Why MyZone Isn’t Good News For Public Transport Users

Why MyZone Isn’t Good News For Public Transport Users

Sydney is about to introduce a new fare system for public transport, but despite claims to be simpler, MyZone doesn’t offer significantly better value or encourage people to use the system.

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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.


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    • Sydney was going to implement Myki (called something else) as well, but they canned the contract after it was already 3 years late (Melbourne persisted for some reason). Not sure if they are still planning it in another form (the reader mounts are still installed throughout the network)?

      I was actually quite excited about Sydney getting zones, until I read this telling article (I have lived in Melbourne and back in Sydney now, wishing it had zones across transport types) – sounds like they have just changed the name without changing the fare structure (with the one day pass still being essentially the same as the current rip off all transport daily pass)…


    • Myki simply replaces the magnetic ticket with an RFID ticket (like the magnetic ticket replaced the scrathie ticket, which replaced the punch-hole ticket). The zone structure and payment stay the same.

  • At least it’s better than Canberra’s bus network. Bus stops are placed inconsistently and as far away from houses as possible (often in an area where it’s at least 10 minutes walk from any house), buses run once an hour or two hours on weekends, and it’s $3.80 for an adult one-way ticket. Then again, that ticket is valid for 90 minutes unlimited transfers, so it might not be all bad. But on the other hand, buses run once an hour. <_<

  • Couldn’t agree more. I just moved from Melbourne to Sydney 4 months ago. Having used both trains and trams to get to work in Melbourne, the Sydney ticketing system is currently a joke. It seems like this change will not improve things either 🙁 A golden opportunity missed to catch up to the rest of Australia

  • How about a tax deductible rebate for people who use public transport? At the end of the year – you could for example, get 30% of the cost back from the government. Surely, more people using public transport would be worth far more than the 30% rebate. Heck, make it 10% just REWARD the people that use more energy efficient forms of transportation.

    Having said that, a similar case could also be made for buyers of ‘green cars’ and also a case for increasing tax on a per-cylinder basis or engine capacity or fuel-efficiency.

  • I have lived in Perth and Melbourne and am used to being able to do errands with multiple stops on a single ticket. I agree that Sydney has to abandon the point to point ticketing system, as it doesn’t fit well with how people want to use public transport.

    It sounds like the people in charge in Sydney have been getting their cues from Toronto where I have recently moved. Here you can change between bus train and streetcar on a single fare, but if you exit the system you have to pay again to get back in. So a stop for 5 minutes to buy something on the way home and you suddenly pay twice the fare (unless you have a monthly pass). Even worse are the day-passes which must be bought in advance at train stations, there is no way to buy one when you get on a bus or streetcar.

  • Time of day tolls (toll roads in general) and point to point ticketing are just too effective as money earners for the government. Especially as it’s easier to take more money than to actually fix the holes in the respective organisation’s budgets. I totally agree with Paul’s comment about it making the government look active. These prices must have a negative impact on tourism.

    I was living in London prior to Sydney, the ticket prices there were pretty high and remained so even after the introduction and increases in the congestion charge they still offered considerable freedom. There was never a plan to use the money to subsidise public transport but it would have been a nice inclusion in the plan. I’m from Perth originally, there it’s almost a god given right to travel across the greater city on as little as a 2 zone ticket. And the smart rider system functions very well. It’s amazing to see both Sydney and Melbourne have had so much trouble upgrading to similar systems.

    I’m disappointed to hear about the all day ticket going up, it was only a dollar more than the total return price of a bus and a train/ferry from the north into the city so I would happily pay for the convenience. Now I’ll just have to cough up piece by piece.

  • The new system of payment for Brisbane (Go Cards) is fairly annoying as well. As before, you can buy day-long tickets or single, transferrable (within about two and a half hours) tickets which are sold at prices depending on which zones you travel through. The day tickets cost twice as much, which is ok if you’re making more than one trip and fantastic if you are going all over the place all day. If you need to travel into town to grab something quickly, you can just grab a single ticket and use it to travel between your zones back and forth within the few hours it gives you

    The Go Card doesnt allow for the selection of a day pass and only allows for a one-and-a-half-hour-or-so transfer. As a result, when trying it out it wasnt unusual for me to spend $10 or more in a day where normally I would have spent $2, simply because it doesnt allow you to choose your ticket type and charges you for return journeys, journeys outside an hour and a half and transfers where you end up travelling in more zones than your original purchase allotted. If you forget to swipe off, or if the machine doesnt pick up your ‘swipe’ and you dont notice, you are charged the most a ticket can cost you. Despite that fact, you arent then allowed to travel for the rest of the day for free as you would on a day pass. Its the most frustratingly complicated and erroneous system and all that it requires to be usable is a prompt that lets you select your ticket type and zones travelled when you board.

