As part of its COVID-19 response, the State Government announced in December that they will trial off-peak fares:
To make it easier for metropolitan passengers to travel during quieter times and physically distance as Victoria recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, off-peak fares will be discounted for three months. From 31 January 2021, anyone using myki money between 9.30am and 4pm or after 7pm on weekdays will receive a 30 per cent discount.
PTV hasn’t publicised the details of this yet – but they have quietly updated their Fares & Ticketing Conditions document – and Chapter 1D explains precisely how the discount will work:
An off-peak discount of 30 per cent applies to fares for all journeys made in zone 1 only or zones 1 + 2 on a business day, except where—
(a) touch off occurs before 9:30am on a business day; or
(b) touch on occurs between 4pm and 7pm (inclusive) on a business day—
as those journeys are peak journeys and the peak fare applies
So it’s similar to the existing V/Line off-peak discounts – which applies for journeys across 3 or more zones.
But this new discount applies to all modes, including V/Line journeys for Zones 1+2, such as Tarneit to the City.
It’s important to note that you don’t get the discount if you don’t touch off.
The time rules mean that, for example, if you hop on a train in the burbs at 8:45am, and alight in the City at 9:45am, you’ll get the 30% discount.
Daily fares: Just as with V/Line off-peak, when travelling on an off-peak fare, the equivalent non-discounted peak fare is counted towards the daily fare cap. This should mean that if you take two off-peak trips (at say 10am and 2pm), then you’ve paid for all your travel that day (until 3am) – including anything journeys that subsequently occur in peak.
Other discounts still apply, including as Weekend daily caps ($6.50), Early-bird discounts (free on Metro only before 7:15am), and only a single fare charged after 6pm.
The 30% discount is applicable to Concession fares. But there’s no 30% discount for any trips within Zone 2 only.
Pricing compared to Myki Pass
The discounted daily fare is $6.30. In comparison, a prepaid 28-325 day Myki Pass costs:
- $5.40 per day if used every day
- $6.30 per day if used 6 days per week (the same as this new discount)
- $7.56 per day if used 5 days per week – but of course this can include peak
So if travelling 5 days per week, the off-peak fare starts to undercut a regular Myki Pass cost.
The numbers are slightly different for a 365 Day Pass or a Commuter Club Yearly Pass, because these are discounted further.
I suspect most white collar workers have given up on Myki Pass for now. The question might be whether it’ll come back long term. People are returning to offices, but it seems unlikely that the bulk of office workers will return to commuting every weekday.
That said, it’s probably a different story for blue collar and service/retail workers who have to work on-site, but may be less flexible with their hours.
(I still think they should scrap the 7-Day Pass in favour of a 7-Day Cap, to reduce confusion and purchase risk for the passenger. It would also help shift more people from individual purchases to Auto Topup.)
Will it move people out of peak?
The 30% discount brings the usual $9.00 daily fare down to $6.30 (just above the Zone 2-only fare of $6, which will not get the discount), so it’s a pretty good incentive to move your trips outside peak if you can.
The trial does mean off-peak tram passengers need to touch-off to get the discount, which is a bit of a change for them, and could cause confusion. Hopefully it won’t clog up tram doors too much given it is only off-peak.
The new timetables (also being introduced on 31st January) add some peak-shoulder services to help encourage a shift out of peak.
But most of the interpeak/off-peak period remains a problem on some lines, with up to 30-40 minute waits at the outer ends of the Sunbury, Lilydale and Belgrave lines – and (under normal circumstances) substantial crowding at times.
That aside, introducing off-peak fares is a good initiative. It absolutely makes sense to encourage off-peak travel, especially given COVID-19, and it’s encouraging to see the government finally willing to try this.
Whether the discount stays beyond the three months depends, I suppose, on whether it’s successful.