New York Subway to Utilize AI to Track Fare Evasion
At some stations of the New York City subway, a quietly deployed software leveraging artificial intelligence algorithms is aiding the surveillance system to track fare evaders, as reported by NBC.
The innovation was tested in May at seven stations, and if successful, it will be expanded to "two dozen stations." However, there is no mention of implementing it across all of New York's subway stations, which amount to 472 stations spread over 36 lines.
According to the 2022 report by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the transportation system suffered losses of approximately $690 million. Joana Flores, an MTA spokesperson, stated that the new system does not provide data on violators to the police. It is currently only used to assess losses caused by fare evaders, and the video footage is stored on MTA servers for a "limited time."
"We essentially use this system as a tool for tallying. The goal is to determine how many people are evading fares and how they are doing it," said Tim Minton, the MTA Communications Director.
This decision has raised concerns about the privacy of New York residents, given that there are already over 10,000 surveillance cameras installed only on the transportation network.
"This is a moment when movement through the city has never been under such scrutiny. We have already seen the proliferation of automated license plate readers. We have seen data collection on Uber and Lyft histories. We see tens of thousands of cameras available to the NYPD when people are out in public places. So the city is increasingly becoming a place where there is no private movement," said Albert Fox Cahn, the Founder and Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a non-profit legal group safeguarding privacy rights in New York.
Despite the MTA's assurances that the software won't be used to assist law enforcement, some privacy advocates and civil rights activists, who were already concerned about previous attempts to combat fare evasion, remain unconvinced.
In the past year, the number of police officers stationed at subway stations in New York has increased, and the number of arrests has consistently risen. The Police Department has historically arrested people of color, particularly Black and Latino individuals, for fare evasion far more frequently than individuals of other races, leading to accusations of racism.