Something that was missed in the announcement last month was that it’s not just trams where you won’t be able to buy a single-use ticket on board. It’s all modes. The Short Term Tickets won’t be used in Melbourne, and will be removed from use in regional areas.
It’s understandable that they’d not go ahead with these specific tickets. Their two major problems are that they cost about 35 cents to produce, and they have no human-readable information (such as the fare, zones or amount paid) on them.
But to abolish them with no replacement (such as a printed paper ticket, using the technology already in Myki machines used to print topup receipts) I think is a mistake.
It means you will have to buy a reusable Myki card (currently priced at $10 adult, $7 concession) at a station, at a retailer, or online, and top it up before you can travel. This means a significant extra cost and effort for new and occasional public transport users.
For example, a family of two adults and two kids who fly in for two days poking around Melbourne (zone 1 only). Currently on weekdays and Saturdays they’d buy Metcards, and pay 4 x $7 plus 4 x $3.80 = $43.20 for two days of travel for the four of them.
Under Myki, assuming the current costings, they’d have to pay 2 x $10 plus 2 x $7 just to get the cards. They’d need to topup the cards with extra money for the actual fares: 4 x $6.04 plus 4 x $3.02, so a total of $70.24 (and probably a bit more as they may not know the exact fares in advance, and when topping up fares with cash at machines, you don’t get change and the smallest denomination accepted is 10 cents).
It’s hard to imagine a better way of discouraging new users (be they tourists or locals) from using public transport… which is probably why no other major city in the world appears to do this.
Some cities (Melbourne included) won’t accept buying a fare on specific bus routes, or at specific stops. Some cities make you buy a fare off the system before using a tram or bus. But so far I haven’t found any that make you pay for a card, then pay extra for fares before you are able to use any services at all. (If you know of any, please leave a comment.)
The Transport Ticketing Authority may yet announce changes that will solve these problems, but so far there’s been nothing announced other than a pledge to increase the number of retailers (which was going to happen anyway; eg every 7-11). And I understand at a lunchtime press conference they said they are considering a card return/refund system for tourists.
Unlike in some cities such as Hong Kong or Singapore, for non-CBD trips especially, public transport in Melbourne is the minority mode. To attract new users, it has to be as friendly and easy to use as possible. Making people find an outlet or machine to buy a re-usable $10 card and load it with money before they can travel represents a new, significant hurdle to prospective users.