October 07, 2014

Horse 1768 - Why I Will Now Use Opal Card

Back in Horse 1613 I laid out my case on "Why I Will Not Use Opal Card". I would officially like to retract my statement and officially apologise to Opal. Whilst it was true that those calculations were accurate as at 6th February, they don't hold true now.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
- John Maynard Keynes, 1940 maybe... we just don't know.

- Looks cool and there is a real incentive for me to use it - now.

The Opal Card charging system it appears, seems to be based upon a fairly simple charge regieme when it comes to trains:
Yet when it comes to buses, the charging system appears to be based upon the  straight line distance between to points.

I've thought about this and have tried to find some exceptionally cheap bus fares. I've found some bus stops which are only a few hundred metres apart, for which I'm charged less than a dollar but this morning I found a 1c bus trip. ONE CENT!

The 236 bus which goes from Spit Junction to Mosman South Wharf, actually starts in Clifford St Mosman, where it then turns left onto Spit Rd and then left again onto Military Rd. The actual straight line distance between the two stops is 43 metres. Opal obviously recognises the idiocy of this and charges $0.01* for the journey.
So why do it? Opal charges a maximum of eight journeys in a week and so if you can make some journeys which cost only a few cents, then your total bill for the week between Monday and Sunday will be lowered.
Incidentally, Opal recognises that London's Oyster card and Melbourne's Myki are things but doesn't know what to do about them, they just read a zero balance.

This does I suppose bring up the ethical question of whether or not people should game the system; this is further clouded by the Minister for Transport herself, saying:

"I want people to beat the system. I want people to find the savings because they are there to be had."
- Gladys Berejiklian, as quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 8th Sep 2014.

This is a curiosity. The system actually punishes laziness and rewards diligence. If the intent is to reward those who make an effort to ride public transport more often, then maybe it is actually a good thing? Should laziness, wastefulness and profligacy be punished?

Is finding a more efficient solution immoral and is the market truly amoral?
An unstated benefit of the Opal System to Transport for NSW is that they no longer need to employ as many station staff and ticket sellers because it is cheaper to keep a silver electric bollard operating for a year than to pay a real person's wage. Some of these "savings" invariably translate to higher wages for management. Is that fair?
Also, because Opal is a pre-paid system, then they now have a giant collection of funds which they can put on the short-term money market. Someone in a suit and tie, is then free to make money by moving numbers from one screen to another. Is that fair?

I suspect though, that trying deliberate play the Opal game for 1c fares, whilst it might be fun to do, is just impractical. Even if I just ride what ever and when ever, then most I'd pay is $60 in a week and that's still $3 cheaper than the old MyMulti3 which I could abuse the opal out of.

Due to "swedish rounding" where cash is involved, amounts ending in 1c and 2c get rounded down to 0c. If you go to a supermarket and ask for 2c of ham and then take that to the checkout, it will be rounded down to 0c - FREE HAM! But only a very small amount of free ham.

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