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Should fines rise for fare dodgers?

The Local · 3 Feb 2012, 06:00

Published: 03 Feb 2012 06:00 GMT+01:00

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Commonly known in German as schwarzfahren (riding black), fare evasion is currently held in check by only occasional ticket inspections. Most public transportation systems in Germany do not have gated entrances to the trains like in France or Great Britain.

The VDV transportation association argued this week that the problem is so severe that penalties should be increased for law-breakers. Under their plan, fines should increase from the current €40 to €60 for first-time offenders and €120 for people who are caught without a ticket more than once.

Government authorities rejected the idea when it was first proposed in 2009, but the VDV says now people are organising on the internet to dodge fares – meaning tougher sanctions are necessary to deter theft of service.

How should Germany deal with fare dodgers? Should metro and train systems here install turnstiles as are common in many other countries? Or are you a Schwarzfahrer yourself?

Registered users at The Local may add their comments in the field below. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here – it’s free and only takes a moment.

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Your comments about this article

08:34 February 3, 2012 by Louis Prince
I don't understand the fuss, if the police catch you stealing a handbag or candy etc. they will arrest and fine you, whats the difference? Its stealing, it should be treated like petty theft.
08:46 February 3, 2012 by design
If they are stupid enough to not put up barriers and trust people then i will always take advantage of their ignorance, its a dishonest world get used to it, If you pay and I dont its your problem, if i get caught its mine.,most of the time I do not pay , why should I? If I get caught once a year the fine is worth it.
09:01 February 3, 2012 by jpl82
Like a few other things public transport should be encouraged because it benefits everyone. Users get around more easily, business get easier access for their customers rivers even drivers have fewer cars to deal with on the road. The best incentive would be to make it free. It's already subsidised just go one step further. This should be a non issue.
09:03 February 3, 2012 by dxlman

it's people like you that make the fares higher.

Why should you pay? Very simple because you are using a service that is provided for you.

How would you like it if I used your handy behind your back? You'd have to pay for my calls or sms'. I don't think you'd be too happy would you!?

Personally, I think it's mostly the dishonest foreigners that live here that take advantage of the system. And yes, I'm a foreigner here too, but I respect their ways, and I like the fact that it's based on trust.

Unfortunately, there will always be morons like 'design' who will abuse their trust.

And yes, make repeated fare dodgers pay a higher fine. Hit them where ir hurts, in their pockets!
09:11 February 3, 2012 by T.J. Morton
@design - Yep, you're an a**hole! The world needs more people just like you.
09:25 February 3, 2012 by HansT
One of the things that I've always liked about Germany is that there are no barriers to the trains, unlike New York City where one has to run the gauntlet of bars, ticket readers, cages and police. The "Land of the Free" was vastly less free than here, mainly because the great majority of Germans would be appalled to be caught without a ticket.

Now that the percentage of fare evaders is rising and therefore causing paying customers to pay more for others' misuse of the Netz, I think higher fines are in order, and much higher fines for those who conspire through new technology to dodge their responsibilities, if it can be proven.

The only other option will be seen to be in the direction of NYC, Chicago or London, making daily life much more regimented and conscribed, and leading eventually to greater authoritarian control over daily life... for everyone.

If people will not control their own selves, it always falls to a governing authority to impose control which would raise howls of "Oppression" from the fare-dodging crowd who caused it in the first place.

It's just not very "neighborly", is it?
09:39 February 3, 2012 by Talonx
@ Design

It really is people like you that make the world what it is, borderline sociopath. We get to have nice things because we pay for them.

That said...

@ jpl82

Has a point. However, we live in a capitalist world and the ultimate value is money not people, so until that changes . . .
09:43 February 3, 2012 by design
@ dxlman, have you ever found a cell phone unlocked? what did you do with it.? I have and called all my freinds in foreign countries then sold it ,or threw it in a river, You people are too honest and do you know what happens to honest people they get taken advantage of its a cruel world if you aint getting over you are being gotten over on.I have no problem being called an **sshole it isnt the first time, At least i embrace it.
09:47 February 3, 2012 by frankiep
@design......congratulations! It's only the beginning of February but you've managed to all but lock up the d-bag of the year award. Good job!

