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I Got Caught By The Railroad Bulls

August 18, 2016

If a train is going to travel regardless if you choose to ride it, does it constitute stealing if you ride for free? What are you stealing exactly? 

This was more than a theoretical question for me this week. I got caught riding our local commuter train without paying. I’m not generally a dishonest person. I count my change at the grocery store, not to make sure they didn’t cheat me, but to make sure I didn’t cheat them. I return library books on time. I always come to a complete stop. 

But, this week, I stole a ride on our local commuter train. We moved offices recently. Our old office was near the Salt Lake City airport. I drove every day. Our new office is slightly closer to my house, but more importantly it’s only about a half mile from a train station. I love trains. Our heavy rail commuter train is called Frontrunner.

 It has double decker passenger cars. I love to sit in the upper deck, feel the rhythm of the wheels and watch the sun come up.


It’s about the same price to ride the train or drive. In the mornings, it’s actually quicker to drive in. But, afternoon traffic is horrible. It might take an hour to travel the 30 miles down the freeway. (Okay, not terrible by some standards, but terrible for Utah.)

I started taking the train and so far it’s been great. 

If you are going to ride the train only once or twice, you can buy a ticket for that day. But, if you are going to ride it often, you can get a pass. A card that you scan when getting on and off. It’s quicker, and it’s also about 20% cheaper. Of course, you have to request the card. And that’s where my problem came from. I requested the card okay. And a few days later it arrived in the mail. 

So far, so good. I even went online and put money in my account. It’s a prepaid card. And the next morning I scanned in to board the train.

 The scanner made a beeping noise and I settled in for my 30 minute train ride. When the transit cop came through to check tickets, I confidently pulled out my shiny new pass. 

It failed the check. 

He scanned it with a handheld scanner and it flashed a disturbing red message. 

Typically, this is what it does if you have insufficient funds in your account. Remember you have to scan it when you get on the train.

Fortunately, he let me off with a warning. But. . .but. . .I don’t NEED a warning! I have money in my account! I nervously glanced at the guy sitting across from me.

First time I’ve used the card, you know?

He ignored me and went back to his phone. Yeah, he passed his check. He probably didn’t want to be associated with a criminal, or someone too stupid to figure out how to use a train pass. He seemed to smile, happy that he knew how to use a pass

Eventually I figured it out. Like a new credit card, my transit pass had to be activated before I could use it. When I “beeped on” it had actually given me a FAIL beep. I was too new to know the difference.There was money in my account, but the account wasn’t active. Now I know.

Today I was relating this story to one of coworkers. He got a worried look on his face.

Maybe I haven’t actually been using my card. I don’t think I ever activated it.

I just looked at him and smiled, happy that I knew how to use a pass.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

  1. You made my day. Happy Friday!

  2. Reblogged this on commuterslife and commented:
    Similar things happen with PRESTO here in Toronto. Good for a laugh, enjoy!

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