Author Archive

Step into any given tram, and you will see anxious students sitting sideways or looking out the window. Taking a guess at the source of their worries, it is but of course the dilemma of whether or not an Authorised Officer (AO), or inspector, as they are more commonly referred to among public transport users, is about to hop on at the next stop, or if they will be lucky enough to reach their destination freely, having fare evaded.

Having had enough of passengers getting away with free rides while tax payers compensate for them, Metlink teamed-up with Melbourne-based agency Marmelade in late 2011 to create a TeleVision Commercial (TVC), still currently aired in attempt to reduce fare evasion.

In April, the State Government established a new transport agency named Public Transport Victoria (PTV) by merging the Public Transport Division of the Department of Transport with Metlink. PTV carries out all functions previously undertaken by Metlink. Public Transport CEO, Ian Dobbs says now that Myki has become the sole ticketing system, Transport Ticketing Authority is also included.

Meanwhile, the Metlink TVC has been re-branded under PTV. Under an advertising campaign promising “more checks, more fines, more often” to combat Victoria’s steadily rising number of fare evaders.

According to the Department of Transport’s Network Revenue Protection Plan in 2009, the total network-wide cost of fare evasion is $62,018,697 million per year, as-of the first half of 2009. The biggest cost is on trams ($35 million), followed by trains ($21.5 million) and buses ($5.5 million).

In addition, PTV states that fare evaders make more than 225,000 trips a week on Victoria’s buses, trains and trams. Representing 13 per cent of passengers, forcing paying customers to cover the costs.

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Station Officer Simon Landy says the number of ticket inspectors has increased on the Belgrave line where he is based.

“They do three shifts, so, early, mid and late. If I’m here, through you know, the change over of their shift, I could see up to 12, otherwise it’s six,” Mr Landy says.

Passenger Jessica Lim fears the increased monitoring may not be rightly targeting fare evaders, but rather harshly fining unlucky law-abiding citizens.

I had a ticket, I validated it, and there was something wrong with it, and I didn’t check the screen, so I went out in Melbourne Central, and they had no leniency,” Ms Lim says. “They charged me like a $180 fine. I tried to reason with them and explain that I either I had a faulty ticket or the machine at my stop wasn’t working, but there was no reasoning with them really.

Ms Lim’s observations only confirm reports in italks in 2010, that revealed,

“public transport users felt Melbourne’s ticket inspectors were heavy-handed, lacked leniency and obsessed with raising revenue.”

According to the Network Revenue Protection Plan, many travelers refuse to pay because they believe Melbourne’s public transport service is below standard. The report details that recent research into perceptions of ticket inspectors show. Negative perceptions have been reinforced over time, through both the media and through personal experiences.

“They are seen to exercise significant authority without building legitimacy with customers through protecting and serving them,” the report stated.

Despite this, the Herald Sun recently published an article, in which a report by Auditor-General Des Pearson found “the cost of introducing the Myki smart card will blow out by another $350 million, on top of the existing $1.5 billion price tag, to cover the cost of lost fare revenue to Metro and Yarra Trams.” Fare evasion is in fact on the rise since the introduction of Myki.

To listen to the story with more interviews, click on the following podcast.

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