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POP payment center in New York City, used for Select Bus Service lines.

Proof-of-payment (POP) or Proof-of-fare (POF) is an honor-based fare collection system used on many public transportation systems. Instead of checking each passenger as they enter a fare control zone, passengers are required to carry a ticket, pass or a transit smartcard to prove that they have paid the valid fare. Fares are enforced via random spot-checks by inspectors such as conductors or enforcement officers, to ensure that passengers have paid their fares and are not committing fare evasion. On many systems, a passenger can purchase a single-use ticket or multi-use pass at any time in advance, but must insert the ticket or pass into a validation machine immediately before use. Validation machines in stations or on board vehicles time stamp the ticket. The ticket is then valid for some period of time after the stamped time.

This method is implemented when the transit authority believes it will lose less money to the resultant fare evasion than it would cost to install and maintain a more direct collection method. It may be used in systems whose passenger volume and density are not very high most of the time—as passenger volumes increase, more-direct collection methods become more profitable. However, in some countries it is common even on systems with very high passenger volume. Proof-of-payment is usually applied on one-man operated rail and road vehicles as well as on automatically operated rail lines.

The honor system can be complemented with a more direct collection approach where this would be feasible—a transit authority utilizing POP will usually post fare inspectors, sometimes armed as a police force, to man entrances to stations on a discretionary basis when a high volume of passengers is expected. For example, transit users leaving a stadium immediately following a major concert or sporting event will likely have to buy a ticket from an attendant (or show proof of payment) to gain access to the station serving the stadium. Direct fare collection methods may also be used at major hubs in systems that otherwise use POP. An example of this is the Tower City station on Cleveland's RTA Rapid Transit Red Line, which uses faregates.

Travel without a valid ticket is not usually considered a criminal offense, but a penalty fare or a fine can be charged.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of proof-of-payment include lower labor costs for fare collection, simpler station design, easier access for mobility-impaired passengers, easier access for those carrying packages or in case of an emergency, and a more open feel for passengers. On buses, proof-of-payment saves drivers the time needed to collect fares, and makes it possible for all doors to be used for boarding. Validated tickets can double as transfers between lines.

Disadvantages include potentially higher rate of fare evasion, reduced security on station platforms when no barrier is used, increased potential of racial profiling and other unequal enforcement as "likely fare evaders" are targeted, and regularly exposing passengers to unpleasant confrontational situations when a rider without the proper proof is detained and removed from the vehicle. Visitors unfamiliar with a system's validation requirements who innocently misunderstand the rules are especially likely to get into trouble.

Worldwide uses

Proof-of-payment is popular in Germany, where it was widely introduced during the labor shortages resulting from the Economic Miracle of the 1960s. It has also been adopted in Eastern Europe and Canada and has made some inroads in newer systems in the United States. The first use of the term "POP" or "Proof of Payment" on a rail line in North America is believed to have been in Edmonton in 1980. Since then, many new light rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit systems have adopted the procedure, mainly to avoid the hassles of crowding at doors to pay fares at a farebox beside the driver as is common practice on traditional buses.

Systems using proof-of-payment

System Location Date(s) Transit Types Notes
Caltrain San Francisco Peninsula, United States Rail
Dubai Metro Dubai, United Arab Emirates Metro live since 9-9-2009 Metro train, Bus Travel Card in Dubai is called NOL card
Sound Transit Seattle Puget Sound, United States live since 8-22-2003 Link Light Rail Travel Card is called ORCA
Prague Integrated Transport Prague, Czech Republic Metro, Tram, Cableway to Petřín, City bus lines, Commuter bus lines, Rail, and Ferry
Ruter Norway, Oslo T-banen Metro, Rail, Tram, Bus, Ferry Some underground stations have inactive turnstiles for possible future use or removal[1]
San Francisco Municipal Railway[2] San Francisco, California, United States 1993–2000 light rail phased introduction,[3] 2005 bus [4] Light Rail, Bus Muni Metro has faregates in the Market Street Subway and Twin Peaks Tunnel but otherwise operates on a POP basis for all light rail, historic streetcar, and bus lines. The San Francisco cable car system uses manual fare collection.
Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit Sonoma County/Marin County, California, United States Rail
Transport for London London, England, Britain Bus, Tram and Docklands Light Railway Open boarding provided on routes that are served by the New Routemaster and Routes 507 and 521 which allows passengers to board by the middle doors. Oyster or Contactless payment card users must touch in as they board. DLR stations with an interchange for other TfL rail services and Wimbledon station have turnstiles.
Transport for NSW Sydney, NSW, Australia Various automated honour systems from the 1980s

Opal from 2012

Train, Bus, Ferry, Light rail Train - Opal (smartcard) barriers at most busy stations, Opal readers at all other stations transit officers randomly patrol trains.

Bus - If an Opal card does not work passengers are generally excused.

Light Rail - Opal readers on platforms, tickets generally unchecked by conductors, occasionally transit officers patrol trams.

Ferry - Opal readers on wharves, tickets generally unchecked. Ticket barriers at Circular Quay only.

Zarząd Transportu Miejskiego Poland, Warsaw Rail, Tram, and Bus Warsaw Metro has faregates since 1996 [5]




  1. ^
  2. ^ SFMTA website [1], accessed July 6, 2011
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ SFMTA website [2], accessed July 6, 2011
  7. ^ SFMTA website [3], accessed July 6, 2011

External links

  • TCRP Report 80: A Toolkit for Self-Service, Barrier-Free Fare Collection (PDF)
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