MBTA Issues High Fines for Sneaky Students

Posted on November 20, 2009 by


By: Billie Hirsch

ALLSTON, MASS—Unsuspecting college students have been paying more than they bargained for when riding the T—the MBTA Police force increases patrolling of the T as the temperature takes a nosedive into sub zero weather and students opt to take the train rather than ride their fixed-gear bicycles up and down the streets of Allston Rock City.

The men in blue who once raided frat parties routinely every Friday and Saturday night into early morning are now incognito in street garb riding the T, distributing citations to those who haven’t paid the toll—these undercovers have been issuing fines as high as $50, some say.

A commuter from Emmanuel College who wishes to remain unnamed experienced first-hand the furtive wrath of the transit police—“Last week during the morning rush hour I hopped on through a rear door, I didn’t have any money,” the resident of Lower Allston states. “Some guy in plain clothes came up to me, he took out a badge and asked to see my T pass. I didn’t have one, he then asked me for my information and wrote me a $15 citation for not paying the fare.”

Since it’s creation in 1968, the Transit Police Department has been a part of the Boston Police force and has only recently begun cracking down on Bostonians hopping the T illegally.

The majority of the MBTA Police Department’s efforts hold jurisdiction in Boston and surrounding neighborhoods, patrolling the five subway lines as well as the Silver Line, thirteen commuter rail lines, four passenger ferry routes, 181 bus routes and “The Ride” paratransit system in surrounding Massachusetts boroughs. Among its many uses, the transit police service areas are inclusive but not limited to a Special Operations Unit, Explosive Detecting Unit, Crisis Negotiation Team, and Criminal Investigation Unit.

So one might ask—why issue $15 tickets to students who commit petty offenses such as walking onto a rear door of the T?

Nick Viau, another Allston commuter may shine some light on the answer. “The problem isn’t students sneaking onto the train, the problem lies in the MBTA’s own inconsistencies and debts,” Viau says. “It’s been legitimized for so long that you can usually walk on the T without repercussion—they’ll bust for a while, but then stop.”

With the recession hitting not only the economy but just as harshly the MBTA, it may seem to many that this regiment is desperately scraping the bottom of the barrel. “The agency’s total debt is $5.2 billion, or higher with interest included,” reports the Boston Globe. In response to this it has increased fares and parking fees significantly—enduring constant criticism since proposing a 20% fare increase and consequential service cuts in July of 2009.

“They can put officers on the train to catch fare evaders and lessen debt, but what are they doing to put an end to violence or rape in the city?”  Viau states in agreement with the alleged subway injustice.

Among other incidents which place the MBTA police squad in an unfortunate spotlight, a previous case in 2001 consisting of an “unlawful” arrest of 11 students who allegedly were unlawfully interrogated, harassed, and arrested by MBTA police officers resulted in lawsuit charges against the Massachusetts Bay Transit Department.

“I’ve paid to ride the T since, but it’s so petty,” the caught-red-handed commuter says. “We’re just college kids. Right on my street a girl got jumped, the police got to her in time—but imagine if they hadn’t been there because they were distributing fines on the T?”

Universally, the law enforcement may be held in high regards as being authority figures concerned with the greater good—but on the subway when the rear doors open and it feels as though no one is watching, there is now something other than potential pickpockets to be fearful of.