Fares for short trips now double the cost of Sydney

As expected, public transport fares in Victoria go up from 1st January. This time it’s a CPI rise of 2.2% – thankfully not as high as the last four which were CPI+2.5% (budgeted by the Coalition in 2014, delivered by Labor).

This takes the standard zone 1 or 1+2 daily fare to $8.80, and the 2-hour fare to $4.40.

It’s worth noting that for short trips in zone 1, this is now precisely double the $2.20 Sydney tram or bus Opal fare for up to 3 kilometres.

The fare rules are a bit different – Sydney’s free transfers are generally limited to the same mode within 60 minutes, and the daily cap is much higher (except on Sundays).

(The short distance single zone Go Card fare in Brisbane is $3.25 peak, $2.60 off-peak. In Perth the Smartrider fare is $1.98 for two “sections”, or $2.79 for one zone.)

It turns out that the fares in Sydney in most cases are lower than Melbourne’s standard $4.40.

  • Sydney tram/bus: $2.20 for up to 3km, half the Melbourne zone 1 cost, and 26% cheaper than Melbourne zone 2 at $3
  • Sydney tram/bus: $3.66 for 3-8km, still 17% cheaper than Melbourne zone 1, though more expensive than Melbourne zone 2
  • Sydney train: $3.54 peak/$2.47 off-peak for up to 10km
  • Sydney train: $3.08 off-peak for trips of 10-20km. (The peak fare is identical to Melbourne, at $4.40)
  • Even train trips of 20-35km off-peak are cheaper in Sydney, at $3.53

Melbourne’s fares (within zones 1 and 2) are generally cheaper for longer trips: over 8km on buses (Sydney trams don’t even go that far!) or over 20km on trains in peak, or over 35km off-peak.

And the transfer rules and daily cap mean Melbourne is cheaper for roaming around all day (for instance, tourists) – but this is not what most daily commuters do.

It’s those short trips that really sting, thanks to the nearly flat fare structure. You wonder how many people choose the car by default for short inner-city trips because of it, especially when travelling in a group.

Also spare a thought for V/Line passengers. Anomalies in the zone system mean that, for instance, a passenger from Lara to Melbourne pays $4.40, but hopping on the train a few minutes earlier at Geelong will cost a whopping $13.40 in peak, $9.38 off-peak.

How much have fares gone up over time?

Looking at the basic 2-hour zone 1 adult fare, it’s gone up quite a bit over time – from $1.60 in 1990 to $4.40 in 2019. If it had followed the rate of inflation, it’d now be about $3.57.

Melbourne PT fares since 1990

See the data. I am currently missing the prices for 1993. Can anybody help?

People travelling long trips (the old zone 1-2-3) have benefited from the removal of zone 3 in 2007, and the fare capping added in 2015. In 1990 the 2-hour fare was $3.80, from January it’ll be $4.40. If that had followed the rate of inflation, it’d be about $8.49.

There was a slight drop for all fares in 2013 (actually in the last days of 2012) when single use Metcards were phased out, forcing everyone onto the bulk price Myki fares.

Solutions are hard

Solutions are hard because so often the politicians reject any policy change where anybody is disadvantaged.

The flat fare has pros and cons. The only logical alternatives are more zones, or point-to-point pricing. The latter is difficult given the older Myki readers still common around the system on trams and buses are so unreliable, and Myki zone detection is so hopeless.

It appears for instance that buses have two GPS systems. One is able to, usually, tell the real-time apps how far away the bus is to a minute’s accuracy; the other is often unable to figure out which of two gigantic zones it’s in.

Introducing off-peak fares is another option. V/Line gives a 30% discount for off-peak. Perhaps this should be looked at for metropolitan trips too. The same discount would bring that $4.40 fare down to $3.08, matching Sydney on more trips. This would help improve demand at off-peak times, and would shift some trips out of peak.

There is a kind of off-peak pricing: between 6pm and 3am you’ll only pay one 2-hour fare – this was inherited from Metcard, and inherited from the 1980s era paper tickets before that! There is also the weekend/public holiday $6.30 cap.

And another upgrade that would be of benefit: re-instating the weekly and monthly caps once planned for Myki would help stop Myki Money users paying too much, and remove the confusion of having to choose between Money and Pass to get the best deal.

Desire lines: signs of bad design?

Desire lines are where authorities intend for people to go one way, but people (especially pedestrians) quite logically ignore them and go a different way.

Often they indicate poor design.

Here are some quick examples from my neck of the woods.

