Future of the FTZ

Instead of a long rambling blog post today, you can read this from me in The Age:

One reason this is being raised now is that problems around slow Myki readers and card availability (and other issues) are likely to be resolved under the new Myki contract.

On the point that the FTZ encourages driving: VISTA data showed that for journeys from Zone 1 to the CBD, those by car jumped from about 32% to 39% when the FTZ was introduced.

See PTUA submission to the Free Tram Zone inquiry, page 2 for more detail.

Edit: 27/7/2022: Let me also expand on the point about walking vs tram. It’s commonly seen with free public transport that more journeys are shifted from walking than from cars, and the FTZ is no exception.

People walking on short trips around the CBD use nothing more than a bit of footpath. When those trips move to the free trams (and even worse, crowd out other users) they are using up tram fleet capacity, track capacity, stop infrastructure, power, and driver (and support staff) resources. This is not an efficiency or environmental gain.

I’m not expecting everyone to agree with the article, but if you’re wanting to leave a comment to say you disagree, please explain which part(s) you’re disagreeing with, and why.

I’d also say: the view that the FTZ is problematic has been highlighted before, right back to when it was first introduced. It’s not new – but it has become more nuanced as the effects of the zone have been seen.

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 “Future of the FTZ”

Whoever the interviewer was, he did not listen to what you were saying at all. Ah, that’s right, son of John Elliot. His mind was made up and I wonder about the wisdom of engaging with 3AW. Hopefully some of his listeners thought about what you were saying.

The FTZ never went far enough to be useful for my family, it does have the benefit of keeping the Authorised thugs outside of the CBD, which has an immeasurably positive benefit on tourism as well as regular patrons.
I agree the data suggests its hurting congestion and may not be good environmentally, but 7% seems a fairly modest negative effect – I’m sure most people would prefer to pay for the train and take a gamble on street parking, which often costs more than myki tickets, especially for individuals.

Hi, I think you make fair points but you need to quantify how much $ is being misallocated and is it substantial? Without showing this impact, I remain unconvinced. It’s great for tourists and encourages people to visit Melbourne, just need to extend it to the g and to crown.


Absolutely agree with everything you said there, I work in Docklands and the amount of customers I get telling me “oh I park my car here and take the free tram to the city (actual CBD)”.

One thing I’d add is that the overcrowding in the FTZ by freeloaders also negatively impacts people with disabilities, seniors or people with prams using PT.

If we can abolish the FTZ it might free up some room for those with Disabilities, seniors and people using prams on PT.

As you said in the article, apart from people driving into town there really is no benefit of the FTZ, and I’m someone who always takes PT to work and keep the car at home (even before the fuel prices rose)

The money used for this FTZ can be better used to perhaps do a myki fare freeze across the board for a year or two? It could really help especially at this time.

@MY2C, that’s a great question, but difficult to answer.

Put it this way: fleet investment is based around peak loads. There’s been significant investment in larger trams to try and keep CBD crowding under control. Not that this is a bad thing of course, but one wonders if the quest for capacity has some at the expense of a slower migration to a fully accessible fleet.

We do know that the planned change to route 12 to run via La Trobe St (which would have cut waiting times there, and improved connectivity from Spencer Street to the north-east of the CBD) was cancelled because of capacity concerns in Collins St.

A fares policy that generates heavy demand has consequences.

Is there any research showing that tourists are more likely to visit Melbourne because of the FTZ?

Its good there is a free tram in the city and it should be kept/ expanded to encourage more users of the tram and train network

Hopefully, if it is removed it starts the conversation about fare pricing on how far you travel and if you’re travelling with or against the peak. I doesn’t make much sense for someone to pay the same fare travelling from Werribee to Belgrave as it is to take a local bus route two stops down the street. No wonder people drive to the closest Free Tram Zone tram stop if you’re paying such high prices for such short travel especially when they removed the CBD saver when they removed Metcard. The current fare system also causes and encourages fare evasion to an extent because people don’t want to pay short trips. The government also loses potential revenue because it’s just cheaper say to walk than it is to take the bus. Also if your mode of transport is infrequent (eg. buses every 40-60 minutes) you should pay less than someone who has a tram say every 6 minutes. As a soley zone 1 and zone 2 traveler on different days, you kind of feel like you’re being ripped off paying half a fare for a bus or train in zone 2 that has the same frequency and level of service as zone 1. Also if say bus use is low, it should be made cheaper to incentivize more people to use it. The same could also be done to make public transport cheaper against the peak than with it or to diversify and encourage alternate peak time transport modes (eg.Smartbus). It should be based on what you use, when it’s used and if it’s regarded as a crowded (peak) service.

I suppose you could abolish the FTZ altogether but I think replacing it with a ‘tram zone’ fare would be better. Maybe tinker around the edges but a fare that’s half the price of zone 1 would be reasonable $2.30/2hr and $4.60/daily. I don’t see how charging $4.60 for someone to travel from Vic market to Flinders st is fair. Sure, they could walk but isn’t public transport meant to be used?

@Max exactly right. Also you have to remember that the city circle will still be around if the FTZ gets removed

@Daniel Bowen “Is there any research showing that tourists are more likely to visit Melbourne because of the FTZ?”
Surely not, people want to ride the old W class trams which are free anyway (unless they require wheelchair access which is a small group of people).

Drop the Free Tram Zone and extend the Early Bird to trams, buses and suburban (zone 2) V/Line services e.g. Wyndham Vale.

Is there any research showing that tourists are more likely to visit Melbourne because of the FTZ? Short answer is no there is isn’t and most advocates of FTZ have vested interests. I’m guessing one of those tourism bodies might have something or it may be based on feedback. You can lookup feedback for Yarra Trams on Trip Advisor, it’s generally positive. Transport is one of many factors used to rate tourist satisfaction which in turn drives tourist demand via recommendations and returning visitors. I would class the City Circle as a tourist destination and FTZ as transport which deliver different outcomes.

The metcard system used to have the ‘City Saver’ fare (kind of like Zone 0).

Makes a lot of sense, but if you’re going to charge people fares, even small ones, you have to be able to enforce it. Is it worth the effort to have officers patrol CDB trams and loop trains to catch $1 fare evaders? Probably not.

I agree with abolishing FTZ but bring back a cheaper fare for short trips from one end of the city to the other. As you said, the newer ViX machines are thankfully faster now.

@Anonymous, that’s correct, Metcard had the City Saver, and it was also implemented under Myki initially too.

I don’t see fare evasion as being a huge problem if they went back to a cheap (but not free) fare for the CBD. Most free riders are not inherently dishonest and are not fare evaders – they are following the rules, and I think would go back to either paying or walking.

Sydney has all of its readers on the waiting platforms. As some mentioned, maybe have all CBD stops in Melbourne (and some stops just outside like Melb Uni on Swanston St) with readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *