How To Dodge Fares When Using Public Transport

Need to catch a train but you've lost your wallet? Can't afford a new weekly bus ticket until pay day? Here are some sneaky emergency strategies that you can use to try and score a free trip.

Picture by Edwin11

As regular Lifehacker readers will already know, I'm a frequent user and fervent supporter of public transport, and I'm absolutely not advocating that anyone should use these techniques on a regular basis. Public transport is underfunded enough as it is, and failing to purchase a ticket deprives the system of revenue and usage data. These are emergency tactics, not suggestions on how to run your regular transport needs. If a ticket inspector gets on board, you'll face hefty fines and I will have zero sympathy for you. (Bear in mind too that there are free options available in many city centres.)

As with our other Evil Week posts, the key lesson is that knowledge is power. If you end up stuck somewhere unfamiliar with no money, having a fare-free option can be useful. If you're on your way to work and realise that you've forgotten your weekly ticket, knowing which stations aren't supervised and hence allow you to exit and buy a ticket for that one journey is a lot cheaper than being hit with a penalty fare from a grumpy railway worker. And a final point: these tactics are based on observation -- I've never tried any of them myself, because I'm majorly self-righteous like that.

Trains

As a rule, inner-city train stations have ticket barriers, which makes it hard to travel without a ticket. There's often one wide gate designed for prams and people with suitcases though, and sometimes this will be open and you can brazenly walk through it. Further, if you wave something that looks like a ticket, some station staff won't actually check the details.

Outlying suburban stations rarely have gates (though major interchange stations are usually an exception), which means you can travel between stations without a ticket. The big risk here is that there will be ticket inspectors on board. In Adelaide, where trains have ticket machines on board, you could try buying a ticket as soon as you see an inspector board, but you might well get spotted.

If you're travelling from a long way away on a regular basis, you can purchase a cheap weekly ticket between two city locations, rather than between the city and your destination. I had one colleague who calculated that even if she got busted and paid a fine every couple of months, that was cheaper than buying the official ticket. (That said, a demonstrable pattern of fare evasion could lead to a court appearance and much higher fines.)

Reminder why evasion won't always work: Railway operators are alive to many of these techniques. In Sydney, wide gates have a separating fence so you can't easily switch to them, and in the CBD they're almost always manned. In cities with a smart-card system, trying to use a cheaper ticket for a longer trip won't work, since if you fail to touch off you'll usually be charged the maximum possible journey fee.

Trams

In Melbourne, trams don't have conductors, so there's nothing stopping you getting on board without buying or validating a ticket. That said, inspections are fairly frequent. I often see people wait until inspectors get on board and then purchase or validate a ticket, or stand up and get off at the next stop (which will never be more than a block or two away). Sneaky, but functional.

Reminder why evasion won't always work: As I've mentioned, inspections on trams in Melbourne seem more common than with other forms of transport. In Adelaide and Sydney, there are conductors on board, so those strategies won't work at all. Picture by Geoff Penaluna

Buses

Evading fares on buses is difficult, since you have to go past the driver in order to get on board, which makes travelling ticket-free more challenging. Your odds are better at busier times, since drivers don't want to be delayed dealing with one person when dozens are waiting to board.

One popular strategy is to offer to pay, but only produce a $100 bill. Some drivers will wave you on rather than argue about their lack of change. (That said, sometimes they'll have change anyway.)

Another possibility on a busy bus with paper ticket readers is to use a non-valid ticket but then just keep walking after it is rejected from the validator. Especially if you use the non-driver-side validator, you may get away with it.

If you happen to look young, you could claim to be a student and say you've lost your free bus pass, though this depends entirely on the sympathy of the driver.

Reminder why evasion won't always work: In London, I once saw a woman get on the night bus and then immediately throw her ticket out the window to her friend who had loaned it to her. This didn't work, as I was the only other passenger on the bus, and the driver immediately threw her off. Picture by Ruth Ellison

Ferries

This is like the bus problem, only more so. In Sydney, you can't get onto a ferry at Circular Quay without a ticket as there are barriers. This isn't the case at any other stop, but you'll invariably be asked to buy or show a ticket by the staff on board. That's also the case in Brisbane. Short of trying to talk your way out of it, there's not much else you can do.

