If you don’t always touch-off, it often doesn’t matter
The Myki mantra of “touch-on, touch-off” will reach fever-pitch as it gets pushed across the PT network.
And people will say it’s a hassle. Which it is. The touch is (if everything works okay) quicker and easier than inserting a Metcard into a slot, but having to do it twice per trip negates that somewhat.
If you’re travelling into the CBD by train, the touch-on/off is no more awkward than using Metcard — touch-on at your local station, touch-off to get out the gate in the CBD. (The current retro-fitted gates are a bit temperamental, but will be replaced once Metcard is phased-out.)
But on the way home, you touch-on to get in the gate in the CBD, but they say you’re meant to touch-off after you get off at your station. Along with everybody else who is also trying to exit the station at the same time. And on busy buses and trams it can be a hassle.
Always best to touch-on, to make sure your card is valid and your fare is paid. But here’s the thing: in a lot of cases it makes no monetary difference if you don’t touch-off.
(The following relates to Melbourne metropolitan services only. V/Line is different. And the following does not constitute advice or a recommendation from the PTUA, nor even a recommendation from me! I’m just making a point.)
With a Myki loaded with a Pass (equivalent to a Weekly/Monthly/Yearly, and generally cheaper if you’re travelling four times a week or more), the system will assume that, if you touched-on in a zone covered by the pass, that you travelled only in that zone. So if you only ever travel in zone 1, and you have a zone 1 pass, and you don’t touch-off, you won’t get charged any more.
Note: if you travel outside your usual zone, then you do need to touch-off, to ensure you pay for the correct extra amount (off your Myki Money balance). If you don’t, you’re stealing a fare, and you can get fined for fare evasion.
Myki Money default fares
It’s important to understand what a default fare means. The default fare is charged when the system can’t work out where you travelled to, so it assumes you travelled as far as was possible. On a bus (or tram), this means to the end of the line. On metropolitan trains, this means two zones. It’s not a fee on top of the fare; it’s a default fare.
[At one stage they proposed to sting you an extra 20 cents, and this was in place in regional cities for a while. They've seen sense.]
So, if you’re making a two-zone trip, you don’t actually need to touch-off. The fare charged is the same whether you do or not.
Default fares only apply to the two hour trip, by the way. Despite what some reports might say, you can’t get stung for a $9.94 zone 1+2 daily fare on a single trip. You’d only get that if you took two trips in a day (not in the same two hour period).
[Note that according to the official Fares and Ticketing Manual, during the transition stage as Myki rolls-out, the default fare on buses and trams is a single zone, regardless of where it goes, but what I'm writing about here is the bigger picture, eg once the system is fully running.]
Myki Money on buses
[Caution: I wouldn't be surprised if this is problematic in the first few months of bus operation. It's also possible there might also be issues when buses are through-routed, for instance the zone 1-only bus 223 to Highpoint often runs through to the zone 1+2 route 215 to Caroline Springs.]
Myki Money on trams
Obviously this one is easy now they’ve officially said you don’t need to touch-off on trams. The system will assume a zone 1 fare, and the zone 1/2 overlap has been extended to the end of the four lines that previously were in zone 2-only. (If you travel on trams entirely within the overlap and want the cheaper zone 2 fare, then you do still need to touch-off.)
The fare cap
The Weekend (and public holiday) fare cap is $3. If your travel costs were going to go above $3 (which is well under the full fare single zone daily rate), then again, you don’t really gain anything by touching-off.
I’m sure any Departmental beancounters reading this are appalled.
What about statistics? Don’t they gather lots of precise data about where everybody’s travelling from and to, and boost services accordingly?
Well, obviously they won’t be able to do that on trams, since most people won’t touch-off.
And the thing is, the crowding that we have on the system now is not a statistical issue. They get very good train system statistics from the old Metcard system during morning peak (the most crowded part of the day), because most passengers validate at their origin station and then again to exit through station gates in the CBD. So odds-on they know exactly where you travelled, and when.
The question is whether they use that information to plan and fund improvements. In the past, they haven’t. In fact they ignored their own report from 2003 warning them to buy new trains.
So while it’s true Myki is likely to provide better statistics, better statistics are not really the problem.
The problem is poor planning, and an unwillingness to invest.
That’s changed recently to an extent, of course, and certainly Myki touch stats are likely to be used to some extent, just as Metcard validation stats are now, but you’ll continue to see people with clipboards around on the system doing the real counting of passenger loads.
I suppose the question is: should passengers go out of their way to touch-off when they don’t have to, just so the statistics will be a little more accurate?
It will cost you no more if you don’t touch off, when:
- Travelling on a Myki Pass entirely within the zone(s) covered by the Pass
- Travelling on a tram within zone 1
- Making a zone 1+2 trip on a tram, train or bus
So what should I do?
I’m not going to tell you what to do. And I don’t expect you to try and remember all this stuff and know when you can get away without touching-off.
It’s probably easiest to just follow the official line and touch-on, touch-off every time (and don’t bother with touch-off on zone 1 trams). Other than slowing you down a bit, it won’t hurt, and it will ensure that you don’t get stung with an extra default fare accidentally. (If everything works okay, that is. At the moment there are glitches.)
Perhaps in time, if and when all the Myki machinery is humming, and plenty of scanners have been put in, and the touch-on/off sounds have been differentiated so people don’t even need to look as they pass by them, and everyone’s used to it and has mastered touching without even breaking step, then touch-on/touch-off might not seem so bad.
(You know, in London, under some circumstances to avoid a higher fare, you have to touch your Oyster card during your journey. No really, it’s true.)
- Reference: Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual (myki)
Update: Summary (above) added.