The Public Transport Authority has defended itself against critique from some Perth student guilds over implementation of its ‘No registered SmartRider, no tertiary student concession’ policy.
Murdoch University student Sarah Inglis was fined $100 for allegedly not having adequate proof of concession when she travelled with a concession train ticket from Sorrento to Perth.
“I had my university student ID card and I thought that would be alright,” she said.
Ms Inglis said a transit officer told her that her student card was insufficient proof.
“I think it’s pretty ridiculous because it doesn’t make sense,” Ms Inglis said.
“I don’t understand how a student ID card isn’t sufficient proof that you’re a student at a university.
“If I’d had my SmartRider, I wouldn’t have bought a concession ticket.”
Public Transport Authority spokesman David Hynes said university students must register their SmartRider with their university or at a Transperth InfoCentre and carry it as adequate proof of concession.
Mr Hynes said only full-time students were entitled to a concession fare.
“A student identification card does not prove that someone is a full-time student,” Mr Hynes said.
He said Transperth was mostly taxpayer-funded so fare evasion could have a large impact on the operation of Perth’s buses, trains and ferries.
He said there were strict rules aimed at preventing this.
“Given that Transperth covers only about 30 per cent of the true cost of providing the service, it is important to ensure that everyone who claims a concession is eligible to use it,” Mr Hynes said.
“This is not aimed at inconveniencing students.
“It’s the only fair and efficient way to track their eligibility and ensure that only genuine full-time WA students benefit from our low concession fares.”
Curtin University’s Guild President Liam O’Neill said Transperth’s position did not adequately deal with verifying who was a full-time student and who was not.
“I think it’s actually more of a way for the State Government to raise revenue through the PTA than it is to deal with the issue of non-students having student cards,” he said.
Mr O’Neill said the policy did not suit students at universities such as Curtin where the student and SmartRider cards are separate.
“It’s a bit weird because the main reason students would be buying tickets in the first place would be because they don’t have their SmartRider [on them],” he said.
Edith Cowan University made this easier for students by printing their student cards on the back of SmartRiders.
The University of Western Australia’s Guild President Nevin Jayawardena is advocating for the same approach at his university.
“The guild is working with the university to arrange for our student card to be merged with the student SmartRider,” he said.
“So your card can not only be used to tag on and off but also verify the fact that you are a student.”
He said this was an important issue because university students relied heavily on public transport.
“I would say given parking on campus is an issue at every Australian university, the vast majority of students do rely on public transport,” he said.
Some students who received fines successfully appealed them.
Ms Inglis said the transit officer who fined her told her to write an email to the PTA to appeal the fine.
“The outcome was they sent me an email back saying they’d let me off for the fine but that they wouldn’t be so lenient next time,” she said.
“It seems quite silly that if you can appeal it so easily, why do they fine us in the first place?”
ECU’s Guild President Samuel Martyn said he had also successfully appealed a similar fine and did not find the policy unreasonable.
He compared the situation to needing a driver’s licence to buy alcohol or a student card to buy cheap movie tickets.
“If you expect to use cheaper transport tickets then you should have your SmartRider with you for them as well,” he said.
According to Transperth’s annual satisfaction annual satisfaction survey, more than 15 per cent of customers who were dissatisfied with transit officers thought they issued fines unreasonably and were not lenient.
Liam O’Neill said he understood the State Government was under financial pressure but that this did not excuse the “unreasonable” process.
“I think Transperth should be a bit fairer in its approach and a bit friendlier,” he said.
Western Independent asked Transperth for information on the number of fines issued and appeals granted, but received none.