Fare Control and Construction Costs

Proof-of-payment with ungated train stations is a useful technique for reducing construction costs. It simplifies the construction of stations, since there is no need for a headhouse or mezzanine – people can go directly from the street to the platform. A station without fare control requires just a single elevator, or two if side platforms are desired, and can be built shallowly using cut-and-cover. Cities across the size spectrum, perhaps only stopping short of hypercities, should take heed and use this to build urban rail more cheaply.

Is this a common cost control technique?

No. The vast majority of low-construction cost countries use faregates, which is why I was reticent to recommend proof-of-payment as a cost mitigation strategy. Spain, Italy, Korea, and Sweden are all faregated; among the world’s lowest-cost countries, I believe only Finland and Switzerland use proof-of-payment fare collection on urban rail.

However, there are exceptions. In Italy, the Brescia Metro uses proof-of-payment. This is not typical for the country or the region – Italian metros have fare control, like the vast majority of systems outside Germany and Germany-influenced countries. However, because Brescia is small, the system was forced to engage in value engineering, removing scope that would be routine in larger cities like Milan. The majority was built cut-and-cover or above-ground; the typical urban Italian metro is entirely bored. Italian metro systems prefer short stations on new lines to minimize costs and provide capacity through automated operations and extremely high frequency; Brescia takes this to an extreme and has 30-meter trains. Among these cost minimization tactics is the lack of fare control. The result of this entire package is that Brescia spent 915 million euros on a 13.7 km metro system.

Station size and station cost

So far, we believe that the cost of the station, excavation excluded, should be proportional to the floor area. This is based on something told to us in an interview about electrical system costs for the Boston Green Line Extension, which is light rail in a trench rather than a tunneled metro system, so I recommend caution before people repeat this uncritically.

Moreover, on somewhat more evidence, it appears that the cost of station excavation should be proportional to the volume excavated. Some of the evidence for this is circumstantial: media reports and government reports on the construction of such urban rail projects as Second Avenue Subway, Grand Paris Express, and the RER specify the volume of excavation as a measure of the difficulty of construction. But it’s not just circumstantial. In Paris, the depth of some of the GPX stations has led to some construction complications. Moreover, preliminary interviews in Paris suggest, albeit not definitively, that station construction costs are predominantly a matter of dig volume. Finally, the insistence on short platforms and high frequency as a cost saving technique on new-build metro systems in Italy as well as in Denmark and on the Canada Line in Vancouver is suggestive too, even if it says nothing about whether the relationship between volume and cost is linear, degressive, or superlinear.

How does one minimize station costs with POP?

Proof-of-payment means that there is no fare control between the street and the station. This means any of the following ways of constructing station access become available:

  • Cut-and-cover with the platform on level -1, with direct stair and elevator access from the street. The Berlin U-Bahn is built this way, with access points in street medians where available, such as U8 on Brunnenstrasse. It’s easy to build staircases at each end of the platform to increase access, with an elevator in the middle.
  • Bored tunnel with large enough bores to fit the platform within the bore. The Barcelona method for this is to use 12-meter bores, but smaller, cheaper versions exist with smaller trains, for example in Milan. It’s also possible to use double-O-tube TBMs for this, but ordinarily they are more expensive than twin bores. Access involves vertical bores down to the platform with elevators or slant bores with escalators; there is no need for intermediate levels or entry halls.
  • Bored tunnel with cut-and-cover stations, with no mezzanine levels. Here, the dig volume is unchanged, and the saving from lack of fare control is only in the finishes and elevator costs, not the excavation.

It is noteworthy that the most common technique for metro construction, by far, is the last one, where the savings from POP are the smallest. The vast majority of world metros have fare control, including in low-cost countries, and this perhaps makes metro builders not notice how two separate ways of reducing costs – cut-and-cover and POP – interact especially well together. Nonetheless, this is a real saving.

What does this mean?

A technique can be uncommon in low-cost countries and yet be useful in reducing construction costs. It is useful to think of the way Madrid, Milan, Turin, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, and Seoul build their urban rail systems as good, but not always perfect. A trick that these cities might not pay attention to may still be good. The caveat is that it requires a good explanation for why they have not employed it; in the case of Italy, I believe it’s simply that the non-German world views fare control as the appropriate way to run a metro system and POP as a light rail technique and therefore only good for low-volume operations. There may also be backward compatibility issues – Brescia is a new build, like POP Copenhagen, whereas Milan is building extensions on top of a gated system.

Nonetheless, the evidence from station costs, the success of POP operations in Germany even on very busy lines, and the experience of Brescia all suggest that POP is good for metro construction in general. Cities smaller than New York building new systems should use it exclusively, and cities that already have faregates should tear them down to improve passenger circulation and facilitate the construction of POP lines in the future at lower cost.


  1. Onux

    I don’t have any backup or figures, but my understanding has always been the rule of thumb for surface urban excavation (for instance skyscraper foundations, where shoring is required) is that cost is the square of depth, for a given area. So a one story excavation would cost 1, a two story would cost 4, a three story would be 9, etc.

    Cut and cover should use identical techniques as foundation excavation; if this rule of thumb is true eliminating a mezzanine level should have significant savings (note the “stories” above are nominal, actual depth does matters; a platform level at -1 may be two “stories” down for conventional excavation purposes because of the need for track bed, the height of trains, etc., while adding a mezzanine puts the platform at three “stories”).

