How Melbourne’s off-peak fares will work

As part of its COVID-19 response, the State Government announced in December that they will trial off-peak fares:

To make it easier for metropolitan passengers to travel during quieter times and physically distance as Victoria recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, off-peak fares will be discounted for three months. From 31 January 2021, anyone using myki money between 9.30am and 4pm or after 7pm on weekdays will receive a 30 per cent discount.

PTV hasn’t publicised the details of this yet – but they have quietly updated their Fares & Ticketing Conditions document – and Chapter 1D explains precisely how the discount will work:

An off-peak discount of 30 per cent applies to fares for all journeys made in zone 1 only or zones 1 + 2 on a business day, except where—
(a) touch off occurs before 9:30am on a business day; or
(b) touch on occurs between 4pm and 7pm (inclusive) on a business day—
as those journeys are peak journeys and the peak fare applies

So it’s similar to the existing V/Line off-peak discounts – which applies for journeys across 3 or more zones.

But this new discount applies to all modes, including V/Line journeys for Zones 1+2, such as Tarneit to the City.

It’s important to note that you don’t get the discount if you don’t touch off.

The time rules mean that, for example, if you hop on a train in the burbs at 8:45am, and alight in the City at 9:45am, you’ll get the 30% discount.

Daily fares: Just as with V/Line off-peak, when travelling on an off-peak fare, the equivalent non-discounted peak fare is counted towards the daily fare cap. This should mean that if you take two off-peak trips (at say 10am and 2pm), then you’ve paid for all your travel that day (until 3am) – including anything journeys that subsequently occur in peak.

Other discounts still apply, including as Weekend daily caps ($6.50), Early-bird discounts (free on Metro only before 7:15am), and only a single fare charged after 6pm.

The 30% discount is applicable to Concession fares. But there’s no 30% discount for any trips within Zone 2 only.

Bentleigh station gates. Peak hour during COVID-19

Pricing compared to Myki Pass

The discounted daily fare is $6.30. In comparison, a prepaid 28-325 day Myki Pass costs:

  • $5.40 per day if used every day
  • $6.30 per day if used 6 days per week (the same as this new discount)
  • $7.56 per day if used 5 days per week – but of course this can include peak

So if travelling 5 days per week, the off-peak fare starts to undercut a regular Myki Pass cost.

The numbers are slightly different for a 365 Day Pass or a Commuter Club Yearly Pass, because these are discounted further.

I suspect most white collar workers have given up on Myki Pass for now. The question might be whether it’ll come back long term. People are returning to offices, but it seems unlikely that the bulk of office workers will return to commuting every weekday.

That said, it’s probably a different story for blue collar and service/retail workers who have to work on-site, but may be less flexible with their hours.

(I still think they should scrap the 7-Day Pass in favour of a 7-Day Cap, to reduce confusion and purchase risk for the passenger. It would also help shift more people from individual purchases to Auto Topup.)

New Myki signage on trams, October 2015

Will it move people out of peak?

The 30% discount brings the usual $9.00 daily fare down to $6.30 (just above the Zone 2-only fare of $6, which will not get the discount), so it’s a pretty good incentive to move your trips outside peak if you can.

The trial does mean off-peak tram passengers need to touch-off to get the discount, which is a bit of a change for them, and could cause confusion. Hopefully it won’t clog up tram doors too much given it is only off-peak.

The new timetables (also being introduced on 31st January) add some peak-shoulder services to help encourage a shift out of peak.

But most of the interpeak/off-peak period remains a problem on some lines, with up to 30-40 minute waits at the outer ends of the Sunbury, Lilydale and Belgrave lines – and (under normal circumstances) substantial crowding at times.

That aside, introducing off-peak fares is a good initiative. It absolutely makes sense to encourage off-peak travel, especially given COVID-19, and it’s encouraging to see the government finally willing to try this.

Whether the discount stays beyond the three months depends, I suppose, on whether it’s successful.

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.

16 replies on “How Melbourne’s off-peak fares will work”

Hi Daniel

Off peak discounted fares are a brilliant idea, and I hope they stick around after the three months have passed.

Question: as per your post, no off peak discount where “touch on occurs between 4pm and 7pm (inclusive) on a business day”. Is this the case for travellers going contra-peak (that is, from the suburbs toward to the city between 4pm and 7pm)?

I can see that catching out a lot of people who travel to the city to shop, eat and drink (who are otherwise working from home).


Si if you are a cleaner going from springvale to clayton you pay full price, but a professional going from glen waverlwy to glen iris will get a 30% discount

The timings are different to the standard for V/Line – the V/Line morning peak ends at 9am and only extends to 6pm in the evening. And of course the V/Line applies always in the counterpeak direction or where Zone 1 is not involved.

So hopefully the system has been properly programmed and tested!

There are some anomalies with applying the peak fare to the cap for some unique journey combinations across the day – I’ve effectively paid a third Zone 1 fare a number of times before for evening travel in Zone 1 in combination with a counterpeak return trip to Geelong – most of the time I’ve been able to get that reimbursed when PTV have had a look at it. Zone 1/2 only might be OK though since the cap for 1/2 is the same as for 1.

Just thinking of another example. Bus in Zone 2 to a Zone 1/2 station – pay the Zone 2 fare – then take the train to the city and arrive after 9.30 – presumably only pay the extra 15 cents. And in reverse, after 7pm, pay the Zone 1 off-peak and for the bus trip presumably no charge because Zone 1/2 is the same fare. But I’m sure I could come up with an anomaly here somewhere – probably requires the initial Zone 2 fare to have expired!

