Earlier this week we got into a little back and forth with our friends at DealBreaker about whether this week's fires will indeed provide an infusion for the economy. I said yes because of all the rebuilding money coming in (LABO); they said no because rebuilding just brings things back to where they were (these are the Cliffs Notes versions). Anyway, here's another stumper: A study prepared for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority found that an average of 5 percent of rail line riders aren't paying for tickets during the week - and as much as 10 percent on Sunday. Wait, let me back up for those of you who have never ridden L.A.ís subway: There are no gates to prevent fare evaders. Right now, MTA runs on an honor system, with deputies and security supposedly doing random checks. The argument over the years has been that the cost of installing gates and fencing would exceed the money lost from fare evasion.
Well, yeah, that's undoubtedly true, at least based on the current ridership. But just suppose Ė and I realize this is stretching the laws of probability - that ridership increased, as our fearless leaders at City Hall are expecting to see happen. More riders would mean more scofflaws, right? And more scofflaws would mean more lost revenue, right? And more lost revenue would mean that - ta-da! - installing gates and fencing might make financial sense, right? This is probably way too simplistic an argument for our sophisticated government folks to contemplate, so let's get beyond economics and bring up a more central issue: Fare evasion is illegal. Itís really not that hard a concept to grasp - you ride, you pay. If government is supposed to set an example for the rest of us (c'mon now, stop laughing), then surely its honchos should understand that having so many folks blithely taking advantage of the MTA's dumb policy is... how do I put this?... well, dumb.