January 20, 2016

Horse 2060 - Blood on the Tracks

Dear Opal Card,

Presumably the New South Wales Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance, hates his job, hates buses, hates trains, hates ferries, hates the people who use public transport and especially hates the people who live further away from work than those people who live close by. I can only assume that in his little world, which can only be very very little in terms of distance, that he has never ever grasped how wide, how vast and how spread out is the conurbation that is Greater Sydney. I can only assume that he must think that everyone lives within an area smaller than twenty-five square kilometers.
I would invite the Minister to perhaps take a journey to the edge of the transport network for which he is the "responsible" Minister of the Crown for. I suspect that only then, will he see how literally vast Sydney is.

As it currently stands, under the Opal Card pricing regime, the idea of being a "commuter" has been completely abandoned. The word "commuter" is derived from the fact that a season ticket holder, for the period of a week, month, quarter or year, had their fares commuted to something less than the price of those same equivalent individual journeys. The idea was to continue someone's patronage by enticing them with a discount.
Of course as rational actors within a system with substitute services such as car ownership, travellers then make the economic choice based upon what their cheapest options are.

Under the old MyMulti system, my weekly fare which included all changes from trains to buses and occasionally ferries, cost me a flat rate of $63 which allowed me to go anywhere for the week. Of course having charged me $63 which is still the equivalent of a tank and a half of petrol, it made sense for me to make full use of every single possible journey because if I didn't, it was like the NSW Government was getting money for free.

When Opal Card was introduced, the game changed entirely. Now they cap it at $15 per day and at the end of 8 unbroken journeys. Unbroken is the operative word here; what that means is that if you are changing from train to bus to ferry and they're all within the allotted time period, you will get charged for three trips but it will only count as one. Savvy people like myself realised that they only way that we were ever going to get in on this, would be to take trips at lunch time. This means that my eighth trip happens typically at Wednesday lunch time.
Thanks to the $15 per day cap, this means that my weekly fares work out to be about $45 per week. However, to achieve this requires diligence on my part and forces me to take the bus at lunch time.

It was then discovered by those people who live in the inner city, that because the system is automated and there is nobody around to police it, that they could walk from one tram stop to the next tram stop, tapping on and off as they went and although they were charged the smallest fare, it would count as a journey. For inner city dwellers who could do this as they work up and before they had a shower and whatnot, this "trip" would occur well before their first proper trip was recorded and yet still count towards their eight for the week.

Of course the Minister who doesn't have to live which the system, saw this as a problem and has decided to close this rort. Immediately the law of unintended consequences would step in though but it would appear that the Minister doesn't really care about the people who it would actually affect because they wouldn't vite for his brand of political party anyway. Stick them - commuters are scum.
Now the NSW Department of Transport has decided that what they intend to do, is punish people who travel long distances by counting the eight longest and most expensive trips as the eight and then counting those under the cap. They also intend to increase the cap from $60 to $65; that condemns all of those who travel long distances to a flat rate of $65 per week. In my case, that's an effective fare increase of about $20 per week or a 44% increase.

I fully accept that running a public transport system is expensive and that there will be fare increases from time to time, but when a public transport system is seen as a burden for the government that they'd rather be rid of, it makes me wonder who they really happen to be working for.
In Sydney we have more toll roads within the metropolitan area than the entire of Germany; they're privately run. This latest move by the Transport Minister immediately makes me wonder who has been passing him little brown envelopes of cash or which company he's looking to get a seat on the board of, when he retires from parliament. Putting up the effective fares of public transport so severely, would immediately make travellers recalculate their choices. If that means travelling in motor cars on private toll roads and that option is cheaper, then he rational choice is to leave public transport.
I could have the wrong end of the stick on this but we've already lost a Premier because of corruption and I can think of at least three Premiers of New South Wales who ended up with cushy seat on boards not long after they left parliament. I wouldn't put it past the current Transport Minister to follow in their tracks.

In the mean time, I continue to admit that I'm gaming the system in an effort to commute my transport fares. Clearly as one of these people who uses public transport because they do live so far away from where they work, I'm exactly the sort of person who the New South Wales Minister for Transport hates.

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