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.

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  1. I have been thinking about doing a post about this part of the report all day and it looks like you beat me to it 😉

    My understanding is patronage numbers are based off a number of things, not just ticket sales. Train crew manually count patronage at certain places on the network which then must get put through some form of calculation. Otherwise, if you just used ticket sales and had a carriage full of monthly pass or ten trip ticket holders you would count that carriage as empty even there could be up to 100 people on there. You can’t just count the number of ten trips sold in a week either as I have had one in my wallet for about a year to use if my monthly runs out or I want to change the date I start it from. I think with all manual methods there are risks of people slipping through the cracks and I suspect that it won’t be till HOP rolls out to trains that we start to get a more accurate picture of patronage. Also to note, the EMU specification had a requirement to include a way to automatically and accurately count passengers.

    As to the question you pose, I think fare evasion is definitely down and train crews are more vigilant although as always some are better than others. As they mention, schools kids are one of the key groups that try it on and one of the advantages with hop is it should be easy just to stick a staff member on the platform and watch as they walk up making sure they tag on.

    1. My understanding was that patronage figures are based entirely on train crew counts of passengers at particular points on the network, rather than on ticket sales, for precisely the reason you articulate. For example, if one were to use tickets sold on the train to work out how many people are on the train between Papakura and Pukekohe, the figure would probably be nearly zero because most passengers will have monthly passes.

      Toss in the huge variability around use of multi-trip tickets (I buy a 10-ride ticket, and it normally lasts me a bit over a fortnight since I normally travel in to work with my partner and then get a train home but sometimes I get a bus if I miss the train, or we’ll do something in town after work and then drive home together) and it’s pretty impossible to even start to use sales as the basis of a passengers-carried metric.

  2. In the last month there have been two occasions when my fare hasn’t been collected: Western line Sunday service on an ADL (it’s a single stop and I do I have my ticket double-clicked the next time). The reason seems to be that Veolia only roster a single train manager and no POs on Sundays and the TM rarely seems to be able to deal with the two carriages between New Lynn and Avondale, possibly because there are more people than Veolia/AT reckon are travelling (I can only presume that Mark Ford, whose father was the vicar at St Jude’s in the 1960s, still reckons Westies are all at church on a Sunday). Then there are the usual shirkers on the commuter runs but they tend not to be school kids but rather people in their mid 20s who jump on crowded trains and pull out something to read immediately (rather than a ticket or money) and look bored or innocent in the face of an advancing PO.

  3. That sort of reduction in crime in only two years is spectacular. Sack the Police and let ticket collectors work on burglaries and murders and we’ll be the safest country in the world.

    The surveying seems to have been conducted at Britomart and it notes that temporary ticket barriers were rolled out mid period. Barriers should be a solution to most fare evasion, apart from a few people who jump over them. I’ll guess that evasion is actually down at Britomart as they claim, but might not be changed much out in the suburbs.

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