From time to time you’ll see someone having a whinge that they got on a tram and nobody bought a ticket or validated one, and therefore they must all be freeloaders. For example these comments on the Herald Sun web site:
On every tram i board, only one person out of the 30 on there actually use a ticket!
— Lindsay of Adelaide
We already have defacto free travel in the city anyway. Hardly anyone validates a ticket on the trams (You might be lucky if it is one in tweny people that validates their ticket).
— U No It Makes Cents of Moorabbin
It’s not actually true. Many people don’t revalidate because they already have a valid ticket, they can’t be bothered, and because they see no reason to go to the effort to do so.
As Metlink said recently at the Train Services inquiry:
Mr O’DONOHUE — Of the 38 per cent of trips not validated, how many of these would be fare evasion?
Mr CAROLAN — On trains?
Mr O’DONOHUE — Yes.
Mr CAROLAN — Our estimates are that fare evasion on trains is a little bit less than 10 per cent of trips made on trains, so that means there are a lot of people who do not validate but who have a perfectly valid ticket. That does not really surprise us. It is an unfortunate characteristic of our system, because we would preferably have everyone validating who should validate. But there are a lot of people who have long-term periodicals; there are quite a few free pass-holders; there are some people with serious disabilities who are not required to validate. The gap is not all that surprising, and a number of those people do not need to validate in the sense of the physical access to the system. We all know that at the city stations you need to validate to get through the barriers, but there are many suburban stations where you do not, so if people are making a journey between pairs of suburban stations where they do not need to activate the barriers and they have a weekly or a monthly ticket, they may not validate.
[Note: this is draft transcript, and may not be 100% accurate]
That was about trains, but it goes doubly for trams, where there are no physical barriers that require a ticket to open. (On the trains, if you haven’t revalidated at your boarding station, your ticket won’t open the gates, if there are any, at your destination.)
It’s particularly true on CBD trams, where the likelihood is that people taking short trips have got into the CBD by public transport, using an already-valid ticket.
Of course officially you’re meant to revalidate on every trip. The theory is it helps them gather statistics on passenger use. As the auto-announcements on some trains say: “Help us to create a better service for you by validating your ticket.”
But it doesn’t actually work that way. If you enter a CBD station, and exit at a station with no gates (which is most of them), they have no idea which line you caught. If you board a tram and revalidate at the Town Hall, they don’t know if you got off it at the Arts Centre or in Carnegie.
All this is why they have people out a couple of times a year with clipboards, manually counting the loads. (This week they appear to be doing the Burnley group lines.)
Besides which, all the information from manual counts, and from AM peak validations from train passengers coming into the CBD (arguably the only time and place on the network where the validation data provides something accurate and useful) didn’t prompt the government to buy and deploy extra trains as patronage grew. Instead they tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, scrapped old trains, and subsequently got caught on the hop and had to buy some back and order lots more.
The problem here is not a lack of statistics.
And under Myki? Ah well, that’s a whole new ball game.