Just another #Myki issue: V/Line default fares

Default fares kind of make sense (an assumption about where someone travelled if they don’t touch-off), but the way they’re implemented under Myki leaves a lot to be desired.

An example from Saturday, when I zipped down to Geelong and back on the train.

Myki history: trip to Geelong

Summarising the official history:

12:15 Touched-on at Footscray (zone 1). The train was just arriving, so almost no waiting time.

12:25 Conductor checks my card, just after departing Sunshine.

13:17 Touch-off at South Geelong (zone 4). I’m charged $4.50. I have an active zone 1 Pass on the card, so theoretically it should have charged me just for the travel in zones 2 to 4. This involves taking the normal off-peak (eg weekend) fare of $8.26 and deducting $3.76, the usual zone 1 fare, given I’ve already paid for that. So this seems correct.

I had a walk around and a spot of lunch in Geelong, before heading back to the station, encountering Greens Senator Janet Rice along the way, after spotting her leading a marriage equality rally. We had a good chat on the train back.

14:23 Touch-on at Geelong (zone 4).

15:26 Conductor checks my card (somewhere between Little River and Wyndham Vale)

At Southern Cross I changed trains from V/Line platform 8 to Metro platform 12 via the Bourke Street bridge, which does not require exiting the paid area, since barriers between previously separate paid areas were removed.

Some other V/Line to Metro interchanges at Southern Cross also don’t require exiting, since V/Line uses platforms 15+16, within the Metro paid area. The same often applies at other stations too, such as Sunshine, Footscray, Caulfield and Dandenong.

16:34 Touch-off at Bentleigh (zone 1). This triggers a default fare of $8.04, almost double the amount of the trip down.

So what’s gone on here? Firstly, it was a bit over two hours from touch-on to touch-off, which triggered the default fare. This is a problem — many perfectly logical trips take over two hours, even just in metropolitan Melbourne. (Memorably, those taking long trips on buses have been asked to touch-off then back on midway through their trips.)

Default fares on V/Line vary according to where you touch-on. PTV says:

The default fare for V/Line commuter services at touch on is a 2 hour peak fare between the zone of touch on and Zone 1. The conductor will reset the default fare to the end of the line (will depend on the direction the train is travelling).

So the default was a zone 4 to 1 trip, which matches where I was going. But if a default fare triggers, you don’t get any off-peak discount, not even on weekends when the entire day is off-peak.

So in this case, it’s charged me a full peak fare from Geelong of $11.80, minus the zone 1 portion of $3.76 = $8.04.

Is this a rare situation? I’m not sure.

I’ll claim a refund, but why should it be up to the passenger, given I did what the system asked of me — top up, touch on, touch off?

Melbourne-bound train approaches Geelong station

How it could be improved

Two hours is clearly not enough when travelling across four zones and interchanging. It’s worse with long waiting times, common at V/Line stations. (I waited half an hour; it could have been a lot worse at some stations on the weekend.)

An easy (perhaps) fix would be to change the two hour limit to be more generous for trips of more than two zones. Currently it’s 2 hours for 1-5 zones, 3 hours for 6-11 zones, or 4 hours for 12-13 zones. Perhaps adjust those rules so you get three hours for trips of 3-5 zones, though even that is pushing it if your wait after interchange is long, and so is your remaining trip (Geelong to Hurstbridge, anybody?).

And it wouldn’t help the long Smartbus trip situation. As I noted back when I posted about that: If they’d thought about how the software might be used in the real world, then (at least on buses) they should be able to figure out that as you exit the bus after a long trip, you didn’t really magically travel to the end of the route (before the bus itself got there) and then board it again.

The worst outcome would be to tell people to traipse up to the gates and exit, then re-enter when changing trains. That truly would be dictating that the people conform to the needs of the system, rather than the other way around as it should be.

