Too Frugal, Too Risky

Everyone knows I love using the Metro. I even have a page tracking my savings! I’ve got my work commute down to a science, but there’s one thing very odd about the LA Metro. It is heavily based on the honor system. When things are based on the honor system, questions arise.

Every other mass transit system I have used has paid entry gates. The only way you are getting a ride is if you pay, insert your ticket or token, and then you get to board the train. LA has open gates with signs demanding a paid ticket and the occasional guard asking to see your fare. Was this improper planning? LA being cheap? Here’s another example of taking time to plan. We’re stuck with this system because it’s going to be a pretty penny to overhaul the entire system’s entry gates. I digress. If you are caught, you will get a citation and may even be put on probation like one of the American Idol contestants.

There are times when I have to get to another part of the city, but it is only a few blocks away. It’s too far to walk, but for $1.50 it seems pretty steep. All my months of riding, I’ve only seen the guards a handful of times. Should I take a chance? Save my $1.50. Get a free ride? It doesn’t really matter in the big picture right?

Then a little voice whispers in my head. “You’re breaking the law. My fare helps maintain the system. Do I really need a citation? Do I need probation? Do I need the humiliation?” I shake off my initial thoughts and gladly pay my fare. It’s nice to save money, but in this case, being too frugal is risky business to me.

Are there other times when being too frugal can cost you?

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25 Responses

  1. I’ve been tempted to cheat systems like that, especially when I was traveling through Europe. But you are right that it’s stealing if you don’t pay. Just think of it this way; it’s still way cheaper than a cab

  2. krantcents says:

    I often tell my students character is tested when no one is around! What do you do when you won’t get caught tells you more about your character than you realize. Then you have to live with your choice(s). No one breaks the law when the cop is standing there. Right? I forgot there are some really dumb criminals!

  3. retireby40 says:

    Our ticket cost $2.25 for 2 hours and I don’t mind paying at all when I go to work. We also have a free rail zone in downtown Portland and I take advantage of that very often. There are fare inspectors, but sighting is very rare and I think some people take advantage of that. If you get caught, I think the first time you get a warning and then $150 fine each time after that.

    The real problem in our city is the street car. I take the street car almost everyday and nobody ever pays. It’s free in the free zone, but you’re suppose to pay if you go out of zone. There are no inspector on this system and no consequence to riding free….. You can guess what happens with this honor system.

    Oh yeah, the homeless population ride around the free rail zone to keep warm in the winter, that’s Portlandia.

    • Buck Inspire says:

      $2.25 for 2 hours sounds like a good deal. Wow, thanks for the detailed look at Portland’s public transportation system! Guess questionable honor systems are everywhere so shouldn’t complain too much. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. MoneyCone says:

    Wouldn’t do anything my conscience wouldn’t permit! If the fare is high I might blog about it, but wouldn’t want to cheat the city of what’s due! ­čÖé

  5. When I lived in Calgary there was the odd time I forgot to update my LTR (light train rail) pass at the beginning of the month. I was in my early 20s and just stupidly forgot. On these occasions I would “risk” getting nailed for not having my monthly pass on me, knowing full well I would buy my pass the next day.

  6. I’d would feel guilty not paying… Besides, like you said if everybody cheats, the system falls apart. I’m sure there are plenty that do cheat the system though… Sad huh…

  7. Jack says:

    It sad that many there are many people that take advantage of the honor system. I myself alway pay, I find that I need to be honest as taking advantage just seems morally wrong. At least there are enough of us who are honest to keep the transporation systems going.

    • Buck Inspire says:

      Cool website. Thanks for stopping by! Choosing the moral and honest option is the way to go. Besides keeping the transportation systems going, this mindset helps other facets of our life flow better as well.

  8. optionsdude says:

    I would never have guessed that public transportation would have worked on the honor system like that. The times I have ridden required the purchase of tokens.

    I used to play golf at a course that had an honor system during the winter months. Occasionally a warm day in Indiana would prompt a trip out to the course where I could pay $5 in the mail slot for 9 holes. I would always pay although if I didn’t have change might throw in a $10 and take a mental credit. I ended up playing once on Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s. It was good to get out on those non-conventional golfing days.

    • Buck Inspire says:

      I hit the driving range a few times and that always required tokens for balls. Didn’t realize you could slip through for some playing time on holes. Taking mental credit, that sounds fair to me.

  9. Squirrelers says:

    Parking without paying a meter can be risky, in that the ticket you get can totally destroy any savings you thought you were getting!

    Best to do the right thing, I agree with you.

    • Buck Inspire says:

      Yeah I blew a bunch of savings skimping on the parking meter. What is it? Greed? Squeezing out every penny for savings? Too much of a good thing is also bad?

  10. The coaster and trolley down here in San Diego work the same way. I think it’s smart of them.

    Most people are honest and will pay; if that doesn’t motivate us the fear of a large fine does!

    • Buck Inspire says:

      I’m sure most people are honest. But fear of a large fine is pretty motivating. Perhaps they should make signs, fare price vs. fine, you choose!

  11. 101 Centavos says:

    The honor system is what it is. Most people will do the right thing.

  12. Good for you for paying the fare. Honor systems are tricky because they place a lot of trust in the people using them. If and when someone does break the honor system, that cost eventually gets put back on those like myself, who pay anyways.
    Thanks for the read,

  1. April 29, 2011

    […] Sometimes being too frugal can cost us too. Frugality is good, but like anything, it’s meant to be used in a normal way, not pushing the risks. Buck @ Buck Inspire┬á┬áshare with us his experience using the Metro and why sometimes pushing frugality is too risky. […]

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