    Even if the rule of thumb is not exact, excavation cost cannot be based solely on volume except for the shallowest projects. Shoring, retaining walls, tie backs, dewatering when below the water table are all real costs that rise with depth when excavating from the surface.

    In general, yes, station costs are proportional to area, as with any construction, which is why every developer on earth evaluates construction cost on a per-m2 basis for pro-formas. But a big caveat: HVAC costs are actually based on volume. If you are building a building with normal floor heights, volume per floor area becomes basically constant, but for many recent vanity transit projects there are large open spaces or oversized heights (I’m thinking Calatrava PATH, ESA, and even Milpitas Transit Center). Also, fire code/smoke control requirements may incur non-linear life safety costs with oversized spaces underground; Alfred Twu may know more.

    • sirkulat

      I’m studying a ‘stacked’ cut/cover along Portland’s Naito Pkwy, Broadway Br to portal south of Market St.
      From Broadway Br twin tunnel under Willamette to Rose Quarter ‘mezzanine’ over center platform.
      Rose Quarter cut/cover via Halliday to NE 6th Ave east portal and then existing 7th Ave MAX surface station.
      I figure Naito Pkwy route as more “earthquake resilient” than the proposed westside 6th Ave route.
      ‘Stacked’ cut/cover builds a subsurface “wall” to absorb shock and hold soils and is least disruptive to construct.
      The first west portal is a spur to the low point beneath the Morrison bridgehead. The second west portal is past Market St.
      A third spur via Columbia to a portal as proposed near SW 16th Ave and Jefferson. Cut/cover to at least 5th/6th Aves to
      an existing underground parking garage for 2-level station. A 2-level station at Saturday Market with elevators and access
      from both sides of Naito Pkwy. FYI, the proposed westside 6th Ave route will never leave the drawing board.

      • Luke

        A bit off-topic, but wasn’t the Green Line extension to Tigard canceled when the last tax increase failed? I’ll be very glad to learn that it’s only temporarily put on-hold; for a city as liberal as Portland seems to be, there’s a really, really mixed attitude toward and execution of transit and TOD.

  2. Tonami Playman

    Are there any benefits to using to mixed system with fare gates at the busiest stations while using POP on the lightly used ends or does it create extra operational problems?

    • fjod

      The Dutch and British mainline rail systems both do this. It works fine, especially for small stations where the investment in gates isn’t worth it.

    • Matthew A da Silva

      This seems like it would be the best approach for modernizing US legacy commuter rail systems. Spend the money on faregates in your city center stations and at major outlying stations, but just have simple POP validators at smaller stations and rely on a combination of having a faregate at at least ONE station on any given trip (along with a an auto maximum fare for failing to tap out), plus periodic spot checks (but at a lower intensity than a pure POP system).

    • Henry Miller

      That is stupid, the worst of both worlds. You still need roving fare inspectors, plus your busy stations now have longer lines, or have to be much bigger and slower. You need your busiest stations to be as fast as possible.

      Remember the worst case, someone running late, how late can they be and get to the train already in the station before it leaves? (Or possibly just pulling in depending on dwell time) if they have to stop and fumble for their pass that reduces the time. If they have to wait for the person in front of them and the gate to cycle it is even longer. All that adds up to the potential customer deciding to drive because at least then it feels like the delays are under their control.

      Pop means that when the train door is open you can just get on. Gates increase the odds that the train door closes in front of you and now you are one more cycle late. The more times the door is open the better (not to be confused with the longer the door is open). The less time it takes to get from your front door the better.

      Of course if someone designs a [magical] gate that is always open except when someone who hasn’t paid tries to cross I’ll revise the above.

      Note that your ideal customer is on a monthly pass. The gate is just an annoyance to him. Make things as easy as possible for the paying customer. Fumbling for your pass once a month while on a moving train isn’t going to cost much. Fumbling for the pass while looking at your train getting ready to close its doors is deadly. Looking for the shortest gate line must never be a thing.

      • df1982

        You’re really overestimating how much of a hassle it is for commuters to swipe passes at a fare gate, and modern fare gate systems are able to process a very high throughput of passengers (see the major Japanese stations for this). In my own experience it has been very rare to miss a train due to the couple of seconds required to pass through a gate (and if you’re in a hurry you can always get the card ready for swiping on the way to the station).

        Australian suburban systems do what Tonami suggests, with fare gates only in the CBD stations (Sydney also has them at its major suburban hubs). If you have a network with a large percentage of passengers either alighting or boarding at a few stations, then you can achieve a high rate of fare compliance with a much lower number of inspectors, which is the main advantage of this approach. Whether it’s cost-effective or not is a different matter.

        I guess the question for Alon would be if there is any benefit for an integrated NY regional rail system to adopt this for stations like Grand Central and Penn. Gates would be very hard to retrofit into the current layout of these stations, but if they were reconfigured for a smaller number of through platforms then fare gates could be more easily installed.

        • Alon Levy

          I guess the question for Alon would be if there is any benefit for an integrated NY regional rail system to adopt this for stations like Grand Central and Penn.