A little more intelligence in the system would be appropriate, to ensure that people taking genuinely long trips don’t get stung unnecessarily.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

20 replies on “Just another #Myki issue: V/Line default fares”

Thanks for this Daniel – another to add to our list of fare system anomalies.

Of course, I immediately went to check if I’d been caught out by this, given that only yesterday I got the bus and train from Point Lonsdale to Melbourne, and as I regularly do, switched to a suburban train at Southern Cross without passing through the gates.

As it happens I wasn’t caught out by a default fare (probably because I got to my destination within the 2 hours) but I did notice something else – I wound up paying a different fare for the Pt Lonsdale – Melbourne journey on Sunday than I did for the Melbourne – Pt Lonsdale journey on Saturday, a trip that was identical apart from direction.

Like you, I paid $4.50 on the way out for the train to Geelong (in Zone 4), as I have on previous occasions, and I think you’ve got the calculation right based on the off-peak fare. I was then charged an additional $1.80 for the bus from Geelong to Point Lonsdale (in Zone 5). The only way I can make this work out is by assuming it’s the difference between a *peak* 2-hour fare from Z1 to Z5 and the peak fare from Z1 to Z4. I guess it’s calculated based on the peak fares because the off-peak discount doesn’t apply to bus travel.

So in total I paid $6.30 on top of my Z1 pass to travel one-way to Pt Lonsdale. But then on the way back on Sunday, I was charged $3.80 for the bus to Geelong and then only $1.96 for the train to Melbourne, for a total of $5.76!

How does this work? The initial $3.80 is the correct regional bus fare for travel across two zones. But the $1.96 appears to be based on the off-peak train fare from Zone 5 ($9.52), less the $3.80 I’d paid, less $3.76 for the Z1 pass.

So we may have another little anomaly here: for regional train plus bus travel, you get the full equivalent of the off-peak train fare if you do the bus journey before the train journey, but not if you do the bus journey after!

Anyway, this is a kind of trip I do every so often, so I’ll be keeping an eye on the fare calculation.

@Tony, remember that the off-peak distinction is not by mode, it’s by number of zones – you only get it for 3 zones or more in a single trip (trip defined as touch on, travel, touch-off).

But I’m not sure how it’s calculated your fares!

True, it’s not by mode: it would be more correct to say that trains and long-distance coach services are in one category, and regional/town buses in another (since in the latter case the maximum fare you pay is for two zones).

Anyway, it seems to be those regional bus fare rules are the cause of the anomaly. As far as I can make out, if you have no existing ‘fare product’ on your Myki and cross a zone boundary by bus, it’s a flat $3.80 fare (which can then count toward a long-distance off-peak fare), but if you’ve got credit for one zone already the additional zone is calculated *without* applying an off-peak discount.

There’s one other interesting case in my records, where I took the train to Geelong, but then got on a bus and touched off in the *same* zone (Zone 4). In this case, because I was travelling on Myki Money, and the final touch-off on the bus was more than 2 hours after the first touch-on in Melbourne (at my local tram stop), I was charged the $2.20 ‘single zone’ bus fare in addition to the $8.26 off-peak fare to Geelong. This is all in accordance with the rules, but it’s interesting that had I been travelling on a Z1 Pass at the time I would have only paid $4.50 for the entire journey, because my final touch-off was less than 2 hours after touching on for the Geelong train at Southern Cross. That is, the saving from already having the Z1 entitlement is nearly $6 rather than just $3.76 as one might first think.

@Daniel, while I agree with the majority of what you are saying and suggesting, in a time based system, if you touch on 30 minutes before you begin to travel, how can you then blame the system that your travel exceeded the two hour time limit. You wasted 25% of your time waiting at Geelong. By your own admission, if you had touched on closer to the time that you departed, this wouldnt have happened.

I think extending the product time will help commuters dealing with delays, but a level of responsibility needs to be taken by the traveller to touch on and start their 2 hours closer to when they actually board the train.

On saying this though, I really enjoy your blog, even when I dont entirely agree with you. ^_^

That is completely unfair.
And also may i ask this question with vline’s new screen green information buttons and PA announcements will they be rolled out at all stations?.
Cheers Busman500 :)

@Con, I did precisely what the Myki system asks me to do. The passenger shouldn’t be blamed when they follow instructions and then get overcharged. What are they expected to do – wait outside the station for half an hour? The waiting room is an option at Geelong, but it isn’t at some stations… in fact at many locations you’d have to enter the paid area before finding out how long the wait is.

I think your exchange illustrates that fairly detailed knowledge of the myki system is needed (in many situations) to avoid being charged more than necessary. Pity someone from interstate or who doesn’t speak english!

Normally if you have an inactive pass on a Myki along with Myki Money and you go to touch on, the pass will activate provided it’s covered for that particular Zone, rather than deduct money.

You might have already answered this in another blog post, but regarding the early bird travel, if you touch on and off at a Metro station and finalise the journey prior to 7:15am with an inactive pass, will that pass still activate? My presumption would be yes, given the early bird travel, is still deemed to be Myki money, even though the actual fare is Nil, but curious to know never the less.

Going back to the topic though, while I’m not convinced we should go to the other extreme of distance based fares (I think having Zones 1, 2 & 3 with weekend travel across all zones for periodical ticket holders, regardless of the no. of zones they were covered for on working days, was the ideal happy medium), the variation in extremities as to the cut off of Zone 2 (& hence Zone 1 fare coverage, following the capping of Z1&2 trips as of 01/01/15) is questionable.

For example, a one way full fare trip from Stony Point to Wandong is only $3.76 for 153km (which not surprisingly takes over 3 hours according to the journey planner) and with STY about 71km’s from the city, it by far surpasses stations just outside the metro Myki area on V/Vline corridors e.g. Corio. Although the example of given is of course an extreme one, it certainly proves that 2 hours is at times not adequate for Metro travel with Myki money (though is a gem for those who still have Zone 1 passes bought last year who occasionally go into Zone 2 on weekends).

First off the 2 hour time out needs to go.

Did you try your myki later to see if you got a refund on the portion of where you where double charged?

One reason for why I say, we need the chance to get a day pass. Because otherwise, you are depending upon a very dumb computer who needs to make up its mind in a split second as to what fare it needs to now deduct from your card.

I feel we need a combination of distance and time based fares.

Where a person swaps vehicles within a given area, that should be a zone based charge.

Where a person travels on one leg, especially for a long distance, then that should be a ‘per trip’ basis.

If I was to travel from say Narre Warren, use buses to meet train, then train to Bendigo, before I then use the Bendigo area bus to reach my hotel or other point of interest., both ends of the journey should each be its own ‘time based’ fare, with a per trip fare calculated based on the travel between those two points.

@Tony, my interpretation of the rules is different to yours. TLDR, if you started the bus trip within 2 hours, it should make no difference.

Consider a journey
Touch on 1 (zone 1 tram)
Touch off ?
Touch on 2 (zone 1-4 V/Line)
Touch off 2
Touch on 3 (zone 4 bus)
Touch off 3

There are two rules: the 2-hour entitlement rule, and the 2-hour default fare rule.
They resolve identically on a singe trip journey (eg one train, tram, or bus).
But for your situation, if you touch on the tram at 14:10, the 2-hour default rule says you have until 16:10 to touch off, to avoid a default fare. Not that it makes much difference on a tram.
The 2-hour entitlement rule says that you can keep travelling for 2 hours on the same fare … that is to say, if you touched ON the zone 4 bus before 16:10, you continue on the same ticket, and because you already had zone 4 paid for (on V/Line), no charge should result.
Now for the 2-hour default rule: if you touched on the zone 4 bus at 15:59, you have until 17:59 to touch off to avoid a default fare.
Your interpretation seems to say touch OFF by 16:10, my interpretation says touch OFF by 17:59 (and doing so after 16:10 makes no difference).

