Friday, April 20, 2012

Schwarzfahren - Riding without a Ticket
During the entire week that my family was here, we rode trains daily and were never checked ("controlled") for a ticket. Granted our trips were usually pretty short and on local trains (you always get checked on the high-speed, expensive ICE and IC trains). And it was on and after Easter, so maybe people were on vacation. Also when my friend Jessica was in Berlin, around New Years, she got a week-long ticket and never got controlled.

But it still surprised me a bit, so I thought I would do a little post on it. In Germany you don't show a ticket to get on the trains (to compare: on Amtrack it wouldn't be possible to board without a ticket, and on many subway systems like New York and Chicago there are barriers before you enter the subway system, you have to have a ticket to get in), so it is possible to ride without paying a ticket and risk getting caught. (I think the Minneapolis rail system functions similarly.) In German, it's called schwarzfahren, literally "riding black" (in the sense of "black market," illegal behavior).

If you are caught, it's a 40 EUR fee in Berlin. A one-way ticket costs 2,30 EUR. So if you can ride 18 times without getting caught it's worth it. But it is stressful when you don't have a ticket and you have to look around and make sure the controllers aren't coming. Usually you can see them coming. But I was on the train the other day and they were waiting outside the train, getting people as they were coming off and checking to make sure they had a ticket. The guy next to me was flipping out, "What? Now they're controlling out of the train? I can't believe it! I haven't paid for a ticket in two years..."
some funny ads in the trains trying to encourage people to buy tickets

I just heard on the news this week that in Berlin about 6% of passengers ride without buying a ticket. The BVG website (Berlin Transport) says that this costs them millions of Euros a year. Another news source says that German transport loses 350 Million a year because of Schwarzfahrer. In Berlin they are talking about raising the fee to 60 EUR to discourage schwarzfahrenIn Hamburg they started making all passengers get on on the front of the bus, so they have to show or buy a ticket from the driver.  In Berlin, there is a Facebook page Schwarzfahren Berlin with 13,871 "fans." People riding the U-Bahn or S-Bahn with a smart phone can put in where they are controlling. They also have discussions about what happens if you get caught a second time, or whether it's legal to control outside of the train. Kinda funny.

1 comment:

  1. So nett ein Bild! Vielleicht es Sommer ist!