Thanks to people like you fares will eventually rise much higher to pay for the additional fare checkers and barriers which will be required to make sure that you and the other leeches don't cheat the system.

Try being an adult and pay for the services you use.
10:00 February 3, 2012 by wood artist

We'll all show up at your house, eat your food, take your other possessions, and generally just waste everything you own. Don't bother calling the police, because you, by your own admission, don't think the rules of society apply to you. When others don't provide things for you to "take" how will you ever survive?

On a more serious note, I've always found the freedom in German mass transit very pleasant. No, I don't ride black. I have "enjoyed" watching others get caught from time to time, largely because it seems rewarding to watch a cheat try to wiggle. I'm happy to pay for the services provided, even at times when they aren't absolutely top notch. In general, what I receive is worth more than what I paid.

10:07 February 3, 2012 by lalomartins
One of the things I like about Germany is that people are on average adult and civilised, so things like public transportation without barriers are possible. But then, a minority of poorly educated, morally bankrupt idiots has to come along and ruin it for everyone else.

My take: larger fines aren't enough. In fact, I have at least once lost my ticket and I'd be very unhappy if the fines were larger. Rather, I think repeat offenders should be taken to mandatory civic education and/or public service. Those that insist even after that, if citizens, should go to jail like any thief, and if not citizens, be sent out.

A critical factor in the next decade or two for Germany will be whether it's able to grow without losing what makes it special.
10:24 February 3, 2012 by steve_glienicke
Spot on wood artist, and thank god most decent people do pay there way.

@Design. personally i think your taking the p*ßß because in all honesty, no one could possibly be that stupid, wonder if you would like it if your boss descided not to pay your wages, just use your services to him and then turn you over?

but then i guess that is something you most likely will not know, i'd be surprised anyone would hire such a d**k head in the first place!
11:28 February 3, 2012 by Shiny Flu
Turnstyles wouldn't work in Berlin and probably a lot of the other major cities... So many of the stations are so old, they wouldn't cope with the bottlenecks that would be created and it'd probably be a major safety issue.

I believe that fines should be increased. It makes sense.

For the truly disadvantaged (this includes @design but not in a financial sense) there is red tape in place to allow them to travel for free/next to nothing. For the rest of us we pay as usual. For those who prefer to steal, a hefty fine/s and I believe after say more than 3 times in 6 months- let's say community service cleaning up stations/trains.
12:01 February 3, 2012 by wood artist
@Shiny Flu

I agree they wouldn't work in Berlin. I can just image the traffic jams. I'm thinking of the stairway at Alex...down to the lowest level. During rush hours you can just barely make the transfer, and usually the tail end of the mob doesn't. It's not like the next train is hours later, but still.... What fun that would become.

13:04 February 3, 2012 by Gaffers
The risk of raising the level of fines is that on the very few occasions when I have forgotten to stamp, and it is genuinely a mistake on my part and not malicious, I could get hit with a big fine. I don't use the system frequently enough to warrant a weekly or monthly ticket so have to buy or stamp each time. Putting in gates would resolve this but is impossible when you see the different types of stations. Any station is easily accessible and the cost to surround them with the necessary fencing would be too high. Just increase the number of patrols so scum like design (and I'm not sure he's genuine or just a saddo trying to get a rise out of people which is equally moronic) would get hit more often.
13:27 February 3, 2012 by gwade
i have been to germany 3 times as a visitor. please either use gated train stations or have conductors showing at each train platform to deter people from fare dodging.

visitors will not mind and deutche bahn becomes fully fared as it should be.


gerard from st.john's newfoundland
13:28 February 3, 2012 by yourkeau
If the transport company thinks that fare dodgin is an epidemic, why not to make ticket controls more frequent? This is a simple solution that works. The fines are already high (40 euro is 20 times the normal fare), increasing them makes no sense.
13:48 February 3, 2012 by alleindalone
i don't remember the last time i met a ticket controller on the bvg. you can raise the fine to 1 billion euros, but if there's hardly any chance of getting caught, the fine will still be only hypothetical.

