The rules regarding how and when fares are to be paid and for how long they remain valid are many and varied. Rail and bus systems usually require the payment of fares on or before boarding. In the case of taxis and other vehicles for hire, payment is normally made at the end of the ride.
Some systems allow transfers: that is to say that a single payment permits travel within a particular geographical zone or time period. Such an arrangement is helpful for people who need to transfer from one route to another in order to reach their destination. Sometimes transfers are valid in one direction only, requiring a new fare to be paid for the return trip.
In the United Kingdom certain Train Operating Companies, such as South West Trains and Southern, have Revenue Protection Inspectors who can issue penalty fares to passengers who travel without a valid ticket. This is currently a minimum of £20 or twice the single fare for the journey made. In Toronto, the local transit agency charges $500 for people evading a fare, over 181 times the cost of a regular fare.
A device used to collect fares and tickets on street cars, trains and buses upon entry, replacing the need for a separate conductor. Nearly all major metropolitan transit agencies in the United States and Canada use a farebox to collect or validate fare payment. The first farebox was invented by Tom Loftin Johnson in 1880 and was used on streetcars built by the St. Louis Streetcar Co. Early models would catch coins and then sort them once the fare was accepted or "rung up". Later models after World War II had a counting function that would allow the fares to be added together so that a total per shift could be maintained by the transit revenue department.
Fareboxes did not change again until around 1984, when fares in many larger cities reached $1.00 and the first dollar bill accepting farebox was put into service. In 2006, new fareboxes have the capability of accepting cash, credit, or smartcard transactions, and issuing day passes and transfers for riders. GFI Genfare is currently is one of the largest manufacturers of fareboxes in the world.
The chart shows a 50-year history of transit fares at 5-year intervals for four North American cities with long established heavy-rail transit systems (also known as rapid transit systems), each of them converted to central, publicly controlled operation between 1940 and 1954. The fares listed and charted are adult, cash subway fares for central zones of the transit systems, converted to spring, 2006, U.S. dollars using the U.S. Consumer Price Index for "All Urban Consumers" and Bank of Canada exchange rates. The following table shows some characteristics of these rail transit systems.
After 1990 New York and Toronto increased their inflation-adjusted fares significantly, while Boston held fares somewhat lower than in earlier years. Among these cities, before 1975 Chicago stood out for high fares. After 1990 Boston stood out for low fares.