Navigating the New York City subway system can be a harrowing experience, even if you do manage to avoid the daily crises in service. A noxious odor has taken up residence inside the L train and we still don't know the source. The oozing black Blob appears to be growing. Even the simple act of standing on a platform can be a triggering exercise in claustrophobic terror.

If that weren't enough, vigilante busybodies are now reportedly stalking subway riders. According to video evidence posted to Twitter, their targets are mostly teenagers who, for whatever reason, haven't paid their fare [UPDATE BELOW]. One alleged victim says they were "bombarded," while others have described the perpetrators as "predatory and classist" and "motherfucking snitches."

If you are wondering, as one rider was, whether these people are cops, the answer is apparently no. They are reporters with Inside Edition, a nationally syndicated newsmagazine known for stories about questionable cancer remedies and Michael Strahan. But not technically being a cop doesn't keep Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero from administering swift justice to would-be scofflaws (You may remember Guerrero from blowing the lid off the great Chuck E. Cheese alcohol scandal of 2017). At one point, she chases a rider toward the turnstile after he begins entering the station through the emergency exit door. "This is what you're supposed to do, pay to get in like everyone else," she explains.

The segment follows the MTA's recent claim that fare-beaters are costing the system $215 million each year. After accepting this figure to be true, the producers go on to count 84 fare beaters in a period of two hours. They estimate this to be "close to one per minute."

The MTA's operating budget was $16.6 billion last year.

More notable, perhaps, is what they did not say. The segment includes no mention of actual rates of fare evasion in New York City (4 percent of riders, per the MTA) or elsewhere. It avoids discussion of what reducing fare evasion would look like, and excludes the possibility that some of the MTA's MetroCard machines might be broken. The miserable state of increasingly expensive subway service does not once come up, nor does the fact that 800,000 New Yorkers are living below the federal poverty line.

"In the past several years, the fare has gone up repeatedly as service has deteriorated," said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance in response to the video. "Indisputably, the overwhelming majority of fare-paying New Yorkers are paying more for less."

In terms of actual solutions for helping low-income New Yorkers get around the city, the Fair Fares program was supposed to offer half-priced MetroCards to those living below the federal poverty line. But Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to do any outreach around the program's roll out, and as of January 30th, only 107 Manhattan residents had registered for discounted cards.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Community Service Society, one of the lead advocates behind the Fair Fares push, told Gothamist that they condemn fare beating and fare evading. "That said, we know from our own research that public transit is unaffordable for many low income city residents," the spokesperson added. "That’s why we launched Fair Fares and that’s why we urge the mayor to fully implement the program so every New Yorker who meets eligibility requirements can take advantage of it."

While Inside Edition's investigators didn't get a chance to mention it in the video, the accompanying article does note that those who were asked about their fare evasion said they didn't have MetroCards or were broke. Now we know.

Well that is it for us today on Gothamist Inside: Inside Edition...

UPDATE 2/13/18: Many of the fare evaders caught by Inside Edition's crack team of investigators were, in fact, high school students on their way to gym class. As we noted yesterday, the video begins with a dozen teenagers walking through an emergency exit door that's been propped open by what looks to be a member of their group. The segment doesn't explain what's going on here, but one of the students, a 10th grader at Hunter College High School, reached out to Gothamist last night with some context:

The reason we were skipping the fare was perfectly reasonable, which Inside Edition might have bothered to ask if they were a reliable news source. We tenth graders have gym class at Hunter College at 68th street, so we have to take the train a couple stops [from 96th Street] to get there. But the student MetroCards only give us three rides a day. Between getting to school, going back and forth from the college, and then going home or to an extracurricular, it’s just not enough rides, and that’s ignoring people who live close enough to school to not get a card (although we make fun of them for being rich assholes). We just have to skip the fare somewhere in between all of those, and many kids do it at 96th street where someone else is willing to get the door.

Moreover, the student says, the Inside Edition crew choose "an especially bad time to film"—right after 6th period when everyone is running to the subway to get to gym class. He continued:

"So yeah, they filmed all of us going through the door, but they’re assholes who make clickbait and didn’t get our consent. Please use this info to update the article to roast them harder. And that kid who they forced through the turnstile, we all made fun of him for that at school when the video came out."

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