"people are organising on the internet to dodge fares"

i wonder what they mean by this. if i stop using a ticket and i give it to somebody, why would that be dodging? the ticket is valid for two hours and i don't have my name written on it, so i give it to whoever i want to. and the same goes for the month ticket. i totally understand these people, i can't afford the bvg either, so i try using it only when necessary, and i wouldn't mind somebody giving me a ticket once in a while.
14:41 February 3, 2012 by ChrisRea
I am amazed by the standards of correctness. An increase from 3% to 3.5% in 3 years is considered epidemic. In other places even close to 30% is considered acceptable (Melbourne for example).

So for me it is good news that only 3.5% of people think like 'design'. I though there were more.
14:50 February 3, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
All -

Letters from @Design and @englishithead are simply written to provoke the rest of us.

I can assure you that the intent of their letters is to irritate you and see how many of you write replies while they sit at home and laugh.
14:54 February 3, 2012 by raandy
design it is a tough world out there but being dishonest because of it does nothing to improve it. You most likely condone lying as well, so who can believe any thing a misfit like yourself says?

Yes a stiffer penalty is needed on the Bahn system, maybe if everyone paid the cost of a ticket wouldn't increase as often.
16:16 February 3, 2012 by 1TruthTeller
I don't mind paying for transit. It's generally good, and usually punctual. But, for one of the most technologically advance countries in the world, are those DB ticket machines the best we can come up with? Just a simple ticket purchase can take 3 minutes while it coughs, whirs, churns and eventually spits out the ticket.....and then 20 seconds later the receipt! The validator machines are often jammed and broken too.

I just spent two weeks in Stockholm. Great system, with gates and turnstiles. Plus, a rechargeable magnetic card that you simply touch on a sensor to enter and leave a station.Problem solved!
18:18 February 3, 2012 by finanzdoktor
I take two forms of public transportation, depending on the circumstances of the day. On one, there are turnstiles and ticket readers. On the other, the conductor(s) check tickets, once you are on the train. If someone is caught without a validated ticket, they are fined. If it happens a second time, then the resultant fine is higher. After that, if they are caught again, then they are escorted off the train at the next stop.

Harsh, but maybe this is the stance Germany should take, to seriously attempt address the freeloading of others.
18:25 February 3, 2012 by landwerkanal
I don't have a remedy for this problem, besides I don't care about it. But any way I'd like to tell you the way my german exgirlfriend, a high school teacher, a "beamter" dealed with it.

She marks the ticket in the back first, and in the case she has to show it to the inspector, when he sees that she hasn't a mark in her ticket, she excuses herself and tells him she has marked it on the back by mistake. The man then marks it in the front and that's all, kein fine!

In the case that the above does not happen, wich is almost always what actually happens, for it's extremedly rare that you are asked to show your ticket, then... she uses it a second time, marking it in the front. It's almost imposible if the man sees it's marked right , that he will ask her to turn it to have a look of the back.

Wake up guys!! many germans, even the privileged beamters, are just like everybody else.
19:02 February 3, 2012 by catjones
It's not an 'honour' system. The validation process is simply human rather than mechanical (turnstiles). The guards do not wear uniforms to deliberately catch people without tickets and/or stamps. For some reason berlin can't go the mechanical route while other cities world-wide can. Instead of increasing the fines, increase the number of guards and hit two birds with one stone...reduce unemployment + increase number of fines.
19:39 February 3, 2012 by raandy
landwerkanal what a story of deceit and fraud,you wise up , and pay for your ticket ,your the problem not the solution nimrod.
21:02 February 3, 2012 by HHayrider
When I lived in Germany in 1990, I rode for free, for a little while. I didnt understand the language, or how to buy a ticket. Once I figured it out, I bought a monthly pass, even though I had access to a car. It was more convenient and practical (in Hamburg anyways) to get around by the trains.

