Opal Card Roll-out

 
  jpd Locomotive Fireman

Location: Sydney
Yes, you're right that the T&C seem to be saying more than any of the simpler explanations.

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  simonl Chief Commissioner

Location: Brisbane
There is nothing the least bit woolly about it.  I refer to: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/ptr2007339/s76.html
which clear states that a smartcard is only valid if used in accordance with the terms and conditions.  Also, section 77A which states you must have a valid ticket, or pay up to 5 penalty units if caught.

If touching off results in a negative balance, you have violated clause 31 of the terms and conditions.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
There is nothing the least bit woolly about it. I refer to: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_reg/ptr2007339/s76.html
which clear states that a smartcard is only valid if used in accordance with the terms and conditions. Also, section 77A which states you must have a valid ticket, or pay up to 5 penalty units if caught.

If touching off results in a negative balance, you have violated clause 31 of the terms and conditions.
simonl

Probably.  Practically I think clause 31 is really only there as a stop-gap against blatant abuse, otherwise the possibility that a negative balance could result in a fine or a some attempt to recover the fare from the user should be called out explicitly and clearly in the supporting user facing/user friendly documentation.  It isn't - the discussion about negative balances is limited to "you'll have to fix that before you can use the card again".  

The summary of the terms of use provided to users with the card is also different to the actual terms of use, in that it says you only need to have the minimum fare for the mode on your card before you can tap on.

(If the system has let you tap on (which means your balance is above the minimum fare for the particular mode you are tapping onto at the time), then you have a valid ticket (even though, prior to tap-off, your card balance will be negative because of the deduction of the temporary default fare).  I then posit that even if you are on a train outside the outside the 10 km distance band that corresponds to that minimum fare, you still can't be nailed for fare evasion while on the train - as far as I can see, with use of Opal there's nothing to stop you from getting off the train, staying inside the paid area of a station, and then catching the train back to within the 10 km band.  Until you tap off - the fare to be paid is indeterminate and I haven't seen a requirement that a journey be undertaken by most direct route or whatever when Opal ticketing is in use.

(Consider that if your card balance was sufficient, you could actually tap-off, leave the paid area, go and have a cup of coffee, re-enter the system, catch the train back and still only be up for that minimum fare.) )

I don't have a problem with the system as it stands - allowing the vast majority of the population (perhaps I'm being naive here, but I think most people, most of the time, do the right thing) a little bit of practical slack in the event that there's some hiccup in their card balance is reasonable.  I also think the way the terms of use have been written that if there was evidence of significant leakage via negative balances at airport stations that it would be easy enough for them to refuse to accept a tap-off at those stations, and change the guidelines on how to use the card to say that you have to reload the card or pay the fare in cash there and then before you will be permitted to exit.
  thadocta Chief Commissioner

Location: Katoomba
One thing I haven't seen addressed so far is the issue of the RailBus services, i.e. those that you need a MyTrain ticket for, that a MyBus ticket will not work on.

Given that from next Friday, the entire train network will be Opal accessiblel, what about the RailBus services,l namely Bathurst-Lithgow,l Picton-Bowral,l Fassifern-Toronto and Wollongong-Bundanoon?

Most of these stops will alrready have Opal readers, but some of the intermediate stops won't.

We *should* be fine doing Bathurst-Lithgow, but what if someone is doing Raglan-Lithgow, for example? Or Robertson-Wollongong?

I know the bus roll-out is ongoing, but these aren't really bus services (even though they operate on the roads), they operate as part of the rail system, and given that the rest of the rail network will be Opal enabled (from next Friday), has any thought been given WRT these services?

(Only asking because I regularly get the XPT to Bathurst - I know, Opal won't be valid - and then get the bus/train combo home).

Dave
  matthewg Train Controller

One thing I haven't seen addressed so far is the issue of the RailBus services, i.e. those that you need a MyTrain ticket for, that a MyBus ticket will not work on.

Given that from next Friday, the entire train network will be Opal accessible, what about the RailBus services,l namely Bathurst-Lithgow,l Picton-Bowral,l Fassifern-Toronto and Wollongong-Bundanoon?

Most of these stops will already have Opal readers, but some of the intermediate stops won't.

We *should* be fine doing Bathurst-Lithgow, but what if someone is doing Raglan-Lithgow, for example? Or Robertson-Wollongong?
thadocta


The Wollongong-Bundanoon bus didn't come onto Opal yesterday. It was not explicitly mentioned in the Gazette enabling smart cards on the Illawarra and Southern Highlands. (The Gazette is quite explicit on what routes they are valid on). And the operator has already said they are not as they have not been given the equipment.


