Public transport fares rise in January (The things I couldn’t fit into The Age article)

Another comment piece in The Age:

Myki fare hikes favour some users, punish others and increasingly encourage driving

Yes, fares are jumping by about 4% in January.

This is a CPI plus 2.5% (eg 3.9%) rise that was devised by the Coalition in their December 2013 budget update, and delivered by Labor. So a big thank you to both sides for that.

There are numerous things I couldn’t fit into the Age piece.

Firstly, there is some good news:

  • 4 year-olds won’t have to pay a fare anymore, bringing Victoria into line with other states, and ending an anomaly where kinder kids couldn’t get a Student Pass, with those travelling every day paying more (standard concession fares) than Primary and Secondary school students (Student Pass). This was the subject of a PT Not Traffic campaign earlier this year.
  • Concessions will also be granted automatically to 17 and 18 year-olds, meaning apprentices and others who have left school can continue to get concessions. It sounds like it’ll also mean an end to high school students having to get forms filled in just to get concession fares… however the PTV page does say they’ll need another form of government ID proving they are under 19 — and it sounds like a school ID won’t cut it.
  • The weekend cap remains at $6 for adults, and is dropping to $3 for concessions.

Myki billboard advertising, February 2014

And it’s also worth looking at the government propaganda:

This claim: Public transport fares continue to represent good value, with Zone 1 myki money users paying $4.10 for a 2 hour fare. This represents a fare increase of just 30 cents in five years, when compared to the same Metcard fare in 2011. — That’s comparing apples and oranges. The Myki fare is a prepaid bulk fare. It was $3.02 in 2011, so from January it will have gone up $1.08, or 36%.

They also claim that Melbourne’s daily fare compares favourably with Sydney’s $15 daily cap. The problem with this is most regular Sydney commuters don’t get anywhere near spending $15 a day. For instance from Hurstville to Sydney Central (15km) costs $4.20 each way on Opal in peak (but only $2.94 off-peak).

It’s actually quite difficult to directly compare fares. Overall, Melbourne is cheap for long distance journeys, but expensive for short distances (10km and less) that aren’t covered by the Free Tram Zone.

The Free Tram Zone debate

In theory the rise is 3.9%, but in practice the most popular fares are jumping about 5%. The standard two-hour fare will go from $3.90 to $4.10 — a daily is twice that amount. One reason supposedly cited was rounding. But nobody can pay cash for these fares, so that doesn’t make sense.

Quite rightly, regional fares aren’t being rounded in this way. For instance a Geelong to Melbourne off-peak fare next year will be $8.82.

Oh yeah, don’t get fares and tickets confused. Despite my use of Myki imagery on this blog post, they are at arms length. While fares policy is influenced by what is possible in the ticket system, much of the fares regime we have now was brought over from Metcard, and in turn inherited from the paper tickets of the 1980s.

If you travel 5+ times per week, one of the best ways to beat price rises is to load up with Myki Passes before January 1st. The ultimate is to buy a Commuter Club discounted yearly. Unfortunately the deadline has passed if you wanted the 2016 price — it’s best organised in November. But it’s still good value compared to paying every month, provided you can afford the up-front cost.

Anyway, go read the article!

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.

24 replies on “Public transport fares rise in January (The things I couldn’t fit into The Age article)”

Another misleading aspect of the comparison of 2-hour fares from 2011 and this year is that in 2011 a 2-hour fare was a minimum of two hours, but now it is a maximum of two hours. You could get nearly three hours from a 2-hour fare back then, and now you are more likely to need a full-day fare for some journeys. Those journeys of between two and three hours have therefore risen from $3.02 to $8.20. A 171% increase over five years.

Am I right that the thrust of your article (in The Age as well) is to remove the free tram zone and raise the cost of zone 2 to zone 1 train tickets? (and discourage these people from using public transport).

Or is the thrust of your article to lower the cost of short term fares in line with the zone 2 to zone 1 and free tram zone prices – thereby encouraging more people on to public transport?

