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My English roommate and I were just having a conversation about what colloquial word(verb) you would use if you used public transport for free. In German we have the term "schwarzfahren." The translations the dictionaries were giving for that German verb did not really convince my English roommate (such as to fare-dodge). Does anybody know of an appropriate term?

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In Middle-earth, Schwarzfahrer were called Nazgûl. – coleopterist Dec 12 '12 at 17:55
In the case of the NYC subway system at least, it can be called turnstile- or fare-hopping. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Dec 12 '12 at 19:08
Whatever the most accurate label, the term 'scofflaw' is also directed towards turnstile jumpers (wait, is that it?), along with people who don't pay parking tickets and ... who else is a scofflaw? – Mitch Dec 12 '12 at 21:59
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Sense 4 of the verb bunk in websters-dictionary-online is shown as

Avoid paying; "beat the subway fare"

I haven't found other dictionary sources to support that usage, but FumbleFingers' comment notes that bunk a train and bunk the tube are used in British English. Several blog and youtube sources show that this usage is widespread, although ngrams for bunk a train,bunk the train,bunk a tube,bunk the tube shows that it is not yet found in books.

In some circumstances, stowaway (“a person who hides on board a ship, train, etc. so as to get a free passage”) may work.

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Quite. How to successfully bunk a train is an obviously British context (but we bunk the tube, not the subway). And we certainly bunk the train. Stowaway is a bit irrelevant here, though. – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '12 at 17:51

Fare-dodger with or without the dash would work for me and for BBC and the UK Daily mail - officially they are partaking in fare evasion

I found Free-riding in the NGRAM viewer

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Fare evasion is the official term in the UK. Fare-dodging is informal but very commonly used. – Andrew Leach Dec 12 '12 at 17:23
People of qualifying age in the UK are allowed to use some forms of public transport after a certain time without having to pay. Because buses are not exactly punctual, such people have been dubbed 'twirlies': "Am I too early?" – Edwin Ashworth Dec 12 '12 at 17:33
@EdwinAshworth: "After a certain time"?? Beyond a certain age? after waiting too long? The bus -knows- its late and so will let on passengers for free when it shows up late?? Please elaborate. – Mitch Dec 12 '12 at 19:06
Regulations differ across the countries of the UK, but I believe that bus and local tram travel (if there is a local tram service) is available to qualifying British nationals in England. The bus / tram must be boarded (or be due at the boarding stop) not before 9:30 am weekdays, and not later than about 11pm. Drivers inspect passes as the passengers board. The qualifying age must be worked out by a weird formula designed to bring men's and women's age-related allowances into line - some age between 60 and 65. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 12 '12 at 21:02

Usually you hear freeloader, but I just watched a movie where someone was referred to as a "freeloadin' sumbitch" while being tossed from a bus. So, the verb form is common enough among public transport security.

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Fare-beater, colloquial. The official pronouncements refer to fare evaders.

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