I know the bus roll-out is ongoing, but these aren't really bus services (even though they operate on the roads), they operate as part of the rail system, and given that the rest of the rail network will be Opal enabled (from next Friday), has any thought been given WRT these services?


In another forum some one asked both Opal and TfNSW. Opal of course responded 'look at the web site for announcements'. However based on TfNSW's response, they apparently consider them bus services and not rail services despite the ticketing arrangements and they will be captured as a part of the bus roll out.

The bottom line is - at this point in time, Opal is NOT valid on ANY of those Rail-Bus services.
  gmanning1 Junior Train Controller

Location: Sydney
One thing which makes me wonder is how effective Opal will be towards the implementation of new services, or alternatively the reduction of underutilised stations/drop off points. For example, current people using MyMulti tickets and who then alight at non-gated stations would not show up on any detailed route studies.

I know that train services are extremely difficult to reschedual or re-timetable so Opal will probably have no effect. But assuming that everyone will begin tapping off on bus trips in the future, they should get a much better idea on the crowding (or underutalisation) of bus and train routes. And also assuming that with the measuring of transfers, they should be better able to perhaps join together bus/train schedualling at transfer points.
  5222 Station Master

Does anyone know why default fares don't count towards the weekly travel award but do count toward the daily travel cap? I asked Opal Customer Care this question but the response merely stated the policy, not the reason behind it.  The default fare is understandable but applying a double penalty by excluding the trip from the weekly travel reward seems a mean spirited money grab. Is there a justifiable reason?
  matthewg Train Controller

The default fare is understandable but applying a double penalty by excluding the trip from the weekly travel reward seems a mean spirited money grab. Is there a justifiable reason?
5222

It's the 'fine' for failing to tap off. The fine just has two parts.

The basic answer is 'policy'. Some in TfNSW has decided that will be the way that it is.
  simonl Chief Commissioner

Location: Brisbane
I presume they want everyone to touch on and off to improve their data on what people do.  That's why there's a fine for not touching off, presumably even if you are in the weekly reward.
  matthewg Train Controller

I presume they want everyone to touch on and off to improve their data on what people do. That's why there's a fine for not touching off, presumably even if you are in the weekly reward.
simonl

No - they missed that one.

When you have reached your 'weekly reward' the fare deducted is discounted to zero when you touch on.
Effectively there is no fine for not touching off, as while the correct fare will not be 'deducted' and the $8.10 default fare will be recorded, since it was discounted to $0 at touch on, there is no financial penalty to you.

HOWEVER if you go to make a subsequent trip and try to touch on at a pole, it will record that as a touch off, and you will end up travelling with out a touch on, which if you get checked by an RPO, presumably is a travelling with out a ticket fine as you your Opal isn't a valid ticket unless it's touched in.

Since the gates know which way you are going, presumably they will just 'force close' the unresolved trip and open a new one, but the poles will have no idea if you are coming or going.
  simonl Chief Commissioner

Location: Brisbane
Thanks for the correction.

I reckon there would be a time limit on that problem.  In Qld, it's 5.5 hours IIRC.  After that the default fare is applied and a further touch at a "post" is assumed to be a touch on again.  They just haven't advertised what this time is in Sydney.
  maestro Junior Train Controller

It appears as if the "Child / Youth" Opal cards are now available (although the Opal website's "Opal News" page has no mention of them)
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
It appears as if the "Child / Youth" Opal cards are now available (although the Opal website's "Opal News" page has no mention of them)
maestro

Their front page now mentions them.

Minimum top up amount, balance when top-up is triggered, normal (non-Sunday) daily cap and fares are half that of the adult card.  Sunday cap is the same.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
In Adelaide we can sensibly buy our tap on cards for a princely $5 with the minimum top up being $5 too. A $40 spend to uptake in Sydney does seem to be remarkably excessive, even by Sydney's remarkably excessive standards.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
In Adelaide we can sensibly buy our tap on cards for a princely $5 with the minimum top up being $5 too. A $40 spend to uptake in Sydney does seem to be remarkably excessive, even by Sydney's remarkably excessive standards.
Aaron

Does the Adelaide system allow you to then incur a $17 debt on the card without any recourse to the user?
  matthewg Train Controller

In Adelaide we can sensibly buy our tap on cards for a princely $5 with the minimum top up being $5 too. A $40 spend to uptake in Sydney does seem to be remarkably excessive, even by Sydney's remarkably excessive standards.
Aaron

The $40 minimum is for online ordering / top up. You can spend that entire $40, there is no hold value on the card.

