The So-Called Thrill of Fare Evasion

In “The Seduction of Crime” by Jack Katz, the author asks what committing a crime feels, sounds, tastes and looks like. He names the pleasure of consuming a crime a “sneaky thrill,” or the “seductive qualities of crimes: those aspects in the foreground of criminality that make its various forms sensible, even sensually compelling, ways of being.”

 

Does the high of chasing a small ‘sneaky thrill’ contribute to public transit fare evasion? Does intercepting fare evaders catch public offenders early, before their moral thresholds are lowered for future rule breaking endeavors? Or do most people not pay their fare for a myriad of reasons born out of diverse circumstances?

 

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The debate around criminalizing transit fare evasion has picked up steam over the last decade. With renewed public attention on the excessive criminalization of poor people and people of color, some transit agencies and law enforcement officials are reevaluating their fare evasion policies.

 

Many are asking if the decriminalization of fare evasion would reduce the overall cost on society? This cost includes enforcement, prosecution and maybe most significantly the criminalized mindset given to small time offender. Are there programs which could cost less at the end of the day? And if evasion was communicated as a crime against the public, where the overall price of purchasing a ticket compensated for those who stole, would the general public be more supportive of different types of programs?

 

Why Do People Not Pay Their Fare?

Like any other behavioral choice, people create belief systems that amount to rational intentions in the decision of their actions, for example, the decision to fare evade.

 

Fare evaders can be grouped into four different categories. In order to develop programs and process to counter fare evasion, agencies must understand the different types of fare evasion:

1. The “Accidental Evader”: believes fare evasion is wrong, but due to misunderstanding the fare policy, accident or negligence evades the fare

 

2. The “Not My Fault Evader”: wants to purchase the fare, but sometimes fails to pay due to payment barriers

 

3. The “Calculated Risk-Taker”: believes the reward outweighs the risk of fare evasion and so deliberately skirts the fare when they think risk of getting caught is low

 

4. The “Career Evaders”: always fare evades

 

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I’ve talked with a young man who frequently hangs out at my station asking for help buying a ticket. He’s not exactly the type you’d want to sit next to on a train, but he understands his circumstances. He’s been caught as a fare evader multiple times and recently received a letter saying he’d be arrested and prosecuted in court if he was caught evading a fare again. In the traditional citation system, a citation can appear on his record, inhibiting future employment or housing. This has generated enough fear in him that the risk of fare evasion outweighs the benefit.

 

As he faces a criminal penalty, I’ve asked myself, is he more of a weight on the public good because he has to rely on the individual generosity of riders to purchase his fare? Is his denial of public transportation damaging to his ability to survive and get ahead in life? Will this impact his future ability to give back to society?

 

Experimenting with Alternative Solutions

A new Oregon State law gave TriMet the authority to decriminalize fare evasion starting on January 1, 2018. The current system levies a $175 fine on fare evaders, a dollar value many cannot afford to pay. Instead, the new citation could come with a smaller fine if paid within a certain time period. Those cited could ask to perform community service instead of paying the fine if they cannot afford to pay it. If neither the lower fine or community service is performed within a 90 day period, the citation would follow the traditional criminalization route.

 

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Other agencies have led the way with this sort of methodology. For example:

– Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) levies a $50 administrative fee which if paid within 30 days clears the evader’s record

 

– San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) decriminalized fare evasion by levying a $112 administrative fee on perpetrators

 

– Utah Transit Authority (UTA) reduced fare-evasion fines to $100

 

In addition to decriminalizing fare evasions, some agencies are tackling the problem by making boarding easier and removing gated infrastructure.

– Oslo’s Ruter buses has four entry points, which make for easier and faster onboarding and disembarking. Passengers have several ways to pay: ticket machines at major tram and bus stations, refillable plastic cards, or paying through an app on their phone.

The Ruter system is built on an honor system. To deter fare evasion, Oslo transit authorities do occasional spot checks — when passengers are asked for proof of payment, they have to show paper receipt or a blinking confirmation on their phone. In conjunction with easy onboarding was the support of easy to use mobile and card based fare media. By making it easier to pay for fares, Oslo halved their fare evasion rates to five percent.

