Commentary: Fare integration on Opal should be welcomed

Posted: December 21, 2015 in Transport
Tags: ,

VIDEO: IPART Public Transport Fares – Highlights (IPART)

If IPART’s recommendations are adopted, it will see fare integration added to Opal. Sydney had this briefly with under myZone, where it was cheaper to buy a myMulti ticket than separate tickets for different modes such as train and bus. But it was still more expensive to buy a myMulti ticket than a single mode ticket for any given journey. IPART resolves this somewhat, opting to calculate the fare as though the most expensive mode was taken the whole way. The result therefore is not a return to myZone, but an improvement on it.

Example of an existing multi-modal journey which will be cheaper under the proposed integrated fare system. Click to enlarge. (Source: IPART.)

Example of an existing multi-modal journey which will be cheaper under the proposed integrated fare system. Click to enlarge. (Source: IPART.)

There will no doubt be some temptation to look for winners and losers in these changes. This is a temptation that should be resisted. Passengers base their travel patterns on the fare structures, not the other way around. Back when Opal was first introduced there were fears that users would pay more. Instead what happened in most cases was that travel patterns changed in order to minimise fares, and so fare revenue dropped while public transport usage rose.

The changes to the travel rewards system, free aver after 8 journeys and the $2.50 cap on Sundays, was a framework that lent itself to “gaming the system”. The proposed changes (passengers pay for their 10 most expensive journeys each week with a $7.20 cap on weekends) are not perfect, but they are a much better method of calculating fares. For those not gaming the system, they will enjoy cheaper travel. Those who do will mostly alter their travel patterns to reduce their total cost.

The imperative now is to look for ways to improve the proposals by tweaking them around the edges, rather than seeking to reject it entirely for going too far or reject it for not going far enough. We have waited too long for integrated fares, let’s not delay further.

  1. Woody says:

    Don’t most commuters only have 10
    trips a week? How about just paying for the 8 most expensive – would that not fix most of the current gaming behaviour (lots of short monday trips).

    Their 40% saving example ignores the 20% you would have got under the old system if you did the same trip 10 times.

    I love the opal convenience, and I rarely do 8 trips a week, but I still save with off-peak.

  2. Simon says:

    Woody, you miss the point that that would just mean that the fares need to be nearly 25% more expensive to make the same revenue.

  3. @Woody –

    The proposal involves reducing the price of single fares too. That’s the reason for the increase from 8 to 10. It’s not actually an increase in total fares.

  4. Woody says:

    “Currently around 40% of Opal customers make more than eight journeys a week.
    Under our proposed travel credit scheme, those who make 10 or more journeys a
    week would pay around 20% more over the week in 2016.
    By 2018, they would
    pay around 33% more over a week if they
    make bus and light rail journeys, 27%
    more if they make peak rail journeys, and 19% more if they make ferry journeys”

  5. Jim says:

    It will only be cheaper for those making short trips. Those making longer trips such as from the Hunter or the Blue Mountains are going to be paying more.

    Another case of Sydney centric thinking from the state government.

  6. Simon says:

    Since MyZone, those making longer trips have had an unfairly discounted regime so this is delivering justice and relative fairness.

  7. MrV says:

    The recommendations do mostly make sense. Paying for the 8 most expensive trips a week seems logical. If you pay for 8 train trips during the week with some offpeak from working late, it makes no sense that you then get more expensive train trips and ferries for free on the weekend.
    Integrated fares will also remove the distortions in the system.

  8. A bit late but nevertheless:

    No ticket to ride at Sydney train station

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