Daniel, a part that I believe needs serious attention is the size, cost and inefficiency of PTV. I worked there and was just shocked at the number of employees needed to, principally, manage the contractors who actually deliver the services we use. There are Layers of managers, analysts, directors, IT staff – often replicated once, twice or more. It’s usually for 5,6,7 or more people to attend a low level meeting about a simple issue. A private contractor might send 1-2 people because they are alive to costs, accountability and responsible spending. I left because of how little work there was compared to just how many people there were. Managers managing people that have no work. Most people take a public servant wage to run around making sure their position is safe without any actual productivity. Most people can’t say why the job they have had a positive or productive impact on service delivery of public transport. You should ask PTV for the head count of staff – and map if for yourself to the things PTV is actually charged to do – remembering that actual operation of the trains, trams, Ticketing and infrastructure is completely outsourced. Why does PTV need a huge finance team outside of treasury? It’s own IT staff? An army of them. A huge legal department outside of the crown solicitor? Executive director above managers abouve senior staff? More project managers than BHP would use to build a mine? And the second a project comes along, like the current negotiations with Yarra, in come the trusted consultants from treasury because it does not trust PTV to deliver anything other than cost. I have names of managers and will eventually blow the whistle when i know how. It disgusted me so much I left. It was pathetic even on public service levels. The 8% increase could have been easily absorbed by starting again from ground 0 with this government department that has grown to be a department for the sake of department. Not actual service delivery.

@TW King, it’s easy to identify the problems… it’s complex and harder to come up with solutions, especially solutions that don’t cause other problems.

The 2015 changes caused a number of problems, but also solved others: tourists can now ride CBD trams without having to go through the rigmarole of buying a Myki and charging it up. And the big zone 1 vs zone 1+2 fare difference is no longer an issue… this is now replaced by the free ride jump to a $4.10 fare for going over the Free Tram Zone boundary! There’s also a big jump if you travel beyond zone 2 on V/Line.

I wouldn’t have objections to removing the Free Tram Zone, especially if improvements can be made for tourist use of Myki. But I think bringing back the two zone fare system would be very problematic (and politically unpopular).

Two fare anomalies with regional fares. Geelong to Footscray or Southern Cross off-peak is $8.54. Geelong to Sunshine is $3.22. Sunshine to Footscray or Southern Cross is $3.90. So you can save $1.42 by getting off your V/Line train at Sunshine and changing to a Metro.

Second one is the daily cap. I think from memory it is twice the peak fare – so Zone 1-4 is $24.40. You can end up paying three times to travel in Zone 1. Try this: West Footscray to Sunshine ($3.90), Sunshine to Geelong ($3.22, but count $4.60 towards daily cap), Geelong to Southern Cross and to somewhere else in Zone 1 ($8.54, but count $12.20 towards daily cap), later travel in Zone 1 ($3.90, but daily cap reached at $3.70). So charged three times for travelling in Zone 1 in a day – all because I’ve been to Geelong off-peak during the day.

I would advocate ditching the zone one overlap across zone 2, and we should bring back zone 3 for suburban trips.

Perhaps we should go back to something of a combination of the old Neighbourhood zone system, that way we pay more when going long distance across town too.

Have a combination of the Neighbourhood zone system and distance based fares. Devide Melbourne up into 10 to 12 area zones like the Neighbourhood system in the 1980s, add one each for Lat Trobe Valley, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Bellarine penninsula, everything outside that gets a per km or per stop charge.

Then, charge hourly fares, with different rates for different hours. You pay for the four most expensive hours you travel in. Perhaps there could be a 2 hour minimum, when you travel under one hour,

Just now as I write this, Tom Eliot is about to focus on this fare increase.

What’s the point of the school issuing IDs if PTV will not accept it as a form of proof? Instead parents or students have to go get a letter from the school to certify their enrolment to school.

Perhaps the schools and the state government should work together to get a unified form of ID together, or even an all-in-one school ID / transport card like this? After all, they already work together on a bunch of other arrangements.

Another thing that bothers me about our system (and not just Myki) and I find myself repeating this:

We spent billions of dollars on our smart ticketing system only to dumb it down. I remember reading a poster on a Sydney bus saying “don’t forget to tap off” and I believe this is a mantra on our Metro trains too (“remember to touch on and off”, and this should do the automatic calculation.

Instead, PTV tell users to just touch on and not touch off in a dumbed-down system that calculates the same fare for the entirety of the Melbourne zone 1+2 system. This is fairly unique in Australia, with Melbourne having the distinction of being the second most populous city within what is technically a single fare zone (with the exception of those travelling only within zone 2 and paying a lesser fare).

We could have Brisbane’s smaller zones which I believe is fairer to users based on the distance they travel.