 

– San Francisco’s Muni became the first big U.S. transit agency to implement all-door boarding across its entire bus system in 2012. Many cities had avoided all-door boarding policies for fear of inviting fare evasion- a concern that did not materialize. Pre-implementation studies had found MUNI fare evasion as high as 9.5 percent; after all-door boarding was implement, evasion was at 8 percent. Another positive metric was impacted: all-door boarding reduced the average entry and exit dwell time per passenger from nearly 4 seconds to 2.5 seconds at each bus stop—a dip of 38 percent. More than half of all passengers used the rear door to enter, and time-consuming fare payments at the front door declined by 4 percent. As a result, overall bus speeds improved.

 

By removing barriers to entry at Oslo stations and allowing all-door boarding on MUNI buses, riders have enjoyed faster vehicles, less crowding and in turn hopefully more frequent service. A public transit system where there are multiple payment options to match quick entry and exit operations may help curb the number of “Accidental” and “Not My Fault” evaders. I’d also speculate that by creating a strong sense of public ownership through an honor based system, the “sneaky thrill” is diminished.

Let the Cheater’s Cheat

In order to effectively decrease fare evasion, communities must examine the unique behavioral and circumstantial motivators that drive people to do it. This matrix would help identify tangible gaps where areas for improvement, such as contactless smartphone payments and all door boarding, could target the system and not individual people. At the same time, communities can build creative solutions for supporting riders who cannot afford to pay but still need access to transportation to participate in society.

 

With better ways to ensure payment from those without criminal intent, the overall cost of capturing fare evasion by Career Evaders may not be as urgent. Because in the case of Oslo, “It makes more financial sense to let the cheaters cheat.”

 

 

Cited Articles:

The Sneaky Thrill of Breaking the Law

Seductions of Crime

From Intentions to Actions: A Theory of Planned Behavior

Four types of fare evasion: A qualitative study from Melbourne, Australia

TriMet to decriminalize fare evasion

New law lets TriMet handle fare evasion citations in-house, avoiding courts

SFMTA All-Door Boarding Evaluation Final Report

Ignoring Fare Evaders can make Mass Transit Faster – and Richer

moovel highlighted as a smart city innovator, Daimler responds to Elon Musk, America gets an F in walkability, and public transit’s future role

Welcome to Move Forward’s weekly news wrap-up, featuring the mobility stories you don’t want to miss. This week we are exploring moovel’s role in smart city development, news of Daimler’s investments in electric vehicles, the nation’s failing grade for walkability, questions on public transit’s role with emerging mobility solutions, and more.

 

moovel lays groundwork for smart cities:

ZDNet features moovel’s Derek Fretheim as he explains how the company is working to make smart cities a reality, with the article specifically highlighting OCTA’s use of FareConnect as a successful smart city initiative. “The real-time nature of predictive and data analysis gives cities the ability to manage demand, thereby meeting community needs faster. While cities all want data, they need the tools to manage these data sets in a meaningful way.”

ZDNet: Smarter Ways to Get Around by Bob Violino, September 28, 2017.

 
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New mobility tool rates accessibility:

A new tool from TransitScreen, called MobilityScore, rates precise locations on a 0 to 100 scale based on proximity to public transit, ride-hailing, ride-sharing, and bike-sharing opportunities. Currently, the tool is able to calculate transit-friendly places in the nation’s top 35 urban areas.

Curbed: Can you get by without a car? New tool will tell you based on your exact location by Barbara Eldridge, September 22, 2017.

 

The benefits of RTI, explained:

Sean Barbeau, from the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, explains how  GTFS-realtime v2.0 will help transit agencies to improve the quality and accuracy of their real-time transit information (RTI). The benefits of RTI include shorter wait times, increased ridership, and a higher levels of safety.

Medium: What’s new in GTFS-realtime v2.0 by Sean Barbeau, September 25, 2017.

 

“Legacy Cities”, bad commutes:

An article in Governing contrasts the difference between “Legacy Cities”–those who developed dense downtowns long before the automobile and have always maintained significant transit ridership– and the rest of the country. According to the author, these six Legacy Cities have some of America’s longest commute times, and fixing them will require the adoption of innovative solutions and technical options.

Governing: The Right Kind of Transit for ‘In-Between’ Cities by Scott Beyer, September 25, 2017

 

Daimler returns fire:

On Monday, Daimler responded to a Twitter message from Elon Musk that expressed his disappointment in the company’s announcement it was going to invest $1 billion into an Alabama factory to produce electric SUVs. Daimler responded by emphasizing their significant investments in electric vehicle programs and goals for the future.

