Fare evasion is not to be condoned. Apart from being illegal, fare evasion starves the public transport system of desperately needed funds, currently estimated to be up to $50 million per annum.
However, we believe that the intimidatory and aggressive approach to enforcement which is pursued by Melbourne’s privatised public transport operators, armed with objectionable regulatory powers by government, is counter-productive on several important measures. It has not substantially reduced the level of fare evasion. It creates a very negative climate which deters new passengers from using the public transport system and gives pause to many existing users. And not least it paints a very negative picture of the way that officialdom operates in Melbourne and Victoria.
Most people are more than willing to pay their fare, but shortcomings with the current ticketing system mean this is difficult, with limited opportunities to buy and “top-up” tickets (especially on trams), and Myki’s notoriously slow unresponsive unfriendly ticket machines and readers.
As with any ticket system, there will be people who are wilfully cheating the system. We believe these constitute only a small minority of passengers who do not pay their fares. Such behaviour could be made more difficult for the wilfully non-compliant by restaffing the system and maintaining a reliable ticketing system. Much less aggressive enforcement than we have seen in recent years should then reduce fare evasion to relative insignificance.
Ticket inspector powers
The PTUA has been very concerned about the large number of complaints we have received about abuse of powers by Authorised Officers (ticket inspectors). The entrenched nature of these problems were confirmed by a damning report from the State Ombudsman. While the extension of the Ombudsman’s powers may improve accountability, we do not believe it is appropriate for ticket inspectors who are not trained or assessed as police to exercise police-like powers of questioning, arrest and detention.
Passengers do make honest mistakes from time to time in using the ticketing system when travelling. On occasions passengers might not understand the requirement to validate a ticket after purchase or misunderstand their entitlement or otherwise to concession tickets. Inconsistencies in the system (e.g. a general requirement to swipe at the end of the journey as well as at the beginning for trains and buses but not for trams is one such cause of confusion).
To build and sustain customer goodwill the system has to be forgiving of genuine mistakes and give passengers the benefit of the doubt in such cases, as well as providing the opportunity for them to remedy their error. Passengers must be treated with respect for them to use the system in the numbers we require. Where a passenger has committed an offence, inspectors should be polite and reassuring when taking details. Fines are only appropriate for repeat offenders who are deliberately cheating the system and a system of warnings should be applied so that passengers who make a mistake are not fined. Clearly, any passenger who misunderstands the concession entitlements three days in a row, for instance, would be under more suspicion!
Reviewed: September 2015