On Bus Ticket Checkers

We have a good public transit system in Klaipeda; lots of busses, running regularly. (It helps that the city is long and thin, so the busses can mostly just run down the main street!)

You have options for buying a bus ticket; paper or on a card, discounts for students and seniors, monthly/yearly passes, etc. All of these options are impacted, though, by bus ticket checkers. The expectation is that you’ll validate your ticket when you get on the bus by scanning your paper/card against the card readers. Occasionally, a ticket checker team will be located at a bus stop, and will get on the bus, make sure that everyone is has paid for and validated your ticket, and then get off. Then, the bus continues on it’s way.

I was thinking about this recently, relative to the concept of a carrot and/or a stick.

This approach for bus checking is all stick – if you don’t have a valid ticket/pass, you get taken off the bus and fined. The bus doesn’t let people off at that stop until their ticket has been checked. This produces an interesting experience, where you’re not happy to see the ticket checkers, and it makes the entire experience slightly unpleasant. You have a little sense of fear – “Did I remember to scan my pass?”; “What happens if my pass doesn’t scan?”; etc. It’s also a waste of a minute or two, as the bus is sitting there waiting for the check to finish.

It could be a completely different experience if there was also a carrot.

What if, when the ticket checkers came on the bus, everyone who had a valid ticket got that ride for free? You could still have the stick – fines – for those who don’t have a ticket, but the incentive of getting a free ride would make the interaction with the ticket checker completely different. You’d be happy to get your ticket validated. The bus driver could probably even open the doors to get off the bus right away – you might allow a couple non-paying riders to escape, but most people would have the choice to stay for a free ticket.

I recognize that this isn’t a likely outcome, and is highly-influenced by cultural factors; however, I thought the idea of a carrot and a stick for bus ticket checking was one that could change that entire experience.