Fortune: Why Elon Musk Is Getting Trolled by Mercedes Benz’s Parent Company by Kirsten Korosec, September 26, 2017.

 

America gets an F in walkability:

The National Physical Activity Plan Alliance (NPAP) released a national “report card” of walking and walkability which assigned the U.S. a grade of F. Contributing factors include poor scores on metrics such as funding for walking and cycling projects, public transportation, pedestrian safety, and the frequency with which adults and children walk to work or school.

Fast Company: The U.S. Is Failing At Making Its Communities More Walkable by Ben Schiller, September 26, 2017.

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Public transit’s future role:

This week, a talk at the National Press Club on the emergence of “Smart Cities” focused on how or if public transit will have a role in the future of mobility. In particular, the speakers emphasized the impact of emerging autonomous and ridesharing solutions.

The Washington Post: Does the future of transportation include subways like Metro? by Fredrick Kunkle, September 27, 2017.

 

P3 partnerships and infrastructure woes:

On Tuesday, President Trump told lawmakers that he is abandoning the public-private partnership element of his planned $1 trillion infrastructure package. According to President Trump, the rationale behind this decision is that certain partnerships between the private sector and federal sector simply don’t work.

Governing: Trump Abandons Idea That Private Sector Should Help Fund Infrastructure by Staff, September 27, 2017.

 

Helsinki’s public transport plan:

Helsinki is leading European efforts to eliminate fossil fuel emissions by mixing tech and urban planning to encourage public transportation use. Anni Sinnemäki, deputy mayor for transportation in Helsinki, said, “our aim is to use more positive measures to mix walking, cycling and public transport to make it more attractive for people to travel that way.” .

USA Today: How one city plans to steer residents away from driving by Dominic Hinde, September 27, 2017.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

Cuba, Currency and Access

Ever since hearing my Nana’s stories of extravagant winter holidays in Cuba, I romanticized the island. Tales of tropical beaches, big band music, and late night salsa danced through my mind. In college, I was introduced to the revolution and the influence of Che Guevara. I also learned from a Palestinian friend of Fidel Castro’s support of the Palestine Liberation Organization. All of this fueled an interest to better understand the revolution, and to see one of the last standing states of communism. As a transit professional, I was especially curious to experience the country through its public transportation.

 

A trip was in the cards. So this summer, right before the current US administration put additional restrictions on travel, I caught a flight out of LAX for the Caribbean.

 

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Two Currencies, One People

U.S. financial institutions don’t integrate with the Cuban banking system. Therefore, I had to bring enough money into the country to fund the trip. I walked off the plane with enough rolls of bills to trigger a minor anxiety attack.

 

I arrived with Canadian Dollars and Euros in tow to avoid the 30% exchange tax levied by the Cuban government on the US Dollar. Our first morning in the city, we found a bank to change my money into Cuba’s two types of currency: the CUC and the CUP.

 

– The Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) is pegged to the US dollar. It’s the primary
means of payment within the tourist industry.

– The Cuban Peso (CUP) is the currency used by the general population and is
exchanged at 1 CUC to 25.5 CUPs. General public transit requires the CUP,
whereas private cars, tourist long-distance buses, and trains from Havana to
Santiago use the CUC.

 

I wanted some CUPs on-hand to ride public transit, buy street food, and maybe see a baseball game in an effort to peek through the tourist veil. I asked the banker how much I should exchange? He had no opinion. So I decided to convert $15 CUCs to CUPs; surely, that would cover everything we’d want to do. He laughed. That was way too much. It exchanged to 382.5 CUPs to be exact. I later learned that minimum wage is 225 CUPs, or just about $9 USD per month, and the average state salary is $20 USD per month. This is supplemented by a monthly food ration from the government. No wonder the tourist industry relied exclusively on the CUC and disregarded the CUP!

 

I left the bank with ALL OF OUR MONEY on my person, along with the accute sense that I was unfathomably wealthy. At least we were now set to pay for our sights.

CUC vs. CUP Mobility

– Local city buses accepted CUPs. They ran on fixed routes with unpredictable
schedules and were overcrowded and not air conditioned. All transit,
including city buses, were impacted by the US import/export embargos of the
early 1960s. New vehicles and vehicle parts were incredibly difficult and
expensive to come by. The government struggled to get working buses on the
road. Tourists were discouraged from riding the local bus, but I especially
wanted to ride on a camel bus (a semi-trailer with windows and seats pulled
by a conventional tractor unit).

