While most of the world has moved to electronic ticketing systems, Sydney still relies on paper based magnetic stripe tickets on its public transport. After the cancellation of ERG’s contract to deliver Sydney’s T-Card in 2008, the state government contracted Cubic Transportation, the people responsible for London’s Oyster Card and Queensland’s goCard, to roll out the $1.2 billion project.
The T-Card will be introduced first to Sydney Ferries in 2012, then to the Cityrail and light rail, with buses being the last to get the T-card. Currently buses are a mix of different ticketing systems. Government buses have automatic machines that you dip your ticket into, whereas private buses require the bus driver to print a receipt for you and tick off the trip from your ticket with a pen. This means loadings on private buses can take much longer than necessary. The gains from rolling the T-Card out to private buses are greatest, but look to be done last because it is also most difficult.
It looks like the T-Card will be going with a point to point method for fare calculation, which charges passangers based on the distance travelled, rather than a zonal method, which splits the city up into zones and charges passangers based on the number of zones they travel through. Currently Sydney uses point to point, except for myMulti tickets which are zonal.
Currently passangers are penalised for changing mode of transport. For example, someone who takes the train, then a bus, is charged more than someone who takes the bus for the same distance. This is counter-intuitive, as being forced to take 2 modes of transport is an inconvenience for which passangers are required to pay a premium. A true point to point fare system would charge passangers based on the total distance travelled, which the T-Card should hopefully allow.
The big challenge appears to be the complexity of Sydney’s fare system. They are different depending on whether you take a train, tram, bus or ferry, be it single, return, ten trip ticket, weekly or myMulti tickets. The head of London’s transport ticketing has warned to keep it simple. In fact, word is beginning to emerge that the reason ERG’s T-Card system failed was because the Transport Department insisted on maintaining a highly complex fare system. If this was the problem, then changing provider is not going to solve it. A true solution would mean simplifying the fare structure.