Laissez-fare

Evading the question of fare evasion

I debuted this column in January 2023 with a flippant defense of car ownership in New York City. It felt liberating to be an auto apologist. But for every carefree joyride, there is a killjoy speed bump, most recently a $720 charge to fix my 2010 Toyota Prius’s AC filter—clogged with debris left over by the rats living under the hood—and a $192 civil penalty for letting my insurance lapse due to an expired credit card.

If I was an armchair partisan in the war on cars then, the heated response to Governor Kathy Hochul’s torpedoing of congestion pricing and the multifront battle being waged by rodents in my Prius’s engine have forced me to reexamine my position. Or at least they have refocused my attention back on a familiar foe in my quest for freedom: the subway.

While I could never fully quit the system, an ongoing lag in subway ridership suggests around 25 percent of prepandemic commuters have simply opted out. Service, anyone who relies on riding the trains will tell you, has never been worse, and station maintenance appears to be nonexistent. Police officers see…

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