– Almendrones, which are mostly classic American cars, ran on a fixed route for
a more-or-less fixed price in CUPs. Although if you were a tourist, you’d
most likely need to pay in CUCs.

– Taxi Colectivo, the original on-demand shared taxi used mostly for inter-city
travel, accepted CUCs. They ranged from classic American cars to Soviet-era
automobiles, and for some reason, a good number of Peugeots as well. You’d
have to pre-arrange a pick-up by calling ahead to a driver, or connect with
one of the dozens of locals shouting “taxi!” at any well-visited location.

– There were two options for long-distance buses: the Viazul and Astro bus.
Both were state-run, but paid for in different currency. Viazul had nicer,
more reliable vehicles with air conditioning and bathrooms. Fares were sold
in CUCs, so they were almost exclusively used by tourists. Astro buses sold
fares in CUPs and were used by locals.

– Trains, paid for in CUCs. It’s said that around the mid-20th century, Cuba
had more tracks per square mile than any other country. Today, only one train
runs reliably between Havana and Santiago. The government had struggled to
operate the nationalized railroads, as well as find the necessary equipment.

 

My goal was to hit all of these. But sometimes your go-getter pride gets in the way. By the end of my trip, I’d only successfully alighted on a couple Almendrones and Taxi Colectivos. Everything else seemed to operate as an afterthought. Since we were only there for eight days, our feeble attempts to ride public transit weren’t good enough.

 

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Letting Go of My Cuban Train Riding Dream

Public buses and trains were really difficult to navigate in a timely, convenient manner. There was no information around local city buses, no maps of where anything went, no fare zones, no timetables. Nothing. Just large crowds of people waiting at roughly marked “stops.” All public transit was reliant on talking with people to get secondhand information on approximate routes, stops, prices.

 

We tried to travel from city to city on Viazul or Astro buses. Buses ran infrequently (maybe two Viazul buses a day between major cities) and were sold out on all major routes, even when we showed up to the station a day in advance to try pre-purchasing tickets. Stories of people taking days to travel on what should have been 6-hour trips via train to routes outside of the main Havana > Santiago line scared us off the heavy rail. Everything on the local level takes time. Because we were there for such a short duration, we opted to pay our way out of the local struggles using CUCs for Taxi Colectivos.

A 1950 Chevy with a Mitsubishi Steering Wheel

The Taxi Colectivo was still an intimate experience and involved hours of driving down roads with few cars. My most memorable was a 1950s Chevrolet with a Mitsubishi steering wheel. And the Peugeot that overheated again and again. Or the taxi driver that pulled off the highway, onto a dirt road and into someone’s gated backyard to buy black market gas.

 

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We were the upper class, able to physically remove ourselves from the CUPs daily struggle to travel across the country with our CUCs. We passed locals on the side of the road, with umbrellas or tree branches held over their heads for shade and outstretched hands waving cash bills at passing drivers. The basic necessity of transit was a constant difficulty.

 

How do you operate a public transit system in a country where, despite your degree in mechanical engineering, you make more as a taxi driver? What do you do when motor vehicles and spare parts are impossible to come by, petrol is sold at high prices at government gas stations and the common man can’t afford more than a few CUPs for transit? How do you increase accessibility to public transit amidst these complexities?

 

Despite the challenges caused by a difficult history, the social graciousness of the people of Cuba prevailed. They were kind and generous. Their infrastructure was old, but taken care of by the best means possible, and despite the discomfort of non-air conditioned vehicles, there was a joy in our driver’s eyes as he revved round country roads.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

This Week in the Headlines: June 18th – June 25th, 2017

Welcome to Move Forward’s weekly news wrap-up, featuring the mobility stories you don’t want to miss. This week’s edition features news of moovel N.A.’s hardware agnostic technology–Fare Connect–along with the announcement of Google’s new transit-focused village in San Jose, Lyft’s launch of their new shuttle service, and more.

moovel CFO discusses future of transit payments:

Mobility Finance published a piece on moovel’s Fare Connect launch, including comments from Sadhana Shenoy, Chief Financial Officer at moovel. “Our goal is to make public transit less expensive, more efficient and more available.”