You have to wonder whose bright idea this was. Try and divert the pedestrians away to a crossing. Why do it? The worn grass indicates not many people follow the recommended path.
Desire lines in Bentleigh

Similar story at this roundabout. It’s a less busy street for pedestrians so the grass looks more intact, but again, why? Puzzling since another roundabout 100 metres away doesn’t have this design.
Desire lines in Bentleigh

Down at Southland, the new station is a roaring success… except for the pathway to the shopping centre, which diverts people via an indirect route – though at least it’s got priority zebra crossings all the way – visible at the left. Still, an awful lot of people come out of the station and instead dodge around the fence and make straight across the car park for the entrance. Are we really that surprised? Hopefully sooner rather than later, Westfield will fix it.
Southland station desire lines

The centre of central Bentleigh: the station. This new pedestrian crossing is very welcome, as it connects the westbound bus stop with the trains. Amazingly, before the grade separation, there was no nearby crossing. With a little thought, they could have made this new crossing wider, stretching towards the bus stop, as when buses arrive, there’s a swarm of people crossing the road.
Bentleigh station pedestrian crossing

And this, around the corner. Having a zebra crossing is good, but it’s clearly in the wrong place. It should be no surprise at all that most people cross at the point aligned with the supermarket entrance. Authorities must have realised this, or there wouldn’t be this signage.
Desire lines in Bentleigh

Often this type of thing appears to be just trying to make life difficult for pedestrians.

I really hope whoever is responsible for these designs is observing how people use these spaces, and isn’t continuing to make these mistakes.

More reading: Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners

Renaming North Melbourne

It’s perhaps a minor thing, but…

Back in November 2017 the metro tunnel station names were announced, including a new station called North Melbourne, with the current station to be renamed to West Melbourne.

I don’t have a problem with that. It’s logical… but it has to happen well in advance of the new station opening, to minimise confusion.

At the time, there were assurances that this would be done quickly.

A good opportunity to rename a station is when there are other rail network changes, prompting a new edition of the rail map.

Publishing a new map is a big thing. It has to be designed, and then every map around the system needs to be replaced. Web sites are easy, but there’s every station, every train carriage.

Well they missed an opportunity. In August 2018 the Mernda rail extension opened, prompting a map revision. But “West Melbourne” is still “North Melbourne”.

PTV train map August 2018

If you want an illustration that replacing all the maps is a big task, note that many stations, including my local, are still displaying the old pre-Mernda maps.

So, what are the next metro stations to be opened? Well there’s actually nothing definite until the tunnel opens in 2025… including the new North Melbourne.

They could have done the renaming in August, but they didn’t.

Perhaps there are other factors holding them back; some behind-the-scenes issues that need to be resolved. Presumably those can be overcome; just as they were for Melbourne Central (Museum) and Southern Cross (Spencer Street).

There is another chance before 2025. There aren’t any more metro stations expected before then, but there is a V/Line station: Cobblebank, in Melbourne’s outer west, slated for completion during 2019.

Let’s hope they take this opportunity to rename North Melbourne well before the new station opens.

Old photos from November 2008

Continuing my series of ten year old photos

The coal industry trying to pretend they’re good guys. I don’t know if they even pretend these days… note yesterday Adani announced it would press ahead with its new coal mine, in the middle of a state bushfire crisis — nice touch.
"New gen coal" ad November 2008

Warrnambool holiday! This was fun. Should go back sometime.
Central Warrnambool

Unprotected level crossing somewhere near Warrnambool. With little traffic, and about half-a-dozen trains per day, probably not going to be removed anytime soon.
Railway crossing

I remember we hired a car from a place in the ‘Bool where the bloke said “No worries” about every 20 seconds, so we could drive part of the Great Ocean Road. Here it is. Straya.
Kangaroos

Plenty of tourists at the Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles and many tourists

Back in Melbourne, a train ride to “Unknown Line ID”
Train going to "Unknown Line ID" November 2008

Motorcycles parking all over the pavement are not a new problem, but as the CBD gets busier, they’re a growing issue. This is a photo snapped for a blog post about them back in 2008.
Motorcycles on the footpath, November 2008

The election of Barak Obama. I was watching on a CRT, obviously… and blogged a whinge about the ABC cropping the CNN ticker of useful information.
McCain/Obama election November 2008

A big Connex advertisement in Newmarket. This was the month they moved Werribee trains out of the Loop on weekdays, and started running the Clifton Hill loop clockwise all day. Not everyone liked it, but both changes have helped enable more trains to run.
Connex Melbourne "We're moving more people every day" November 2008

Election wrapup

Many people have written about the state election result. I thought I’d add my two-cents worth… noting that as of Wednesday night, some seats are still in doubt.