Fast forward to last year, my family and I were in Berlin on vacation. We bought a family ticket every day. Not only is buying a ticket the requirement, its the right thing to do. I dont like having to explain why I was doing something illegal, especially in my rusty German. What did bother me, was that the ticket control people I saw, were clad in black Commando style uniforms, with clubs. (I dont remember if they carried sidearms) But they had the boots, berets, everything. While we were paying fare customers, I felt uncomfortable with it. (I dont even like it that the local hometown cops in my small town wear similar uniforms)

I did seceretly chuckle when the guy across from me was hauled off at the next station, and presumably, given a ticket.

I think the fines should go up for riding without a ticket. Or like someone else mentioned, a little bit of community service, cleaning up stations, and a fine.
22:40 February 3, 2012 by P-nilla

Stockholm's got plenty of turnstiles, they're a pain if you're carrying any kind of luggage and at rush hour you'll often find yourself waiting in line just to get through, the gates are just nasty...here's a dog caught in one: http://www.dn.se/sthlm/hunden-fastnade-i-tunnelbanesparren

...oh, and compared to the figures reported from Germany, has +1% of Schwarzfahrers (plankare) so I can't see a huge investment in purse snatching turnstiles or dog chopping gates helping our ticket prices on the U & S...
10:07 February 4, 2012 by design
you all are a bunch of haters
11:00 February 4, 2012 by Shiny Flu
In regards to the draconian, buy a ticket and validate it - in terms of the BVG. Slowly buy surely RFID/NFC/more basic mobile payments will become more widely available. In fact you can already do it if you're on contract with the right carrier.

They could definitely integrate RFID cards (which they've trialled on certain bus lines) though even without turn styles.

@HHayrider... Those were just un-armed security guards you saw, and they're not threatening at all. I've chatted to them and never really see them do anything accept ride trains - I guess it's more a deterrent effect they cause. Ticket inspectors are always in plain clothes.

@design. "you all are a bunch of haters"

The irony of your comment is probably beyond your empathy quotient and cognitive ability. I am truly sorry for you.
22:08 February 4, 2012 by kf4ebp
I am a US citizen that has visited Germany multiple times. I have always paid my fare and I have been checked for tickets on numerous occasions. Sometimes they are plain clothes with a badge and sometimes they are uniformed. At no occasion have they been anything but polite about checking tickets.

I would not presume to tell the German people how to handle their own business, but I really like that they do not use turnstiles. I feel like I am being treated more like a responsible adult.

I would like to bring this up. Turnstiles will not necessarily deter freeloading. I have seen more than one person hop over the turnstyles in Atlanta.
14:47 February 5, 2012 by Englishted

"Letters from @Design and @englishithead are simply written to provoke the rest of us.

I can assure you that the intent of their letters is to irritate you and see how many of you write replies while they sit at home and laugh. "

I don't agree with @Design comment he is wrong.

However seeing as I have made no comment apart from this in reply to yours ,it just proves you are wrong in your assumption as you are with many if not all of your thoughts.
15:17 February 5, 2012 by Jeffvm
The €60-120 staggered fines sound just perfect.

