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.