist]

  • Behind the controversy of the Rage Baking book. [Post]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips?

  • R. Eric ThomasHere for It is a blast of a book. [WCP]

  • Liz At Large: “Growing” [WCP]

  • With the help of volunteers, the Smithsonian is digitizing black history, including a historic black D.C. weekly newspaper. [DCist]

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips?

  • The Washington NFL team released tight end Jordan Reed, once seen as the most promising offensive talent on the roster. Reed missed all of last season with a concussion, his seventh documented since he started playing at the University of Florida. [ESPN]

  • Alex Ovechkin is now one goal away from reaching 700 career goals. The Caps play the New Jersey Devils in an away game tomorrow. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

  • D.C.’s Overwatch League team, the Washington Justice, will make its home debut at The Anthem this weekend. (The esports team is owned by City Paper owner Mark Ein.) The Justice will split its home matches between The Anthem and the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Ward 8 this season. [WUSA9]

  • John Wall told reporters at a team bowling event last night that he had always planned on sitting out the entire 2019-20 season. [ClutchPoints]

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full To Do This Week newsletter here. Tips?

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