Opal Cards

Sydney public transport has undergone a significant technology change with the introduction of Opal cards. It is the equivalent of Go Cards in Brisbane or myKi cards in Melbourne, and for those that are interested, Melbourne and Brisbane had their system implemented long before Sydney.

The benefit I have of using an Opal card is that I can tap on and tap off when using public transport. I don't need to wait in line to purchase a paper ticket, or keep spare change for the train fare that I would normally use to travel to the city. Also I have flexibility in travel that I never had with paper tickets. I can now travel from Strathfield to North Sydney to visit my girlfriend for lunch, and on the way home stop off at the city and do a little shopping in my favourite stores. Provided I am in and out within the hour my journey will only consist of travel between North Sydney and Strathfield. Outside of that hour then it will be deemed as two separate journeys.

Another part of the flexibility that I have is that I can travel to North Sydney, meet my girlfriend (or other friends) and walk back across the harbour bridge to the city before getting the train back home again. The paper ticket method would have required me to purchase 2 separates tickets.

I can use the Opal card on the train, bus, ferry and (eventually) light rail - so I wont need to purchase separate tickets for them all.

Despite the promises, and I've quoted one below, using the Opal card can be more expensive than purchasing some paper tickets.

Opal fares are cheaper than MyFerry, single, return or Travel Ten* tickets, MyTrain single, return, weekly* and fortnightly* tickets and MyBus single and Travel Ten* tickets

The Opal card may have been cheaper than these tickets, but certainly not cheaper than purchasing a 3 monthly ticket where significant savings were to be had. Certainly a few commuters have already experienced an increase in fares.

But to be fair, you might want to check out this website for a comparison.

Slow to register at gates?
Something many passengers may have experienced is that the gates appear slower to respond with an Opal card than a paper ticket. You end up with a queue of people waiting for you because the card reader is taking its time to read your card. Quite often the reader doesn't even recognize that there is a card there, and in a busy morning it just holds everyone up.

Another poor implementation has been at the stations that never had turnstiles. There is just not enough card readers, and placing two at the base of the stairs just causes a major choke point where people are lingering around the bottom of the stairs to use the card reader, and others that just want to get past.

For the moment the Opal card works for me. Even if I pay a little more for the afternoon peak I save money because all that loose change usually ends up buying me a muffin/scone that I otherwise wouldn't have purchased if I had to break a note. Not having to purchase paper tickets every time I travel is also a bonus, and I've found a rather interesting quirk in the system where I was given a credit for one of my journeys. Don't worry, I'm not going to make money travelling on the train but it does mean a much cheaper fare if I can be in and out of the city within 60mins.


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