NYC MTA Using AI Surveillance to Track Fare Evasion

New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has been slowly installing surveillance software utilizing artificial intelligence to track people evading fares.

The system was installed in 7 different subway stations throughout NYC in May. The MTA published a report on fare evasion this May, in which they reported the updates to surveillance and explained the goal of the system is to help law enforcement to crack down on fare evasion after losing a reported $690 million in 2022. MTA hopes to grow the surveillance system to “approximately two dozen more stations” by the end of the year, “with more to follow.”

An MTA spokesperson, Joana Flores, told reporters that the new AI system does not currently flag fare evaders to the NY police. MTA communications director, Tim Minton, told reporters that they are using the software “essentially as a counting tool . . . to determine how many people are evading the fare and how are they doing it.” Whether the policy of the system not involving police intervention will remain, no one has been willing to comment.

The surveillance video captured by the software is stored and kept on MTA’s servers “for a limited period,” according to Minton. Many privacy rights activists have been skeptical of this process as they see a rise in surveillance across the city.

The software is created by Spanish company, AWAAIT, which is essentially Barcelona’s MTA. The software in Barcelona was originally used to capture photos of the discovered fare evaders and send them to nearby metro station police. NYC MTA has tried to reassure people that they will not be using the software to aid law enforcement, but many are not convinced.

Although there are no current projections as to how the expansion of this software will go, or where they will be placed, there are 24 more subway stations due for the surveillance upgrade by the end of the year.

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