  • Sydney remains city with one of most expensive public transport in the world.

    And, I think, with one of the most complex ticketing system.

    I remember going from Marrickville to Wollongong. You had to go to Central station and since trains to Wollongong run only once an hour, you can spend up to an hour inside Central station, since you can’t go outside…

    BTW, as far as I remember toilets located also outside the gates… 🙂

  • Yeah I just bought a house knowing I was in a red travelpass area now I’m 1 station out and I have to pay another $7 a week??? doesn’t make sense. seems to bee only good for people who travel more than 1hr on the p-transport so they’ll stop complaining about how bad the services are. Goverment should just sell it off to the swiss or Japanese so it will run properly.. Ohh why oh why did we get rid of trams in Sydney

  • The title of this article should be “Why MyZone doesn’t make a difference for infrequent/spontaneous public transport users”. You’re right – it isn’t an improvement for short trips, but that was obviously not the focus. For people who travel to work every day, for example, MyZone is a godsend.

    I currently pay $40.80 for a weekly Hillsbus ticket, from West Pennant Hills to Wynyard. This ticket allows me unlimited transport between those two stops, on Hillsbus only. Now, for the same price (actually $41), I can get a MyMulti 1 ticket which allows UNLIMITED bus & ferry travel, as well as train travel within 10km of the CBD. Not only is the bus travel unlimited, but I can use Hillsbus OR Sydney Buses, or any other bus service. This simplifies things a hell of a lot for me.

    Plenty of people will be winning big with the new restructuring, some people will be losing small (like Drimley said, he will lose $7 a week, though he will be able to travel much further) & for others there will be no change.

  • Everyone complains about the small stop-over breaks and not being able to get out of the gates at the train stations…

    On many, many occasions, I have walked through the fat-gate (ie, ‘disabled’ gate) by just flashing my ticket, then walking back in 10-15 minutes later doing exactly the same thing.

    It’s an inconvenience, and when I was starting out, I lost one or two tickets to the machines at the stop-overs.

    I’m almost certain that CityRail staff are on our side – they are always happy to help when I want to go out and come back in.

  • Angus’s article is spot on. Sydney’s continued use of point-to-point pricing is ridiculous compared to other states. Under the current fare system, a train from Circular Quay to Parramatta Station is $5 but a bus costs $6.30. Under the new MyZone system, a ferry to Meadowbank or Manly will cost $6.60 while a bus will cost $4.30. The whole system is inequitable and confusing and MyZone does nothing to change that. Having 3 fare zones is a great idea but different pricing for different modes of transport to same destinations still defeats the purpose.

    And I don’t believe that the outer zone should be subsidised so heavily like MyZone is intending to. A lot of inner city fares have gone up and this will do little to reduce traffic congestion.

    The sooner this government is booted out of office, the better.

  • I agree with SteveM either a tax deduction or a reward system, perhaps even shopping style vouchers to encourage retail spending. I would like to see more funds spent on catching the little creeps who scratch the windows and spraypaint. Such a bad image for our country.

  • For those of us living in the inner west who use public transport a lot, but only the buses, this is terrible. Currently I pay $374 for a quarterly bus only pass (as I don’t live near any trains or ferries). This is to get me to work, to clients and to do my shopping on the weekends (no car – trying to live green). So I can jump on and off buses as much as I like for $28 per week. A brown travelten or the new MyBus TravelTen is $26 per week, so $2 more and I can jump on and off all day, including weekends. Now I will have to pay $450 per quarter (30% increase). I get to travel on trains and ferries as compensation, although as I don’t have access to any, it doesn’t much help.

    Seriously peeved.

  • You’re all forgetting the true potential (even purpose!) of a cash-card swipe-on, swipe-off system is to apply rebates for ‘weekly’, monthly, yearly or even 10-trip patronage — just like a frequent flyer programme.

    So then, it doesn’t really matter what MyMulti exists or not — casual travellers just pay with one card anyway. Bus and train fares not equal? Cancels out when you get to the MyMulti Weekly level. Also it conveniently solves the break-in-trip issue because it joins up two trips.

