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Math Transportation

How To Hack Subway Fares Using Fare Arbitrage 240

KentuckyFC writes "Arbitrage is a way of making profit by exploiting price differences for the same asset. In capital markets, traders aggressively seek out and exploit these market 'inefficiencies.' Now one data scientist says it's possible to do the same with metro fares and has studied the fare-arbitrage potential of San Francisco's subway system, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). The idea is to swap tickets with another commuter during your journey to reduce the amount you both pay. BART has 44 stations which allows 946 different journeys and 446,985 unique pairs of trips. Of these, over 60,000 have arbitrage potential and commuters can save at least $1 on 4,666 of them. But there are good reasons why cities might want to maintain price differences for certain journeys — to encourage people to live in certain areas, for example. What's more, it's possible to imagine a pair of commuters who each travel from one side of a city to the other at considerable cost. But by swapping tickets in the city center, they could both pay for a short commute in each others' suburbs. But is that fair to other commuters?"
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How To Hack Subway Fares Using Fare Arbitrage

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  • Go for it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:12AM (#46215855)

    Doesn't really sound worth the effort.

    And of course... screw the beta.

  • How stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:36AM (#46215933)

    This is about as juvenile as it gets. All of you know very well that transit systems are a public service that barely can sustain themselves. So, you think then that it's a great idea to work out a way to drain revenue? This is from the thought process of a child, not a mature adult. Adding further to the stupidity of this is that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. It's not like it was some grand secret being hidden by the Gods of Transit, so from an innovative science standpoint, it's a big fat fail.

  • by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @04:39AM (#46215941)

    If you're in SF and just trying to go somewhere else in SF, just do what everyone else does and either hop a bus and don't pay the fare or hop the turnstyles and don't pay the fare. If you're trying to go across the bay to Oakland, be more careful, but still, if you don't want to pay, just don't. When I was living there in 2012, this worked 100% of the time that I couldn't afford a trip or didn't feel like paying. The buses are the easiest because you can board on the back. And another thing that's supposed to be happening is a tiered pricing system. But anyway, you don't have to go to much trouble to get around free/cheap in SF, but it seems like it would have been a fun study to conduct.

    I bet you like the smell of your own farts too. You do realize how unethical that is right?

  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @05:07AM (#46216019)
    Decades ago, the employees of our national highways that collect tools used this very same scheme of swapping tickets to defraud their own employer in millions. The scheme went that if you were paying not by credit card, but in cash, and coming say, from a city 300km away, they would swap your ticket with a city 10km away, and would pocket the diference. Colleagues on another posts in nearby cities would swap tickets already pre-validated for that effect. From the little we could heard about it at the time, this scheme went on for almost a year, until they got more greedy and careless and got caught.
  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @05:28AM (#46216069)

    Go from Swindon to London at peak hours costs an extortionate £60.50.

    Book the ticket from Swindon to Reading and then Reading to London Paddington costs £34 + £22.20 = £56.20, saving you £4.30.

    The train from Swindon to London always stops at Reading anyway and you will spend your journey in the exact same train taking the exact same amount of time and you will stand just as uncomfortably for your slightly less extortionate fee. And as opposed to swapping tickets with someone, this is perfectly legit and not against the terms of service.

    There may have been some original sensible reason, but it sure feels like a scam to me.

    Also, some airliners (KLM, I'm looking at you), charge you MORE for a single flight than they do for a return flight. When I moved country (and consequently only wanted to book a single), I had to book a return ticket which I simply didn't turn up for, otherwise it would have cost me £500 more. There may be some logic in what KLM is doing, but it feels like a big "fuck you" to me.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday February 11, 2014 @05:49AM (#46216127)

    Public transportation should be free.

    The utility function of the marginal costs of a (not small) fare + inconvenience + timing + freedom of movement vs. the cost of owning a car is enough that most of us are effectively being paid not to take it in the first place. Being free would up ridership for people on the edge.

    The whole idea that it's a profit center is pretty stupid, as all public transportation is subsidized anyway, and exists as nothing but a cost center to generate pension paying positions for government employees anyway.

    The whole point of making it cost something - anything - is the same reason that health insurance plans require copays: to discourage use. For public transportation, the use they are attempting to discourage is that the homeless will ride around all night in order to avoid freezing to death, or because they have nowhere else to go.

    Clue bat: the homeless use busses as public housing anyway, they just get their day out of the way first (I had a nice long conversation with a homeless person who does just that, getting on one of the bus routes that runs all night, and getting off near where he gets on the next morning). Just address your damn homelessness problem, instead of trying to pretend it doesn't exist, or making life (more) miserable for the homeless.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault