Friday, June 8, 2012


Bruce Guthrie, The Age & Tetractys Merkaba. Editor-In-Chief, Mikiverse Politics October 9, 2011
Started to edit this last year and I was stymied in my efforts to finish this by my involvement in the heroic Occupy Melbourne efforts in the city square....I think. :) 
@ any rate, I found this unpublished piece this morning and decided to rectify this anomaly. Hope it’s still relevant to you.
ON A city-bound tram this week, after I'd dutifully swiped my myki, I watched as a mother boarded with two young teens, about a dozen stops out from the CBD. Was she or wasn't she? Picking fare evaders has become a favourite guessing game of mine. Fare evaders? This is what is known as presumptive language. Public Transport is free, notwithstanding the opinions of the corporate media, the corporations who run public transport & the corporation that is, what you presume to be, your government.
Two stops further along, neither the mother nor her children had made any attempt to buy a ticket or validate a myki or Metcard. But then the public address system crackled into life.
''Authorised officers in plain clothes are currently checking tickets on [these] routes,'' said the recorded announcement. ''Please ensure you have a valid ticket for every journey or risk a fine of up to $180.'' Propaganda in full effect, just like 1984.
With that, the mother of two sprang into action, validating for herself and her two kids. It's amazing the effect potential prosecution can have on a person. (Actually, maybe she thought I looked like a plain-clothes ticket inspector.–or maybe she thought that Bruce looked like a wanker–he certainly writes like one– Time for a makeover.)
As a regular tram user, the news this week that about 20 per cent of travellers are evading farespresumptive language that is an opinion, not a fact– did not surprise me.
In fact, I was somewhat taken aback that 80 per cent are payingSo am I. Why pay for something that is for free?– And if you allow for those who don't deliberately evademore presumptive opinion disguised as a fact– - hapless tourists, coinless commuters or those stymied by overcrowding - the figure is probably closer to 85 per cent or 90 per cent.
So, does that make us an honest or dishonest society?–Is this a relevant question? 
I have no doubt that a great many evaders play ''spot the inspector'' on tram trips. You see them scurrying for ticket machines if they see inspectors boarding.
It's why the onboard announcements of plain-clothes officers, introduced in the past month, have been so effective.
Frankly, the stress of travelling without a ticket and forever watching out for inspectors isn't worth the money you save by not paying. I’ve hardly bought a ticket in 20 years and I disagreeI did it once after realising my Metcard had run out of trips and I had no coins - I spent most of the journey in a mild panic. Eventually I got off and walked the last three stops.
That 80 per cent to perhaps 90 per cent of commuters pay under what is basically an honour system ANOTHER presumptive opinion. Is it possible they are afraid of the violence that is routinely used by the revenue raising employees of the PRIVATE BUSINESS that is unlawfully seeking to FORCE YOU INTO A CONTRACT!! is strangely comforting to me. I like to think it means that if I dropped a $10 note in the street, eight, even nine out of 10 people would probably return it. Does an ex-editor of the sensationalist, conservative tabloid, ‘the Herald Sun’ really expect us to believe that this would be the case?
That wouldn't happen in many other big cities around the world. –Ahhh, now I get it. Bruce is telling us now that somehow, Melbourne is a special type of magical, honest place, unlike many, unnamed big cities in the world where 8 or 9 out 10 people will track you down and repay you that lost $10. In fact, there was such a person on my facebook wall this morning trying to find the owner of the $10 note she had found earlier this morning!!
And, of course, there is no telling what effect myki has had on our fare-paying. First there was the amnesty period where people were forgiven for not validating - I've got no doubt some have ''extended'' the period of grace - and then there is just the physical demand of swiping in a stairwell as you get on, risking permanent injury as the tram takes off with a shudder, or being buffeted by other passengers trying to board.
Take out the myki factor and I'm sure evasion would be running at 10 per cent, tops.
Which leads me to suggest there is a much bigger issue than people evading fares, and that's the motorists who want to run you down as you get on or off a tram. Increasingly, drivers are ignoring one of the city's most basic road rules: stop when a tram stops, and don't move until passengers have cleared the roadway, and then only slowly. I see many more examples of such idiot motorists than I do of fare evaders, and all to save a few minutes. I have more sympathy for those trying to save a few dollars - but not much more.
Already this year Yarra Trams has received more than 100 reports from its drivers and passengers of motorists ignoring road rules at tram stops. I probably see a couple a week on my route. Four years ago, the company experimented with ''tram cams'', devices fixed to the side of trams to capture motorists ignoring road rules. From all reports they worked well, capturing life-threatening moments when cars either ignored stop rules or took off early to get ahead of trams. The cameras even recorded registration numbers on vehicles. There was considerable excitement that it could be used permanently, but nothing has happened since.
I know we already have far too many cameras in our daily lives, but I could accept them on trams if they saved pedestrians. I understand the 50 new low-floor trams being built in Dandenong will be equipped with camera technology when they are eventually rolled out. It won't take much to convince me they should be used to identify lead-footed drivers who put lives at risk.
I would not support them being used to raise revenue though. Ultimately, fare evaders and the few motorists who ignore road rules around trams are coming from pretty much the same place: it's opportunism, driven by the belief that if you can get away with something - break a rule here, avoid a responsibility there - why not give it a go.
Who knows, maybe some of the culprits do both. Either way, we should tell them where to get off.
Bruce Guthrie is a former editor of The Age, The Sunday Age and Herald Sun.
Twitter: @brucerguthrie This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/beyond-fare-woes-of-a-tram-travellers-life-20111008-1lf1g.html

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