Xavier Arrufat, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Barcelona -based AWAAIT* Artificial Intelligence
Fare evasion is sometimes conducted on an organised basis. What strategies are used by the smartest fare dodgers?
They’re quite sophisticated! We’ve seen the emergence in recent years of mobile apps that alert passengers of upcoming ticket inspections, allowing fare dodgers to simply change their route to avoid being fined. The Spanish cities of Barcelona and Madrid have overcome this challenge by working with Apple to have the apps removed from the AppStore. Some have taken it one step further, like in Stockholm, where a group of “professional fare-dodgers” campaigns for free public transport. Membership is subscription-based, with the money going into a “solidarity fund” which is used to pay for members’ fines when they get caught free riding.
Is it possible to effectively combat this type of behaviour?
The Swedish group poses a particular challenge, but it’s an extreme and isolated case. In most other places, ticket inspection is crucial. More and more networks are relying on enhanced inspection planning and targeted operations. Predictive data, or artificial intelligence coupled with artificial vision, enables operators to clearly identify which sections of the network and times of day are most prone to fare evasion. AWAAIT has developed a video surveillance system that can detect fare dodgers by the speed at which they go through the barrier. When someone doesn’t insert a ticket, our app sends the inspectors operating inside the station a visual alert via their mobile. They can then identify and intercept the potential offender within minutes. The system detects 95% of fare evaders. Basically, it works like a motorway speed camera: the risk of getting caught deters would-be free-riders – and the more cameras there are, the more effective it is.
Is there is any single solution that’s more effective than others?
I don’t think so. The answer lies in combining different approaches: dissuasion doesn’t work without fare enforcement, and vice-versa; without ticket barriers at platform entrances, ticket inspections are less effective; without social fares or seemingly fair pricing, passengers don’t fully buy in to their transport network’s rules and regulations. And if operators don’t communicate clearly or deal thoroughly with penalty fares, the system remains lacking. It’s all about striking the right balance.