As the Myki was introduced they should definitely introduce more zones and cheaper short fares. Its ridiculous how you can go 60kms and pay exactly the same price as going 60m in the inner city unless of course you’re in the free tram zone which is free (precisely where demand is highest). There should also be an off peak and non CBD discount to try and spread demand over the day and more evenly over the metro area.

Good to see concessions being granted automatically to 17 and 18 year olds. I got a fine when I was that age for not having a concession card, despite having a high school student ID! Very expensive outing into the city, that’s for sure!

@Arfman, don’t know about the Brisbane system but a while back I tried applying the Perth zone system to Melbourne’s rail network. Borders, working clockwise from Williamstown line, were:
Williamstown Line – Spotswood (1/2)
Werribee Line – Spotswood (1/2), Westona (2/3), Hoppers Crossing (3/4)
Melton Line – Sunshine (1/2), Deer Park (2/3), Caroline Springs (3/4)
Sunbury Line – Sunshine (1/2), Keilor Plains (2/3), Watergardens (3/4)
Craigieburn Line – Glenbervie (1/2), Broadmeadows (3/4)
Upfield Line – Moreland (1/2)
South Morang Line – Bell (1/2), Lalor (2/3)
Hurstbridge Line – Darebin (1/2), Greensborough (2/3), Diamond Creek (3/4)
Lilydale Line – Camberwell (1/2), Nunawading (2/3), Croydon (3/4)
Belgrave Line – Camberwell (1/2), Nunawading (2/3), Bayswater (3/4), Tecoma (4/5)
Alamein Line – Camberwell (1/2)
Glen Waverley Line – Glen Iris (1/2), Syndal (2/3)
Pakenham Line – Caulfield (1/2), Westall (2/3), Dandenong (3/4), Narre Warren (4/5), Officer (5/6)
Cranbourne Line – Caulfield (1/2), Westall (2/3), Dandenong (3/4), Lynbrook (4/5)
Frankston & Stony Point Line – Caulfield (1/2), Cheltenham (2/3), Edithvale (3/4), Frankston (4/5), Baxter (5/6), Tyabb (6/7), Morradoo (7/8)
Sandringham Line – Elsternwick (1/2), Hampton (2/3)
I’d have to check, but I’m pretty sure I had the zone boundaries measured by route length, not birds’ eye length. So there’s an argument for Newport to be included in Z1 above, for example.

I had free travel zones, like Perth’s, marked around the City Loop (all modes), and also one stop either side of Sunshine, Broadmeadows and Frankston. Other city centres, i.e. Ringwood and Dandenong, didn’t have enough stations within what would be the free travel zone.

At the time (2012), our “Zone 2” ticket was around the cost of Perth’s “Any Two Zones” ticket; our “Zone 1” ticket was around the cost of Perth’s “Any Four Zones” ticket; and our “Zone 1+2” ticket was around the cost of Perth’s “Any 7 Zones” Ticket.

Extremely disappointing to find people propounding a return to a user-pays by distance model.
Let me guess, all you people live in Zone One, right?

Melbourne has a transport-enabled Zone One and a transport impoverished Zone Two, and correlating that with property prices tells you we’ve forced most working folk to move to Zone Two while we keep delivering infrastructure improvements for upper-middle class inner city folk. But guess which set we MOST need to get out of their cars?

So the effective flat-rate, non-distance based nature of Melbourne’s fare system is unquestionably one of its main ASSETS. From an equity perspective, and from an effectiveness perspective.

The Free Tram Zone, for all the reasons Daniel has identified is of course its biggest millstone.

But I know we’ve been here before, and no it’s not something you do purely because it would lift patronage, but if the next Myki is going to cost another $4bn, annualised over the life of the system, where the revenue is a State budgetary drop in the ocean … WHY BOTHER WITH A TICKETING SYSTEM AT ALL??

@Adam Ford, the ticketing system is useful in determining patronage and crowding stats, when cross-referenced with typical percentages of non-fare-evaders.

There’s also some evidence that people care more about a service when they have to pay for it, rather than having a free-for-all, increasing costs related to maintenance. Also, without a fare system, how would you allocate 1st class carriages on V/Line, or sleeping carriages on the XPT?

As for the user-pays thing, the obvious answer is to provide better public transport outside Z1. We could start by purchasing around 8,000 buses and hiring maybe 20,000 drivers.

