The Andrews government will bin controversial on-the-spot penalty fines on public transport next year as part of an overhaul of Victoria’s fare-enforcement system.
The new approach to fare compliance, which will roll out from January 1, 2017, will allow ticket inspectors greater use of warnings and discretion for passengers who have valid reasons for not paying their fare.
The new measures also include trialling fast top-up devices at tram stops and major stations and reducing the time it takes to top up online from 24 hours to 90 minutes.
A review by the Labor government last year found the enforcement system unfairly punished those who bought the correct tickets, while inadvertently rewarding those who deliberately fare-evade.
For example, a $75 on-the-spot fine meant a passenger could be caught for fare evading more than 20 times in a year, but still pay less than a regular Zone 1 and 2 yearly pass.
Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan says, “The system we inherited from the former Liberal government is confusing, unfair and inequitable. It penalises and intimidates the most vulnerable, while providing an incentive to others to travel without a ticket.”
Earlier this year, a site created by Young Liberty for Law Reform (YLLR) to help inform Victorians of their choices when faced with an on-the-spot fine sparked further discussion around the flaws and injustices in the current system.
“We think it’s really great that the government is taking the steps to remove on-the-spot penalty fares. They’re really not transparent and you don’t know the circumstances around people getting those fares,” says Emma Buckley Lennox from YLLR.
She says the fact that more than 30,000 people visited the Myki Fines: Know Your Rights website on its launch day is proof that the system is too confusing for commuters.
In the 2014–15 financial year, 181,582 infringement notices and 76,291 on-the-spot fines were issued. Together these are estimated to be worth $44–46 million.