Fares increasing by 6% for 2024

It’s a CPI rise, but it means Melbourne still has the most expensive short trips in the country

Last week they didn’t want to talk about the coming 2024 public transport fare rise. There was speculation of a 6% rise, but details were only confirmed thanks to an eagle-eyed passenger finding a new notice on a bus.

Finally on Thursday 29th December, they published official details. In short, yes, it’s a rise of about 6%, taking the base Zone 1+2 two-hour fare from $5.00 to $5.30, and the daily fare cap to double that.

Fares vs CPI

The government will often claim it’s only a CPI rise. And to be fair, it usually is. It appears generally they take the September annual CPI number for Melbourne, and apply it to the fares in January.

For some reason they round full fares to the nearest ten cents, and concessions to the nearest five cents, even though Myki Money isn’t cash, so it doesn’t need to be rounded.

How is it tracking over time? I went back to 2013, and used that as a baseline. Why 2013? Because that was the first year that Myki Money became the fare most people used – prior to that, you had a choice between Myki Money, 10×2 hour Metcards, and single Metcards.

Here’s a chart showing the actual price of the Zone 1 two-hour Myki fare 2 since 2013, and how it would have increased if it had actually followed CPI.

Chart showing 2-hour Zone 1 fares 2013 to 2024, actual and if they had followed CPI

So why didn’t it follow CPI?

In December 2013, the government announced a number of fare changes – including four CPI+2.5% rises (2015, 16, 17, 18), a big increase in the Weekend Cap, and a change to 2-hour fares to expire after exactly two hours.

The four above-CPI rises put the price well ahead of inflation.

(These four were planned and announced by the Coalition, then implemented by Labor. They followed two CPI+5% rises in 2012 and 13, planned and announced by Labor, and implemented by the Coalition.)

Even with the 2021 rise waived (and it seems to have been an actual waive of the increase, not just a deferral) the price is well above.

If fare rises had followed CPI during this time, in 2024 the price would be $4.86, not $5.30. The price would have risen 38.9%, but instead it rose 51.4%, so about 12.5% above inflation.

In retrospect, it looks like the 2013 announcement was advance planning to beef up Zone 1 revenue to make it easier to reduce Zone 1+2 fares and introduce the Free Tram Zone. These were announced by the Coalition during the 2014 election campaign, immediately matched by Labor, and implemented from the start of 2015.

In other words, what some of us feared might happen did happen: flat fares are good for some people (eg those travelling long distances, sometimes unavoidable due to housing affordability issues), but also result in upward pressure on the base fare.

Williams Landing station - bus interchange

Short trips too expensive

The result is that shorter journeys (particularly in zone 1) are getting expensive. $5.30 is cheap for travelling 30 stations on the train, but not for travelling a few stops on the tram (outside the FTZ).

As has been the case for some time, Melbourne has the most expensive short trips of Australia’s capital cities – by some margin.

  • Melbourne $5.30 Zone 1, $3.30 Zone 2
  • Adelaide $4.25 peak, $2.40 off-peak
  • Sydney $4.00 peak, $2.80 off-peak (trains; bus fares are cheaper)
  • Brisbane $3.55 peak, $2.84 off-peak
  • Canberra $3.22 peak, $2.55 off-peak
  • Perth $3.06 (cheaper for short bus “two section” trips)
  • Darwin $3.00
  • Hobart $2.80

There is a way to fix this. The current Myki system can be unreliable at location detection on trams and buses, and tram touch-off was removed to help with slow card readers (many of which have subsequently been replaced).

But the revamp of Myki is expected to improve these issues, meaning there’s an opportunity to add a short trip fare option.

There used to be short trip fares: until 2004 there were cheap fares for travelling up to two stations by train, or two fare “sections” on trams and buses. There were also cheap fares for tram journeys entirely within the CBD, which lasted until 2010 (and worked under Myki until removed).

Myki signage on trams, December 2014

Overall the fare system is a bit of a mess. The zone system originally adapted from paper tickets and Metcard, and implemented into Myki has been adjusted and pulled and prodded and modified every few years for political reasons.

So there are other fare reforms that should also be looked at, but I suspect the government doesn’t want to do lots of changes.

(One they absolutely should do is weekly fare caps.)

Bringing back short trip fares should be a relatively minor change, and would help make public transport competitive again for short journeys.

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.

7 replies on “Fares increasing by 6% for 2024”

If the short trip anomaly can’t be fixed, an automatic weekly cap (at the Myki money 7 day rate) should be possible. Particularly given the five-day office week is a thing of the past, so many commuters don’t know in advance how many days they will need PT.

Under the current fare structure driving is frequently more economical when more than one passenger is involved, which seems counterintuitive.

I had a look at the Urban Transport Fares CPI series for Melbourne (which also includes taxis and ride-share, so not a perfect series for this exercise).

The fare rise last July pushed this index back above the level it was before the Zone 1/2 and Free Tram changes for the first time – so urban transport fares as an averaged whole have only now caught up to where they were nine years ago (not much comfort to those only travelling in Zone 1!).

Those 2015 changes of themselves took fares as an averaged whole back to where they were in 2008 – basically wiping out six years of increases and adding plenty of distortions like relatively expensive short trips.

As the CPI doesn’t include Regional Victoria, the introduction of the statewide fare cap earlier this year had a very muted impact on the CPI – nowhere near the impact of the 2015 changes.

With rises in July and January, this will be the biggest 12-month fare increase since the introduction of the GST in 2000 (I think we got a double whammy there), and then back to 1993 for a double-digit increase.

I stand corrected, but I think a train journey from Flinders St to Swan Hill will now cost $10.60.
$5.30 to travel from Flinders St to Southern Cross (a 4 minute journey) and a further $5.30 to get from Southern Cross to Swan Hill (taking around 5 hours).
As Daniel states, changes over the years have been made for political reasons so we have a bizarre ticketing system.

I paid the extra 6% this morning travelling from Mordialloc to Moorabbin. I was slightly alarmed when the automatic announcement stated that the next stop was Parkdale. I don’t think so!

You’re right on the total fare @roger – but in that case you’d need to have bought your paper ticket before getting on the train at Flinders Street because the fare from Southern Cross to Swan Hill will be $10.60 regardless as it’s outside the Myki area. So in this case the travel between Flinders Street and Southern Cross is actually free.

On the basic premise though – my daily commute from West Footscray to Geelong (and return) can be broken down thus (July 2023 prices – I’ll see what 2024 looks like tomorrow!):

$5.00 – West Footscray to Sunshine
$4.00 – Sunshine to Geelong
Free – Geelong urban bus (2 stops)
$1.00 – Geelong urban bus (2 stops)
Free – Geelong to West Footscray

There was an article that appeared in The Age newspaper on Boxing Day that included the following commentary attributed to the Public Transport Minister.

“Public Transport Minister Gabrielle Williams said on Friday the state
was still working through “all the variabilities” of the new ticking
system, including whether it will set cheaper fares for shorter journeys
rather than the current flat two-hour and daily fares.”

I had not heard this coming from the State Government before. So maybe there is potential that something like this may happen. I hope it does!

It really is quite pricy. even 10$/day is a nontrivial expense, even when travelling significant distances. Just catching the bus to a local township is going to be more expensive than driving.

10$ should be more like the most one would ever spend on PT, not the baseline if you catch a bus twice a day.

I know all the arguments against, but one has to wonder what patronage would look like if fares were abolished entirely.

Leave a Reply

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