FARE dodgers will be able to pay a cheaper on-the-spot fine of $75 in a crackdown on a growing army of public transport freeloaders.The State Government says legislation being introduced to Parliament today will speed up enforcement, so ticket inspectors can catch more cheats.
Latest figures show fare evasion has spiked since the $1.5 billion myki system became the only ticket in town.
Fare evasion jumped to 11.9 per cent - an increase of 2.5 percentage points - in the most recent survey for the six months to May.
The problem costs taxpayers about $60 million a year. $60 million could buy nine new trams or four new X'Trapolis trains.
Train, tram and bus operators have been briefed on the plan, due to begin in early 2014.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the existing system required too much administration.
"Honest commuters would rather see their fellow fare cheats pay up,'' he said.
"If everyone paid their way, more money could be invested in the public transport network.
"We hope the on-the-spot fines make an impact on fare evasion because losing $60 million a year is not something our transport system can afford.''
Public Transport Victoria said last year ticket inspectors were issuing an average of only one fine per shift, and needed to be more efficient.
More than 155,000 fines were issued last year.
PTV CEO Ian Dobbs said the new approach would give inspectors greater flexibility.
It is believed it is the first time evaders have had the opportunity to pay a fine by cash on-the-spot.
"We think there are a lot of people out there who, if they've made a mistake, would much rather just deal with it and put it down to a lesson - that they really do need to make sure they touch on,'' Mr Dobbs said.
"This is another weapon in our armoury against the scourge of fare evasion.
"We need to give our staff as much opportunity as we can to reduce fare evasion,'' he said.
Under the plan, commuters who hitch a free ride would be given the option of paying a lesser $75 fine immediately by cash or credit or debit card, rather than the full $212 infringement.
A zone 1-2 daily ticket costs $11.84.
Mr Dobbs said he believed most people would pay by credit card.
Ticket inspectors would carry mobile EFTPOS terminals to gather fines.
Commuters who take the on-the-spot hit would not have to provide inspectors with their names and addresses.
The new fines would be issued only to adults and only for certain offences.
Children will continue to face the existing $72 fine. Passengers who can't or chose not to pay the on-the-spot fine face the current process and penalty.
An Auditor-General's report found fewer fines were issued in 2010 when myki was being introduced.
Fare evasion rates hit a low of 7.8 per cent in 2008 before peaking again at 13.5 per in early 2011.