A city councilwoman and an MTA board member are calling for a crackdown on bus fare beaters they say are stripping the cash-strapped MTA of precious dollars.

City Council Member Debi Rose and MTA board member Allen Cappelli want undercover cops to ride city buses and arrest people that don't pay the $2.25 fare. A similar program is under way on Staten Island after an informal poll by the Staten Island Advance showed that nearly 20 percent of riders don't pay when they get on a bus. Rose and Cappelli said the officers would also keep bus passengers and drivers safer, and help combat increasing thefts of pricey electronics.

"It's not just a Staten Island problem, it's a problem that plagues us throughout the city," said Cappelli. "The cumulative consequence of the crime is that tens of millions of dollars -- if not a hundred millions dollars or more -- in revenue, is missing from the MTA, which has precipitated a cut in services."

"If we had that additional revenue, then many of those cuts may not have taken place," he added of massive service cuts made in 2010.

The MTA would not comment Tuesday on how much the agency has lost from people beating fares, but a spokesman had previously told amNewYork that the agency "estimated a loss of about $31 million due to fare evasion," on both subways and buses in 2010 alone.

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the agency is looking at the effectiveness of the program on Staten Island. An NYPD spokeswoman would not comment on the proposal yesterday.

Rose, who is pushing for increased police presence on buses throughout the city, said reducing the number of deadbeat riders will help the agency fill its coffers. The MTA has $32 billion in long-term debt.

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said an increased police presence "sends a really important signal that paying your fare is expected." -- amNewYork

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