Experts are calling for students to renew their public transport concession cards as ticket inspectors crack down on young people travelling on invalid tickets.
Professor Graham Currie, from Monash University, has conducted research into fare evading on public transport. He says students not renewing their concession cards is “a key problem”.
“The reason why it occurs is forgetfulness in the students,” Currie told Catalyst. “As well as being aware of using the system and the rules, but the same is true for everyone.”
Guy Donovan, a lawyer from RMIT’s Student Legal Service, says it is important students are proactive because travelling on an invalid concession ticket is a strict liability offence.
“So even if you are entitled to a concession at the time—but you didn’t renew it or have it on you—you have breached the law,” he said.
Donovan says this issue is particularly important because the fine for not holding a valid concession card is currently $212. According to the Department of Transport’s website, this is the same penalty as someone who is found to be smoking in a train carriage or on a tram.
“This is a significant amount for students on Centrelink, as well as international students who might not have any income coming in,” says Donovan. “The Department of Transport will show some leniency if it is a first offence and if you show you were entitled [to a concession] but didn’t have it on you. But if you didn’t renew it you might not even get any leniency from a first offence.”
Tara Amici, a media and communications student at RMIT, was on a train home from university last week when ticket inspectors asked to see her myki. Although she had touched on, Tara did not realise her concession card had expired a week earlier.
“They told me it was just a warning,” said Tara. “Then two weeks later I got a fine in the mail.”
Although she wrote a letter to the Department of Transport and the fine was overturned, Tara thinks it is unfair that student concession cards expire so early in the academic year.
“It expires right before university starts, so it’s a catch-22. I think they need to tell students it expires before they go back because you risk going into uni on your myki to get the concession card in the first place.”
Catalyst understands Melbourne University students can get the documentation necessary to obtain or renew their transport concession card from their online student portal, rather than having to obtain the paperwork from campus like RMIT students.
However Catalyst spoke to a number of students who said when it came to RMIT providing them with the necessary documentation, their experience had been far better than previous years.
“It took two seconds,” said one student. “Last year I had to wait forever [at the Hub]. This year they had a dedicated space to go get your concession card and it made me extremely happy. But if you didn’t have to go into uni it would be so much better.”
Melinda Munday, manager of customer services in student administration at RMIT, says the Hub has implemented a variety of changes for 2014.
“Student card and transport concession stations were set up in the Carlton Library, the library in Building 8 and the computer lab to the side of the City Hub,” she said. “These were set up solely for the purpose of producing student cards, transport concession forms and handing out diaries.”
Victorian public transport concession cards issued to students in 2013 expired on 28 February this year.
By Broede Carmody
Photo via Flickr.