Yesterday Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced a law changes that will come next year to make it easier to deal with fare evasion. Currently there is a penalty of $150 for fare evasion but only the police are able to enforce it. In the future warranted ticket inspectors will be able to take the details fare evaders so infringement notices of $150 can be issued and if the person refuses to comply then if convicted they could be issued a fine of up to $1,000.
As mentioned above these changes aren’t immediate as they will require a law change to go through parliament and that is not expected till some time next year however they do seem like a step in the right direction.
Here is Bridges speech at the event yesterday. I noticed in particular that he says he is well aware of the rapidly increasing patronage thanks to Len Brown reminding him almost every day
Here is his press release.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says public transport users who deliberately avoid paying fares will face penalties under changes to the rules on fare evasion, which will be made to the Land Transport Act in 2016.
While previously there has been a fare evasion offence, it has been very difficult to enforce. Under these changes, councils may appoint warranted enforcement officers who will have powers to:
Ask passengers to provide evidence they have paid a fare;
Ask passengers to advise their name, address and date of birth if they cannot produce evidence of a valid ticket;
Advise the passenger to get off the public transport service.
As before, fare evaders will face an infringement fee of $150 or a maximum fine of $500 on conviction if evidence of a fare cannot be provided. But there will now also be a new offence of failure to comply with an enforcement officer’s directions to provide details or leave the service, which will carry a maximum fine of $1,000 on conviction.
In challenging situations enforcement officers will still be able to call on Police for assistance, but the need for this will be significantly reduced by these new measures.
“Auckland Transport raised the issues around fare evasion with me and it has been good to work constructively with them to help ensure public transport is a success in our biggest city,” Mr Bridges says.
“Evasion of public transport could be as high as six percent – or $2 million a year – on Auckland’s rail network alone, and without action, these numbers could rise further.
“Left unchecked evasion of fares increases the costs of public transport for paying passengers as well as taxpayers and ratepayers who subsidise the services.
In doing so it undermines the integrity of the ticketing systems used and the effectiveness of public transport generally.
“While these changes will be of immediate use in Auckland especially on rail, they will also help in other parts of New Zealand – and on other modes of transport such as buses – over time,’ Mr Bridges says.
The comments about double deckers are interesting and hopefully suggests some of the thinking going on behind the scenes will be to allow all door boarding to speed up dwell times.
As mentioned above it is estimated fare evasion on trains could be cost $2 million per year in lost revenue – although it’s likely better enforcement will just mean those trips don’t happen rather than the AT will collect $2 million more. The revenue aspect was something that Mayor Len Brown focused on.
And from this press release
Auckland Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the announcement by Transport Minister Simon Bridges, saying fare evaders are effectively cheating ratepayers, taxpayers and honest travellers and this is something he has been seeking for some time.
“An estimated six per cent of passengers evade fares and that has a negative effect on revenue and the provision of services. I suspect the $2m per annum figure is conservative – it could be much more.”
“Recorded public transport patronage has exceeded 80 million trips for the first time, with annual rail patronage up 22.7 per cent to 14.4 million. However actual patronage will be much higher and it’s crucial we have accurate figures so we can properly plan for future service and infrastructure requirements.”
The Mayor said fare evasion was often accompanied by anti-social behavior. “This initiative will help deal with those who don’t value community assets or respect the rights of fellow passengers.”
For their part Auckland Transport say they will be making it harder for people to evade fares which will include changes at some stations. Gating will go in at Otahuhu when it is built and AT say they are working on business cases to gate some additional stations but this isn’t a cheap solution so will not be across the entire network. They did say that stations not gated will see some changes to create more controlled access to platforms. This may include using fencing to reduce the number of entrances at some stations and possibly shifting infrastructure such as ticket machines. In addition they are looking at changing security procedures to make improve safety – or perceptions of safety. I understand this may involve more extensive police involvement including them using trains.
Here are Lester Levy’s comments
While the fare evasion announcement is a welcome step, I think it actually a sign something even more important and was hinted at in the speeches. In Simon Bridges we now appear to have a Transport Minister who willing to work with Auckland (and other cities) to improve public transport and this includes fixing the small stuff. Another recent example was the change to vehicle regulations which made it easier to get double deckers on our roads and as a result three bus companies are purchasing 53 of them. It’s worth noting that many of the people I’ve spoken to have commented on how good Bridges has been to work with. Will he be the Transport Minister that gets the CRL over the line? The same people have also said that Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has also doing a lot of work behind the scenes to help get improvements over the line. Perhaps in Bridges and Kaye we’re starting to see the younger more urban literate side of the National Party emerge and that can only be a good thing for our cities.