Do busses in your country make (give) change?
October 12, 2004 10:40 PM   Subscribe

The MetaFilterist's Quarterly Public Transportation Survey:
Do busses in your country make (give) change?

Aside from walking, Seattle's Metro Transit has been my chosen mode of travel since I arrived in 2001. During my tenure as a passenger, I have learned The Immutable Truths of Riding:

1. The Bus shall alwayes be ten minutes late but for the tymes ye too are late, in which case The Bus will be early.
2. The Bus shall alwayes be most croweded during the most traffic-laden, sweltering, or rain-soaked tymes.
3. The Bus shall house no less than two insane persons at any given moment.
4. The Bus shall neither make nor give change.

Despite the fundamental trueness of these principles, I have borne witness on countless occasions to someone new to this fair city -- and indeed, this country -- attempting to board the bus with the expectation that the driver will provide them with change. Needless to say, the collision of surly driver and non-native English speaker is an awkward and often unpleasant one.

It is for this reason that I put it to you: Do busses in your country provide change? Is America behind the curve (and, from here, do we turn the corner or stay the course?)
posted by Danelope to Society & Culture (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I traveled in London, the buses didn't give change. Perhaps it's just because I'm a Yank who didn't know any better, though.

By the way, Danelope, this is just FYI, but 'busses' means to kiss. Buses means plural mass transit devices. You made the mistake in Metafilter, I made the mistake in print for an article I filed for my newspaper about a year ago :-)
posted by Happydaz at 10:51 PM on October 12, 2004

Bus drivers in Montreal (Canada) don't provide change. They used to when I was a kid but they haven't for years. I don't know whether it was their union or some kind of management streamlining that made them stop.
posted by zadcat at 10:51 PM on October 12, 2004

Pittsburgh buses do not make change, but that's not my county. My county is King, but Danelope, you already covered that county.
posted by tomharpel at 10:59 PM on October 12, 2004

In Milwaukee, the driver won't make change, but there's a backwards way to get change. If you pay more than the amount, you can demand a receipt from the driver which can then be redeemed for change.

I've never actually seen anyone try this as it would probably be an incredible hassle.
posted by drezdn at 10:59 PM on October 12, 2004

BEST buses in Mumbai have real human bus conductors who are in charge of taking fare based on distance travelled. So you actually do get change back, if applicable. Whereas NYC buses, I believe don't make change since they only accept coins and metrocards.
posted by riffola at 11:05 PM on October 12, 2004

Vancouver, B.C.: No change.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:23 PM on October 12, 2004

Australia they give change and a scowl (at least in Sydney and Brisbane that is).
posted by arha at 11:29 PM on October 12, 2004

Karlskrona, Sweden: they give change here when they can, which is almost always.
posted by misteraitch at 11:37 PM on October 12, 2004

Ottawa and Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: No change
posted by mrgavins at 11:45 PM on October 12, 2004

They give change in Adelaide, Australia, but only coins, not notes.
posted by Jimbob at 11:50 PM on October 12, 2004

No change in Portland, Ore. But they do take pennies.

No change in the DC metro area either, unless something has changed in recent years.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:08 AM on October 13, 2004

San Francisco: no change for you!
posted by kirkaracha at 12:13 AM on October 13, 2004

West Yorkshire. Buses do give change, but there is a tendency to grumble about trying to buy a ticket with notes (£5 upwards)

Bus driver Joke #12:
Q. How many bus drivers does it take to change a lightbulb.
A. I'm not changing that.

In situations where you're desparate for a ticket, and no change is available, the bus driver will either wander up and down the bus asking if anybody has change. If none is available, the driver will give you a reciept for the difference which you can get refunded at a bus station.
posted by seanyboy at 12:16 AM on October 13, 2004

(I too live in Seattle, but) IIRC, on the other side of the Sound the Jefferson Transit (and/or Kitsap Transit? it's been a little while) bus drivers can give change.

When I visited the UK a few years ago, I was surprised to find that the vaguely-London-area buses I rode had drivers that would make change, and in fact this was normal — I was initially careful to have exact change, but the drivers seemed to expect to have to make change.

As for your point 3, I frequently find no crazy people on my buses, but I do occasionally end up having to share someone's tobacco miasma. Bleah.

I've once seen a driver here in Seattle make change for a passenger out of the next passenger's fare (once it goes into the farebox, the driver can't get it out; an anti-robbery measure I assume). That's rare though. More often, I've had a driver simply let me pay a bit less than the actual fare (if, e.g., I have $1.15 for a $1.25 fare). Most often, it's just tough luck if you don't have exact change.
posted by hattifattener at 12:26 AM on October 13, 2004

Happydaz, buses in London do give change. It's just that bus drivers don't like changing notes. So if you give them a £2 coin they'll give you £1 back... but give them a £5 note (or God forbit a £10 note) and they'll look at you like you're Satan.