          Absolutely not. Penn Station and Grand Central are probably the worst places in New York for faregates. The reason is that faregates constrain through-capacity, even when the smartcard implementation is very smooth, as in Singapore or Taipei – Singapore has many entrances and batteries of faregates, all staffed, at major stations, and this forces larger, more expensive stations. Some of Singapore’s latest MRT stations are S$500 million each, and I don’t even think they’re mined.

          The main use of faregates is that the cost of fare barriers scales with the number of stations and that of POP enforcement scales with train traffic or with passenger traffic. However, if you only gate central stations, you have to maintain POP infrastructure. Paris gets away with this on the RER for three reasons:

          1. The RER stations have ample space for fare barriers, so the constraints on passenger throughput are only visible during unusual crush times, beyond the usual rush hour; this is not like Grand Central or Penn Station.
          2. The RER has extensive intramural traffic, so the RER B functions as a Métro line in the city with faregates and then passenger traffic thins and it acts like a POP S-Bahn when it crosses the Périphérique.
          3. Even subject to these restrictions, this practice is likely suboptimal, and Paris gets away with it because it’s huge, same way it builds M14 extensions in the suburbs for a higher cost than Berlin builds in Mitte and still has good cost per rider; New York similarly has suboptimal practices leading to enormous construction costs, and even then SAS Phase 1 was a pretty good value proposition.

          • Tonami Playman

            So If I’m getting this right, if you’re gonna use POP on any portion of the line, it’s best to use it for the entire line which avoids the added fixed and maintenance cost of fare gates. And if you’re gonna use fares gates, then use it for the entire line because using partial POP adds operational costs. But of the two POP is cheaper to implement which means combining the two is has no cost saving benefit.

          • df1982

            Fare inspectors is not an all-or-nothing thing. Plenty of fully gated systems still employ inspectors because no system is fully fare evasion proof. E.g. the Paris metro often has platoons of inspectors stationed in the passages at interchange stations. NY also has subway police, although it seems to be quite rare to be subject to a random ticket check there.

            A network which has 90% of passengers heading to or from a handful of central gated stations needs far fewer inspectors to achieve high fare compliance than a fully open system like Berlin’s, where any lengthy U-Bahn ride has a fairly decent chance of resulting in a ticket check.

            I wouldn’t adopt a blanket anti-fare gate stance like Alon, but rather judge each system on a case by case basis. If installing gates at 2-3 major stations means you can employ 80% fewer inspectors (for example) and doesn’t affect passenger throughput, then maybe it is a cost-effective move.

          • Alon Levy

            I have literally never seen an inspection in Paris intra muros. I know they exist, but they’re rare. In Montreal they do faregates-and-POP and there are civil rights lawsuits about it, on the grounds that if there are faregates then it’s a violation of civil rights to demand that people produce a ticket.

          • fjod

            I think whether this kind of hybrid model is desirable probably depends on a few factors:
            – The practicality of installing and maintaining gate infrastructure at rural / unstaffed / unsheltered stations.
            – The unidirectionality of the flow: If almost all flow passes through one or two stations, this means you can gate these stations and essentially get all the benefits of a gated system with a fraction of the cost. I know of some suburban lines in and around London where only the terminal (and maybe one or two major interchanges) is gated and roving fare control is essentially non-existent. But 90%+ of the flows are still covered so the lost revenue is minor.
            – The crowding of the trains and stations: the more crowded, the harder it is to actually do fare inspection. The last time I was stopped on a POP system was in rush hour in Prague, and it was manageable because it just wasn’t that busy. But you couldn’t do the same on trains which are fully crowded or in space-constrained stations; there just isn’t the space.
            – The capacity of the system: fare-checking a 250-metre-long train (or a system that handles frequent trains of that length) is a big logistical operation. Letting these people walk through ticket gates, less so.

          • Max Wyss

            Quite often, POP and ticket structure come hand in hand. POP gets efficient when people use passes (monthly/annual). Make the prices for these passes attractive, and the “regulars” don’t buy tickets, but have passes. So, during rush hour the big majority of passengers have a pass (and even if they happen to not have them with them, the fares are paid). That means inspections during rush hour are not thaaaat necessary.

          • Herbert

            A line where one station has the bulk of the boardings / alightings is undesirable operationally if perhaps sometimes inevitable.

            That station being the terminus is just poor line design and in many cases 21st century consequences of 19th century penny pinching (terminus stations)

      • Onux

        “ Of course if someone designs a [magical] gate that is always open except when someone who hasn’t paid tries to cross I’ll revise the above.”

        Far from magic, this should be entirely possible using modern RFID tech, which can read and ID shipping containers as they drive by a reader at highway speed. Walk through a gate with a valid pass/ticket and the system automatically taps you on or off, walk through without and gates shut a few feet in front (or the system flashes/alarms to alert an attendant (which may be more of a deterrent given human psychology regarding certainty of penalty and public approbation). There are kinks to work out like setting the false positive/negative rates and how to handle people walking through together, but nothing that is unsolved with current image processing tech.

        Advantages are:
        Avoiding fare enforcement cost with a cost possibly cheaper than conventional fare gates (these gates would rarely cycle).
        All gates can be handicap gates.
        Gates can be bidirectional.
        Ability to implement distance based fares which have better fare recovery ratios than flat or zoned fares, which POP cannot do.

