Paying a high price for fare evasion

public transport

Government policies to reduce fare evasion need to focus on high-frequency and deliberate fare evaders according to Monash University researchers.

Understanding why people dodge paying fares on public transport could save Victorian taxpayers close to $80 million a year.

Monash University researchers Professor Graham Currie and Dr Alexa Delbosc from the Institute of Transport Studies who are seeking effective ways to improve compliance have investigated why people choose not to pay fares.

Professor Currie said personal factors such as concern for honesty were often involved, and such attributes were difficult to influence by policies.

However, it was possible to develop policies that encouraged different attitudes, he said.

“We need to have better general understanding of the ticketing system, and discourage such views as ‘it is easy to travel without a paid ticket’ and ‘no one is hurt because of fare evasion’,” Professor Currie said.

Figures show that in the 2011-12 financial year fare evasion cost $79.3 million; regular evaders accounted for $53.9 million of that or 68 per cent of all revenue loss, but made up only 1.7 per cent (67,200 people) of the Melbourne population.

By contrast, one-off, accidental or unintentional evaders represent about 15 per cent of Melbourne residents and are estimated to cause $4 million in lost revenue.

“The single most important finding of the research is the need for policy to focus on high-frequency and deliberate fare evaders,” Professor Currie said.

“Habitual fare evaders are the central problem and cause more than two-thirds of all lost revenue. They are a smaller group, so targeting them can be effective in terms of both outlay and return on lost revenue, a ‘financially efficient’ policy.”

Professor Currie said any new policies needed to be sympathetic to one-off or accidental evaders. Although there were more of these people, they were less important in terms of revenue loss and were also unlikely to reoffend.

“Overall we found that something as simple as higher ticket-checking rates would be more directly influential in reducing evasion,” Professor Currie said.

“We also recommend employing a new set of objectives for marketing messages directed at getting people to pay their fares.”

The research was commissioned by Public Transport Victoria.