Incidentally they've started up a stupid scheme in the centre of London where you have to buy your tickets before getting on the bus. The problem with this a lot of the machines are broken - and besides, many people forget that they have to buy the tickets beforehand. So they end up buying them on the bus anyway.

The reason behind the scheme is to allow the bus to travel quickly without wasting time at the stops; we used to have bus conductors who served the same purpose but alas most of them are now unemployed.
posted by skylar at 12:50 AM on October 13, 2004

In switzerland you have to buy a ticket before you get on a bus. The machine gives change.

If you are in the countryside the busdrivers give you change if you buy a ticket on the bus itself.
posted by sebas at 1:43 AM on October 13, 2004

Brighton, UK buses give change.

The buses in Las Vegas, NV don't but fellow passengers will help out.

skylar: Think of the number of buses in London on an average day & then multiply that by, say, GBP 15,000. Divide that figure by the number of bus journeys in a year and that is the increase in fares to cover conductors.
posted by i_cola at 1:58 AM on October 13, 2004

Dublin, Ireland - you cant pay with a note of any kind, only coins. This was to stop peopple robbing the drivers. If you dont have the exact fare in coins they'll print you off a little ticket that can be redeemed in a central office. Almost nobody does this, some charities collect them though.
posted by kev23f at 2:16 AM on October 13, 2004

My local buses in Kent will give change but again they don't like the notes, hence I always try to have change ready.

It's true a lot of the bus ticket machines in London do not work and I have seen many, many people have not realised they have to pay before they get on. I've heard stories of the nicer bus drivers (few and far between) will let you on the bus and get off at the next bus stop for you to try another machine.

Skylar, if you're having problems with the tkt machines then get yourself a PrePay Oyster card, where you pay-as-you-go and only pay 70p per bus journey rather than a £1.00. You can also use the PrePay to pay for discounted single journeys on the Tube, Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink and certain National Rail Routes and as long as you have money on the card you don't need to fumble for change.

Also, having been to Reykjavik in Iceland this year, I can confirm their local buses do not give change, but the cross country buses will.
posted by floanna at 3:20 AM on October 13, 2004

Santiago, Chile, driver gives change, drives, drinks coke, eats ice cream, opens and shuts doors, honks at (to him) good looking girls, yells at other drivers, etc. all at the same time. Sometimes looks at the road, too.
They tried to put in machines (on the buses) where you'd pay and get change, but the drivers sabotaged them (with sand), becasue apparently they have a racket where they steal a lot of the fares, and the machines cramped their style.
posted by signal at 5:21 AM on October 13, 2004

Hey Floanna... about the PrePay Oyster Card... do I need to register my name, address etc for that? I'm keen on pre-paying (and paying less) but not so happy about having an RFID chip in my wallet which connects to a database that tracks all my movements around London.
posted by skylar at 5:34 AM on October 13, 2004

Florence, Italy - Have to buy ticket before boarding. Can only buy tickets at newstands. Bus drivers are behind a plexi wall on the bus.
posted by smackfu at 6:01 AM on October 13, 2004

My experience in Seattle was the same as yours, Danelope, no change. I have also noticed no change being given in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland OR and Washington DC. When I lived in Romania [a while ago, things might have changed] the drivers had nothing to do with the passengers at all. You'd buy a little ticket from a ticketseller at the bus stop for a dime, then you'd "validate" it on the bus by going to one of various hole-puncher machines on the bus. Each bus had a particular punch hole configuration [which maybe varied by day] and if the inspector guy came on the bus and you couldn't show a validated ticket, you were in a world of hurt. However, the guy was only on the bus maybe one out of every 10-20 times, so a lot of people took their chances.
posted by jessamyn at 6:08 AM on October 13, 2004

Australia they give change and a scowl

In Brisbane at least, this is definitely true. If you try to pay with a note (say $10 note for a $3.60 fare), the driver will make you stand in the doorway while they grudgingly rummage through their change tray, wallet and pockets for change while the rest of the passengers project maximum strength hate-rays at you. You will rarely be actually refused on the bus, despite the 'Please use exact change' signs on the doors.

