Opal Card Study Finds More Than 60% Of Commuters Are Worse Off

Opal Card Study Finds More Than 60% Of Commuters Are Worse Off

An independent study from the makers of personal finance app Pocketbook has found that most Sydney commuters are spending 10-15% extra on their weekly travel since Opal cards replaced paper tickets. Only around 14 per cent are better off.

Pocketbook conducted its study on Opal Card spending in Australia since the beginning of September when Transport NSW eliminated 14 paper tickets including weekly and monthly fares.

The Pocketbook findings are the first large-scale study since Opal cards became mandatory for the majority of Sydney commuters. According to NSW Transport, the new system is supposed to work out cheaper for the average commuter — but it would appear that this may not be the case.

The company analysed the average monthly spending of the entire Sydney train commuter base as well as a subset of 21,000 Sydney commuters who had shifted their spending from paper tickets to Opal cards.

It found that the average Sydney commuter increased their spending from $64 in March to $76 in September; a 19 per cent increase. For heavy travellers that had gone to Opal from paper tickets, there was an increase of $10; from $86 in March to $96 in September. This works out to roughly 62 per cent of the population being worse off under the Opal ticketing system.

As the study notes, the actual increase is only around $2.24 a week, or 45c per workday:

Most people probably wouldn’t really notice it – but moving to Opal doesn’t actually save money for most people.

The increased spending can be attributed to a range of factors, including the removal of monthly, quarterly and off-peak return tickets and infrequent travelers who fail to get free travel after eight trips.

On the upside, commuters who used to buy MyTrain Weekly tickets for their daily commute in major metro hubs to the CBD tend to be better off under Opal:

Out of the sample that have switched from paper tickets to Opal over the last 9 months, only about 14% have saved money. What we notice is that the average spend prior to Opal for the 14% that saved money is $134 a month (roughly $31 a week) and $33 a month for those that are now spending more money under Opal. We think the 14% of people are Weekly ticket buyers who have made the switch.

If you’re feeling the pinch from Opal, Pocketbook recommends front-loading your week with smaller trips using the bus network in order to take advantage of trains later on in the week. You can check out the full report on Pocketbook’s blog.

[Via Pocketbook]


  • I’ve been budgeting way more for train tickets since Myki was put in. The thing just eats through money. When the train service falls to pieces like it does every summer I’m seriously going to consider just catching taxis on hot days. It’s not that much more expensive.

  • in brisbane it sucks as well, They want to charge me $3.80 to travel 2KM up the road to work, it is rediculous.

    • When I visited Adelaide, I bought the proper card and tried to do it right, and ended up paying almost twice as much for a short tram trip as the cash-paying folks I was with.

  • i caught the bus in Adelaide a few weeks ago (i normally ride) and for a 2.3km trip into the CBD was $5.10, i would have got off and walked if it wasn’t raining. It is getting close to a cab fare and with 2 people it is cheaper to get a cab.

  • We ALL knew this beforehand. Surely! There was barely ANY media kick up about it. We didn’t see anything about it in MSM. Monthlies, Quarterlies and Yearlies all were taken away. So of course we are all going to be paying hundreds more. Bullshit.

    • also im sure the govt had done some profit analysis before deploying OPAL to make sure that their contractor/vendor best buddies made money off this scheme

  • Front loading the week on buses sounds good in theory.
    In practice though it requires not only finding buses installed opal readers but ones that are actually working on that particular day.

    After a couple of months of using the Opal Card on the Eastern suburbs buses every day I’m now completely convinced that in order to save costs they’ve used the absolute cheapest components they could source to build the Opal Readers on the buses. (Probably due to the sheer number they need to fit out every bus in the fleet). The things just don’t read the cards consistently.

    The level of frustration I’m witnessing on buses from people not being able to get their card to be read when getting on and off is testament to just how badly designed and implemented this crap Opal system is. I’ve traveled in many other cities and I’ve never come across a single proximity card reader in those cities that didn’t just work first time every time.

    • Yes, this is a major issue for me too. I work in North Sydney and at least one in five buses do not have Opal readers installed (or they do and it’s not working). It doesn’t seem like they’ve done it by route, either, because some 200 buses have readers and some don’t. Some 273s have readers and some don’t. etc.

  • It would really be interesting to see a breakdown of where the money for fares go.
    In Melbourne, a daily commute costs just over $12 for Zone 2 to the CBD.
    Sure adds up.

  • I have a lot of mates who are worse off then they were before the Opal cards were forced upon them.

  • Yeah, they MyKi was advertised as cheaper than tickets, but when you looked into their data, it showed MyKi vs buying the wrong ticket. Eg. (MyKi is cheaper than buying a fullfare ticket on a Sunday, but more expensive than buying a Sunday saver was)

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