Dear Mr Pakula,
I enclose for your reference a copy of an infringement notice that I have just received for traveling on public transport without a valid ticket, and to indicate my intention to refuse to pay the $176 fine.
I have a reputation amongst my friends for being the most conscientious ticket purchaser in Melbourne. It is something of a joke in my social circle that I am so fastidious when it comes to purchasing and validating tickets on our public transport system. I am often ridiculed for insisting upon paying for tickets for journeys of only a couple of stops, and am constantly derided for ensuring that I always validate my ticket, even when the ticket has already been previously validated.
I took with good humour the barbs and jibes that came my way when I ordered a MYKI ticket, with the faith that (despite the delay and flaws with its implementation) there was some good to be had for having a pre-paid smart card for our public transport network.
However my faith has now evaporated. I was very tempted to enclose my MYKI card with this letter telling you exactly what you could do with it, but seeing as I still have a couple of dollars charged to the card I see no point in sacrificing even such a small sum to make a point.
I feel some obligation to illustrate all of the circumstances that led to the issuing of this infringement notice, however my excuses are not the real reason for my displeasure – should you wish I am happy to detail the events of that day if it will help you accept my decision not to pay this fine.
At the heart of my frustration is the fact that I am possibly the furthest thing from a fare evader in the whole city of Melbourne. The arbitrary and punitive $176 fine is hardly a fair punishment for what was merely a moment of absent-mindedness. I had a MYKI in my pocket. I could not use that on the tram. When the tram driver informed me that it would be ten minutes before the tram departed (at the Carnegie end of the 67 route) I chose to purchase my ticket from the adjacent milk bar instead of on the tram, as I figured I needed a flavoured milk beverage and a copy of the morning’s daily paper to ease my journey. So I’ve got not just one ticket that I had pre-paid, but two. Obviously I was doing a pretty mediocre job of evading a fare, seeing as I’d technically paid twice.
The instances when I have had a valid ticket (ie: EVERY SINGLE TIME I’VE EVER CAUGHT PUBLIC TRANSPORT) and ticket inspectors have boarded my tram, I have witnessed (EVERY SINGLE TIME) inspectors giving helpful advice and ‘coaching’ people who are either elderly, or claiming English as a second language, on how to use their ticket. This includes allowing them the grace of validating a previously unvalidated ticket. On this occasion I was not afforded that same latitude. Whilst diligent in the execution of his duties, the inspector that issued me with an infringement notice refused point blank to engage me in any explanation of why my ticket was not validated. When I offered my MYKI ticket (not as proof of validation, rather as proof of intent) he suggested that I ‘take it up with the government’.
I nearly had a sense of humour failure when, after the inspector had recorded my details, a group of middle-aged commuters boarded the tram. They had obviously (to me) no intention of purchasing a valid ticket until they noticed inspectors were on board. When they had subsequently purchased their tickets they tried to validate them on the tram, only to be instructed by the inspectors that you don’t need to validate tickets purchased on the tram. Now I heard their instruction and it was misleading. Those commuters were left with the impression that as long as you had pre-paid a ticket you did not need to validate it on the tram (essentially the same offence that I had just been pinged for). It was only upon my insistence that the inspectors re-word that advice that those commuters completely understood the process. Again, hardly the actions of someone who is a fare evader.
Minister, as someone who believes absolutely in public transport, and as someone who knows the importance of the data collection of validating tickets to the effective delivery of public transport services, I cannot abide that your department is seeking to punish me in this way. As I mentioned previously, your arbitrary fine of $176 is nothing but punitive, especially seeing as I had paid for my ticket, and also had money charged to a perfectly functioning MYKI card.
In Melbourne at the moment we are caught between two ticketing systems. As an educated, literate, diligent fare-paying commuter I have been caught out. I can only ponder the number of commuters out there who are both deliberately and unintentionally rorting the system due to this confusion. I feel it is both cynical and mean spirited that the focus of your ticket inspectors seems to be those that (like me) have inadvertently slipped up, rather than those who have sought to gain advantage by cheating the system.
Should none of the above sway you, Minister, I offer to barter the fine I have been issued. To demonstrate my good will I am prepared to trade my fine for a consultancy fee that may very well save your MYKI system. I was prepared to offer my solution free of charge (you know, because I’m such a believer in public transport) but now – well, if you want to go to the next election with an operational MYKI system rather than the white elephant it currently appears to be… Ha! I’ve just read that last paragraph back and I sound like a crank with a mental illness, but I’m serious.
I eagerly anticipate your judicious reply.