Sydney’s multimodal PT ticketing (or lack thereof)

As somebody who has grown up with a public transport ticketing system that lets you ride the entire network with a single ticket, Sydney’s service disruption messages often focus on apparently trivial information. This selection from the past few months shows what I mean:

Notice a pattern?

[Disrupted Service] tickets are valid on [Other Service]

The reason for this is Sydney’s lack of multimodal tickets on their public transport system – for each trip made on a train, bus, ferry or light rail a separate fare needs to be paid, even when a passenger is using the new Opal smartcard.

Compare this with Melbourne – you can take a bus to the railway station, ride a train into the city, and then catch a tram to your office – and only pay a single fare, even back in the days when Metcard was the only ticketing system in use.

The Transport Sydney blog has more on the subject:

The expansion of Opal into a multi-modal ticketing system will not be accompanied by multi-modal fares. Opal users who travel on just a single mode of transport will pay less than one who travels on two modes, even if their origin and destination are exactly the same.

This penalises passengers for having to make a transfer via higher fares, despite this being an added inconvenience to them. An ideal fare system, one which uses integrated fares, would charge passengers based on the distance they travel, regardless of which and how many modes they use to get there.

The reluctance to integrate fares at this point may be due to the government’s choice to focus on rolling out Opal first, and fixing the fares second.

At least in Melbourne public transport users have the option of moving between train, tram and bus for no additional cost!

Further reading

Sydney-based writer David Caldwell has more detail on Opal’s dysfunctional approach to intermodal fares on his blog. For the purposes of comparison, Melbourne introduced a single ticket for all forms of public transport way back in 1981 – the Victorian Public Transport Ticketing website gives the complete chronology.

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2 Responses to “Sydney’s multimodal PT ticketing (or lack thereof)”

  1. Craig says:

    Your post does raise another question – what happens if I am generally travelling with Opal on one mode, and due to a disruption it is suggested my ticket will be valid on another mode instead?

    For example, if trains are disrupted but can use a bus or light rail for some of my journey, I assume will suddenly be penalised the extra bus or light-rail fare, instead of my normal MyTrain fare?

    Not to mention with the partial roll-out, Opal is still not valid on the light rail or several parts of the Sydney Buses network.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Good point – the best case scenario will be that you’ll be able to complain to their customer service center, and get the additional fare refunded after the fact. I’d hate to think how difficult it would be to build a way into the Opal card system to automatically manage ad-hoc free travel on alternate modes.

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