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One of the more regular complaints I make when writing about transport on Lifehacker is how much of a rip-off Sydney public transport is. As such, the promise of a new fares system could have been a chance for Sydney to offer a more balanced pricing approach and encourage people to use the options available. Alas, that hasn't happened.
The MyZone scheme, which comes into effect from April 18, simplifies the number of zones which apply to most tickets used for public transport, creating three zones that cover the greater Sydney area. This doesn't make much difference if you just buy a single ticket somewhere (or a day return on CityRail trains), but it could represent a potential saving if you buy a weekly or longer-period ticket. For instance, the Green TravelPass I currently buy if I'm spending a full week using public transport is being replaced with the MyMulti 2. This costs the same ($48), but lets me travel a fair bit further out, and allows me to use private buses.
That's all well and good if you buy a weekly ticket, but when it comes to more casual travel, Sydney remains obstinately behind the times. Let's suppose I wanted to travel from Epping to Central, and then catch a bus to Bondi Junction. Under the old scheme, that required two separate tickets. Under the new scheme, that requires . . . two separate tickets. The only one-day ticket option that works is the MyMulti Day, which is a whopping $20 (higher than the similar DayTripper it replaces).
Let's compare this to the situation in Melbourne. With a 2-hour 2 zone ticket for $5.80, I can jump on whatever trains, buses or trams I like. If I wanted the same option to work all day (likely if I wanted a return), that would cost me $10.60. (For the sake of comparison, I'm looking at the older Metcard system, not the Myki smartcard which is gradually replacing it.) As far as I know, every other state capital uses this zone-based system: you can travel within the zones over the specified period using whatever modes suit you. Only Sydney remains addicted to the notion of point-to-point journeys with no ability to switch between different modes of transport.
As well as being more expensive, the system is also less flexible even if you stay within one system. Let's suppose you go to change trains and discover you've got a 30 minute wait before the next service you want. In Adelaide or Brisbane, you could exit the station and grab a coffee or do your banking. In Sydney, you've got no option but to wait on the platform if there's ticket gates in place. It hardly inspires anyone to take the train.
As a non-driver, I won't be abandoning Sydney's public transport system no matter how ludicrous the prices. But I still wish transport tsars would wake up to themselves and run a ticketing system that encourages people to adopt the greener option of public transport.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.