    I don’t hear *any* of the other states doing this, and yet there’s no admission that time-based tickets put all the onus on the commuter when schedules are thin or services run late. Short trips also get quietly pricey, unless you bought a weekly.

    What MyZone needs is filling a few blanks in the product matrix: Ten-trip untimed train tickets, and daily MyMulti1 & 2.

    • A smart card certainly can do that — but smart cards everywhere else I’ve experienced give you bonuses on daily travel, not just weekly. In Melbourne, for instance, once you’ve made two 2 hour ticket journeys, you have a daily ticket equivalent. So there’s no problem with short trips as you suggest.

      • Actually, a 2-hour ticket is quite expensive for the ‘short’ trip I meant – shorter than you meant. I do a ‘quick hop’ of 4 bus stops to get back from shopping at lunchtime, or 2 train stops on a Friday night to get back to the office after a party. The only reason I do this is because it’s cheap, included on my yearly. But casual users would get slugged for a ‘normal’ 2-hour ticket because they drive or taxi normally … if this were Melbourne. Luckily it’s Sydney and you only pay for what you use, and can choose to get rewarded if you use more often.

        • Can’t buy that. On a Melbourne 2-hour ticket, I could take two train trips, a tram and a bus without blinking. Nothing in Sydney remotely compares to that in value terms. If I “paid for what I used” in Sydney, that would cost at least three times as much for the same range of options on a single day.

          • What you’ve identified is that ‘short hop’ users are subsidising ‘cross-town’ users in Melbourne; it’s the other way around in Sydney. What they really need is a MyMulti1 & 2 single and daily, so that nobody subsidises anyone else. (Except the ‘commuters’, who get the short hops for free already).

  • am I the only one who has noticed the MAJOR change in ferry costs.
    Based near Kissing Point currently a ferry ten is costing me $33.00 however with the my zone system all of a sudden a ferry ten for me is now going to cost me $52.80!!! Unbelievable. or I can buy the weekly ticket of $41.00 but even if I wanted to take the train home this ticket does not even get me to Meadowbank!

    I am so very annoyed and shocked at the massive increase!

  • I’m all for reducing the price of public transport in Sydney as it is currently charging ridiculous prices, but this new MyZone ticking system is simply deceiving the public. I currently purchase a weekly bus ticket to commute to and from the city every day, which as the weekly ticket states, also includes weekends. Also sometime I have to catch three buses in one day. Which still fits in nicely for a weekly as it goes by period of time, not by how many times you travel.

    The ridiculous thing now is, I’ll have to pre-purchase a MyBus ten ticket, which really only makes it 5 day trips (less if I’m catching 3 buses some days), these will have to be purchased every 4-5 days, costing me more then I already pay for a weekly.

    I would love for someone to explain how this makes it easier for me, or how it simply makes it easier for the bus company!

    Another lovely bungle from the Australian government.

  • Why would you catch a bus to bondi junction if you are already on a train? the train takes about a 1/4 of the time and you don’t have to walk miles to a bustop.

  • I made an effort to bus to work everyday, but end up that buses are always full, late, and end up being more expensive than driving to work.
    What I don’t understand is how someone driving to work alone can be cheaper than taking the bus. Pricing and availability are definitely major issues to clear the roads and to prevent global warming/pollution.

  • hell yea i am not happy about the new ticketing system, why? because it doesnt make any different in fact i actually have to pay more for the ticket that i normally get. i always buy blue travel pass which cost less than the red travel pass, since it only cover bus n i only used bus. but the new system only offer my multi zone ticket as a replacement of ALL travel pass tickets which FORCED people to buy ticket that include everything!! i dun need train n ferry.. i only need weekly ticket for bus for god sake.. is it just another reason for govt to rip money from people?

  • The best thing about cityrail now for me is Family Funday Sunday. Ticket $2.50 pp
    You must have at least one child and your off, with this one ticket you can ride participating bus companies, Sydney Buses, Cityrail and Sydney Ferries. All day on every Sunday.

  • You have heard of link tickets, right?

    Do your research here – you might save a bit of money and time: http://www.131500.com.au/tickets/fares/link-tickets

    Before you get any train, bus or ferry in Sydney, the 131500 website should be your first stop. the next one should be the MyZone website. If you want a ticket for different modes of transport get a MyMuli 1, 2 or 3. I found all this out in 2 Google searches – ten minutes to process the info and I was ready to go. Seriously, how is this not more convenient?

    PS: one thing Sydney transport has over Melbourne – the 131500 plan your trip page. The Melbourne one is so so glitchy.

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