By the way, the system charging differently off-peak for up and down trips is bonkers and should be fixed/simplified: a journey of at least zones 1-3 off-peak should be charged off-peak regardless of the modes involved. That is to say, you started (or finished) in Zone 1 during an off-peak time, and travelled to zone 3 or beyond.

And a rigid 2-hour window for 5 zones is also bonkers. There needs to be some “poetic licence” programmed into the train system readers, that grants a default-rule extension for stations beyond a certain distance (eg reader at Stony Point gives 4 hours if origin station = Wandin), and a simple rule on the buses: if I see the same card within the end-to-end trip time (plus an idle allowance), it’s a touch-off.

Ok, the V/Line Myki user at my work has found another bug.

They travelled from Kyneton (zone 6) to Southern Cross (SSS, zone 1). They had their ticket checked by the conductor, but what happened is the conductor had set their End Of Line for Castlemaine (zone 10-ish, outbound) when it should have been SSS (zone 1, inbound). Apparently, the conductor’s device had rebooted.

Bug: Despite touching off within the required 3-hour time, a default fare to some outer zone was applied, swiping a rather large sum of money from the card.
Expecting: The touch-off (within 3 hours) would always apply the correct fare. A default fare would only apply if the next touch was outside the 3-hour limit, or on a different mode (buses or tram).

The same user also reports the occasional need to work around the 3-hour limit (touch off at SSS and touch back on), if they have to wait almost an hour between trains when connecting from the Ringwood line to the Bendigo line.

I get an uneasy feeling that despite the rule that “no default fare will apply if you have a Myki Pass and you touch on within the zones of the Pass”, that the conductor’s resetting of the End Of Line will over-ride that, resulting in a partial default fare (full 2-hour fare minus the 2-hour fare for the zones covered by the Pass). Anyone got any further info on this?

Not really sure how they worked out this fare but not complaining $4.24 Mitcham to Geelong.
Changed trains at Flinders St to the Sunbury train didn’t need to go through the barriers at flinders st so didn’t touch off their. Left the Sunbury train at Sunshine where i touched off, touched back on about 20 minutes later and then rode the V/Line train to Geelong from Sunshine.
26/12/2015 16:11:52 Touch off* Train 4 Geelong Station – $0.48
26/12/2015 15:27:25 Touch on Train – – – – –
26/12/2015 15:21:19 Touch on Train 1/2 Sunshine Station – – –
26/12/2015 15:01:25 Touch off* Train 1/2 Sunshine Station – $3.76
26/12/2015 13:48:07 Touch on Train 2 Mitcham Station.

@Mark, $4.24 is an odd amount. Was there other travel earlier in the day, such that you might have hit a daily cap?

26/12/2015 was Boxing Day, so some kind of weekend cap might have come into play. I assume you don’t have any Myki Pass on the card?

Hi Daniel,
No other travel earlier in the day and i don’t have a Myki Pass so was using Myki Money.

A zone 2, 2 hour is $2.60 if you add 0.48cents to that that makes $3.08 which is the cost of 3 zones excluding Zone 1 and thats the fare you get charged from Sunshine to Geelong on a 2 hr ticket. I am thinking they have just added 0.48cents to my fare assuming i had already had a Zone 2 – 2 hour on my Myki as i never tapped of in a Zone 1 only station. But my journey exceeded 2 hours so maybe the new limit of 2hrs 30 minutes for 3-5 zones from 2016 is already been programmed into the system.

Travelling between two zone 2 stations through the city not touching off in the city but at the destination should that be a zone 2 fare or zone 1/2 fare?

A zone 1+2 fare would apply. From memory, Daniel tested this scenario in the early days of Myki, and I have no reason to think it’s any different.

Of course a bug may have crept into the system – a developer may not have understood “the purpose of that bit of code”.

Hi Kiwi Nick,
You are right a Zone 1+2 Fare applies going from a zone 2 station through the city and to another zone 2 station.

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