Should the Opal trial include fare integration?

Posted: June 18, 2013 in Transport
Tags: ,

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post about integrated fares, looking at both case for and the case against rolling out integrated fares at the same time as integrated ticketing (Opal).

Sydney might be ready for integrated ticketing, but is it ready for integrated fares? (Source: Beau Giles)

Sydney might be ready for integrated ticketing, but is it ready for integrated fares? (Source: Beau Giles)

First, the case for, by developer Stephen Mok, who argues that a trial is not a true trial if it does not also test the removal of intermodal transfer penalties.

“There’s two reasons why I’m concerned right now:

1) I’m surprised that intermodal transfers are not part of the trial. I would’ve thought that IS part of making sure the technology works – surely the integration between transfers with timing, default fares, etc needs to be tested too? And if it’s going to be tested, I would’ve guessed ferry/train would be an easier starting point, before buses are involved.

2) The communications seems to be quite different this time, compared to the start of the ferry-only trial. There’s a lot less of the “more details coming” talk. The “you only pay when you catch a train or bus or ferry” and “there are only single fares on Opal” don’t technically rule out free intermodal transfers, but also doesn’t sound open-ended. The lists of the benefits of Opal (daily cap, travel reward calculation, etc) sounds final, rather than a list that will be extended. Today’s comments from Gladys defending the pricing itself under Opal (vs existing periodicals) reinforced that too – making it sound like there really will be no MyMulti replacement in any form!” – Stephen Mok

And the case against, by engineer Perry Stephenson, who argues that adding complexities early on increases the chance of failure from both an engineering and political perspective.

“If you’re a clever engineer, looking at the roll-out like a clever engineer would and identifying the risk that by attempting to integrate fares as well as roll out a swipe-card system simultaneously, you’re likely to hit some fairly complex problems along the way and likely end up failing like the T-Card did.

Instead, if you focus on the technical issues surrounding a swipe-card roll-out, complete the roll-out quickly and within budget and get 12 months of operations for troubleshooting post-launch, you’re in a much better place to focus entirely on the integration of fares using your new, stable, real-world tested ticketing platform. Also you’ll have 12 months of adoption by the public and hopefully high numbers of users.

I know it can often by politically difficult to try and explain engineering considerations to the public (especially when they start trying to use that logic against you in letters to the editor) but I’d suggest this is the real reason they aren’t doing both at once.” – Perry Stephenson

In other news, Charting Transport has a new post up about multimodal trips in different Australian cities, which is quite relevant to this topic. A must for anyone who loves lots of graphs!

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