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Fare evasion in public transport systems: a review of the literature

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Fare evasion has become an important issue for public transport companies, especially for those that have adopted proof-of-payment ticketing systems. Recent years have seen strong growth in the publication of studies on fare evasion. This paper reviews 113 studies to identify the characteristics of the research on fare evasion. An overview and classification in five main areas, i.e., fare evader-oriented, criminological, economic, technological, and operational is provided. Next, the status quo of these studies is assessed to support possible unifying research development.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    In this paper, POP occurs when passengers purchase tickets (or passes) in advance and are required to validate before using the service, regardless of the verification of fare payment. According to this definition, POP can be implemented without barriers (or self-service or honour-based or POPs) and with barriers (or POPB).

  2. 2.

    https://101innovations.wordpress.com/, accessed on 21/12/2016.

  3. 3.

    An update has been added to the original review due to the publication of recent papers after the first submission of this review. The same search and selection strategy was applied for the years 2018 and 2019. The publications retrieved for these years are listed in Appendix A, but these papers were not reviewed.

  4. 4.

    To the best of our knowledge, there are groups of fare evaders that may deal with the elusion of fares by astute tricks. They are clever and well informed about the mazes in the system, or have become experienced in that no harm will come if they adapt their behaviour to the change of the fare system control.

  5. 5.

    An assault is a physical/verbal act against the mission of the staff by passengers. It may depend on time, location and crowding.

  6. 6.

    NFC is wireless short-range communication technology.

  7. 7.

    Recently, there have been court cases in the USA surrounding the ability of police to act as inspectors or ask passengers to show Proof of Payment. For instance, in Cleveland (Ohio), a judge has ruled that police cannot act as inspectors because they do not have probable cause to detain passengers (Groves 2017).

  8. 8.

    The copycat syndrome refers to a person who adopts, imitates, mimics, or follows the same behaviour of someone else (i.e., fare evaders may follow the behaviour of pass holders that in many worldwide transit systems are not required to tap in/out their tickets).



Automatic fare collection


Automatic passenger counting


Automatic vehicle location




Off-board ticketing systems


Geographic information system


Information technology


Intelligent transport systems


On-board ticketing systems


Near field communication






Public transport company

QR code:

Quick response code


Union Internationale des Transports Publics


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The authors thank Professor M. Di Francesco, and Dr. S. Salis for very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. The authors are very grateful to the Editor-in-Chief Professor S. Voß and four anonymous referees for their valuable comments. However, the content of this article is the full responsibility of the authors.


This work has been partially supported by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR), within the Smart City framework (project: PON04a2_00381 “CAGLIARI2020”).

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Appendix: Overview of publications for 2018 and 2019—not reviewed

Appendix: Overview of publications for 2018 and 2019—not reviewed

  • Allen J, Muñoz JC, Ortúzar JD (2019) On evasion behaviour in public transport: dissatisfaction or contagion? Transp Res Part A 130:626–651. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2019.10.005

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  • Barabino B, Salis S (2019) Moving towards a more accurate level of inspection against fare evasion in proof-of-payment transit systems. Netw Spat Econ 19:1319–1346. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11067-019-09468-3

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  • Delbosc A, Currie G (2019) Why do people fare evade? A global shift in fare evasion research. Transp Rev 39(3):376–391. https://doi.org/10.1080/01441647.2018.1482382

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  • Kulkarni V, Chapuis B, Garbinato B, Mahalunkar A (2018) Addressing the free-rider problem in public transport systems. arXiv preprint, arXiv:1803.04389

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Barabino, B., Lai, C. & Olivo, A. Fare evasion in public transport systems: a review of the literature. Public Transp 12, 27–88 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12469-019-00225-w

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  • Fare evasion
  • Proof-of-payment
  • Pay-on-entry
  • Fare dodging
  • Fare evader
  • Fare dodger
  • Fraud in public transportation
  • Fare cheating
  • Free rider