(Bloomberg) -- New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now looking beyond physical barriers and police presence to reduce fare evasion, which may cost the transit provider as much as $800 million this year.

The MTA, which runs New York City’s subways, buses and commuter rail lines, is seeking to change rider behavior and will select a consultant to create strategies to persuade customers to pay the fare, according to a request for proposals posted on the MTA’s website. About 900,000 subway and bus riders evade fare every day, according to the notice.

“The MTA is advancing a holistic approach to address fare evasion that the blue-ribbon panel recommended in 2023, including tapping into the expertise of behavioral scientists to reinforce the importance of paying your fare and making it easier for customers to pay,” Kayla Shults, an MTA spokesperson, said in an email.

The reasons why riders avoid the fee vary, according to the RFP. Some don’t understand why the MTA needs the fare while others can’t afford it. Some riders see an open emergency-exit door and take advantage of it, and others say they’re exercising their political beliefs.

Read More: NY’s MTA Looks to Modernize Fare Gates to Get More Riders to Pay

The MTA is seeking ideas from experts in civic cultural change who can help combat some of those behaviors. About 50% of bus rides aren’t paid for, partly because the MTA made buses free during the pandemic and customers are now accustomed to not paying. The transit provider is expected to lose $700 million to $800 million from fare evasion this year, up from about $300 million in 2019, according to the MTA.

“Whether students jumping the turnstiles or elderly people toting designer shopping bags, we frequently observe opportunistic riders of all ages, genders, races, and perceived socioeconomic backgrounds evading the fare,” the MTA said in the RFP.

The MTA may pay the vendor $500,000 to $1 million for six months of work to conduct on-the-ground research with transit riders, create and develop various behavioral interventions and design a roadmap of pilot programs to implement the different strategies, according to the RFP.

The transit agency also plans to update its infrastructure to reduce fare evasion by replacing turnstiles with fare gates with physical barriers that prohibit jumping or maneuvering the entryway to avoid paying the fee. The MTA also plans to add 15-second delays when opening emergency exit gates to encourage customers to instead use the turnstiles to exit the subway system.

More riders are being held accountable when skipping the fare. The New York Police Department this year has issued about 43,000 summonses for fare evasion, up 60% from 2022, according to MTA data. 

(Updates with comment from the MTA in the third paragraph.)

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