Saturday, 27 Feb 2021

30,000 fare dodgers caught on Auckland’s public transport

More than 30,000 people have been caught sneaking on to Auckland’s trains, buses and ferries without paying in the past two years, netting Auckland Transport about $600,000 in fines.

This comes as the price of public transport in Auckland today increases.

About 166 million trips were taken on the city’s public transport network in 2019 and last year- despite 40 million fewer trips because of Covid-19.

AT’s 67 transport officers checked the Hop cards of 2.5 million people during that time and caught 30,724 fare evaders.

Only 13 per cent were issued with a $150 ticket – equating to about $600,000 in fines – and the rest were let off with a warning.

Only 1.2 per cent of inspections found non-compliance but when applied across the total number of trips, almost 2m journeys may have been unpaid – across the train network alone that’s 388,800 trips.

AT spokesman Mark Hannan said transport officers began checking Hop cards in November 2017. For most of that time they had been solely policing trains but moved on to ferry services and major bus routes like the Northern Express late last year.

“Some people will always try to avoid paying their fares but most people do the right thing. We have transport officers on the network seven days a week and they will check AT Hop cards and tickets. If you don’t pay and don’t have a valid excuse you will eventually be caught and offenders face a $150 fine,” he said.

The figures also show the impact Covid-19 had on the network.

Last year only 63m trips were made on public transport compared to 2019. Train trips dropped from 21.8m to 10.6m and transport officers only checked about 772,000 cards compared to 1.8m because they had to maintain social distancing. Instead, they “educated customers”.

That drop in patronage was in part responsible for today’s average fare increase of 4 per cent.

“Public transport has taken a huge hit from Covid. The lack of tourists, foreign students and more people working from home means passenger numbers are down around 30 per cent. Revenue is also down as a result,” Hannan said.

Public transport was subsidised and the subsidy, paid through the Auckland Council’s emergency budget, had increased because of the downturn in patronage.

The increase would help reduce pressure on the fare subsidy while allowing improvements in services including the next steps in transferring to an electric bus fleet.

“We’ve tried to keep any general increases as low as possible to encourage people to use public transport given the impacts to numbers since Covid,” he said.

The maximum fare increase for those with Hop cards was 50 cents and $1 for cash fares but for about half of bus and rail passengers the increase would be no more than 35 cents.

Hannan also said the reduced off-peak fares trialled last year were now permanent and the roll-out of integrated fares had been completed meaning customers could transfer between buses, trains and ferries and pay just once for each zone.

Hannan said AT had planned to introduce a $20 daily cap on fares but a technical issue had delayed that so the price of a Hop day pass had been reduced from $19 to $18.

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