Mobility Finance: “moovel’s Latest Tech Brings Company Closer to Dominating Future Transit Payments” by Emma Sandler, June 19, 2017.
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New transit village set to transform downtown San Jose

Google is planning a new transit-centered village in downtown San Jose. The tech company is hoping that this project will bring at least 15,000 employees to the city, along with establishing Diridon Station as the “Grand Central of the West”– a central hub for BART, Amtrak, Caltrain, the ACE Train and the high-speed rail.

Mercury News: “Google’s San Jose renewal plan: ‘Grand Central of the West” by George Avolos, June 18, 2017.

 

How realistic is smart mobility?:

Paul Lewis, vice president of policy and finance at the Eno Center for Transportation, explains why he thinks futuristic transportation modes will undoubtedly change the nature of transportation, but widespread implementation is not realistic. In particular, Mr. Lewis identifies three problems with futuristic transit initiatives.

U.S. News & World Report: ““Don’t Ride the Hype Train: 3 reasons why ultramodern transportation technology isn’t practical” by Paul Lewis, June 16, 2017.

 

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Lyft shuttle launches in San Francisco:

The ride-sharing company Lyft has revealed that they are launching a new service called Lyft Shuttle in San Francisco, which allows riders to pay a fixed rate along predetermined routes during commute hours.

New York Magazine: “Lyft Reinvents the Bus” by Brian Feldman, June 19, 2017.

 

Speed drives the future of mobility:

Arie Bleijenberg, author of ‘New Mobility- Beyond the Car Era’, believes that speed is the strongest factor driving mobility innovation. Bleijenberg argues that the growth of car mobility is coming to an end, pointing to evidence that the average car speed has not increased in 20 years, and states that aviation will be the preferred means of transportation in the future.

Automotive World: “Speed – it’s what drives mobility” by Arie Bleijenberg, June 20, 2017.

 

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Public transit using new lessons to compete with ride hailing services:

The Wall Street Journal discusses how public transit agencies are utilizing technology and mobile applications to compete with the convenience of ride-hailing services. Of particular note, moovel customers TriMet and Via are included in the article.

The Wall Street Journal: “Public Transit Agencies Take a Lesson From Uber” by Tomio Geron, June 20, 2017.

 

Car-ownership could become a luxury:

In a second article from The WSJ, Tim Higgins suggests that car ownership will completely disappear in the coming years; stating, “car ownership, for a long time, has symbolized freedom and independence. But in the future, it may be akin to owning a horse today—a rare luxury.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The End of Car Ownership” by Tim Higgins, June 20, 2017.

 


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

Happy Dump the Pump Day

June 15th, 2017 marks the 12th annual national Dump the Pump Day, an opportunity for more riders – or potential riders – to leave their car at home and explore commuting alternatives.

For many of us, especially those who work in public transit or city planning, every day is Dump the Pump day. We walk, we cycle, we ride transit – and yes, we occasionally drive. But for many more Americans, Dump the Pump Day is a chance to see what life can be like when your world does not revolve around your car.

 

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There are many compelling arguments you can use to convince your communities to dump the pump. The benefits of forgoing your car for public transit or other shared mobility services are profound. Let’s start with money, the environment, and our waistlines.

 

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Financial Reasons to Dump the Pump

– According to the American Public Transit Association, a two-person household can save an average of $9,797 annually by downsizing to one car.

– From a public financing perspective, every dollar spent on public transit generates approximately $4 in economic returns.

Environmental Reasons to Dump the Pump

– Each year, public transit riders reduce our nation’s carbon footprint by 37 million metric tons. To put that into perspective, an equivalent savings would be achieved if the cities of New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Denver stopped using electricity.

– If you have a 20-mile roundtrip commute, taking public transit instead of driving will reduce your annual carbon emissions by 4,800 pounds.

– Eliminating a second car can reduce your household carbon emissions by 10-30 percent each year.

 

 

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Personal Health Reasons to Dump the Pump

– A recent study by the University of Illinois found that increasing public transit use in a given community by only 1% will lower the obesity rate by 0.2%.

– Individuals who use public transportation get over three times the amount of physical activity per day than those who don’t (approximately 19 minutes, as opposed to six) by walking to stops and final destinations.

– Bus-related accidents have one-twentieth the passenger fatality rates of automobile travel.

 

The goal behind Dump the Pump day is not to force anyone to ride transit or to punish oil companies. The underlying idea is to promote awareness of other commuting options and give individuals the opportunity to see the positive financial, ecological and health impacts of less driving – if only for one day. By promoting Dump the Pump day in your community and encouraging potential riders to try transit, everybody benefits.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.