Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Effective Ticketing

(Warning All! I am gong to write about public transport. I was told once in a TAFE class by a fellow student that this was a boring crappy subject to write about. If you are of the same opinion of that lass, please stop reading now!)

I read this article in the Sydney Morning Herald about ticketing on public transport in Australia. According to the report when it comes to short trips in particular we commuters are paying some of the highest fares in the world - and I think a lot of people would say we aren't exactly getting the best value, what with complaints about safety, cleanliness, accessibility, on-time running blah blah.

For some of the longer trips, we are getting a better deal though.

Anyhow, what to do about it, if anything? Is this cool? I know a lot of people get all het up when they hear tickets are going up - again! Especially when you find services seem to be just the same or worse.

I always think it's an absolute rort that the way to make train stats better is just to change the definition of what "on time" is - like "within ten minutes".

Hey, why don't we passengers change the definition of "paying full price for a ticket" while we're at it so our stats for travelling legally look better? You IDIOTS. It seems all they have to do is fiddle with definitions but not serve up more, but the customers are meant to serve up more, and that's when people get very crappy about their fares going up.

Well, people get cranky about fares going up whenever, but especially when the service is not going up.

Anyhow, how to make fares fairer?

I remember a friend of mine said she believed in fully subsidised public transport. Naturally, this would probably mean a tax hike because money to run transport comes from somewhere, realistically. Either a tax hike or a decline in facilities elsewhere. But instead of a user pays system, a tax-funded system. Wold this deliver a better service to customers? In some ways it would do without the need for ticketing and it could be more efficient. It could also coax people into using public transport more. On the other hand, would it be economically viable, and could it also lead to a run-down system where only the minimum to sustain it would be delivered ... on the other hand, is that much different from what we're getting now?

I also remember some talk about different kinds of fares - at the moment we have different classes of fares. Adults pay full fare, there are concession tickets, pensioner tickets, school children get free school passes, and there are also special other passes for people who are veterans (I think)or who have certain disabilities. I'm not sure about other types of tickets.

Anyhow, sometimes when prices are hiked they are hiked in certain areas, others across the board, and I know some people have talked about inequities in these areas.

For instance, at a time when the pensioner daily travel pass was more than doubled, school children continued to ride free. It was suggested by some that it would be more fair if the pensioner travel pass was reduced by less and school children had to pay a fee (paid by parents), a once-off fee each school year for the privilege of holding a school pass. Or they could choose to not have one and pay a child's fare each time they travelled.

On the article I posted, a commenter mentioned that she thought a ticket based on time woudld be more appropriate than one based on distance. In that way it's really user pays. On the other hand this leads to several problems, and objections, including difficulties in estimating time - would you be fined if you bought a half hour ticket and got stuck on a slow bus? Surely you should be allowed to simply pay up extra at the other end, not be fined for carrying an invalid ticket.

And it hopefully wouldn't encourage your service to be excruciatingly slow in order to squeeze money from you. Would a breakdown in the middle of peak hour, forcing thousands of commuters to hang around for four hours and top up as they left, be a godsend to CityRail? many would argue no, as it would be a bad marketing strategy for them, but considering many of us have no viable choice but to catch public transport to the places we wish to go, and there aren't major competitors in the area, they don't worry too much about sweet-talking us.

Evidently, as the past over ten years has shown us.

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