A Fine Weighs as Much as 30 Rhinos

You woke up late this morning. You only have five minutes to get to a compulsory tutorial.

Just as the thought of running to uni crosses your mind, a mighty roar of steel approaches from behind. The temptation of its speedy travel lures you into the brightly lit cabin.

As your eyes adjust they spot something unnerving – two men in casual dress with remarkably shiny shoes. You fumble through your bag for a myki to no avail. The men see you neglect to touch a card on the reader, and swiftly move down the tram toward their prey.

Fare evasion has been a hot topic on Melbourne’s public transport system in recent times. According to official figures, 5.9% of passengers are caught without a valid ticket; the lowest figure on record. It peaked at 12.7% in 2011, however this only counts those who are caught.

With such great institutions as the IH Random Page posting daily sightings of ‘inspectors’, one suspects that the actual rate of fare evasion may be far higher.

The fine for being caught without a valid ticket is $212, but you will usually be persuaded to pay $75 on-the-spot. This tactic was introduced last year in a bid to discourage people from taking the matter to court, after The Age reported that less than 6% of infringements challenged to this level actually resulted in a fine. Courts are reluctant to fine people using myki as the system does not provide sufficient evidence. Even human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC has gotten in on the myki fine action, although this is not an endorsement for fare evasion. Aside from the time and effort it will take you to submit an appeal, there is good reason to pay your dues.

The average price of a coffee in Melbourne is $3.34, which is near to the $3.76 maximum daily cost of travelling on trams (concession is half price). While cafés make a tidy profit from their business, public transport does not.

In fact your fare counts for only 22% of the cost of running the system, while the other 78% ($13.33) is footed by Victorian taxpayers. Therefore every time you fail to pay your share, a bit of funding is taken out of other government services such as hospitals and fed directly into dirty great brown coal fired power stations.

How else did you think all those electric trams were powered? But that’s a rant for another day.

For further reading on how to deal with fines, I recommend the highly detailed Melbourne category of an ex-IHer’s blog at pengtiong.com/blog

There are two types of inspectors: Authorised Officers and Protective Services Officers. AOs are employed by Yarra Trams or Metro and will only try to fine you. PSOs are quasi Police officers that plague train stations, carry guns and occasionally assault people.

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