Got any other strategies for emergency fare evasion? Share them in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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Comments

    You losers are totally not using the best tricks - the ones that actual pros would use by actual social engineering, etc. So forget it, I'm not sharing my tips here. However, this being crimehacker week with your host Angus 'I should have been a professional criminal' Kidman --- you can try these tips:

    For sydney on buses, is a breeze:

    Purchase zone 1 - 2 tickets for a song and take the bus as far as you want as you're already past the driver now. Always ride peak hour - no bus inspectors bother with peak hour on buses. Middle of day is sketchier. if you see an inspector, blame your misunderstanding of complex zoning tickets or try and sit towards middle of bus. Probably they will start at front and you can then hop off when you see em coming.

    For sydney trains:

    Always carry a backup ticket - a plain unused one. This is tricky. Wave this same card (but only the front) at the guard. He will let you through 9 of 10 times. If not, so what, just buzz ur card. Big whoop. However, if u do suceed with this jedi mind trick, you can proceed to tell the inspector (if one checks you) that you used the card in question to walk past the guard because you were helping a friend with a pram or luggage etc. And of course you didn't buzz ur ticket. Having that ticket will usually keep you free from a fine because the guard will see that you stil hold a valid ticket and you will just buzz it when you leave.

    Anyhow, you should always have a ticket in sydney - but its how you USE the ticket beyond its boundaries that will get you lucky. Concession tricks are too dicey. You're better playing with zoning or guard entries for higher success rates. Anyway, we all know this is just for education research, but seriously Angus - what the fuck? Are you gonna publish how to make homemade weapons just for fun too?

    By the way, what Angus should be discussing is why they are so keen on e-cards like the British Oyster card, etc when they cost hundreds of millions of bucks.

    The real point is that it will stop much of the real fare evasion because its recording all the info on YOU and its harder to escape detection unlike a throwaway paper ticket.

    You losers are totally not using the best tricks - the ones that actual pros would use by actual social engineering, etc. So forget it, I'm not sharing my tips here. However, this being crimehacker week with your host Angus 'I should have been a professional criminal' Kidman --- you can try these tips:

    For sydney on buses, is a breeze:

    Purchase zone 1 - 2 tickets for a song and take the bus as far as you want as you're already past the driver now. Always ride peak hour - no bus inspectors bother with peak hour on buses. Middle of day is sketchier. if you see an inspector, blame your misunderstanding of complex zoning tickets or try and sit towards middle of bus. Probably they will start at front and you can then hop off when you see em coming.

    For sydney trains:

    Always carry a backup ticket - a plain unused one. This is tricky. Wave this same card (but only the front) at the guard. He will let you through 9 of 10 times. If not, so what, just buzz ur card. Big whoop. However, if u do suceed with this jedi mind trick, you can proceed to tell the inspector (if one checks you) that you used the card in question to walk past the guard because you were helping a friend with a pram or luggage etc. And of course you didn't buzz ur ticket. Having that ticket will usually keep you free from a fine because the guard will see that you stil hold a valid ticket and you will just buzz it when you leave.

    Anyhow, you should always have a ticket in sydney - but its how you USE the ticket beyond its boundaries that will get you lucky. Concession tricks are too dicey. You're better playing with zoning or guard entries for higher success rates. Anyway, we all know this is just for education research, but seriously Angus - what the fuck? Are you gonna publish how to make homemade weapons just for fun too?

    By the way, what Angus should be discussing is why they are so keen on e-cards like the British Oyster card, etc when they cost hundreds of millions of bucks.

    The real point is that it will stop much of the real fare evasion because its recording all the info on YOU and its harder to escape detection unlike a throwaway paper ticket.

    Not sure what these articles are implying about the lifehacker readership. The site used to have some decent articles, tips and tricks. However in recent months I cant help but feel the content has descended to captain obvious statements and rubbish like this one.

    Angus IS a good writer whose stuff I enjoy reading.

    This however is a poor article, evil week or not, and as pointed out cannot be justified by a retort of, "LOL BitTorrent LOL"

    Sorry Angus, Lifehacker, it's a thumbs down from this avid reader.