You can top up down $10 at an retail agent.

Opal FAQ
--
The minimum value to tap on depends on the time of tap on and the mode of transport. For trains, the minimum balance is $2.31 during off-peak and $3.30 during peak hours. For ferries it is $5.60 and for buses, $2.10.
--
  5222 Station Master

When you have reached your 'weekly reward' the fare deducted is discounted to zero when you touch on.
Effectively there is no fine for not touching off, as while the correct fare will not be 'deducted' and the $8.10 default fare will be recorded, since it was discounted to $0 at touch on, there is no financial penalty to you.

matthewg

But it doesn't seem to work this way. A default fare is not counted as a trip for weekly reward purposes. I've seen a Opal statement with 10 trips of which 2 were default fares.  All 10 trips were charged including those after the reward trigger of 8 'non default' trips were reached.
  matthewg Train Controller

But it doesn't seem to work this way. A default fare is not counted as a trip for weekly reward purposes. I've seen a Opal statement with 10 trips of which 2 were default fares. All 10 trips were charged including those after the reward trigger of 8 'non default' trips were reached.
5222


I don't know how, since the travel reward trips are discounted 100% at tap on, they would have to decide at some point that no tap off has occurred (as opposed to comms failure), revoke the discount and feed a 'correction' out into the system to be charged to your card at next tap on.

I can see ways they could do it, but it would be applying the no-tap-off fine retrospectively, when start your next trip which could be days / weeks later.

I don't really feel like trying it out Smile

I've had some trips appear to be unresolved, but that was comms failure not a real 'no-tap-off'.
  simonl Chief Commissioner

Location: Brisbane
In Adelaide we can sensibly buy our tap on cards for a princely $5 with the minimum top up being $5 too. A $40 spend to uptake in Sydney does seem to be remarkably excessive, even by Sydney's remarkably excessive standards.
Aaron

Right.  But Adelaide has a maximum fare below $5.  In Sydney, it's actually possible to get a card for $40 and use more than $40 of travel on it.  I guess the high purchase value is a means of reducing the impact of this limitation.  It may well change in the future.  I certainly agree that it represents a disincentive to use the product.


Does the Adelaide system allow you to then incur a $17 debt on the card without any recourse to the user?
donttellmywife


But do we know that you can get out of the gates at the airport with a negative balance?
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Right. But Adelaide has a maximum fare below $5. In Sydney, it's actually possible to get a card for $40 and use more than $40 of travel on it. I guess the high purchase value is a means of reducing the impact of this limitation. It may well change in the future. I certainly agree that it represents a disincentive to use the product.

But do we know that you can get out of the gates at the airport with a negative balance?
simonl

The Opal website certainly suggests it is possible.

I think the $40 minimum contribution needs to be kept in perspective - it represents a disincentive for the sort of user that is unlikely to spend $40 within some reasonable time period.  For most users I'd argue that reasonable period is a few months.  Buy the card, put it in your wallet and forget about it until one day you need to catch the train/bus/ferry.  

Even for tourists - if you arrive at the airport and use the airport train - the incremental fare spend to make the card attractive is only another $15 or so, easy to burn through if you are in Sydney for anything more than a few days.

If a ticketing product requiring that up front contribution it was the only ticketing product I'd have an issue with it too - but it isn't the only product, and I suspect it is unlikely to ever be the only method.

There are certainly users out there that might find $40 upfront a bit steep - but realistically they are going to be a very small minority.  I think it is inappropriate to let that small minority corrupt what is clearly intended to be the ticketing product for the bulk of users.

Compare the upfront cost with that of the longer-than-weekly periodicals - yet significant numbers of people are still able to and still think it worthwhile to buy them, despite their considerably reduced flexibility (and some are complaining about their potential (?) withdrawal, though perhaps those complains are more about the possibility of having to pay more).  Compare it also (after adjusting for inflation) with the phone cards of the-pre-ubiquitous-mobile-phone era of yester-millenia, or the current pay-as-you go plans for mobiles or broadband or whatever - and the credit on these all expire after a relatively short timeframe.

One other benefit of the $40 up front is that this year I actually spent more on my wedding anniversary present for my missus than she did on mine, though my statement "I bought you an Opal" would appear to have been misinterpreted and consequently has resulted in some disappointment.
  simonl Chief Commissioner

Location: Brisbane
I would be disappointed if Opal doesn't ultimately become the only method.  Melbourne has gone all Myki.  London are removing cash sales from buses at least.  There's no real reason to run two systems.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I would be disappointed if Opal doesn't ultimately become the only method. Melbourne has gone all Myki. London are removing cash sales from buses at least. There's no real reason to run two systems.
simonl

I think quite likely that the underlying infrastructure will be the only ticketing infrastructure in use, but I think it very unlikely that the reloadable card will be the only ticketing product.