        Disadvantages are:
        Like any gated system the advantages may not outweigh the benefits of POP.
        Single use fare media needs RFID, which will probably be more costly than current tech (yes, you want as many people as possible on passes/monthly cards, but any system has to accommodate visitors/occasional users).

        • yuuka

          Japanese faregates are already programmed like that – they stay open most of the time, and only slam shut on you with accompanying warning tones if you don’t present a valid ticket, be it paper with magnetic strip on the back, or an RFID card.

          I know some others were looking into facial recognition but the First Amendment/”but muh mass surveillance” types would get panic attacks, so it wouldn’t fly in the West.

          • Herbert

            Unless of course the mass surveillance is done by a private for profit entity

          • Henry

            Facial recognition also gets people’s faces *wrong* on occasion, so on those grounds we really should not use it as any sort of sole proof of identity.

        • Eric2

          “Ability to implement distance based fares which have better fare recovery ratios than flat or zoned fares, which POP cannot do.”

          This can be done by requiring validation before boarding and after alighting, without gates. The inspector can check whether you have validated before boarding or not. If you only validate before and not after, you pay maximum fare.

    • Charles Haletky

      San Francisco Muni does this on their light rail system. The underground stations all use faregates, and the surface stops are open, with passengers tagging farecards at the train doorways or paying at the farebox up front with the operator. Fare inspectors ride both above and below ground.

  3. wiesmann

    Another benefit of having no fare control gate is that the railway station’s amenities are available to the outside world, this means more customers for the shops and restaurants in the station, and the underground passages can serve as pedestrian paths. The benefit is less clear for lavatories… This advantage is reinforced in countries – like Switzerland – with strict opening hours laws as different rules apply within stations: shops within the station can be open longer.

    In Japan, where there is fare control gates, small shops sometimes have two different windows to serve both sides of the fence.

    • Nilo

      It’s much simpler to just move into the 20th century and let stores stay open late, instead of building retail inside subterranean stations.

  4. Martin Kolk

    Very good post. An additional (obvious, but not mentioned) advantage is also that escalators and access points can be dimensioned somewhat smaller, as the infrastructure and crowd control for fare gates require physical space. The solution for a busy station with 10+ exit points in East Asian systems seems to be to gate the area very close to the tracks, but this also of course requires a lot of extra excavation space (and unnecessary passenger movements on mezzanine levels or similar).

    An interesting example of the efficiency of POP is that private inner-city buses in Taipei (that are for-profit companies, that actually pay/bid for the license to the government to run inner-city busses, if I understand it correctly), use POP on all buses as it decrease station stops, and thus generator more revenue for the company. They still have basic fares by distance achieved by swiping a card on both entry and exit.

    • John

      Taipei’s buses are not POP, or at least not any more POP than any other bus system that doesn’t use conductors–the driver is theoretically responsible for enforcing the fare, but in practice there’s no fare enforcement at all other than social pressure.

      • Martin Kolk

        I guess it is partly philosophical, but I think a system can accurately be called POP where you sweep yourself at the time you want, enter at any door you want, and where unless the bus is really empty the conductor will not keep track on if you pay (in contrast to a system where you can only enter at the front door). It is true that it seems not to be really enforced by random fare checks, but rather just by personal willingness to pay (my impression was not that social pressure from other passengers were a major part at all, I observed plenty of people not paying and never saw any kind of reaction from any other passenger, though occasionally I observed a shout from the driver on a very empty bus).

  5. yuuka

    I feel that the importance of good design of fare control areas is understated here, in that well laid out fare control allows for most of the benefits you describe here.

    The original New York IRT, and some of the Ginza and Marunouchi Line stations, have fare control directly open up to the side platforms at level -1. The only thing at level -2 is an underpass to switch directions, which one could possibly do away with in an environment of particular austerity.

    If the expected usage of the station means that one is only going to have only a handful of gates anyway, placing them directly at platform level isn’t that bad an idea, especially if the expectation is that people cross the street to their desired platform beforehand. In Berlin, they cross to the middle of the road anyway, enclosing the space isn’t that much more…

    Optionally, with the Barcelona method, the headhouse at street level would only have to be marginally larger to fit fare gates anyway. I’m more looking at Vancouver, who just fenced up their exits for the most part and called themselves a gated system instead of POP.

  6. Matthew

    It may be that low costs permit agencies to build much larger stations than they really should. My experience travelling around Madrid is that many newer stations seem excessively large. They can afford to put in large mezzanines with fare gates and force you to walk extra long distances to get to platforms and they aren’t bothered by the cost of building such large spaces. Don’t get me started on Barajas airport either.

    • Herbert

      A lot of Madrid metro is very obviously “built for growth”.

      Remember that most of it was built during Spain’s real estate bubble and Madrid in particular wants to grow quite a bit.

      And if you’re building stations cheaply anyway, rather have and not need than need and not have

    • Eric2

      That’s funny, I had the impression that the Madrid metro skimped on station size. Platforms were short and tunnels narrow. The tunnel transfers between line 6 and other lines felt claustrophobic. Admittedly I only went there once.

  7. ckrueger99

    How about cut and cover with side platforms, while still having fare control? This seems like it would be pretty cheap.

