Victorian school and university students are skipping more classes or exhausting their savings because of not having enough money to top up their Myki cards to pay for public transport, as well as not having enough money to pay the fines incurred for riding without a valid travel card, according to a new study.
The study conducted between Victoria University and the Sunshine Youth Legal Centre found that more than half the centre’s young clients were seeking help to pay for transport fines or applying for valid myki cards with pre-loaded funds.
Ms Su Robertson, who heads the Sunshine legal centre, says it is a stark fact that public transport was “a necessity of life” for young people, and those who were unable to afford such basics suffered humiliation and were often ostracised from their peers.
“It’s not a luxury for a kid to get to school,” she said.
“If they don’t – or can’t – drive or don’t have enough money on their myki, it’s not an issue of fare evasion. They shouldn’t have to weigh up whether to risk a fine or risk getting in trouble for not going to school.”
It is made much harsher for those young people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, or who experience domestic issues at home as some of these students face abuse from their parents for incurring a fine from fare-evading which spurs on this endless cycle of disadvantage which can really blow out of proportion.
Young people already have a lot on their plate. Between studying, renting, tuition fees and general living expenses, the simple issue of not affording a bus or train ride can spill out and affect all areas of their life which can lead to greater stress, anxiety and depression – particularly if they don’t have some sort of support network or ‘safe fund’.
The Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, said she would review the study and ask Public Transport Victoria for its advice on the recommendations.
“Public transport plays a key role in social inclusion, particularly for young people,” Ms Allan said.
“Current concession fares significantly reduce the cost of travelling for students, but we recognise that, for the most disadvantaged, even a small fare can have a big impact.”
Currently, students who are over 16 years of age must apply for a concession card to receive a discount on fares.
The fine for travelling without a valid myki ticket for under-18s is $74 with no discounts available for on-the-spot payments.
Ms Robertson believes that this study and the realities faced by young people is a “human rights issue”,
“The right to education, wellbeing, safety and adequate standard of living – that’s talked about in international human rights documents, and is now coming through in our law,”
“It’s not just the responsibility of their families, it’s the responsibility of all institutions, and they shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their background for something that’s not their fault.”
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said concession fares significantly reduced the cost of travelling for students but the State Government recognised small fares could have a big impact on the most disadvantaged commuters.
“We look forward to reviewing the study and asking PTV for its advice on the recommendations,” Ms Allen said.
Alternatives to public transport such as riding a bike, walking or ‘car-pooling’ can be handy for those who have the access and means to, however it has also been brought to light the difficulties commuters have in navigating public roads, especially with inefficiently designed bike lanes coupled with busier roads and lack of designated paths – which can deter people from using these alternatives.
Public transport is a convenient means of transport, and it is not right that many young people cannot have proper access to it due to lack of funds.