A few weeks back I wrote a post outlining my concerns over the large amount of fare evasion I was seeing on the rail network, as well as my concerns that the introduction of the HOP card to the rail network (which will happen in around November this year) may actually make things worse – rather than better. Clearly I’m not the only one concerned about this issue, as there’s a fairly lengthy discussion of the matter towards the rear of the operations section of Auckland Transport’s June Business Report. Here’s what it says:
Two things stand out here. The first is the dramatic drop-off in fare evasion, which I will talk about in more detail soon, while the second is the comforting mention that the Ministry of Transport, NZTA and Auckland Transport appear to be working on legislation requirements that would allow the kind of fare enforcement that I highlighted as necessary in my previous post on the matter. In essence, currently the worst that can happen to you if you don’t pay your fare is that you get chucked off the train. If that remains that case in a rail system without on-board fare collection and with most stations not being gated, I reckon evasion will skyrocket. So it’s good to see that some work is being done on that matter – let’s hope it’s completed before HOP goes live on the rail system.
Turning back to the dramatic drop off in fare evasion, from 9.7% in November 2008 to 2.8% in November last year, if true this is obviously fantastic to see such a big improvement. But I must say I’m somewhat sceptical. In the year to November there were 7,369,075 recorded trips on the rail network – which means that (if we assume these exclude the average level of fare evasion of just under 715,000 trips) the rail system “actually” carried almost 8.1 million. In the year to November 2010, there were 9,049,027 recorded trips (excluding the 208,000 missed through evasion). That adds to a total of 9.257 million.
While I’m not exactly sure whether patronage counts include or exclude evaded fares (I assume they’re excluded, as otherwise how would they know how many people used the rail network), what Auckland Transport seem to be saying is that a pretty massive chunk of patronage increase over the past couple of years has actually occurred simply because of reduced fare evasion. That just doesn’t seem to make sense to me, particularly when you think of the big improvements to the rail network during that time.
For those who catch the train regularly, what is your take on this? Do you think that fare evasion has increased or decreased over the past couple of years? Or more specifically, do you think that the dramatic decrease in fare evasion claimed by Auckland Transport is correct? I think that the November 2010 evasion stats probably underestimate fare evasion very significantly – as from memory this was around the time Auckland Transport advertised hugely that they were doing ticket checks. I’m guessing that people who normally evaded fares simply decided to pay up that day. I also think that measuring evasion at Britomart is pretty silly, as those most likely to evade fares (anecdotally, students) often don’t use Britomart.