The Coalition crime fear campaign didn’t resonate. The stats don’t match the rhetoric, and while the accounts from actual victims could be harrowing, Melbourne is not a crime-infested cesspit. That’s no comfort to those who have been victims of of course, and more can be done to combat crime, but this is not an unsafe city.

Anecdata is only convincing (eg reflective of reality) if enough people are directly affected. How many people do you know who have been the victim of a violent crime? I thought the rhetoric, especially when the Coalition got to the point of declaring that anybody who committed any offence while on bail would be locked up, over-the-top.

(Amazingly, the Federal Libs are still pursuing this rhetoric in some parts of Melbourne this week.)

The anti-Skyrail campaign didn’t resonate. People living underneath it might dislike it (though not all do) – but ultimately the broader community didn’t hate it. All the seats with skyrail in them now (Caulfield, Oakleigh, Mulgrave, Keysborough) and getting skyrail (Bass, Carrum) swung towards the government, not away from it.

Perhaps that was helped by the fact that skyrail exists now. It’s real. Perhaps it’s not pretty, but it’s not covered in graffiti or filled with drug dealers as some claimed it would be.

Skyrail at Carnegie, November 2018

From where I was sitting, the Coalition had few prominent, positive policies. They took a back seat to the negative campaigning.

Their best (in my book) policy was announced and then quietly dropped: trains every 10 minutes. What a shame.

Their decentralisation policies seemed a good idea at a high level, though the fast rail pledges looked undercooked, and some of the detail around the rest of it either wasn’t thought out in detail, or wasn’t communicated well.

The ridiculous intersection grade separation plan didn’t resonate. Plenty of people drive absolutely everywhere, but I don’t think many of them thought this was a good idea.

Former Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu said it well:

The campaign didn’t work. The policies didn’t work. The organisation, the administration didn’t work, the leadership didn’t work. We didn’t have any cut through. Across the board it didn’t work.

Big swings to Labor, putting normally safe Liberal seats like Hawthorn and Brighton at risk showed that even though people live in wealthy suburbs, it doesn’t mean they’re dinosaurs, and they were clearly not keen on the crime narrative, nor the Liberal party being dragged to the right by the likes of Dutton and Abbott.

Meanwhile, Labor’s narrative of “a positive and optimistic agenda” (this literally became their catchcry) was perhaps clichéd, but also justified by some big achievements in just four years. Who’d have believed they’d get 29 level crossings removed? It meant many people overlooked their failings such as the redshirts affair.

Daniel Andrews claims victory, State election 24/11/2018

So now we have four more years of Labor. More level crossing removals – which is good. And thanks to the benefits of incumbency, plans for rail upgrades that are arguably more logical than the Coalition’s ambitious (perhaps impossible) pledges for high speed rail.

Labor will borrow more money to pay for infrastructure. I remember being at a transport breakfast thing years ago with some bigwigs who were saying it was ridiculous that governments have such a fear of borrowing. You borrow to buy your house, and it costs money, but it’s good. Why not borrow to invest in infrastructure that grows the economy?

I don’t have a major problem with this, though the question is: are the specific big projects they’re borrowing for actually worth the money? North East Link, for example – Infrastructure Victoria gave it the thumbs up in 2016 based on a cost of $5-10 billion, but a Business Case released early in 2018 appeared to inflate the benefits.

Speaking of business cases and infrastructure, the Suburban Rail Loop doesn’t yet have a business case. If the project happens, it may be decades away. But it caught the imagination of the populace, and I’m told the ALP reckon they saw bigger swings in the electorates nearby.

In the meantime, what about Metro 2, which by any logic is a higher priority to ensure Fishermans Bend is a success and the Werribee and Mernda rail lines cope with growth.

And right here and now, there has to be a commitment to upping all-day service levels on the existing infrastructure.

Melbourne is growing fast, and we can’t wait for the Metro tunnel to open in 2025 to see more trains running.

Let’s hope the newly re-elected government realises that it’s not just infrastructure that’s important — how you use it is vital.

Update Thursday lunchtime: The Premier has announced a reshuffle. The new Public Transport Minister is Melissa Horne. Jacinta Allan picks up Transport Infrastructure. Roads Minister is Jaala Pulford.