Cover, book, judging

On the tram back from lunch. In the corner seat was a bloke in a shirt and tie, carrying a folder. After a stop or two gazing out the window, he reached into his pocket and got out a 10x ticket and validated it, just as a gaggle of inspectors got on. (For out-of-towners, this is a sneaky manoevre designed to avoid paying a fare unless you think you’re about to get your ticket checked.)

A couple of stops later, someone who looked like a haggard old woman (but in fact turned out to be a haggard old man… at least I think) dressed in what could loosely be described as a collection of clothes, dragged from a cigarette, then dropped it and came up the steps and sat down. The smell of stale cigarette smoke emanated. The lady unfortunate enough to be sharing the seat squirmed a bit and shuffled over.

The inspectors nodded to each other. The bravest one stepped forward.

“Excuse me, you didn’t validate your ticket.”

“No, nobody does.” (Correct. Few people re-validate their ticket every time they travel. The first time is essential, it timestamps it. Subsequent re-validating, unless it’s a 10x ticket and needs a new timestamp, is largely pointless.)

The inspector then made gentle noises that he’d appreciate seeing a ticket validated or bought.

The reply was short and sharp. “Hey, I don’t go around without a ticket, you know!”

And with that, he (or she, I’m still not sure) stood up, took out a ticket and put it in the validator. EXPIRES: 09 MAY it reported back. Obviously a weekly or monthly ticket with plenty of time left on it. I don’t even think it double-beeped to signify it was a concession.

The inspectors looked surprised. I couldn’t help but smirk as I got off the tram.

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

5 replies on “Cover, book, judging”

Nevermind that constant validating kills the tickets after a very short time. *grumblemutter* But no, you never really know, do you?

I re-validate because it gives the powers that be an idea of how many people are using the service.. in a perfect world that would mean that they could adjust services accordingly…lol, right!

It doesn’t actually give them any useful information – lets suppose for a moment that we’re in a perfect world and I get on route 96 at East Brunswick with a Zone 1 ticket, validating before we leave.

Did I go down the road to north carlton, to the city, or right through to st kilda beach? The ticketing system can’t answer that question.

Validation data obtained when a ticket is validated is used by the transport providers to obtain an idea of patronage and usage. Knowing this they can provide extra services as required. Also the system is designed to divide the collected fares amoungst the transport companies based on patronage.

Yes the system can tell which way you went. It can even tell you the name of the Tram driver. (If you give me the ticket serial number I can tell you)

In a perfect world patrons would be forced to validate (via vehicle/station design) on entering and exiting the system (bus, tram, or station) and in this way we could get really useful information on patronage.

Unfortunately the powers that be are not prepared to implement stratergies to encourage (enforce) appropriate usage.

P.S. Even though it seems stupid, it is illegal to travel on a bus or tram with a ticket that has not been validated on that bus or tram. That is the law.

P.P.S I do not work for the government, nor any of the transport providers.


Incorrect. Train travellers going into the city are forced to validate every time (the gates in the city won’t open otherwise, and you have to find a human). This has been the case for some years, and allows capturing of detailed information about starts and ends of trips into the city. No action has been taken to fix overcrowding during morning peaks, apart from extra carriages (sometimes) on the Upfield line.

Vaughan is correct: tram machines cannot tell where anybody gets off the tram, only where people get on (assuming everybody re-validates).

Similarly, for most cases on the train system (including people leaving the city), it knows where people entered, but not which train they caught or station they got off at, unless they happen to exit through another gate which forces the ticket to be read again.

This is why the operators continue to use manual counting (people with clipboards) to measure patronage.

They can’t enforce everybody buying a ticket, so they certainly can’t enforce getting everybody to re-validate.

As for a legal requirement to validate on every trip, this seems a little grey (wording of legislation is below). My reading is that any ticket that already has a timestamp on it does not “require machine validation”, so there is no need to keep re-validating.

In any case, I don’t believe anybody has been fined for it. Such an act would be sheer bloody-mindedness of course, since the person would not be evading a fare.

5. 206. Ticket to be validated. A person using a ticket which requires machine validation must validate that ticket on boarding a rail Transport (Public Transport Corporation) Regulations 1994 r. 207 S.R. No. 90/1994 or road vehicle on which an perational ticket validating device is located or before entering a designated area. Penalty: 5 penalty units.

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