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transport

Which is cheapest?

If you buy daily tickets (currently available as Metcard only), the per weekday cost is Zone 1 $6.80, Zone 2 $4.80, Zone 1+2 $10.60.

Obviously there’s no reason to do this on a regular basis, since you can save a substantial amount of money by using the bulk fare options.

But which one?

That is, if you usually travel by PT every weekday, but not usually on weekends, and occasionally take the day off (as well as public holidays) what’s the cheapest way to do it? 10×2 hour (or Myki Money), or Monthly/Yearly (or Myki Pass)?

Metcards

Pay 5 days at a time

Using a 10×2 hour Metcard (or Myki Money), the per weekday day cost is: Z1 $5.88, Z2 $4.04, Z1+2 $9.92.

Obviously a key advantage here is that unlike the other bulk options, they don’t have to be consecutive days, so if you travel only semi-regularly, these tickets are a good option.

(The 5xDaily fares are the identical cost, but there’s no reason to ever buy these tickets, because the 10×2 hour tickets provide the same amount of travel, but are more flexible if you ever need only one 2-hour period of travel.)

Pay by the week

The cost is also the same as above if you get a Weekly Metcard or 7-day Myki pass, and only use it for the weekdays (eg 5 days). But you get any weekend days you might travel as a bonus, so if you regularly catch weekend PT, it’s cheaper to be on a weekly. (Note: Myki will not upgrade you to a weekly fare if that’s what’s cheaper.)

However if you absolutely never use PT on a weekend, and there is a public holiday in the week, this option turns out more expensive — indeed it’s more expensive than buying individual tickets — eg four days on a Weekly would cost you $7.35 per day for zone 1.

Pay by the month(ish)

March had 22 weekdays (23 less Labour Day). Due to Easter and ANZAC Day, April only has 19. Let’s assume the average month has 21.

On a Monthly Metcard, the per weekday cost is (approxiamately) Z1 $5.22, Z2 $3.50, Z1+2 $8.05.

And it’s still cheaper than the 10×2 cost, even for April. You’d have to get down to 18 working days (with no weekend travel whatsoever) for it to be more expensive on the Monthly. (Z1+2 is discounted more; you’d have to get down to 17 working days). Plus you don’t have to buy a new ticket every week(ish).

Myki’s five week option

With Myki the per day rate is published on their web site, because you can buy any number of days from 28 to 365 (anything above 325 is free). If you assume no weekend travel, then the per day cost to the user obviously goes up, since you’re paying for weekends but not using them.

But here’s something that someone cleverer than me noticed: if you buy 33 days, and start it on a Monday, thus ending on a Friday 5 weeks later, you can avoid paying for one weekend you don’t need. (Even if you do need to travel on that weekend, with Myki Money it’s a maximum of $3 per weekend day, so that travel is cheaper than it would have been on the pass).

If it’s in a 5-week period with one day off in that time, the cost per weekday comes out at Z1 $4.95, Z2 $3.30, Z1+2 $7.65, and you get travel in your zone(s) on four weekends included.

And because the per-day cost is slightly lower than the Monthly Metcard price, it’s cheaper than the Myki Money rate unless you travel only 18 days or less in that 5-week period (17 for Z1+2).

The catch is that if you use a Myki card that has an unused Pass on it, the system will start using it, so you need to be careful to buy and use the Pass when you want to, not start it too early by accident, unlike Metcard, where you can buy your ticket in advance and choose not to use it until you’re ready.

Pay by the year

If you want to pay for your travel a year in advance, there’s no need to pay the retail prices. If you work for a large organisation, ask them if they offer Commuter Club; if you don’t, get it through PTUA Commuter Club. You’ll save 9-10% that way.

Let’s assume you don’t work the whole year. Let’s say you take 4 weeks off, as well as public holidays (this year there are 10 on weekdays), plus say 5 extra days of leave (eg sick leave or additional leave) making about 225 days per year.

The cost per weekday then comes out at Z1 $4.84, Z2 $3.28, Z1+2 $7.40, with of course any travel on weekends or during your leave period included as well. Obviously the more you travel, the less per day it costs.

(The equivalent pass in Myki is only available at the full retail price at moment, so there’s no reason to use it, as you’d be wasting money. The exception is if you’re eligible for a concession fare, as Metcard Yearly is not available at the concession rate.)

Confused?

Don’t be. The usual rule for bulk buying applies: the more you pay in advance, the more money you’ll save over the long run. Whether you can afford it and whether that’s the best use of your money is another question.

Here’s a graph which may make it a tad clearer. To be clear, these figures make the assumptions given above.

Fare options: cost per day

I suspect for most people, the monthly(ish) ticket is the sweet spot, giving a 12-18% discount from the 10×2/Myki Money price, though for those who regularly use PT on weekends and when they’re on holiday, the discounted Yearly option may be quite compelling.

And remember, for monthly and longer options, you can apply for compensation when the operators miss their performance targets. Those who are eligible for train compensation for March, for instance, get two extra days of travel.

How could things be better?

With the cost of casual weekend travel dropping to $3, it would make sense for the government to bring down the price of Weekly/Monthly/Yearly tickets to make up for that. The more compelling they can make Monthlies and Yearlies in particular, the better, as promoting that kind of bulk pre-payment reduces the number of transactions that need to be made (reducing costs) and encourages loyal customers onto PT.

Price references: Metcard fares. Myki fares. PTUA Commuter Club Yearly.

Note: Myki is still only valid on trains, so if your regular travel involves trams or buses, ignore those options. Even if you only catch trains, be very wary of Myki at present — it’s still got problems.

(Have I messed up any of my calculations? Leave a comment if you spot any errors.)