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Free travel on public transport!

The Queensland opposition often complains that Brisbane trains do not run on time. Public transport is in the doldrums because it is not funded properly and because fares are very expensive, particularly for unemployed, homeless and disadvantaged Queenslanders.

Yes, Queensland rail executives should not be getting bonuses. The government is not blameless either, its sold the most profitable parts of Queensland Rail.

But here is another story about how Victoria is trying free travel on public transport.

Homeless and disadvantaged Victorians can now travel for free on public transport under an Andrews government trial. – The Age

This came out of a strike by tramways conductors over 20 years ago.

Bring back the Connies!

Free travel expanded for homeless and disadvantaged Victorians

Homeless and disadvantaged Victorians can now travel for free on public transport under an Andrews government trial.

The year-long trial will offer weekly and monthly passes to vulnerable people to keep them from becoming entangled in the criminal justice system due to fare evasion.

Emergency relief groups will be provided with the new weekly and monthly passes at substantially discounted rates but there will be no cost to the individuals who use them.

The trial will begin immediately.

Trains at Richmond station.
Trains at Richmond station. Credit:Pat Scala

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The Salvation Army, Launch Housing, Australian Red Cross and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre are among the 140 groups approved to distribute the passes.

Those groups will buy the discounted passes for $10.75 each for a weekly pass and $38.85 for a monthly ticket, then give them to the needy for free.

The passes will be valid in zones one and two and on regional buses.

The tickets will also be available to schools to help support students at risk of dropping out, and other community groups can also apply to be distributors.

To qualify for the tickets, the organisations must provide vital support or emergency assistance to disadvantaged people or be non-profit or charitable groups.

The trial comes after a review of ticketing in 2016 found that many poor people were forced into fare evasion because they could not pay for public transport when trying to reach appointments and basic services.

Housing Minister Martin Foley.
Housing Minister Martin Foley. Credit:Chris Hopkins

Housing Minister Martin Foley said the new passes would enable disadvantaged people to attend appointments and reach the services they needed to “get their lives back on track”.

“Many vulnerable people are being unnecessarily caught up in the legal system because the existing day pass is not meeting their needs – this will help fix that,” he said.

Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said too often people who couldn’t afford Mykis had no choice but to travel without a ticket and incur big fines that could “snowball out of control”.

“These passes will allow more people to travel with ease and mean fewer people unnecessarily fined or caught up in the justice system,” she said.

But Ms King insisted the passes should be appropriately priced so they did not become a prohibitive expense for “cash-strapped community organisations”.

The latest public transport compliance figures showed that 95.3 per cent of passengers touched on when using trains, trams and buses in Melbourne as of May this year, compared to 94.8 per cent at the same time last year.

However, compliance on regional trains was 93.6 per cent, down from 94.2 per cent in May last year.

The compliance survey is conducted twice a year and is based on 40,000 metropolitan and 17,000 V/Line passengers.

The 2016 ticketing review reported that fare evasion still cost “many millions of dollars” each year in lost revenue despite high levels of compliance.

The review led to a series of changes to make the public transport system fairer. It said that vulnerable groups, including homeless people and those with mental illnesses were disproportionately impacted by the enforcement regime.

The currently available day passes were thought to be of limited use when appointments changed or when users could not reach them due to other factors, including health or addiction problems.

Benjamin Preiss
6 October 2018
In The AGE

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