Public transport fines are getting higher, and less consistent

UPDATED on April 11: Read LTA’s response to the incident at the bottom of this story.

An LTA officer reportedly slapped a 17-year-old boy with a $100 fine after the latter underpaid his bus fares by 10 cents.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, netizen Prakash Naidu recalled the incident and questioned the actions of the authorities:

A 17yrs old boy paid bus fare $1.00 instead of $1.10 by mistake. A LTA OFFICER checked n caught him for under payment and summoned him $100…..Well done Govt ….best way to mould the future….wtf!!!!!! Is there an increment for Govt bodies???? (sic)

Here’s the post in full:

April Fools?

While Prakash’s complaint might be genuine, perhaps he should have chosen a better date to publish his frustrations – April Fools’ Day is not exactly the most ideal day to help with one’s credibility.

Netizens have also pointed out loopholes in his account – how could we verify that the 17-year-old in question did in fact underpay by 10 cents, rather than evading the fare totally?

Furthermore, the offence was committed in December last year, and the offender had 28 days to make the payment. Yet, the deadline was set on April 4th, 2017.

With that being said, it has already been four days since the incident first made its rounds on social media, but the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has yet to claim the story as a hoax.

An inquisitive netizen also took the time to check if the fine existed in the first place:

Spoiler alert: It does. A quick check on AXS confirms the fine exists in LTA’s database.


Similar Cases

While you shouldn’t believe everything you read online, the comments section of Prakash’s post opens up a whole new can of worms as various netizens share their own experiences.

One claimed he was fined $50 for paying $1.40 instead of $1.50.

Another claimed he was fined the same amount for failing to tap his EZ-Link card upon boarding, while a third one was allegedly punished for underpaying by 50 cents.

MustShareNews also received a verified tip-off of a 15-year-old commuter being fined $70 after underpaying by a mere five cents.

The source, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution – we shall refer to her as “Alice” – was on her way to school when she realised her EZ-Link card was low on funds:

This morning , at around 7am, I took Bus 242 (license plate no. 8892). However, I did not have sufficient value in my EZ-Link card the nearest place I could top it up at was at Boon Lay MRT station, which was where I was heading to. Thus, I had to pay my bus fare by cash.

Everything seemed fine initially:

I forked out 60 cents. The bus driver then questioned me about the amount I had paid – I replied 60 cents. He acknowledged it and accepted the money without any further queries.

But things took a turn for the worse:

Later on, a lady from the Public Transport Council (PTC) asked me how much I had paid. I told her 60 cents, but to my surprise, she said the correct fare was actually 65 cents. After realising my error, I immediately took out another five cents to top up my earlier fare, but she issued a fine to me anyway and told me to appeal if I had any issues with it.

A $70 fine issued to a 15-year-old over five cents? That seems awfully harsh.

Especially when the Public Transport Council suggests a $50 fine for the same offence.

Is there an inconsistency in fines?

So, why was Alice and the ‘victim’-in-question in Prakash’s case slapped with a $70 and $100 fine respectively for committing similar offences?

Bus Captain’s Fault?

While one could argue that the high penalty is necessary to deter serial fare cheaters from offending, the circumstances surrounding Prakash’s and Alice’s case seem to suggest that they are right to feel aggrieved.

If $1 was indeed the wrong fare, why did the bus captain accept the amount?

And in Alice’s case, if the bus driver had already acknowledged the $0.60 paid, isn’t it harsh for the ticket conductor to retrospectively slap her with a fine that is 1400 times the amount owed?

Could there be a potential communication breakdown as well? With an increasing number of bus captains being drafted from China, ticket conductors might be unable to communicate effectively with them and corroborate accounts, forcing them to dish out the fines since there’s no way to confirm the offender’s mitigating factors.

Exercise Compassion

Although such cases can be appealed via LTA’s website, the reviews usually take around one month to process. Handing out penalties like this will only serve to frustrate Singaporeans on the back of a stuttering economy and increase in fees.

Luckily, in Alice’s case, her appeal was successful, but she claimed that not many Singaporeans know about such avenues to have their penalties withdrawn.

Such actions are increasingly scrutinised and amplified via social media, so may we suggest our ticket conductors to exercise a bit more compassion before dealing out their fines.

UPDATE (11/04/2017):

Responding to The Online Citizen, LTA clarified its grounds on issuing the fine:

With regard to this case, our records show that the commuter had paid $0.65 (the minimum student concession cash fare), and when checked by a Public Transport Official, was unable to produce a valid student concession card. Without the student concession card, his bus fare for the journey would have been $2.20 (adult cash fare). It has also since been established that at the time of offence, the commuter’s student concession card had expired for about a year. For this evasion offence, a penalty fee of $50 was imposed, with payment to be settled within 14 days.

However, the penalty fee was not settled within 14 days. As such, a Notice of Offence offering a higher composition fine of $100 was sent to the commuter, allowing him another 28 days to settle the payment. Based on our records, the payment remains outstanding.

The Public Transport Council (PTC) only received an appeal for leniency after the payment due date for the Notice of Offence had lapsed. PTC is currently looking into the appeal while awaiting supporting documents from the appellant.