    I like this part: "And a final point: these tactics are based on observation — I’ve never tried any of them myself, because I’m majorly self-righteous like that." Wow, who are you trying to convince there? Yourself maybe?

    fare evasion on the bus is definately a challenge. The notion that the odds are better during busier times is pure BS, the driver is paid overtime for late running, the driver wont be worried about running late. Produce a large bill and the driver can say goodbye to you or if they have change or maybe if they do have change then you will recieve a huge pile of small coins in change to teach you a lesson. If you dip validate an expired ticket and walk off ignoring the LOUD beeping noise then you look like an ignorant knob, the driver calls you back to the front of the bus and tells you to exit continuing to make you look like a knob. Overall it's a lame and irresponsible article as it encourages fare evasion and puts a burden on tax payer dollars.

    Stupid piece. Why not just pay it? It's worth paying the fare if the fine's $100+.

    Another hack is that, one can buy a ticket from a MyZone ticket reseller and you can use that ticket theoretically forever (magnetic strip), until you either insert it into the machine on the bus, the ticket barriers at train stations or get checked by someone who may or may not stamp/write a date on it.

    You could also buy a ticket from a Myzone ticket reseller and buy a pensioner ticket and use that to pass through ticket barriers

    Haha love the article
    So helpful
    Fuck the haters man

    It has happened rarely, but I have had to fare evade or walk 50 kilometres to get home, I don't condone it either, but it is good to know strategies if it were to happen again, CHEERS!

    Tram fare evasion is fun, in this over-regulated world with cameras watching every move. I've already paid tax and plenty of fines. It's called fighting back.

    If you're in NSW just go to a train station and purchase a pensioner's ticket from one of the machines, $2.50 for all trains, buses and ferries.

    Wow... Never have I seen so many whingy people. You do things everyday that ultimately a far less moral than hopping a train. Do you support big oil companies by using products with petroleum in them? Then you are supporting wars and famine. Do you go to the cinema? Then you are supporting Hollywood whom is the leading cause of internet censorship, the list is endless. Get a life, and have a look at yourselves. Cheers Angus.

    No more transits in Sydney after June 2013. Forcing gates is now impossible as they are interlocked. Doubling up on a gate works, so does exiting the wide gate in a crowd. Jumping over the gates is another option.
    Getting caught by plain clothes police is not a option. Not paying the fine?
    No drivers licence for u!
    Don't drive? Sheriff will knock on your door.

    Brisbane bus drivers are only permitted to carry $50 change - a 50 or 100 will get you onboard as the driver says "take a seat" However, be warned, there is one casual scumbag who stops outside garages and shops and demands you get change. If you can handle the embarrassment when caught, use this tactic.

    Having read this article and the comments I found it very funny, I once got onto a bus with $50 note as that was all the cash I has. I had no idea why the bus driver was so mad about it guess he must have seen that before with others. Just ended up buying a ticket when got to the train station anyway. These days I have a yearly and only use the trains but on principle I avoid touching on and off. I don't condone fare evading thus my yearly ticket however I do despise the Myki system something fierce I feel it's just another way big corps collect more and more data on people what are they using it for? Improving service ? I doubt it. As far as demonstrating civil disobedience it's pretty useless unless it's done by a mass of people enough to catch attention that you probably don't want to be getting and Australians are far to chilled out to be outraged enough about the exorbitant costs we pay for pretty much everything to take action. E.g local councils in Malta wanted to introduce rates (they don't pay them in Malta) there was so much backlash from the residents that they were forced to put it aside. Just something to think about.

    i got cough with my feet up on the chair the other week and i'm leaving the country in 2 months if i choose not to pay the fine and leave the country will there be anyway they could track me or could they stop me leaving the country if i don't pay the fine

    For Buses you stated ..... "Evading fares on buses is difficult, since you have to go past the driver in order to get on board, which makes travelling ticket-free more challenging."

    This is ironic seeing as you used a TransPerth Bus as the picture .....

    Newsflash .... The entire Perth CBD is a free transit zone so when you board the bus in the CBD just don't get off until your stop. (and make sure to use the rear doors)

    Simple....

    (Sorry was having way too much fun with the html tags)

    You guys are so out of touch with reality! The governments of every country are basically the biggest gangs!
    Everybody should be fare evading! The AMOUNT of tax we pay is way out of proportion! We'd be much better off with the mafia, they don't charge nearly as much "tax" or "protection" money as governments do. You guys really need to snap back to reality, and stop living in the matrix. Coz it ain't gonna last much longer. Research Flat Earth. Peace.

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