Fare evasion in public transport caused a loss of 9.6 million euros to the operator Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) in 2017. Almost half of this cost was due to passengers sneaking into the metro with fake cards.
According to the estimates of the consortium Autoritat de Transport Metropolità (ATM), around 22,200 trips were unpaid daily in 2016. This represents an economic impact of 12,500 euros per day. Up to 40% of the loss comes from using a fake cards.
The fake cards market
Fake cards consists in hacked original tickets. Defrauders delete the numerical series on the back of the card with a machine and re-activate it by cloning the magnetic strip of a new card. They can only do this operation once because the paper “wears out” if they do it more than twice.
In Barcelona there is a clandestine market of cloned cards. Scammers sell any ATM bonus at half price. They also give them away for free in exchange of a bunch of original worn tickets.
Actions against fake cards
Sources of ATM affirm they detected these cards in 2015. Consequently, police increased investigation and detention actions with the aim of identifying and prosecuting fraudulent behavior.
When a ticket inspector encounters a fake card, they seize the ticket and fine the commuter with 100€ for not travelling with a valid ticket. In addition, they sue them for falsification of a bond and its use. After a trial, fare dodgers have to pay a penalty of around 800 euros, as well as the civil responsibility calculated by ATM and requested by the judge.
To effectively detect these tickets and to deter fare evasionin general, TMB periodically intensifies ticket controls. The most recent example was last week.
New transport card
In addition, the Catalan Government will replace the current prepaid public transport model with a new integrated fare system at the end of the year. A new contact-less transport title called T-Mobilitat (T-Mobility) will integrate a chip and an identification number. This will make card cloning very difficult. In fact, ATM assures it will make the current manipulating practice impossible.
T-Mobilitat will allow to calculate the price of public transport in a personalized way. Thus, each commuter will pay according to the kilometers they tour and their frequency of public transport use. This will greatly simplify the current system. In Barcelona alone, there are 88 types of cards. With T-Mobilitat, there will only be one throughout the territory.
The first pilot test will take place in Barcelona this fall. A year later, the system will be operative in the ATM city network and late 2019 it should throughout Catalonia.
Information on fake cards and fare evasion in Barcelona’s public transport has been obtained from an article from La Vanguardia and its external links.