Saturday, April 24, 2004

I am a fare evader. Yes, that's right. Thought I had no politics, eh? Well I'm a fare evader and proud of it. They have those posters that say "Fare evasion is a crime", the point of which is to avoid presenting fare evasion as a response to circumstances, like, oh, let's see, having no money till next Wednesday, and the hiking ticket prices, and the phasing out of short-trip tickets, and the fucking over of travellers to Melbourne Central Station, and trams that don't show up or, worse, show up early, and the endless trackworks at times that don't bother the average 9-to-5er but vastly inconvenience the armies of students and 'creative professionals' who have to work crappy service-industry jobs at evenings and weekends.

No, these posters are vaguely Foucauldian in that they perform a rhetorical shift from "fare evasion" the practice to a criminalised, uncivic-minded class of person, the "fare evader", who 'deserves' all manner of humiliation and brutality at the hands of roaming mobs of Revenue Protection Officers.

But if that's the game they want to play, then throw me the ball. I not only fare evade out of economic necessity but sheer bloody-mindedness. I enjoy it. It gives me the shits big-time that public transport was privatised without offering any of the benefits of a free market, i.e. if you as a consumer get shitty service you can withhold your business. But obviously there are no incentives for the public transport operators to provide better service. You can't go "Well, the Glen Waverley line sucked last week, so today I'll catch the Upfield one." You can't go "I'll wait til concession cards go on sale at the end of the season." (Did you know that Victoria is the only Australian state not to grant postgraduate students public transport concessions?) Nor are you allowed to refuse to pay for substandard service.

While in a proper market system, "the customer is always right", and companies fall over themselves doing focus groups and other ways to find out what people want, public transport operators have almost precisely the opposite attitude. They bitch that ticket prices are high because of the high amount of fare evasion, but it doesn't seem to occur to them that perhaps there is so much fare evasion because of the high ticket prices.

This said, I'm no bolshie hero going to court or engaging in ugly confrontations with Met inspectors. My usual fare evasion strategy is to purchase a 10 x 2 hour ticket, which I can prudently validate when inspectors get on the tram. I have actually been caught out twice, and both times I said "Oh, I haven't had a chance to validate it" and got away with it. A third time, the inspector asked me for my ticket and I validated it before I gave it to him, which angered him considerably but I said innocently "I thought that was what you had to do." A fourth time was on a Friday night, and the inspector said "Why didn't you validate it?" and I said "Hee hee, because I'm drunk?" and he just shook his head and validated it for me. My last ticket was validated on 2 December 2003, 17 December, 20 December, 2 January 2004, 20 January, 28 January, 26 February, 2 March, 15 April and 20 April.

One argument against fare evasion goes "Your fare evasion is unfair to other commuters who do the right thing, because they are forced to carry the cost of your travel." I have three answers to this. Number one: people ought to question the rather terrifying notion that putting up with public transport is "doing the right thing". If everybody fare-evaded then public transport operators might be forced to re-evaluate their practices, although that is me being extremely idealistic. Number two: we all have to pay taxes that go towards maintaining road infrastructure, regardless of whether we drive cars. And indeed, it's the inconvenience of public transport that drives (pun intended) so many people to use cars. Number three: despite these operators being privately owned, they rely heavily on government subsidies which are (you guessed it) taxpayer-funded, so whether you pay for your ticket or not, you're already helping keep the public transport system running.

But you know what? I'm just glad I don't live in Sydney. I had to endure their trains in a fucking hot February week when half of them were cancelled and the other half had no relevance to the timetable. And I wrote a story about how the NSW transport system is basically fucked because: a) management aimed to increase the number of services while pruning down the number of staff and enforcing training periods roughly twice what other states have, which forced the remaining staff to work overtime, and when they refused, well, the trains stopped; b) their workforce is a bunch of babyboomers who would fail the new health and fitness tests they introduced in the wake of the Waterfall disaster; c) the Waterfall inquiry also recommended a new safety device, and training the drivers how to use this took many of them away from actually driving trains.

And as for bicycles, I applaud their usage, but I'm not a bike person. You are or you aren't, and my lifestyle (skirt wearing, handbag carrying, silly-shoe owning, copious drinking, retarded at mechanical stuff) doesn't support the ownership, usage and maintenance of a bicycle. Thankyou and goodnight.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter