Assuming a train line where single-ride tickets are normally collected or cancelled manually by train crew circulating among seated passengers, and it is physically possible to use them later if they are not:

If one takes a ride for which one has purchased a single-ride ticket or equivalent, and for some reason the conductor does not cancel it, should one destroy the ticket, as one has in fact used the service which was paid for?

I doubt this would be considered a "ta'ut" in the strict sense, as it is part of normal operations that sometimes not everyone's ticket will be collected. I could hear how one would not be required to destroy it, as this is part of the transportation business, but that it would be ethically superior to destroy it. I could also hear that preserving one's money under these equivocal circumstances would also be ethically advantageous, not to mention practically.

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    Not all train rides work the same way, so to answer this question properly you have to tell us what rules the train company has for tickets that are not collected. – avi Dec 13 '11 at 15:27
  • @avi It was my assumption coming in that there are no such rules. Looking around njtransit.com I can't find any terms about this (or about tickets in general, other than how to buy etc). I'm guessing they would laugh if asked. – yitznewton Dec 13 '11 at 21:38
  • you should specify that it is the NJtransit train in the question then :) Someone might be aware of the rules. – avi Dec 14 '11 at 11:06
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    There can't be a provider-agnostic answer. There are three assumptions in your question which, for example does not apply to the railways in Israel or California. 1. Tickets are collected and removed from passengers to allow them to ride the train. 2. If a ticket is not collected its possible to use it again. 3. The ticket by design is only meant for a single ride. – avi Dec 14 '11 at 15:15
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    @avi dash it all, the question specifies single-ride ticket. will modify for the first two points. – yitznewton Dec 14 '11 at 15:30

Maybe it would be similar to the case of an uncancelled stamp? This page cites R. Menashe Klein zt"l as ruling that you can't reuse the stamp in that case, because of dina d'malchusa.

(There is also the famous story of the Chofetz Chaim ripping up stamps when he had letters delivered by courier rather than the postal system, so as not to deprive the government of the revenue, although R. Klein says that this was not technically necessary since he hadn't in fact used the service.)

Though if that's the case, it might indeed depend on whether the train is government-owned and/or -operated (like Amtrak) or a private concern (say an excursion train or a Greyhound bus); perhaps in the latter case there'd indeed be no need to destroy the ticket.

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    I would think that the last phrase should be reversed - if it's a private concern, you paid for a service you recieved; however, in the case of government-owned, you are already subsidizing the service, regardless, and in most cases the payment for the service is more of a toll, rather than actual payment-for-service. – AviD Dec 13 '11 at 15:13
  • I don't see why you say private/government might make a difference. Could you clarify that, please? (And a courtesy ping for @AviD, since his comment seems related.) – msh210 Dec 13 '11 at 16:25
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    @msh, I see now in the original teshuvah (here) that R. Klein himself makes this distinction. The rationale is that with a private concern, it's a straightforward case of אבידת עכו"ם - it's basically a personal matter between you and the company - and the only possible reason to return the money is to make a kiddush Hashem; whereas with a government body such as the postal system, it's not אבידת עכו"ם but rather the law of the land that says that you have to pay. – Alex Dec 13 '11 at 16:46
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    And @AviD, fair point, but the point seems to be what laws are applicable. The law doesn't really care whether you pay Greyhound for your ticket (except, perhaps, insofar as the government can collect taxes on it); it's a private matter between you and them. (And, hypothetically, if they did decide to go after you for it, it would be a civil matter rather than a criminal one.) Whereas it does care whether you pay Amtrak; you wouldn't be able to get away with the excuse that you already are paying for it via taxes. – Alex Dec 13 '11 at 16:46
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    similar to a stamp, but I'd venture that the train ticket would be more lenient, as (I would presume) stamps are always supposed to be cancelled, whereas people may get on and off the train frequently without their tickets being cancelled, so it's built into the system to a greater extent. The notion of Dina de-malchusa did not really resonate with me: "stamp may not be reused because the law requires you to pay a fee if you send your letter through the postal system." I guess it boils down to whether it's seen as the purchase of a stamp, or of a service with the stamp as voucher. – yitznewton Dec 13 '11 at 16:47

There is a story that is said about the Chofetz Chaim that an officer of the Czar came in to meet with him and found in his office torn stamps that had the image of the Czar on them. The officer confronted the Chofetz Chaim on this; to which the Chofetz Chaim responded that he had sent letters with a courier and didn't want the Government to lose out on the postage so he bought stamps and ripped them up.

We don't paskin halacha from stories (unless brought down or applied by a competent halachic authority) but it would seem that there is what to be said for such behavior. While I don't see how there could be any way that you would be obligated to rip up the ticket- the company's policy is that they don't expect or ask for payment until they come to get it from you- there is a proper feeling of wanting to pay for something that you received.

The ethically advantageous idea to preserve your money is not referring to an area where you received something for which you should pay. Chazal say 'sonim matanos yichye', and we constantly exhort Hashem to provide for us 'mi yodcha hamelaya vhapesucha' and 'lo midei matnas basar vdam'. The proper Jewish feeling is that we don't want free lunches. We will pay for whatever we receive, we will not seek, expect or hope that others will pay for our needs. We should not squander our money and spend it in senseless ways- because we need it for our needs, besides for the character development and perfection that arises from being careful and exacting with our finances.

