I’ve already written previously about the fare changes happening (some announced in December, others announced in March), but it’s probably worth considering them all together.
Exact 2-hour fares — from 10/8/2014
From yesterday, 2-hour fares are exactly two hours.
Although it was originally flagged in December, this has crept up, quietly announced on Friday by PTV, with only two days notice — quite different from the “good” changes that the government is promoting heavily, many months in advance.
(They still last until 3am if started after 6pm; and long V/Line trips still get extra time if travelling across more than 5 zones. The Daily cap still applies, eg a maximum of two 2-hour fares. And the touch-off can be after the expiry time without incurring another fare.)
This was arguably a hangover from paper tickets, which had a limited number of notches to mark the hour of expiry. But the rule had been carried over to Metcard and to Myki.
On one level it’s logical to use a fixed time period rather than starting from the next hour.
But some people used it to get a cheap round trip, for instance a quick journey to the shops or the doctor. It seems unlikely this change will pull in a lot more revenue, but for those watching their pennies, it may make a big impact.
It remains to be seen if people will mill about station entrances waiting until the train is coming to touch-on. I never saw a huge number of people waiting for the hour to tick over, though some certainly did.
And it may cause problems on long trips, as if you’re travelling for two hours, then go to touch-off, the system will treat it as another touch-on (with a default two-zone fare). At a station you can touch-off again using the Change Of Mind feature, but on a bus, such as Melbourne’s loooong orbital Smartbus routes, there’s no such option.
I actually think it would have been a better move to make it a fixed three hour period. (At one stage, all tickets were 3 hours.) Minimal impact on revenue, but fairer for those on limited budgets wanting to make short local trips, especially in the outer suburbs where services are often infrequent.
And of course, Myki equipment should show the expiry time of the fare. At the moment, it’s not shown anywhere for Myki Money — and it’s not like many people will be able to remember they touched-on at precisely 11:06am.
Weekend daily cap rise — from 1/1/2014
We shouldn’t forget this one: Last year the maximum daily fare in Melbourne on weekends and public holidays was $3.50. This year it’s $6. Combined with the above change, some weekend travel has jumped around 70% in price.
It’s unclear if this has had an impact on weekend travel.
Free tram rides in the CBD — from 1/1/2015
From this coming January, all trams in the CBD will become free.
Obviously the impact is likely to be that CBD trams — already often crowded — will become even more crowded.
I’ll leave it to then-Premier Joan Kirner to explain who benefits from this one, in this Age article from just before the 1992 state election:
In 1992 the Kennett government was voted in, and arguably (thankfully) back-pedalled a little, introducing the free City Circle tram, rather than making all CBD trams free.
I’m with Joan on this. The major beneficiaries are motorists — the very last people who should be benefiting — though tourists and CBD residents will also gain.
But most public transport users don’t benefit at all, because their fare to and from work already includes all day travel in the CBD. As I’ve already noted, Alanis Morissette might have said of this: It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid.
Indeed, last week I was surveyed by PTV about the change. I honestly said that if this makes trams more crowded, I’ll be using them less. In that case, the freeloaders will win at the expense of paying public transport users.
Thankfully the CBD congestion levy area (that’s a tax on inner-city carparks, which anecdotally is working in discouraging motorists into the CBD, and may even be convincing car park owners to redevelop their properties into something more profitable) is bigger than the free tram area, so we hopefully won’t see people driving to the city-fringe where they can jump on a free tram to work, though you don’t know what a price signal like this might do.
Zone 1 to cover all of Melbourne — from 1/1/2015
Also from January the most you’ll pay within the current zone 1 and 2 area is a zone 1 fare. This includes all of metropolitan Melbourne, and regional areas as far away as Lara, Wallan and Bacchus Marsh.
One wonders how this will affect crowding, particularly on trains (both Metro and V/Line), but also on Doncaster area buses, which have a lot of two-zone trips.
Obviously this benefits outer-suburban passengers who travel into zone 1 regularly — provided of course they have a decent service they can access. For many, railway stations may remain too far to walk, nearby parking scarce, and connecting buses poor (as noted in an Auditor General report released last week).
Those who currently just travel across a zone boundary will obviously be happy. The current huge jump is pretty hard to bear if you’re only going an extra stop or two.
In a way this puts all of Melbourne on an equal footing in terms of fare cost, though it also means a huge disparity in the cost per kilometre.
The government estimated that this change and free CBD tram rides will cost about $100 million per year. (To be precise, the budget put it at $390 million over 4 years.)
Long term, the real danger is upward pressure on the standard zone 1 fare, as seen in Adelaide with their single fare zone, and in Melbourne after zone 3 was merged with zone 2.
Fares up by CPI plus 2.5% — 1/1/2015 and 1/1/2016
While they’re cutting the two-zone fare, the government did announce in December that there would be CPI+2.5% rises two years in a row, in 2015 and 2016. So it seems while the cost of two-zone trips drop, single zone trips will start to creep up.
Still unconfirmed but strongly rumoured: Removal of the Earlybird fare. Once again, it’s unclear how much revenue this would pull in, remembering that the original impetus was to save money that would otherwise need to be spent providing extra train capacity in morning peak.
And while Labor has said they’d go ahead with the two-zone price cut and free CBD trams, they haven’t said anything about rolling back the 2-hour change, nor about the CPI+2.5% rises.
It’s a real mixed bag of reforms that the government has announced — giving with one hand, taking away with the other.
Revenue is going to be up and down, all over the place. It’s really hard to see this as anything more than a grab bag of politically-motivated changes, rather than a well-planned, thoughtful strategy to make fares fairer.
They’re obviously courting outer-suburban voters with the zone changes.
They may not care much (or haven’t thought about) about the impact on people with limited incomes trying to squeeze the most they can out of a 2-hour fare.
Free CBD tram rides… well, I’m not sure it’ll convince many residents in the state seat of Melbourne to vote for them (it’s really a Labor/Greens contest), but those who drive their cars into the city and like free rides at lunchtime will certainly be happy… if they can squeeze onto a tram.
The huge numbers of people living and travelling in zone 1 won’t get the benefit of a price cut, and will see fares jump by CPI+5% over two years — so expect to see the base fare creep towards $4, and be under even more pressure to rise to make up for foregone revenue.
It’s a bit like GST. Nobody likes paying it, but if they were to reduce its scope, and make it a flat amount for some higher value transactions, it’s obvious the rate would eventually go up to cover it.
I’ll leave you with the full Age article quoting Joan Kirner… it touches on a number of interesting topics going into the 1992 election, including promises to extend the rail network (Craigieburn was eventually done in 2007, South Morang 2012, Sunbury 2012, Baxter still isn’t done), the prospect of cuts to station staff and conductors under Kennett (which happened, and resulted in the Metcard ticket system), and extra bus services (nothing really happened until two Smartbuses were implemented ten years later, then little more until after 2006).