And more people checking tickets please, I've been using the U8 since October nearly daily but have not been checked once. I should be checked weekly. I assume the income from fines would cover the expense of additional staff. Plus, job creation is always good.
13:40 February 6, 2012 by freechoice
i think grandmas and grandpas would be fine severly of their retirement benefits if they keep forgetting to buy or bring the their tickets on to trains. I had once forgotten to buy a ticket and went on board because I was in deep thought about something. Only after the doors have been closed, I realized I have forgotten to buy a ticket. Immediately I alighted at the next station. Fortunately there was a ticket inspector on board. I really have no intention to cheat.
15:21 February 6, 2012 by Bravo2
Add the turnstiles. The work everywhere else. This is just another case of Germans resisting change while the rest of the world progresses. The turnstiles work just fine in London, Hong Kong and Paris. Why not here? In London you just swipe your Oyster card and you are good to go. There's no dreaded "undercover ticket guy" and the traffic moves just fine. To avoid the jumpers just install the sliding doors they use in Paris. It works people, accept progress!
21:36 February 6, 2012 by mos101392

Because of freeloaders like you, the rest of us, (the majority that pay), have to pay more and more each year. Because Die Bahn, as you put it, "If they are stupid enough to not put up barriers and trust people then i will always take advantage of their ignorance", are not smart enough to recapture their losses from thieves like you through higher fines, the rest have to pay more.

It's obvious the current fine rates don't stop the freeloaders such as yourself. The fines need to be stiffer to deter the freeloaders and to help keep the prices down for the rest of us. The fine should start at 250 Euros for the first offence, second 500 euros, third 1000 and possible jail time. This might deter the freeloaders and hopefully help bring down the prices.
10:51 February 7, 2012 by koli
I see, the idea of some here is TO get punish for been stupid and get caught, not for NOT doing what you should in the first place. The new moral is that! teach your children to get away and so on. I work in markets and I see more and more people trying to steal from tables and once I caught a kid doing it and when I told the parent (in Germany) his kids doings HE went after me for leaving money on the table (spare change I needed to make change) so it was my fault! Home values are needed all over the world, not just in Germany and they start at home.
13:25 February 7, 2012 by harshphadnis
Pilferage to organised business/services is a (unfortunate - dare I say) reality. Keeping check costs and not doing so comes at a cost. Look at the ecosystem. It don't complain for evaporation. It just wait for the windfall. Most of our answers lie in our environment.

Except the monetary system. That's rubbish of our own making. Creating money against thin air? Accountants still having jobs? Well then just rearrange your books and close them every year. State losses, do whatever. Leave me alone.
15:27 February 8, 2012 by Joshontour
Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think "design" has to pay ... when you have a Behindertenpass the trains are free.
18:31 February 8, 2012 by dackelpoop
No gates or turnstiles= they frequently malfunction- and in France and UK- it's common to see hooded youngsters pass through them at the same time as their paying buddy.

1. More train conductors and security personnel- it creates employment and a safer environment where women especially feel more inclined to use public transport at night.

2. Separate trains into price classes- as was in the good old days- uni students like me used to travel 3rd class. Somehow, despite such an egregious infliction to our "human rights" we all lived to tell the tale.

3. Fares must be affordable enough to minimize freeloading- it can never be eliminated only mitigated. Students, unemployed, elderly and the disabled should receive generous concessions.

4. Fine them Euro 100, 250 then 1000 with odious community service such as cleaning up their graffiti, working in homeless shelters for those who cannot afford the fines.

Jail is an unnecessary punitive measure for a property crime and may lead to recidivism and or repeat offending/associating with more hardened criminals.
16:54 February 11, 2012 by ebbelwoiguy
Turnstiles would cost a fortune to install and maintain and are ineffective. Paris in particular has to use inspectors as well.

Perhaps publishing the photos and names of dodgers would work better than fines alone.
20:19 December 20, 2012 by andrewa
just got back from berlin where i got stopped for not having a ticket - why - the lousy machines would not take our cash - we tried 8 different notes

The inspectors gave us a warning - and took us off to buy a ticket - The next machines wouldnt take our cash either

if you want to issue fines - get ticket machines that are fit for purpose

Germany is famed for efficiency - these machines are certainly not efficient
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