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In my previous article Some Thoughts About People From The Fare Inspection On VTA Lightrails, I’d mentioned some funny things people say when they were checked for their ticket. Today, I had that um… same opportunity to make something up because I didn’t have a ticket!
So you may be wondering why I would not buy a ticket after noticing that there are people checking tickets on the light rail pretty much every day and that the fare checking “department” is overstaffed. Well, I actually did buy a ticket (this statement itself generates a host of ideas)! After some careful analysis, I’ve concluded that either a) I’d picked my change out of the change slot and didn’t take the ticket with me, or b) I’d picked up the ticket and threw it out with a few other tickets from the previous days. Either way, the fare cost for this particular ride is about $200 higher than I’d expected!
“I did buy a ticket”.
From the way that the fare inspector reacted when I told him that, it’s clear that he hears this pretty much every day. He automatically became “defensive” and assured me that it doesn’t matter what I did or whether I had bought it and lost it, etc., etc. At first, it seemed like a pretty big over-reaction to such a simple statement, but then as a I thought about it, it made a lot of sense.
As a fare inspector, you are faced with people (the majority of which are not particularly wealthy as they don’t have a car in California) who you need to give a $200 ticket to. Can you imagine the barrage of excuses you’ll get on a daily basis? How do you remain compassionate when people treat you like you’re robbing them every day? It’s no wonder fare inspectors appear tired most of the time we see them! It seems like a pretty hard job!
Another interesting idea is that most of the time, when they hear “I did buy a ticket”, the person probably doesn’t have a ticket! Over a long period of time, wouldn’t their feelings adapt to assume that people probably don’t have a ticket when they say that? It makes me wonder about the phrase “innocent until proven guilty” and reminds me of the Star Trek Episode The Drumhead. This seems like a situation where the fare inspectors would probably assume the person is guilty in their hearts (just because 99% of the time the person is guilty) before the “trial” is really over. On a more general note, do we really keep an open mind going into situations where we think we know what’ll happen?
Philosophical issues aside, it would appear that I’d misjudged the cost of getting a monthly pass vs. buying a light rail ticket every day. While the costs are technically similar (since I work from home some of the time and only use the light rail to get to work), that analysis is under the assumption that I remember to buy a ticket every day! That, I can tell you, is a gross error! Who knows how many times I’ve forgetten? Plus, even if I “get it right” by buying a ticket, I can forget to take it, lose it, accidentally throw it out before I use it, etc. It’s a lot like the probabilistic grading policy in A Negative Score On A Homework Reveals Some Interesting Things About Myself. You may get the right answer, but there is always a chance that you may accidentally put the answer on the wrong line or in the wrong box!
Let’s take a look at some advantages of the monthly pass over buying a single ticket at a time:
- The pass gets mailed to you, so you avoid the times when the ticket machine is broken.
- You always have the pass with you, so you never miss a train because you were too slow in buying a ticket (because you didn’t have change or maybe because you weren’t carrying money).
- When you get a ticket, you generally exit the train, wasting valuable time while the officer writes you a ticket.
- You have to remember to pay the ticket, which you can’t do right away.
- The ticket costs $200.
- The ticket is a source of stress that may affect other areas of your life and occupy your thoughts longer than just the act of getting it and paying it.
If you add all those together and see how much time is wasted, even a few hours a month at $50/hour is a very significant amount (transportation costs wise)! Overall, it would seem that paying for one ticket at a time is much more expensive than I’d originally thought!
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Some Light Rail Delays Triggers Thoughts About Perception
Some Thoughts About People From The Fare Inspection On VTA Lightrails
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The Strange Accuracy of Bus And Train Schedules
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Brightness and The Circle Of Lights
A Chat At Opera Spawns An Eye Experiment
Eye Experiment Observations Part II
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