  8. Reedman Bassoon

    There are two items that come to mind about POP, and the example I think of is BART.
    1. What do you do about fares that vary with distance? BART uses scan-in and scan-out to implement this.
    2. With wide open stations, what do you do with the homeless (living in the transit system and using it as their toilet and drug den.) The #1 failure mode for BART escalators is human excrement (servicing BART escalators requires wearing a haz mat suit. Really.). When the last BART train of the day pulls into SFO airport, every person without luggage/ticket gets directed outside (so SFO doesn’t become an overnight shelter).

    • Matthew A da Silva

      Problem #1 has already been solved worldwide. If after tapping in, you fail to tap out of the system within a given amount of time, you get auto-charged the maximum fare on the system, incentivizing people to tap both in and out to accurately demonstrate their actual trip distance.

      Problem #2 is a straw man. Stations can still “close” without faregates. A staff member comes by, clears the station out, and locks it up for the night, just like they would on a system with faregates. It’s not like faregates stop homeless folks from camping out in the system during open hours anyway, nor should agencies go out of the way to kick anyone out who is otherwise behaving.

      • yuuka

        The hard part is most likely the “clear the station out” bit, unless you have transit police escorting said staff member – but then the same SJW types would rage over having police involved in such work.

        Faregates sends a strong signal that “you *must* have a ticket past this point” which can deter most, the most hardcore types who would jump a gate would also probably have to be institutionalized anyway as a threat to public safety (see: the guy who derailed an NYC subway train)

        • Herbert

          Why should transit operators be in the business of harassing the homeless?

          I think it’s the job of a city government to ensure nobody gets left behind…

        • Eric2

          If you have a faregate, you also have an area outside the faregate where homeless can camp out.

          You also can’t have a narrow staircase directly opposite the faregate, that’s a fire and crushing hazard.

      • Henry Miller

        Easy to say, but the devil is in the details. It becomes hard quickly because the simple cases are solved, or politically not solvable.

        There are a lot of simple answers that are wrong.

        • Herbert

          Several places have solved homelessness by simply housing them.

          What on earth are you talking about?

          • Henry Miller

            That works for some. However I have met a few paranoid types who won’t use such housing because the only reason “they” would give them housing is so there was a place to plant the bugs that are watching. One successfully avoided prison by a plea off insanity (this is not nearly as easy as it sounds to pull off). The others are harmless, but they won’t accept your housing and so they remain homeless.

            You can solve a part of the problem, but the problem still remains. Solving a part is useful, but don’t pretend you have solved it.

  9. Gok (@Gok)

    I bet platform screen doors also reduce station volume, since you don’t need as much space for the safety zone between the platform and the tracks. Another example where something that seems like an up-front cost driver (automation and doors) is often a net win when you look at the whole system.

    • Herbert

      I don’t understand why not a single station of U2/U3 in Nuremberg has platform screen doors.

      The automatic trains stop at the same place every time and at Hauptbahnhof there’s even paint on the floor to indicate where the doors stop…

      • R. W. Rynerson

        One side effect of Denver’s old-fashioned high floor LRT lines is that the passenger door behind the operator’s cab must be lined up with the concrete “High Block” ramp for the disabled. Within a few weeks of the first line opening an observant operations specialist noticed that some passengers were queuing where the other doors would open and he had stencils made up and the sign crew marked the spots. It’s not perfect (and may have been blown up by the laid back pandemic passenger counts) but it worked well. In Portland’s low floor system it’s more like a bus stopping — operators make passengers guess where doors will be.

    • Richard Mlynarik

      I bet platform screen doors also reduce station volume, since you don’t need as much space for the safety zone between the platform and the tracks.

      What on earth do you mean by “safety zone”? The tiny alcove below the platform edge where a fallen person can attempt to roll to avoid a train?
      That’s likely to be there anyway (on a high-platform system) just for rare cases of worker safety, and because it costs nothing. No station volume is being saved, just some filling-in of the excavated station volume.

      And anyway, order of magnitudes, people, orders of magnitude.

      There are good reasons for platform screen doors in some stations of some systems (highly crowded, high throughput, or under-platform-sized), but “clutching at straws” isn’t one of them.

      • Henry Miller

        Platform screen doors seem to be a requirement to have fully automated (driverless) trains. As such all platforms should have them. They might or might not be part of a faregate system, but they need to exist for modern trains.

        • Rico

          Platform screen doors are not a requirement for fully automated trains. Vancouver’s Skytrain does not have them. That said they are a good idea that would pay for itself.

      • Gok

        I just meant that the platform could be narrower for the same human capacity since it’s safe for people to stand right up against the glass, as opposed to a bit back from the tracks. But I’d believe if I’m wrong!

  10. Yom Sen

    In France the trend is to faregates. Metros in Lyon, Lille and Rennes have added (or are adding) faregates at all stations. They’re also adding faregates for TGV at the busiest stations.
    Main argument is always fare evasion which was between 13% and 18% with POP system, see here: https://actu.fr/hauts-de-france/lille_59350/les-portiques-metro-la-station-gare-lille-europe-sont-fonctionnement_14044344.html
    Issue in Lille is that the combination of ease at entering the stations with total lack of staff at stations (and no driver and not even shops) makes it easier psychologically to fraud.
    From what I remember of Lille’s metro it wouldn’t be difficult to adapt the stations so no significant cost other than the faregates themselves.

