Belgrade for Free

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Even cars can’t drive in winter

Except for a handful of really crazy cyclists, nobody rides a bike in Belgrade in the winter. The streets are slippery and full with dirty black snow and temperatures are mostly below zero. Not the best conditions for a nice ride through town. For me, that meant that for the first time in Belgrade I started to use public transport regularly to get around town. Before last winter I didn’t use it, because I never really knew what bus or tram to take to go somewhere. But now there’s the website www.planplus.rs, which offers an easy way to find the right bus-line or tram-route.

So, I bought a BusPlus-card which you electronically check in with whenever you enter a bus or tram. The cost for 1 ride is about 65 eurocent. Soon enough, I discovered something strange. Every time I would enter a bus and checked in, people in the bus would look at me like I am really weird, or even give an angry look. Soon enough I realized that they looked at me that way because on most of the rides I was the only one paying for my ride. I made it my bus-ride-pass-time to count the number of people who entered the bus and the number that paid. The average of non-paying people was 90% or higher on every ride!

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Why pay if the driver is sleeping?

I discussed these bizarre findings with my friends in Serbia who gave me different reasons why people don’t pay: the price is too high, some politicians told people not too pay, the bus-company is corrupt, the busses are of bad quality, etc. Fair enough, I thought, while I kept paying for my bus-rides, but why doesn’t the bus-company raise controls and forces everybody to pay? How could they function while 90% of people where using their service for free? Can you imagine any other company, like a shop, who gives away 90% of their products? Or a restaurant, where only 1 out of 10 customers pays?

I made some calculations and concluded that they could put 1 conductor on every bus and tram permanently who would make sure everybody would pay. Such a conductor only had to check 40 people per day to already cover his salary. All hundreds or thousands additional people he would make pay would be profit for the bus-company. Or why not, as in so many other countries, have people enter the bus only through the front-door, and have the driver check their card? Such simple solutions!

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Passing all passengers!

The entire winter this issue has bothered me, until today, when I read on the website of B92 that finally controls would be brought to a normal level again. The real reason why nobody was checked turned out to be ‘the weather’. (All I can do is entering 20 question-marks now to somehow show my amazement: ????????????????????) .

If now people finally will start paying like they should (which means the bus-company will get more money, which means better and more busses, which means better public transport for everybody, which means a better city and happier people), I will not know. The credit on my BusPlus is finished, the snow has disappeared, temperature is above zero, so…..I am off on my bicycle again, never waiting for a bus, not paying anything, enjoying the sun and the wind and being faster than any driver or passenger in Belgrade! Another problem solved, at least for me! 

Text author: Ralph van der Zijden
2 Responses
  1. alex

    I just want to tell you a couple of thing. First, it’s not 90% of people not paying the bus ticket. Most of people have monthly tickets which they do not have to check. Second, what the problem with the winter is: in that period most of the buses are overcrowded so the conductor literally can’t come into the bus, not to mention that moving through the bus while checking tickets is impossible. That’s also the main reason why people can’t enter only through the front door and exit on others, also driver just can’t control that much people who just won’t respect that rule.
    Greetings all the best, just i think u’re not very familiar with public transport here, and/or u’re thinking about it a bit superficially.

  2. Pera

    And most important thing that irritates people is that money doesn’t go to bus companies! That is maybe main reason that people don’t pay tickets.

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