07 November 2008

Tickets Please

The U-Bahn in Munich works on the honour system. There are no barriers or gates to go through before you get to the platform. The advantage of the system is that there is a much better traffic flow, especially during peak times, than with barrier based systems. It also makes life a lot easier for people travelling with luggage, wheelchairs, prams or, indeed, dogs.

The disadvantage is that it is very easy to cheat. In theory the cheats are discouraged by random checks backed up by a €40 fine for those caught without a ticket. In practice, these checks seem to be very infrequent. On Thursday night my ticket was checked for the first time in the more than six months I have been here.

I was impressed by their technique. Two inspectors got on and waited until the doors had closed before pulling out their identification and starting their check. They were also in plain clothes - jeans and trainers - so no potential fare dodger could change plans at the last minute.

In the event, everyone who was checked had a ticket. I think this is the real reason the system works. I'm sure there are some lowlife parasitic scum who cheat, but most people are basically honest enough not to exploit the system.

It is, in this respect, genuinely an honour system since it relies more or basic honesty than the threat of being caught.

For any aspiring PhD students out there, how about researching the relationship between social and cultural values and the nature of the public transport sytem? Or perhaps it has already been done?


traveler one said...

Haha.... some poeple would just think they're stupid. (like paying taxes too) LOL

Trixi und Julian said...

Actually, the system is based on Murphy's law. When I was a student, I couldn't always afford the bus fare and tried to cheat my way out of it a couple of times. And those were the times they came to check for tickets. Always. Scary, really, and makes you believe in the supernatural. Besides, it sucks.