    • Alon Levy

      Berliners aren’t fundamentally more obedient than Parisians (or provincial French, I guess). Berlin has frequent POP inspections – as does the RER in the suburbs where there are no faregates; how frequent were the inspections in Lille? There’s also a fare regime that incentivizes monthly passes – a monthly pass costs about as much as 36 single-ride tickets. In Paris the breakeven point intra muros is a lot higher, more than 50 if you buy tickets in carnets, so the incentive to cheat is greater.

      • Herbert

        If you believe people from Munich, Berliners are uniquely disobedient.

        Anecdotally, Berlin fare inspectors are apparently more likely to use physical force and fare inspections more common than in other German cities…

      • Yom Sen

        In my experience in the 90s, inspections in Lille were quite frequent, mostly at metro stations exits and in buses. There were indeed many passengers without ticket each time so I’m not surprised by this fare evasion rate of 18%. Minthly passes were common, I just checked: today the monthly pass price is 40 single-ride tickets (or 20 for under 25), so not very different from Berlin.

        In Geneva when I had a 700 CHF yearly pass, I was controlled maybe once or twice a year (fines of 80F…). No moral pressure to pay since nobody sees whether you have a pass/ticket or not (unlike in French buses where you have to show your pass to the driver or validate a ticket). On the other hand paying can be stressful when you arrive at the same time than the bus and the driver needs to wait for you to pay. However in my experience few people were without tickets at investigations. Looks like Genevois are more obedient than lillois. But this is the country where you can buy a newspaper in an openvbox in the street with nobody checking if you pay or not. Totally inconceivable in France, does it exist elsewhere in the world?

        • michaelrjames

          @Yom Sen

          I was thinking the same thing, ie. in Paris a lot of people use monthly tickets which are subsidised. When I lived there my Carte Orange cost me half the cover price. But there is also the price difference, ie. Berlin is more expensive: single ticket is €2.90 versus €1.90 in Paris; carnet price per single: €2.25 versus €1.49, and monthly pass in Berlin is €14.00 more than in Paris, and that’s using full price not the subsidised price that a lot of users get.

          But Alon is right about inspections being rare. When I lived there in the 80s and 90s, I’d guess you’d see them about once a year. But probably served its purpose: visibility and seriousness if caught. It is a considerable police action with a team blocking exit from the station and inspecting 100% of pax. I’m a bit sceptical about the 18% fare evasion: the only way to evade fares is to jump the faregates and there are not one in 5 pax jumping them! And in some places, eg. RER interchanges, they are full-size doors where the only evasion technique involves pushing thru behind another person.

          • Yom Sen

            I was writing about Lille which had no faregates until recently, not Paris…
            18% in 2014 in Lille is the number in the article I linked above

  11. R. W. Rynerson

    In Edmonton the original two April 1978 subway stations were shoebox shaped with turnstiles on the mezzanine. They were cover-and-cut, Pilings were drilled on the sides, a deck was placed on them, the street was reopened and mining went on beneath the deck. The preexisting small downtown pedestrian underground net was linked on the mezzanine. There were all of the normal problems with turnstiles, including alternate entrances closed at low volume hours.

    In November 1980 we switched to POP. When the next two subway stations were being planned there were suggestions that the mezzanine feature was not necessary. But, no! It seems that the underground pedestrian network was paid for to some degree by assessments on the connected properties. By fiscal slight of hand the transit system was assuming part of the costs of the underground pedway system. The new stations were not on the preexisting network but there were hopes of it being expanded.

    As a bonus on loading up Edmonton Transit with other people’s expenses there was an old-fashioned public restroom in downtown Edmonton run by the sewer department. Development took it out and a civic uproar ensued. Called before a city council committee their manager helpfully pointed out that the Central Station had a restroom. It was a single stall in a staff facility. Problem solved! Edmonton Transit had to rebuild the restroom to handle the heavy traffic and bear the maintenance cost of providing a de facto meeting place and recreation center.

    • michaelrjames

      That’s not the end of the world when the stuff being built is very useful. The solution to the funding issue is a value-capture tax levied on the uplift in property values of those that benefit from the development. The proceeds need to go back to transit or the authority responsible rather than be absorbed into general government revenue.

  12. Herbert

    Out of the four German metros, three explicitly have the rule that you can’t be on the platform without paying. Berlin is the odd one out here.

    Nuremberg U-Bahn even has “fare gates” that are nothing but light barriers that count every entrance and exit… Those have the advantage of giving pretty accurate and granular ridership data

    Retrofitting barriers is variously discussed politically but usually rejected as too little bang for the buck.

  13. Herbert

    In Turkey they have light rail with fare gates – at least in Istanbul and Antalya…

    Which imho makes the whole system needlessly intrusive and a barrier to the urban landscape but they prove it’s doable…

    • R. W. Rynerson

      Ref. urban landscape: Denver would not likely have LRT if a gated system had been insisted upon. The long downtown blocks on the named streets are long enough for 4-car SIemens LRV trains based on Frankfurt stadtbahn cars but the sidewalks and named streets are not wide enough to have permitted cages to be built without throttling pedestrian traffic. And even then, walking around the ends of the cage would have permitted fare violations. Nevertheless, for over two decades recent arrivals from “real” big cities have been telling us that somehow we should have gates, claiming that would end free-riding.

    • michaelrjames

      I’m fairly sure that the Curitiba BRT use fare gates, ie. pre-boarding inside the “station” platforms? In this case it is doing the opposite of what Alon worries about: instead of creating a bottleneck it relieves any bottleneck on boarding thru the multiple doors.