Paying with two $2 coins for a $3.60 fare on the other hand will merely earn you a silent exasperated eye-roll, which is as close to a smile as you're going to get from a Brisbane bus driver.
posted by backOfYourMind at 6:23 AM on October 13, 2004

I have taken transit in urban, suburban, and rural areas of California and Oregon, and none have ever made change. The exception to this is the San Francisco cable cars, where the conductor may be willing to make change if he's in a good mood or unhurried. I've never seen a bus or light rail system that provided change at the point of boarding.
posted by majick at 6:24 AM on October 13, 2004

Minneapolis/St. Paul buses do not give change.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:27 AM on October 13, 2004

Commuter buses in New Jersey give change, so long as you're close. A $5.50 fare paid with $6 or $10 will get you the difference, although the $10 gets some grumbling. No twenties allowed.

This is, of course, a somewhat different situation from the hop-on hop-off city bus routes.
posted by werty at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2004

Chicago, no change, if you're using money. You can use farecards, too.
posted by sugarfish at 6:44 AM on October 13, 2004

Sorry, this is going to be a little bit off topic.

Skylar... If you have PrePay you don't need to register but if it's a season ticket then yes you do. The only thing is that if you don't register your PrePay then if it's lost or stolen you will lose any money on it. Also there is no after sales service. In regards to the RFID tag, the only data that is used is if you have any queries about charging, journey details etc when you request it. Otherwise journey data is only used to track travel flow (if more or less services are needed etc) and abides by the Data Protection Act. The Oyster card website is very good for info, particularly the Ask Oyster section.
posted by floanna at 6:51 AM on October 13, 2004

Calgary Alberta - No change.
posted by some chick at 7:08 AM on October 13, 2004

No change on the SEPTA buses in Philly.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 7:11 AM on October 13, 2004

Guadalajara, Mexico. Drivers do give change (along with most of the stuff signal mentioned for Santiago).
It's been a while since I rode a crowded bus during rush hour, (think sardines) but when I did it was pretty common for some people to climb the bus through the back door and send their fare to the front via a chain of "pass this on, please". The driver would then send the ticket and change back in this same method. If you happened to be standing in the middle of the bus you touched a lot of money on your way home!
posted by fjom at 8:03 AM on October 13, 2004

Boston Massachusetts. Not only no, but hell no.
posted by ssmith at 8:03 AM on October 13, 2004

Florence, Italy - Have to buy ticket before boarding. Can only buy tickets at newstands. Bus drivers are behind a plexi wall on the bus.

Ditto Rome. Tickets can be bought at newstands, tabacco stores, or (rarely working) automatic machines. As a sidenote, it's taken 4 years to switch from a simple paper ticket scheme to a magnetic strip ticket or monthly chip pass (and it's still not 100%).

Regional buses it's 50-50, depending on where you are. Sometimes you purchase before boarding, sometimes you can buy a ticket on the bus.
posted by romakimmy at 8:48 AM on October 13, 2004

fjom: we have the fare bucket brigade in Santiago, as well.
posted by signal at 9:19 AM on October 13, 2004

Buses in Japan have a bill/coin changer and card reader built into the fare box.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:31 AM on October 13, 2004

I live in Canada, and in all my travels have never seen a bus that offered change, most people don't even pay fares in cash, but using tickets, tokens, passes, etc.

On the other hand, I lived in Brazil for a year, and there they had an extra person sitting on the bus precisely to take fares and make change.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:21 AM on October 13, 2004

Wellington, New Zealand, they usually give change (unless given too large a note).
posted by malpractice at 10:55 AM on October 13, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who's answered thus far; I've really enjoyed reading these responses! What of busses (yes, busses!) in the rest of Europe? Russia? Asia? Island nations the world over?
posted by Danelope at 11:40 AM on October 13, 2004

Hoo! Danelope is right. "Busses" is the second (less common or less desirable, depending on how you read what the editors mean by position) plural option listed by Merriam-Webster online. IMO, better to stick with "Buses" for vehicles and "Busses" for kisses, but hey. To each his own.

Portland already mentioned above a couple of times, though there are machines that give change (and take credit cards) in the more populated parts of the city. When I was still living there (in the promised land) the machines were new, though, so I didn't experience what it's like to have all or most of the machines broken.

Busses all around.
posted by jeremy at 12:23 PM on October 13, 2004

Response by poster: "Buses" looks inherently wrong to me; neither "uses" nor "abuses" are pronounced in a similar fashion. Same goes for "gases" and "gasses".

Of course, I also use "spelt" and "dreamt", so perhaps I'm just a grammatical anomaly.
posted by Danelope at 12:57 PM on October 13, 2004

Grand Rapids, MI - Buses give back change in the form of change cards, which naturally can only be used on the bus. Better than nothing, but not by much.

Growing up in Japan, I remember the buses providing change. I think the main reason they don't here is due to the threat of robbery. In Japan at the time, I don't think that was a big consideration. I have no idea about today.
posted by deadcowdan at 1:44 PM on October 13, 2004

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