Another small step for fare integration…

The recent partial integration of Sydney’s Metro Light Rail (MLR) ticketing with the MyMulti/MyZone system is another welcome if very modest step towards a true integrated ticketing and fares system for Sydney’s public transport.

You can now use a MyMulti 1, 2 or 3, a MyMulti Day Pass, a Pensioner Excursion Ticket (PET) or a Family Funday Sunday ticket on the light rail. All these tickets have to be purchased prior to boarding a tram.

However, CityRail single-trip, return or weekly tickets are still not valid, nor are any bus-only tickets or concessions apart from the PET. Metro Light Rail also continues to issue the full range of its own tickets which are valid only for its own services. More on ticketing issues in my next post but first, how are the new arrangements operating and what has been the impact on patronage?

Trams don’t have ticket validators, so when you board a tram and show the conductor a My Multi or other valid ticket, he or she will usually issue a zero-value ticket. This is simple in practice but a ticket showing “$.00” value is a very odd thing to receive.

MyMulti zero ticket

MyMulti zero ticket (image from Wikipedia)

Given the absence of ticket validators on trams, this approach may be understandable as a temporary measure for counting how many NSW Transport tickets are being used. However, it could hardly be described as a watertight form of accounting. Indeed, on one of the trips I made just after the new fare arrangements were introduced the tram was so crowded that the conductor did not bother to issue “zero fares” to most of the people with NSW Transport tickets.

This brings us to patronage. I don’t have any figures (and if any are released, bear in mind the method of counting) so my evidence is based on my observations and anecdotal evidence, but there seems to be a small but noticeable increase in the number of tram users, particularly older users who qualify for PETs.

In particular there seems to be more people using the tram for short-haul trips, especially between Central, Capitol Square and Paddy’s Markets. For most people this is a walkable distance, but if you are infirm, carrying a lot of shopping or just in a hurry, the tram provides by far the best public transport connection between these points, especially if you already have a PET or MyMulti.

While the overall patronage increase seems relatively small, I was struck by the large number of passengers who did produce MyMulti and PET tickets on the tram, especially coming from or going to Central. This would seem to indicate that a significant proportion of people are already using the light rail in combination with trains; now they can use their MyMulti and other valid tickets without having to pay an additional tram fare.

Given the location of the current MLR terminus at Central, this is hardly surprising, but it also reflects the fact that the current ticket integration model tends to favour passengers transferring from trains rather than those who catch buses. For many train users, purchase of a weekly MyMulti costs little more than a weekly rail ticket but provides much better value – including now the light rail – and doesn’t lock them into travel between two stations on a particular corridor.

For bus users, especially in the inner city, it’s a different story. Even a Zone 1 MyMulti is relatively expensive, especially if passengers don’t have any opportunities to use trains or ferries. For these users, Travel10s are a cheaper alternative and offer reasonable flexibility – but these tickets, like all bus tickets, are not recognised on the light rail.

Part of the problem lies in the “unfinished” nature of the MyMulti ticket system, which I’ll look at in my next post.

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