      • Herbert

        Isn’t.Curritiba building a rail system because buses ain’t cutting it any more?

        • michaelrjames

          @Herbert “Isn’t.Curritiba building a rail system because buses ain’t cutting it any more?”

          Yes, it is building Metro. You may have even learned that from me here. It’s the impact of prosperity or gentrification. Curitiba is a prosperous place and it has the highest car ownership in Brazil. The other factor is that their BRT became very popular and, as happened in my Australian city with a pretty good BRT, the buses couldn’t cope. Even with their own ROW. That’s the nature of buses and at peak hours it simply cannot be fixed. The number of buses already causes bus congestion, in the stations especially interchange stations and other bottlenecks (shared bridges or tunnels) especially where they converge in the centre. Bogota, with its very successful BRT has an even worse problem with super-crowded buses and difficulty fulfilling its function. In Curitiba, apparently riders would have to queue up outside the bus station buildings, ie. due to crowding inside waiting for buses.

          That is part of my argument about buses, including BRTs, being a false economy if it is obvious the city is big enough or is growing enough and is prosperous enough to warrant a rail-based solution. Building its BRT has merely delayed by two decades the building of a proper rail-based Metro in Brisbane. A few years ago the first plans to build a cross-river Metro in tunnels thru the CBD was costed at $16bn but went nowhere because it depended on the Feds coming to the funding party which they didn’t. They got the cost down by about half and the tunnels are getting built. The BRT was built because it was the “cheapest” option but it was short-termist NIMTOO thinking–especially when in this same period they built a lot of very long (one held the Australian record at the time) road tunnels that cost a fortune; done as PPPs they promptly went broke because the traffic modelling was completely silly (as everyone knew, it was adjusted until it satisfied the financing criteria) and were auctioned off at half the construction price (burning several billion of public grants and government-worker pension funds).

          • Herbert

            A big problem with brt is that converting it to light rail means massive service disruption…

            But that’s a bit the history of brt: the “success stories” all point to the need of replacing it with rail…

          • michaelrjames


            It turns out that the Brisbane BRT was covertly designed by its engineers to be compatible with future conversion to light rail. I think that would have been a great thing to do–not least because it would overcome the severe bus congestion experienced at several bottlenecks and the awful mess at certain big stations. But politicians refuse to countenance the concept of buses being feeders to the LRT spine because of popular hatred of 2-seat rides. That of course relates to the bad old days when one waited ages for a bus and then 3 came at once. Obviously the LRT would have a very high frequency, though after 6pm is always an issue. Because the BRT ROW is exclusive it could feasibly be driverless.

            As to disruption during conversion, that’s why I promote that Parisian example of T3 using preformed track beds. It can be done entirely at night without disruption of service, and in any case the busway allows buses to switch to the other (contraflow) side. It would have been slower to construct but quite feasible IMO.

          • Herbert

            Bus bunching is a problem on certain corridors. That’s why bvg likes to joke about it…

          • Henry

            Generally speaking this doesn’t work because you do need to install and test things and doing it overnights isn’t always possible, given that setting up and breaking down is going to eat into your time windows.

            Also people are bad at predicting the future. Seattle had a BRT tunnel that was supposed to be converted to light rail easily, but then what ended up being adopted as light rail was different than what was envisioned, so they ripped out the already installed tracks, had to lower the platforms, and basically redo a lot of other stuff anyways.

  15. Henry

    If you do have to have faregates, is it better to have them at street level or some intermediary mezzanine? From what I’ve seen the former is very common in London and the latter is common in New York.

    • michaelrjames

      @Henry: “s it better to have them at street level or some intermediary mezzanine?”

      It’s largely related to the fact that London is deep-bored tunnel with gigantic escalators, whereas NYC and Paris are cut-and-cover which leaves little choice but to have a mezzanine and which is much easier to create. Almost all London U stops have proper off-street stations, ie. occupying the ground floor of a building which they generally own (and lease above floors to others) while the reverse is true for NYC and Paris where almost all entrances and exits are directly on the street, literally on the pedestrian streetwalk. Even for CrossRail’s station on Oxford street (or just behind it) they bought a 12 storey building and demolished it to build a new ground-level station, and new building above it which will be commercial (and should mean they won’t lose money on the overall construction); this gave them the advantage/option of allowing an open space to bring natural light all the way down to the platforms below (or at least the escalators). In Sydney for SW-Metro they bought a 20-storey building and demolished it and are constructing the same kind of station and access.

    • Alon Levy

      I don’t think it matters terribly much? For example, the way Berlin sets up its stations, you could fit fare barriers either upstairs or downstairs. In both cases it would be equally hostile to transit users, especially ones who are in wheelchairs and need to use the elevator rather than the stairs.

      • Henry

        At least if you have it upstairs it obviates the need to have two sets of elevators as opposed to one, assuming upstairs is level with the street.

  16. Henry Miller

    A comment on a different post caused me to change my mind: fare gates done right is something I want. Not to ensure people pay, but to ensure kids can ride to only the places their parents set without getting kidnapped.

