Auckland Transport and Veolia, we need to have a little chat about a really important part of public transport, collecting fares. Unlike roads which a lot of people seem to think are free, on public transport people expect to have to pay a fare. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that collection of fares is of course really important as the more money collected means the less services need to be subsidised. The problem though is on the rail network there appear to be a huge amounts of fares that are going uncollected, this is for a number of reasons which I will explain below:
The Book Reader
There are a number of well known tricks that people will use to evade paying a fare, the most common of these is pretending to have already hopped on the train earlier in often involves things like staring out a window or reading book. The biggest culprits seem to be high school kids and I was having a conversation with a fellow passenger just the other day who remarked she had seen one group of kids cheering that they were up to 7 days without having had to present a ticket. Of course it isn’t just school kids and I have seen people of all ages do this.
The ExpiredPass Holder
Another common trick is to present expired monthly passes and this works because the on board staff often don’t check the exact details on each pass. I actually did a test of this about a month ago, I my monthly pass had just expired and I still had it in my wallet with my new one (that was valid). What I did was just present my old pass just to see how long it would take to be picked up however after a week I gave up.
The Short Changer
Another really common method to avoid fares has been to simply not pay for the full journey. On the Western line at least, staff are generally pretty good at questioning people if they try to pay for a fare that won’t reach Britomart but on the way home this isn’t so easy to police. Just the other day I saw a lady in her late 50′s/early 60′s do just this by paying for a two stage ticket but riding for four stages.
Another trick for this group is to combine a monthly pass with a ten trip ticket. In these cases the person will get on at a station that is four stages from Britomart and present a single trip ticket at the same time as a monthly pass which is designed to get them between New Lynn and Britomart. Now of course this is a valid thing to do however I am almost certain that these people don’t present their single stage ticket on the way home
This last group aren’t actually deliberately fare evading but still are not paying. This is because our peak trains are full and there are simply too many people for staff to get through the carriages and collect tickets. In the past this would have resulted from isolated incidents like service failures but it is now happening on a daily basis. Out west trains are often full by New Lynn which means a lot of people are getting free trips.
All of these reasons (plus probably a few others) behind my view that fare collection on trains has not been as good as it should. I also wonder if this is partly behind the slump in patronage which is based partly on the number of ticket sales. Either way Auckland Transport and Veolia need to do something about this as for one I get really annoyed at having to pay for my journey while hundreds of others get free journeys. I have heard suggestions that Veolia may look to moving onboard staff to the platforms to either collect tickets or ensure people buy paper ones from the new machines but there doesn’t seem to be any solid information as to when that will happen.
Now of course Integrated ticketing is coming at some point in the future and will address some of the issues raised above but not all of them. It will also create a few new challenges that will need to be addressed but what is clear to me is that we can’t carry on as they have been.
Completely unplanned, it seems this issue was raised in the herald today:
A lobby group is urging Auckland Transport to consider a partial rollout of its Hop card by November 30, if only to stem lost revenue from fare evaders on trains