Melbourne’s public transport network uses a contactless ticketing system called myki. It’s the same idea as Sydney’s Opal and London’s Oyster systems - you tap on when you start a journey, tap off when you finish, and the system automatically deducts the best fare from your card’s balance.
Except you don’t always have to tap on when it comes to Melbourne’s trams, and you don’t always have to tap off either. Let’s work through the sign in this photo.
If you are travelling only within the Free Tram Zone on a tram, you do not need to use a myki card.
Alright, that one’s pretty simple, and also new to Melbourne. Since 1st January 2015, all tram journeys within Melbourne city are free, and every tram stop has big maps and livery showing exactly where the free zone starts and finishes. Let’s move on to the next instruction:
If your tram journey starts or finishes outside the Free Tram Zone - make sure you touch on when you board to ensure you have a valid ticket.
Well that’s fairly straightforward as well. Moving on:
Touch off on trams for Zone 2 only trips
Hmm. That one’s less obvious. Let’s see what Public Transport Victoria say about this one:
You must touch on at the myki reader at the start of your journey. However, you only need to touch off if your whole trip is in Zone 2.
Alright, well straight away there’s confusion, because PTV are telling us to always tap on and off, but Yarra Trams only want us to tap on if our journey isn’t in the free tram zone. What happens if I accidentally tap on in the free tram zone? And if I do should I tap off at the end of my free journey? It’s unclear, but we’ll revisit this. Back to that zone 2 thing:
Most tram routes are entirely within Zone 1, however tram routes 75, 86 and 109 extend into the zone boundary overlap. For trips taken entirely within the Zone 1-2 overlap, you should remember to touch off with your myki to get the cheaper Zone 2 fare
So… there’s a zone overlap, but the sign on the tram stop says touch off for zone 2 only trips. Does that mean zone 2 is the same thing as the zone overlap?
I have the answer. When I first moved to Melbourne (before the free tram zone thing), I was commuting from one end of the zone 1-2 overlap to the other end of the overlap, and found that all tram users needed to tap on at the start of their journey, but only tram users who were starting and ending their tram journey in the zone 1-2 overlap needed to tap off. myki, at the time, was configured to assume all tram journeys ended in zone 1.
The free tram zone has changed that a bit, but it smells like myki hasn’t been updated. Remember my question about accidentally tapping on at the start of a free journey? Back to PTV’s website:
Customers travelling exclusively in the Free Tram Zone who do touch on will be charged a Zone 1 two hour fare
This is all my very lengthy and rounabout way of asking one question: why didn’t the myki boffins just set things up so that you always have to tap on and always have to tap off. Isn’t that much simpler to explain that all of these conditions? “Just tap on when you get on the tram and tap off when you get off the tram”. Done. Incidentally, the weirdness only applies to tram journeys - bus and train journeys do use the simple-to-explain method.
Surely one of the big selling points of a contactless ticketing system is that it reduces confusion and automatically works out the correct (and cheapest) fare for a journey. A user shouldn’t have to know about zones or journeys or if-this and but-that.
Man I’d love to know what went on in those meetings.