Smartphone app helps fare dodgers avoid inspectors

Photo: Ľubomír Smatana

A new smart phone application called FareBandit can help you avoid ticket inspectors in public transportation in Czech cities. The app won the top prize this week at the annual AppParade in Prague.

Photo: Ľubomír Smatana
The ticketing system for public transport in Czech cities is based on implicit trust that passengers will buy their ticket and stamp it at the entrance to the metro, or in a bus or tram. Theoretically, you can travel without a ticket – until, of course, you are stopped by the ticket inspector, who will most likely hand you a hefty fine.

This is where FareBandit comes in. The new user-fueled application for Android can tell you the exact metro station or tram the dreaded inspectors are on, helping you plan your route accordingly.

The app’s creator, Prague-based programmer Petr Pechoušek, was inspired by his own need to avoid fines:

“When my monthly electronic ticket OpenCard expired, and I began my career as a fare evader, I started thinking of an application that would help me know where the inspectors were ahead of time.”

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
FareBandit is available for seven Czech cities, though Prague and Brno travelers are most active. After downloading the free application, users can post short messages with the place where they spotted inspectors, how many there were, and even what they were wearing – a useful tip, since in buses and trams inspectors can be in plain clothes.

The application also has a few fun options, like the My Wallet tab, where you can record how many times you took public transportation without paying, and add the amount of money you could have paid to your little virtual bank.

Legal experts say that the application does not actually break any laws. And Prague’s transportation company is putting on a brave face. Head of inspection at the company, Zdeněk Stránský, says it is nothing new and nothing to worry about.

“There have been many similar attempts through the internet. People have posted guides and advice on how to avoid inspection. This is just a more modern version. We accept that and it is something we can do nothing about.”

Of course, the application’s usefulness also depends on the number of users posting information. Although over 1000 people have downloaded the app, much fewer actually share information. And with Prague Transit Company putting a record 150 ticket inspectors to work daily, the bandits won’t get them all.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Petr Pechoušek knows full well that even with FareBandit in hand, there is always a chance that you will get caught red-handed.

“You have to just accept the risk that you’ll have to pay the fine at some point. Statistically, it’s inevitable. But it’s also an adrenaline rush.”

And with thousands of virtual crowns stashing up in the bandits’ communal wallet, taking that risk has never been more fun.