Rail patronage has been growing well in recent months but something that a lot of people have also noticed is that fare evasion also appears to be on the rise. This seems to be the result of more and more people realising the chance of getting caught without a ticket is low and even if they do get caught, the ticket inspectors are powerless to do anything. This is especially the case for school kids who can’t be kicked off a train as if they were, they or their parents quickly go to the media accusing AT/Transdev of endangering them by making them get off at an unfamiliar station.
An official figure I’ve seen says that fare evasion is currently at 11% although anecdotal evidence suggests even that seems like it could be on the light side. That is extremely high and obviously needs to be addressed. I see there being two types of fare evader:
- Those who are determined to evade their fares and probably wouldn’t ride the train if they had to pay.
- Those who are happy to pay for their fare but don’t exactly go out of their way to do so and therefore often end up avoiding paying even if it wasn’t fully intended.
There is very little that can be done about the first group and even cities that fully gate their systems still have problems with them however there probably aren’t that many that fall into this category. The second group are opportunists, are far more common amongst those that fare evade and the group that can addressed. To me there are a few options AT/Transdev has for doing this.
- Go back to having tickets checked on every train
- Improve current enforcement measures including penalties
- Make it harder to fare evade by gating more stations
So let’s work through these
Go back to having tickets checked on every train
This is an idea I’ve heard a few people say over the last year and a half of HOP being in existence. The thinking is that it would ensure everyone has a ticket checked on every train, thereby eliminating some of the opportunist evaders. The problem with this is approach is that in the months before HOP, fare evasion was also extremely high and that was happening simply because often the trains were simply too busy for all tickets to be checked so those on inner stations were often getting free rides anyway. It also doesn’t solve the problem of what happens when someone is found without a valid ticket and the last thing I would want to see is staff having to lug around cash to sell paper tickets. Lastly it’s a solution that simply doesn’t scale, post electrification we have been promised increased frequencies, especially off peak, and having additional staff on every train would cost a huge amount of money, probably more than the fare evasion it would solve.
In my opinion this simply won’t work
Improve current enforcement measures including penalties
To me the current system of having roaming groups of ticket inspectors and random station checks is a decent idea but I find them too sporadic. Of course even worse is that they are basically toothless. They are meant to issue a $20 penalty fare if someone is found without a valid ticket but there is no way for them to enforce that and very few people have every paid one. That may be able to be addressed by Statutes Amendment Bill (No 4) which includes this clause to change the Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009. I’ve bolded the key part.
47 Section 46 amended (Functions and powers of Auckland Transport acting as local authority or other statutory body)
(1)Repeal section 46(1)(b).
(2)In section 46(1)(d), replace “sections 591, 591A, and 684” with “section 591”.
(3)Replace section 46(1)(f) with:
“(f)the functions and powers of an enforcement authority under the Land Transport Act 1998 in relation to prosecuting infringement offences under that Act that relate to—
“(i)the use of special vehicle lanes within Auckland:
“(ii)a failure to pay a public transport service fare:”.
(4)In section 46(3), replace “subsection (1)(f)” with “subsection (1)(f)(i)”.
Note: the current legislation already allows for the prosecution of special vehicle lanes so the PT fare is the addition. I’m not sure how long this will take or how it would actually be enforced.
Make it harder to fare evade by gating more stations
Currently something like 70% of trips begins or ends at Newmarket and the gates act to ensure most people have paid. The problem is that a decent number of trips, especially on the Western Line, begin and end somewhere other than those stations and the most common of these are Henderson, New Lynn and Grafton. To me the most effective way we will cut down on fare evading by opportunists will be to gate more stations.
Some people like to suggest we should gate every single station however that is likely to be practical from a cost perspective. A better approach is going to be to gate the key destination stations, the ones that lots of people are going to or from. The benefit of doing that would be that it costs less while probably picking up over 95% of all trips. This also appears to be the approach being taken Auckland Transport and I’ve obtained a list of when we can expect stations to be gated although it is subject to change. It will see 8 more stations gated over the next two years.
With a combination of the enhanced enforcement and extra gating I suspect it should help to really reduce the amount of fare evading going on.