Auckland Transport have announced that from next week, enforcement on fare evaders will be cranked up a gear.
From 18 June, Transport Officers can issue infringement notices to passengers who fail to tag on with their AT HOP card or buy a ticket to use public transport. Offenders will face infringement fees of $150, or a fine of up to $500 if they choose to go to court rather than pay the infringement fee.
Fare evasion costs $2 to $3 million a year, putting an extra burden on ratepayers and taxpayers who already subsidise around half the cost of fares.
Transport Compliance Manager Logan Christian hears a whole range of excuses, but there’s no reason not to tag on with your AT HOP card or buy a ticket.
“This is not about revenue gathering, this is about making it fair for everyone who uses public transport. We want this to be a deterrent, we don’t want to have to issue these infringements, we just want everyone to pay for the services they use. If you use an HOP card, it’s cheap to travel on public transport, so there really is no excuse not to pay your fair share.
“Our Transport Officers move up and down the train checking tickets and HOP cards, but don’t worry, they are friendly and they are there to help.”
Transport Officers, who hold a warrant from the Commissioner of Police as enforcement officers, began working on the train network late last year, and are currently on the Western and Onehunga Lines. As Auckland Transport recruits more staff they will begin to work on other services as well.
Changes to the Land Transport Act provided powers to Transport Officers on Auckland’s public transport network, and regulations that come into force on June 18, enable the issue of infringement notices.
More than 90 percent of people who travel on public transport pay for it with an HOP card, if you don’t have an HOP card you can buy one at any of AT’s customer service centres or at one of the 150 HOP retailers around Auckland.
As a fare paying passenger, it’s never a great to think that some fellow passengers are not paying their way. It’s even worse if you see deliberate fare evasion. At the same time, I do think there needs to be a balance. Fare evasion exists in every PT system, even those that are fully gated. While $2 to $3 million might sound like a lot of money, AT currently collects about $50 million annually from rail fares, so it represents a loss of about 4-6%. If I had to guess, AT will spend a lot more money enforcing fare evasion than they end up collecting in fares and fines. Some of that will simply be due to the reality that some of those evading fares just won’t travel – I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing, it’s just not money they would have otherwise collected with more stringent enforcement.
Even without the fines, fare evasion has been getting harder. For some time now, AT have been rolling out gates to more stations. So far they’ve been installed at Britomart, Newmarket, New Lynn, Henderson, Manukau, Manurewa and Otahuhu. They will also be going in at Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Parnell, Papakura and Glen Innes. AT say that once completed, 90 per cent of all train trips will pass through at least one of those stations as part of their journey.
It’s also worth noting that not all fare evasion is deliberate. Many suburban stations only have one ticketing machine per platform and if that breaks down, or perhaps runs out of paper, both of which do happen, there can be no way to quickly top up a HOP card or purchase a ticket. In my view, AT need to do a lot of work to make stations a lot more customer friendly places and that includes making it easier to use the system.
One thing I do think this announcement does is to highlight the need to get our penalties and levels of enforcement right across the transport system. At $150, that suggests evading a PT fare is a more serious offence than any parking parking infringement, including parking on footpaths or pedestrian crossings, more serious than using a phone while driving ($80) or than driving up to 20km/h over the speed limit ($120). It’s about as equally as serious an offence as a driver running a red light, driving on bald/damaged tyres or a range of other infringements. All of those behaviours can and have resulted in other road users being killed. We also know from the recent damning safety report that enforcement on many of these issues has been close to zero. If AT believe that $150 is the right level of penalty for fare evasion, then perhaps it highlights that we need to set the fines for those dangerous driving behaviours much higher.
I’ve certainly been noticing an increase in enforcement of late, presumably ramping up efforts in advance of this. Fare enforcement may cost more money than it saves but the one thing not yet mentioned that it does help with is to reduce anti-social behaviour.