I support the idea of off peak fares. It is one of two things, that will help reduce peak hour demand. I dont know by how much, but, anything of which helps, can only be a good thing there.

You will have two main groups of people. #1, those who are fixed to the peak hour, and, whos journies can not be changed.

Then there are group #2, whos time is flexible. Such as pensioners who are in there just to have a shop, and/or look around etc. Those people can change when they travel, to whatever suits their mood on the day.

Back in the days, when the Dandenong line had super express trains, it was worth the crush, for the benefit of taking a super express train home. Having one of them depart the city at say 3pm, along with the off peak fares, would make a big carrot, for using that in place of using that peak hour timeslot.

re: “You don’t get the discount if you don’t touch off.”

There are already two valid reasons to touch off on trams:

1. If you believe your tram trip falls entirely within Zone 2. If you’re right, you’ll be charged a Zone 2 only fare, and if you’re wrong, no harm done.

2. If there’s a good chance your very next touch-on will be on the exact same tram you just exited, after it goes to the terminus and turns around and comes back. Some people may be thinking “What are the odds?”, but this happens to me surprisingly often, and I know from reading comments in forums such as this one that it has happened to other people too. If you’re not paying attention to what the Myki reader displays during that second touch-on, or if it’s physically impossible to see it because the reader is facing the opposite way, you may fail to notice that your second touch-on has been treated as a touch-off. So you’re now riding on a tram with a Myki that is off rather than on, and you don’t know it. If an AO happens to board the tram to check Mykis and hand out fines – well, lots of luck explaining the situation to them. I’d rather avoid the unpleasant public confrontation, not to mention the hassle involved in trying to get the fine cancelled, by touching off each time.

So now there will be a third reason to touch off on trams:

3. If you believe you may be eligible for the 30% off-peak discount. Again, if you’re right, you’ll get the discount, and if you’re wrong, no harm done.

With all that in mind, and given that a large number of people will now fall into Group 3… is it time to officially scrap the “no need to touch off on trams” instruction? And what will that mean for congestion in tram doorways? It might help if they’d install more Myki readers in trams (and more Next Stop buttons, while they’re at it). One Myki reader at each door is really not enough.

@Brendan, yes it appears peak fares would apply to counter-peak trips.

Of course if those people return home after 7pm, they’re getting a partial discount. And if their first trip is after 6pm, they’re also getting the existing 6pm-3am single fare discount.

@Greg, depends when the professional is travelling, of course. Sure, they may get a discount to $3.15 – with the cleaner paying $3. But if the cleaner is on a low income and has a Health Care Card, they also get a Concession discount.

@Steve, I do recall early on seeing some examples where particular combinations of journeys within Zone 1 (but some legs in the overlap) would result in passengers paying more than the Zone 1 daily cap.

@Jim, super express trains might have worked when the Dandenong line only ran every 20 minutes outside peak. Not anymore.

@Karen, the replacement of old slow Myki readers with the faster ones helps… though this seems to be happening mostly on buses and at stations, not on older trams.

re. congestion due to tapping off,

maybe it is time for the government to put in readers at busy stops. I get this may impact data collected but perhaps this could be mitigated or at least still be worthwhile

Will it include concession card holders too?
If so I can see it being really useful for DSP, Age Pension and Students. Especially if young people want to go out during the day to catch up with friends this could be really helpful.

Hi Daniel. The new timetable data at end of January – any idea when/if this will be available as a fresh GTFS data download? The date updated on data.vic is a couple years old last I looked.

SOunds like a good incentive to work short days, which may be possible for part timers like me. I have no desire to touch on after 7.00pm for the homeward trip. Not so bad in Summer, but I would not be happy doing it in Winter, if the scheme lasts that long.

Something else that needs to be fixed is the ridiculous gap between Zone 2 and Zone 3 fares people In stations that are just inside zone 3 (such as nar nar goon, ballan, Gisborne, corio) all have to pay fares that are often double the price of zone 2 fares. I know from personal experience ever since the 2015 fare changes many from Gisborne now drive to Riddells Creek, Sunbury and Diggers Rest which is clogging up services and car parks.

@Thomas, yes, the zone 1+2 discount will mean the difference between that and z 1+2+3+4 fares is even more stark.

@Jordan, from what I hear, they’re still working on iOS integration. They know it’s got to be done, but apparently it’s far from a simple process – and is proving to be a long hard slog.

You’re correct that the Fares & Ticketing Conditions document is very precise and clear, thanks for providing the link to that.

By contrast, the “Metropolitan Fares” section of the PTV website is confusing and potentially misleading:

“The 30% off-peak discount fare offer is valid from Monday 1 February to Friday 30 April 2021 where touch off occurs between 9.30am and 4pm, or touch on occurs before 4pm or after 7pm on weekdays.”

A literal reading of that might mislead people into believing that touching on in the suburbs at 7;30am and touching off in the city at 8:30am (ie a normal morning peak-hour journey) would qualify for the off-peak discount, because touch on has occurred before 4pm.

I think the main problem in the above wording is the first OR, which possibly should have been an AND.

It seems clear from the Fares & Ticketing Conditions document that both touch on AND touch off have to occur within the specified timeframes to quality for the off-peak discount.

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