(The Opal terms and conditions already hint at that.)
  AndyV Station Master

I would be disappointed if Opal doesn't ultimately become the only method.  Melbourne has gone all Myki.  London are removing cash sales from buses at least.  There's no real reason to run two systems.

Why would you be disappointed if the government retains options for people whose circumstances make the existing tickets more suitable for them?

Just a question.

I also don't understand why people are suggesting to remove the discounted periodical tickets from sale so that those people will switch to opal. It's like saying woolworths should stop selling the generic brands to force people to buy the premium ones. Shouldn't we instead be encouraging the government to implement the discounted fare structure in opal? It's essentially what they've done with weeklies and the weekly travel reward. They just need to extend that to the monthly travel reward and quarterly travel reward. That's something that will actually provide savings to people who can't afford the upfront cost of a periodical now. Anyone who has been buying the same weekly ticket more than 10 weeks in a 13 week period has been paying more than they need to for their transport.

And on the $40 topup thing, that's basically just automatically buying a weekly ticket for most people who are in the middle fare bands. You pay $40 at the start of the week, it's close to used up by the end of it and you have another $40 deducted at the start of next week. It's just automatic and electronic now. Not really the huge revolution in ticketing and fares that people make it out to be. There actually no reason they couldn't have technically implemented all this with a mag stripe instead of a RFID card if they'd really wanted to. But that's another story.
  matthewg Train Controller

Why would you be disappointed if the government retains options for people whose circumstances make the existing tickets more suitable for them?
AndyV


And why would you expect them to maintain two systems in parallel, thus making ticketing more expensive to maintain in the long term ?



I also don't understand why people are suggesting to remove the discounted periodical tickets from sale so that those people will switch to opal. It's like saying woolworths should stop selling the generic brands to force people to buy the premium ones.


If Woolworths thought that this would increase their profit margins they'd do it in a flash...



Shouldn't we instead be encouraging the government to implement the discounted fare structure in opal? It's essentially what they've done with weeklies and the weekly travel reward. They just need to extend that to the monthly travel reward and quarterly travel reward. That's something that will actually provide savings to people who can't afford the upfront cost of a periodical now.


But the reason these tickets exist isn't there any more. The idea was to lower their ticketing costs by offering a longer term ticket you paid for up front. They saved in not having to continually re-issue you ticket and they got to bank your money up front. You got convenience.

Opal gives convenience to every one.



Anyone who has been buying the same weekly ticket more than 10 weeks in a 13 week period has been paying more than they need to for their transport.

But most people, despite the periodical discount were not buying them and continuing to buy weeklies. And buy them on Mondays despite many years of effort trying to get people to spread their weekly purchase out to other days of the week.
Turns out with my travel patterns, Opal is cheaper for me than a monthly/quarterly anyway. I effectively have free weekend travel to any where in Sydney now.



There actually no reason they couldn't have technically implemented all this with a mag stripe instead of a RFID card if they'd really wanted to. But that's another story.


Only mag stripe technology is obsolete. RFID is non contact. There are no moving parts to a NFC reader. The mag readers are horribly mechanical. But yes at the end of the day a magnetic ticket is a token with some machine readable data one it. A NFC ticket is a token with some machine readable data one it.

What you implement on top of it is a policy decision, not technology.

Sydney PT ticketing has been messed up by politicians before (blatant vote buying with MyZone for example), and I'm sure they will do it again if they think there is some political mileage to be had.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
The reason for rolling out the Opal system isn't to provide cheaper fares - that's just the carrot that is put out there to encourage people to accept the system and switch.

(The business case reasons for Opal were a reduction in the cost of operating the ticketing system; better information management around the journeys that passengers are taking (which helps with service planning); a better customer experience (single, relatively consistent, cross mode system, no need to queue at a machine, ability to manage the card online); reduced fare evasion and, in the case of buses, reduced dwell time.  All up they were expecting farebox revenue to increase, along with an increase in public transport usage.)

The existence of periodical tickets were previously justified from the ticketing systems point of view because they avoided the costs associated with many small cash transactions.  Opal avoids most of that transaction cost anyway.  So why, from the point of view of the ticketing system, should you have periodical tickets?

(Perhaps they will introduce periodical tickets or similar - I have no idea.  But my question still stands - why would they want to?)

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