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The private 'police' of public transport

Date

Xavier Toby

Whenever the inspectors swagger onto a train, I can pick who’s most likely not to have a valid ticket.

Whenever the inspectors swagger onto a train, I can pick who’s most likely not to have a valid ticket.

Yesterday in Perth I was accosted by a comically bright super-sized character of indeterminate sex, questionable body odour and garish tribal tattoos down its wide, flabby arms.

The gang of large fluorescent teletubbies demanded to see my train ticket as if I’d already committed a crime.

Being a transit officer must be a tough job.

So I handed over my Myki card, no Go card, oops wrong state, Opal card - I didn’t have my Perth Smartrider on me.

I was asked how I got past the barriers to begin with - a very astute question.

What had happened was, I explained, I had walked through the barrier at the exact same time as a gentleman coming the other way.

The barriers had opened, nobody was sure who’d scanned what, so we both pressed forward. As we were both gentlemen, we passed back to back, and bum to bum. Every gentleman knows to save the front for the ladies.

It didn’t get me out of the $100 fine, which was fair enough. I’ve been keeping a tally of all the public transport I’ve stolen, and am still $774 in front. Which is ridiculous for someone that isn’t that organised, or devious, and usually rides a bike.

The thing is, I was spoken to as if I was a suspect in a much larger crime.

The vast majority of transit officers I’ve met have been courteous, friendly and go about their jobs in a wonderful way.

However to stop people writing stuff like this, they need to stop being such jerks about it.

The entire asking for tickets part of a transit officer’s job is a waste of time. Whenever the inspectors swagger onto a train, I can pick who’s most likely not to have a valid ticket.

Worst of all, I’m usually right.

It’s the poorest, most vulnerable and downtrodden. People who are also least likely to be able to afford it. People who are probably only an application form and short training course away from being transit officers themselves.

With all the fines and transit officers, are we saying as a society that anyone who can’t afford to travel shouldn’t be allowed to?

Public transport should be free, and the cost shared proportionally by everyone in this country, based on how much tax they pay, not how much they use it, otherwise it’s not ‘public’ transport at all.

Right now it’s a system that might be public owned, but it's run as if it's a ‘private’ company, using a ‘private’ police force, with costs more akin to a business for making money, not a service for the public. Making it ‘private’ transport, and that’s exactly what it should be called.

Xavier Toby's debut non-fiction book, ‘Mining My Own Business’ is available now.

Xavier

27 comments so far

  • I worked for Westrail during the great transition from railway conductors to ticket machines and security guards - all to save the cost of the conductors. Now we have even more people on each train and a massive network of ticket machines.

    What isn't really appreciated is that the Metro train network has under 20% cost recovery vs operating costs. So in effect 80% of your journey is free anyway.

    Imagine how much money they would save if they fired all the security guards, dumped the ticket machines and went to free transit for all supervised by a friendly conductor on each train! They could still keep the odd Railway Police vehicle for dealing with disturbances, or just get the cops to do it.

    Commenter
    Jerry
    Location
    Floreat
    Date and time
    June 20, 2014, 12:42PM
    • Jerry, the cops have enough to do without taking on the job of transit guard. And no one in their right mind would take on the "friendly guard" position if transport were free. Every man and his dog would be using public transport and in this day and age, where people have no manners or etiquette, it wold be an absolute nightmare. It's bad enough now during peak hour with the rudeness and arrogance of some people, imagine if it were a free for all. No thanks.

      Commenter
      chris
      Date and time
      June 20, 2014, 3:18PM
    • @chris

      The police have better things to do than to chase fare jumpers, you're right. However, dealing with actual security on the train line, especially given things like daylight rape in train station parking lots is most definitely police business and something they should be doing a lot more about. If the trains had more actual security and less fare enforcement they might actually be safe to use after dark.

      As to the rest of your comment. I'm sorry that Transperth hasn't instituted first class compartments so you can keep yourself separate from the great unwashed.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      June 20, 2014, 3:37PM
  • Some drivers ask why they should subsidise public transport if they don't use it. My response is that if all "those" people use the bus or train then "your" road is less congested and "your" parking space is available. Ditto for bike paths.

    Commenter
    Peter Best
    Location
    South Perth
    Date and time
    June 20, 2014, 12:46PM
    • I'm pretty sure public transport is subsidised by the government as it is. But I get your point: I work in TAFE admissions and was speaking to a young woman the other week who didn't have the money for a train fare from her outer suburb to inner Perth to sit our admissions test - without the test she couldn't get into the course, without the course how can she improve her employment prospects? Maybe free travel for concession card holders - it's already free for seniors - is the answer.

      Commenter
      georgie
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      June 20, 2014, 12:46PM
      • got cught eh and then bagging people doinG thier job-why would this even be published.

        a quote from DH-SHAME SHAME SHAME

        Commenter
        mickey
        Date and time
        June 20, 2014, 1:18PM
        • Where's the story about the PTA salaried officer currently before the CCC for allegedly employing family and mates? THAT'S the story Xavier should be writing.

          The 'writer' was not accosted by a state-employed trained Transit Officer, but by a private contracted and untrained Revenue Protection Officer (Revvies). Some Revvies have such a poor grasp of English that they ask passengers to fill in their own Infringements. Another wonderful example of Richard Court's privatisation model—imagine our newly privatised 'public' hospitals.

          If the 'writer' wants a true account of what Transits do, travel the 2am Saturday train to Armadale, and watch how they deal with the race riots beginning from Maddington station. A much better article might result, but he'd have to leave his comfy office. Also, no ticket required, Transits too busy worrying about SAFETY.

          Commenter
          D Murphy
          Location
          Nedlands
          Date and time
          June 20, 2014, 1:18PM
          • Your article is written by someone who is absolutely arrogant and unaware (or just plain oblivious and dumb) of what these people have to deal with on a day to day basis. As a partner of someone who has worked as a transit guard in Perth I for one do know what I am talking about! These people are dealing with abuse, insults and arrogant individuals EVERY DAY! For you to say they should not be arrogant and should not ask people for their tickets the way they do maybe you should just have the CORRECT ticket for the public transport system you are using! I don't believe they accuse you, they are doing their job. I would like to see you doing the job (which is dangerous on certain train lines because of the people that use it) for the money these people get paid (which is next to nothing) and for the so called 'training' they receive (which is an absolute joke!) and being Mister Sunshine to everyone.
            And no, it is NOT the poorest and most vulnerable that do not have tickets. It is people that just don't see the point in paying for them cause they think they are 'entitled' to ride for free. Which again, is arrogant and plain wrong. And even worse of you to brag on about being $774 in front of the public transport for not having paid for fees and then asking for the system to be free so my taxes can pay for you to ride for free. Arrogant, that is what you are, shame on you for calling these people jerks!

            Commenter
            Moo
            Date and time
            June 20, 2014, 1:47PM
            • You got caught, you are openly proud of the fact that you do it regularly, suck it up, you are just dishonest!!

              Commenter
              Cathy
              Location
              Perth
              Date and time
              June 20, 2014, 1:53PM
              • So let's get this right. You openly admit to cheating the system, but then complain to us how you were dealt with whilst denigrating the guys whose job it is to stop people cheating the system? Then, you suggest that people with more money should pay more, yet you yourself, who has presumably more money than those downtrodden people you're speaking of, openly admit to not paying your way? Low grade.

                Commenter
                jack
                Date and time
                June 20, 2014, 1:55PM

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