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    EliMeir, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for these insights! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. – Isaac Moses Dec 13 '11 at 15:05

When this happened to me and some of my friends in yeshiva, we asked the Rosh Yeshiva....he said that when you buy a ticket, you're not buying a ticket but a ride, and the ticket is proof of the fact that you bought a ride. Hence, if the ticket is not collected, it may not be reused because you really only paid for one ride.

That said, the train company can forgive the tickets if the company policy is that un-collected tickets may be used.
My friend called up the company, and after the lady on the other end of the line stopped laughing, she told him that company policy is indeed that tickets like these may be reused.
It may be a good idea to contact the specific company in question and ask them what their policy is, and if they don't care about these tickets you may reuse them.

Although....as user1095 says, kiddush Hashem is a wonderful and very fulfilling idea. Even though sometimes the conductor may laugh at you, and/or refuse to take your ticket (and I know this from experience;), ask yourself if kiddush Hashem is worth it to you to forgo that ticket.


"Assuming a train line where single-ride tickets are normally collected or cancelled manually by train crew circulating among seated passengers, and it is physically possible to use them later if they are not:"

In such a situation you should throw away or destroy the ticket that you used. If however an employee of the train company tells you that you may keep your ticket, or rewards you a free ride for some reason, of course you can keep it and use it again.

The nature of the system you describe is where the crew circulating among the seated passengers are acting as enforcers of the rules of the train company. You can not take advantage of their mistake to properly enforce the rules.

The situation is really very similar to a person who hires a guard to make sure that you only take 1 item from the warehouse. If the guard falls asleep, that does not mean that you now have permission to take more than one item. And in this case, it means you can't take more than 1 ride.

If the assumptions of system was different, then what you could do would be different. For example, if the circulating crew acted not as enforcers but rather acted a known lottery system, where they would randomly select 90% of the people, and if you got picked you lost your ticket, but if you did not get picked then you won a free ride, you would be under no halachic obligation to voluntarily give up your ticket to lose the ride even though when you bought the ticket, it was assumed you would lose it.

  • I have difficulty seeing the failure to collect as a "mistake," since it is known and accepted (at least pragmatically) that some passengers will not have their tickets collected, be it because they enter and leave the train before crew reach their section, short-staffedness, etc. As I put it earlier: are you buying the ticket per se, or the service with the ticket as voucher? It seems obvious to me that the latter is the case, but I don't have any other basis for it than my own rationale. – yitznewton Dec 14 '11 at 15:56
  • The fact that guards watch TV and fall asleep at night, does not give you the right to steal from the place they are guarding. Even though it is known that they will not be 100% attentive. Failure to collect is a mistake, either on the part of the employee or on the part of the company to not hire enough employees. Likely, the amount of money lost by not hiring extra workers is less than the sallary. But that doesn't mean it's not a "mistake" – avi Dec 14 '11 at 16:35
  • @avi, AFAIK one is allowed to capitalize on taus akum, mistakes. This is different from the guarded-warehouse case in that you're not stealing an apple but, rather, holding on to something you already paid for (the ticket) and that was (due to the ticket-taker's error) not taken away from you: you're not taking anything from anyone. Later, when you ride and use the (then) old ticket, you're using a valid ticket that you paid for. – msh210 Dec 14 '11 at 20:08
  • I guess it would depend on what the ticket says, but most tickets say that this gives you 1 ride. You are using the ticket for 2 rides which means you are stealing a ride. – avi Dec 14 '11 at 20:17
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    More than once, I have approached a commuter train employee at the end of my ride, and told them "You forgot to take my ticket". The look of pleasant surprise on their face, coupled with them seeing the kipah on the back of my head as I walk away, is an amazing kiddush Hashem - worth much more to you and klal yisrael than the price of a free train ride. – user1095 Dec 18 '11 at 19:00

Occaissionally, a crowded or very delayed train will have NO tickets collected. In that case, I'd say there was a decision by the company not to charge anyone, so reusing your ticket is permitted. If most tickets were taken, but your wasn't for some reason, I'd say you probably shouldn't reuse it.

  • -1 read the fine print on the back of the ticket. If it says that the ticket entitles you to one ride, then it only entitles you to one ride. Using it again is theft. Now - if the train company specifically says "we're sorry that the train was delayed. To compensate you, this ride is free", that's a different story; but we can't permit an issur d'oraisa on an unfounded assumption. – user1095 Feb 13 '12 at 9:34
  • @Will, why do you think reusing a ticket is an isur d'oraysa? Is any use (without pay) of public services an isur d'oraysa? Do you have a source for this? – msh210 Feb 13 '12 at 15:54
  • Ze'evFelsen, is this pure conjecture on your part? – msh210 Feb 13 '12 at 15:55
  • That crowded and delayed trains have no tickets collected is my experience on commuter trains. The rest is an inference from similar cases on which I have heard psak. For example, moving to a better seat at a sporting event with the silent approval of ushers. I think here the inaction of conductors indicates that the ride is free, permitting reuse of the tickets. – Ze'ev misses Monica Feb 15 '12 at 6:56

I asked NJ Transit by email if it is acceptable to reuse a ticket in this situation. The customer service representative said yes. I am Catholic, by the way, but I found this forum when searching for an answer to this question.

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