@Adam Ford – You will find political reasoning and ideologies are behind various peoples push towards changing the public transport fares.

The free tram zone (brilliant) was introduced by the Liberal party to allow easy access for all to the cities retail outlets, especially the (failed) Docklands precinct. That is why anyone who favours the Labor party hates it (and quotes Joan Kirner) and then comes up with reasons to abolish it.

The free train travel before 7:15am (brilliant) was introduced by the Labor party – I am sort of puzzled as to why, but its brilliant. To stop peak time over crowding was the official line, but I see so many union workers on the train at that time, that I really think that its a perk in disguise. (Hence not on Tram or Bus).

The original zone 3 (ridiculous) and was designed to keep people out of the trains. (I cannot see why). This reasoning is used by many here to justify getting rid of the free tram zone – they want to keep people out of the trams so there is room to sit down (as opposed to the real issue which is not enough trams).

I could go on, but public transport utopia is not going to happen

I think the fares are quite good as they are, but I didn’t have a problem with the zone 1 & 2 arrangement before zone 1 travellers were given free travel in zone 2. I don’t know why that was changed, other than to eliminate the need to touch off to get the right (lowest) fare on Myki. I have no problem with touching on and off and I see the point of it – we need the data.

The fare structure should make it cheapest to do what individuals and the community need. So if you catch a train from Frankston to the city to go to work, you’re reducing the load on the roads and obviously paying your way every day. You should get a pretty cheap fare.

It should be more expensive to do what doesn’t really help the community and isn’t really necessary for an individual. For example, if you’re able-bodied and get on a tram to travel 250 metres in the CBD, you’re doing it for convenience and taking up space that other people might need for longer trips, as well as slowing the system down, so you should pay a full zone 1 fare for it.

If you’re using a bus to get to a station (congratulations, because most bus routes are deliberately set up to make this hard), you are again taking load off the roads and carparks, making the space less crowded, and you should get the bus effectively for free (and you do, because of our multi-modal tickets).

@Adam Ford – Unfortunately, PT fares for inner city have increased disproportionately compared to outer suburban areas, while arguably getting a worse service over time. Services have changed with the consequence of Malvern to Hawksburn, and Highett to Glen Huntly having less. The Dandenong line reduced services to Carnegie-Hughesdale for a while until they couldn’t run more trains. Route 19 had a reduction in services in the last timetable change. Melbourne Metro works will result in a drop in tram services along the St Kilda rd corridor. And the Altona loop had services reduced to 22 minutes in peak, AND terminated at Newport requiring people to change their service. This has just resulted in people paying more and getting less.

I would also argue that the areas where there IS traffic congestion is where you not only need to get people out of cars, but need to stop people buying them in the first place. The majority of people in South Yarra, Docklands, etc. should NOT have to own a car (I would argue more areas than this). However, the attitude that inner areas can’t have a good service because suburban areas don’t just results in everywhere being terrible.

@David S
Can I see a map of those zones David?

@Adam F
The principle for returning zones is to encourage short trips which in many cases due to car subsidies are not competitive with private transport.
Depending on the design it will still be far cheaper to travel long distances per km than short distances with a zone system.

If you are using a bus to go a short distance and not get a train should you be also charged for using the train. Many of our buses are quiet (and need significant subsidies) precisely because of this poor value for money fare.

Compared to fuel costs and the cost of parking; public transport to the CBD is a bargain. I’d like to pay more and see longer and more Vline trains on the Ballarat line; 1/2 a train at peak hour; come on guys. No doubt others would like to see additional resources on the other lines.

Like to see them do something about the tram stop at the end of Burke street (southern cross station). Fix up the light sequence so it clears the stop would be a start.

Attacking free travel in the CBD? You just could not get the people on and off in time if people had to log on and off; tram travel in the CBD is why it works and why taking a car to the city is crazy.

I think a big unaddressed issue is the fact that you cannot load less than $1 on a Myki (this applies whether at a staffed station or ticket machine), yet you can get a fine for not having a ticket when you have $0.05 less than the ticket cost on your Myki card ALTHOUGH you may have $0.95 in your pocket.

Would love to hear you opinion on this Daniel (and others).