    My seven year old is smart enough to ride along to the local library, but he is also smart enough to figure out how to get to the local candy store. He isn’t smart enough to get home before bedtime. If someone tries to kidnap him he isn’t strong enough to stop it. Teens can get into a lot more trouble, as many parents can tell you (though they can also figure out how to get around without transit, limiting their options can be helpful). A faregate system that ensures kids can only get on and off at the stations would be very welcome to parents.

    Kidnapping isn’t nearly as big a problem as every parent I’ve ever talked to thinks it is. Still a transit system that can say you control where you kids (or senile in-laws…) can go will get parents to let their kids use the system, which is turn is very useful both for setting the lifelong habits of kids and making them glad it exists.

    Doing them right is hard though. Read the “muh mass surveillance” type comments above for just a glimpse at how it can go wrong. I’m not addressing these concerns but they are very real.

      • Herbert

        Normal children (whose family are not ridiculously rich or famous or sth.) getting kidnapped is a non-issue in the Global North….

        • Eric2

          Some people worry about it, and cases occasionally hit the news. Though, those cases seem to overwhelmingly be one parent taking it from the other in a custody dispute. If you’re in danger of that, you probably know it already.

        • Henry Miller

          You cannot use reason to deal with unreasonable fears. Most parents I know have unreasonable fears around kidnapping. The media has been spreading it for a while.

          You need to deal with unreasonable fears in other ways, and mitigating them is an answer.

    • Henry

      You can get kidnapped inside and outside of fare control much the same way, the security presence if it is there is not something that starts and ends abruptly at the gate line.

      Are there places that have strict exit/entry requirements for student passes, even? At least in NYC growing up we had a card that only had three rides per day that was only supposed to be used during certain periods of time (in practice, not really), but you could take those rides anywhere. Children can have extracurriculars any time at a wide variety of locations and it would be a massive PITA to administrate.

      • Henry Miller

        Schools are a lot stricter now than in the past. I can’t get into my kid’s school without the office unlocking the door.

        Giving kids unlimited access to public transit (via a family pass) is the ideal: they will use it because there are a lot of places to go and they don’t have drivers licenses. We just need to ensure that parents will allow the kids to take it. As soon as the parents need to go with the kid it is back in the car.

  17. Michael Whelan

    As a Washingtonian, this is a great read and I couldn’t agree with you more. Our faregates are a huge pain because tourists and other people who are not in the know assume you have to let the gate close before you can tap again to open it. Because the gates don’t move quickly, this causes huge backups. In reality, you can tap your card even as the gate is still open from the person just in front of you, but not enough people know this to avoid the congestion. Also, many stations have only a handful of gates and are therefore jammed when one or two of them malfunction (a frequent occurrence).

    From a construction cost perspective though, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference for us. Because of the famous Brutalist arches that characterize our stations, mezzanines don’t take up any space that wouldn’t have been dug up anyway.

    • Tonami Playman

      What about cooling costs down the line. Wouldn’t a larger station volume require more HVAC resources? though I don’t know how significant of a cost this is to operations.

      • michaelrjames

        @Tonami Playman: “Wouldn’t a larger station volume require more HVAC resources? ”

        I think the notion of HVAC demands being so dependent on station volume are much exaggerated. Especially when stations are mostly underground. Once a space is equilibrated to the target temperature (and this itself is less dependent on volume of air than what the solid stuff in the space is) it is largely dependent on the amount of heat produced/introduced. Today with LED lighting and electronic controls there is less heat input that historically, and of course much better insulation and knowledge of how to build these things–or retrofit them. In transit the biggest input (to stations, not tunnels) will be people and, depending on how the tunnels are ventilated, the equipment and for example whether platform doors (and then whether they are fully-sealed or half-height etc) are used. The cut-and-cover systems vent a lot of the train-generated heat directly to the outside via vents etc, largely powered by the trains’ movement. Deep tunnels can’t do that and I remember that London Underground tunnels have heated up some 5°+ over its century of operations because there is no escape for the heat–and geological sinks eventually don’t stop this happening. The same effect means less air exchange and so London’s deep tube lines have worse air quality (PM2.5) than any other system.
        If anything a large station volume aids air control by acting as both a buffer plus the simple fact that heat rises so it takes it away from where the people and trains are generating it.

        The heat in the tunnels is largely generated by the trains, with a small amount coming from station equipment and passengers. Around 79% is absorbed by the tunnels walls, 10% is removed by ventilation and the other 11% remains in the tunnels.[3]
        Temperatures on the Underground have slowly increased as the clay around the tunnels has warmed up; in the early days of the Underground it was advertised as a place to keep cool on hot days. However, over time the temperature has slowly risen as the heat sink formed by the clay has filled up. When the tunnels were built the clay temperature was around 14ºC; this has now risen to 19–26ºC and air temperatures in the tunnels now reach as high as 30ºC.[3]

    • Richard Mlynarik

      … NJ TRANSIT plans replace POP with faregates …

      The amount of cash Cubic Systems and allied consultants need to “invest” in agency staffers and local politicians in order to reap tens to hundreds of millions in payback is breathtakingly small.

      Los Angeles MTA also somehow “discovered” that POP didn’t work, too, all of a sudden, out of the blue, a few years back.

      Counter-productive, unnecessary faregates and massively overbuilt, actively hostile stations are very very very good for some people, just not for “transit riders”, or “taxpayers”.

      There is no hope. The system is rigged beyond repair.

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