February 06, 2014

Horse 1613 - Why I Will Not Use Opal Card

- Looks cool but there's no real incentive for me to use it.

Transport for NSW's Opal Card is currently being installed across the Sydney Transport network. I though, will resist it's use at every single opportunity.

Customers using the Opal card will tap on at a card reader at the start of their trip and tap off at the end. The electronic ticketing system will automatically calculate the fare and deduct it from the value stored on your Opal card.
Transport for NSW website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.¹

Currently when I use my MyMulti3 ticket, I use it to get on the train at one station, get off the train at Town Hall and change for an M30 bus. In the afternoon coming home, sometimes I will use any of a multitude of buses which crawl down Military Rd, change for a train to either Blacktown or Marayong and/or take another bus from Marayong.

The first problem is that Blacktown Station in particular has platforms 1&2 physically separated from platforms 3-7. Does changing trains constitute a break in journey? It certainly would not if you happened to change trains at any other station provided you didn't pass the barriers; yet at Blacktown, you're forced to.

The second problem that I have is that with a MyMulti3 ticket, I currently pay $63. This entitles me to use any particular mode of transport I like. I have several options to get both home and to work and can even use it on the weekends. Also, I frequently 'abuse' the system by taking short bus trips either from my office to the bank and or to Neutral Bay at lunchtime because those journeys are effectively free.
With Opal card though, I would have two fares deducted to get to and from work, those other journeys would also count and be deducted. On top of that, Opal card would not actually commute my fare. 
Under Opal card, the trip is counted as two single train and two single bus journeys. 
$6.80 - T1 Train - Marayong to Town Hall
$4.60 - M30 Bus - Town Hall to Mosman
$4.60 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Town Hall
$6.80 - T1 Train - Wynyard to Marayong 
Total per day: $22.80
Total per week: $114.00

Under Opal card, my weekly commute increases a whopping 81%. I checked the Opal Car website and it and it tells me that:

How do I load my weekly train or MyMulti ticket onto my Opal card?
You don’t. By using the value on your Opal card, you can take advantage of the Weekly Travel Reward. This means you can travel for free after 8 paid journeys in a week, and this will be cheaper than a MyTrain Weekly ticket.
- Opal Card website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.²

What constitues 8 paid journeys? Do buses count? I'll reach 8 paid journeys in some cases within two days. And if MyMulti ceases to exist then the claim that "this will be cheaper than a MyTrain Weekly ticket" is completely false.

The Transport for NSW website is not a whole heap more helpful:
The Opal card is introducing a new era of convenience and provides the following fare incentives:
A reward providing free travel after eight paid journeys in a week*
A $2.50 daily cap on Sunday
A daily cap of $15.00 from Monday to Saturday
* The Opal week runs from Monday to Sunday for the purpose of fare calculation
- Transport for NSW website, retrieved 6th Feb 2014.³

Assuming that there is a daily cap of $15, then for 5 days, I'd still be paying $75 instead of $63 but that's still a 19% fare increase.

Opal Card could very well be the best system in the world but the truth is that an effective fare increase is not something I enjoy. For people who have to make interchanges, like myself, Opal Card actually incentivises travel by car. If the break even point increases from $63 to $75 per week, then it actually becomes significantly cheaper to drive than to take public transport.

As far as I'm concerned though, for me to use Opal Card would be an actual waste of money and I promise to refuse to use it. I only hope that the Minister is listening.


paulg99 said...

After 8 paid journeys over 4 days, wouldn't you reach the weekly cap, and then only pay $60 max, i.e. $3 less than your MM3? That assumes you hit the daily cap all 4 days.

R said...

Hey Mate,

I'm one of those people who's stupidly excited about the arrival of the Opal card. While some people will be worse off under Opal.. you might actually be one of the winners. Its a little complicated but I’ll try to explain it.

You get free travel after 8 journeys. You get single mode transfers within 60 minutes so that your lunch bus fares may be reduced. The bus fares are calculated of the GPS distance “as the crow flies”, so your bus fares from Townhall to Mosman will be cheaper. Plus, your train fares will be slightly lower because Opal’s single trip train prices are slightly cheaper than current single trips. Finally you also get the $15.00 daily fare cap.

From what you’ve written about your commute I’ve worked out this..

Fares Caculations
The straight line distance between Townhall and Spit Junction in Mosman is ~6.3km so that is in Opal’s 3-8km fare band @ $3.50 a trip.

Your peak period train from Blacktown to Townhall fare falls in the 35-65km fare band @ $6.30 a trip.

Monday Morning
$6.30 - T1 Train - Marayong to Town Hall
$3.50 - M30 Bus - Town Hall to Mosman
(Journey 1)

Monday Lunch
I’ve assumed your short bus trip to Lunch is less than 3km and that you make the return journey within 60 minutes.
$2.10 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Lunchspot
$0.00 - M30 Bus - Lunchspot to Mosman
(Journey 2)

Monday Evening
$3.10 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Town Hall (You hit the daily cap.)
$0.00 - T1 Train - Town Hall to Marayong (All travel after the daily cap is free.)
(Journey 3)

So At the end of Monday you have spent $15.00 and Accumulated 3 of 8 journeys.

Repeat this pattern on Tuesday.. and you’ve spent $30.00 and accumulated 6 of 8 journeys.

On Wednesday
Wednesday Morning
$6.30 - T1 Train - Marayong to Town Hall
$3.50 - M30 Bus - Town Hall to Mosman
(Journey 7)

Wednesday Lunch
I’ve assumed your short bus trip to Lunch is less than 3km and that you make the return journey within 60 minutes.
$2.10 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Lunchspot
$0.00 - M30 Bus - Lunchspot to Mosman
(Journey 8, All Travel for the rest of the week is free.)

Wednesday Evening
$0.00 - M30 Bus - Mosman to Town Hall (Free after your 8th journey)
$0.00 - T1 Train - Town Hall to Marayong (Free after your 8th journey)

All your travel between Wednesday Lunchtime and 11:59PM Sunday night is now free on all Trains, Buses and Ferries.

So all up you’ve spent $41.90 which is less than the $63.00 you spend currently on a Mymulti3 weekly. You still get the flexibility of using it anywhere on any mode.
If you take more than an hour for lunch you’ll pay 2x$2.10 bus fares but then it counts as 2 separate journeys and you’d accumulate 8 journeys by Tuesday evening and pay nothing Wednesday to Sunday. Either way you’d still pay less than you do now.

Happy Travelling!