@llib If you return to zones and make it more expensive for public transport for workers, then you will have road chaos, as everyone will keep driving. For a long commute, the only public transport item we are talking about is a train – trams and buses are not for long trips. So you will have lots of seats if you return to making more expensive zones, as more and more people will return to driving. (Or the stupid scenario like before where folks from outer suburbs would drive to a zone 2 station). This will only clog up the roads and make the bus trips impossible (as the bus wont move). But you will have a seat on the train. The zone 2 to zone 1 flattening the previous government brought it realized that for a proper city to work, we need the roads less clogged, and need the commuters to be able to commute cheaply.

Unfortunately a lot of folks here are campaigning to have higher fares, more zones and less people on public transport which is scary as there is always a chance that some silly person in power will listen to them.

Remember – its called mass transit in other parts of the world. Mass transit. Masses of people. Cheaply, quickly, environmentally friendly, and for the benefit of the community. But some folks want to have more zones…

There were cheaper fares for shorter trips on one vehicle in Zone 1 before Metcard. Maybe something like that needs to be brought back. But not suggesting there should be increased fares from further out to pay for it.

I don’t think anyone’s ever said it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the changes made to Zone 1/2 and city area fares were also done to compensate for the removal of the carbon tax.

@TW King

>The original zone 3 (ridiculous) and was designed to keep people out of the trains. (I cannot see why). This reasoning is used by many here to justify getting rid of the free tram zone – they want to keep people out of the trams so there is room to sit down (as opposed to the real issue which is not enough trams).

I’m pretty sure people in zone 3 stay out of trains because those that do stay too far away from the trains. Otherwise they will use it. Getting rid of zone 3 fares also means that they’ll have to pay the more expensive fare. Someone who lives in Frankston, for example, ended up paying more if they only need to travel to Seaford because they had to pay zone 2 fare instead of 3.

I’m also not opposed to the free tram zones, but I can understand the arguments against it. There was little changes in the infrastructure and service to cater for the increased passenger workload.

Good discussion.

Just in reply to a few specific points:

@Adam, Myki didn’t cost $4 billion, it is $1.5 billion over ten years. That’s still a huge amount of money, but in terms of fare revenue, it’s only about two years worth.

I also think it’s a mistake to assume that everyone living in zone 1 is rich, and everyone living in zone 2 is (a) travelling to zone 1, and (b) poor.

@Philip, I actually think $6-ish was an okay fare for somewhere like Pakenham into the city, but the big jump from a single zone fare to a 2-zone fare if you went just over the boundary (say Caulfield to Clayton) was an issue.

@Charles, one of the points the article tries to make is that for CBD commuters public transport is still cheap because parking costs make driving uncompetitive, but it’s not the case for a lot of suburban trips, including to destinations in the inner-suburbs that are very congested.

CBD trams coped with Myki (and Metcard before it) for many years until free rides started in 2015. I don’t know if there are figures showing it, but tram loading/unloading times appear to be far longer with people piling in to get their free rides than when they had to touch-on. (Touch-off isn’t required on trams in zone 1.)

@Jeff, you can legally travel with a balance of as low as $0.00. The machines will let you touch-on, and you can’t be fined for that. Your balance will go negative when you touch-off, and you have to then top-up before travelling again. (Slightly different rules do apply on V/Line, where you’re meant to have the cost of your trip on your ticket before boarding.)

@T W King, people aren’t arguing for higher fares; they’re arguing for some difference for short distances vs long distances, and indeed that short distances should be cheaper than they are.

There’s no perfect solution. Distance-based fares are complicated to understand; smaller zones are probably politically difficult. In fact, any change is probably politically quite difficult, and my sense is they don’t want to mess with Myki if they can help it.

You might be happy with things now, but just don’t be surprised when in a few years the fares have risen so much that your bargain trip from zone 2 to zone 1 is once again as expensive as the old zone 1+2 fare.

@Steve, the short trip tickets actually lasted well into the Metcard era. They were removed in 2004.

Another misleading aspect of the comparison with Sydney fares is that the $15.00 Opal daily fare mentioned is equivalent to a Myki Zone 1-12 daily peak fare covering up to Eaglehawk – 170km from Southern Cross, while Opal can be used as far away from Sydney Central as Scone – 314km from Central). In comparison, a Myki Zone 1-12 daily peak (2017) is $62.40.

The same logic applies to weekly travel – $156.20 for the entire Myki network compared to the Opal network’s $60 weekly cap.

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