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Tender could be just the ticket to transform Victoria’s transport network

Many of us value the convenience of being able to ‘tap and go’ and make quick and easy payments via smartphone or bank card, so much so we can’t imagine life without it.

Similarly, we didn’t look back when rideshare services introduced in-app booking instead of having to use the phone or website, and taxis soon followed.

Imagine being able to do the same for public transport? What if you could pay for your train trip and book a connecting rideshare/taxi service or e-scooter hire at the same time? That day may not be so far away.

The Victorian Government is searching for the right partner to take on the operation and upgrade of its public transport ticketing system. The tender is an opportunity to make public transport simpler and more convenient, modernise the ticketing system with new technologies and make fare reforms easier to implement.

According to the government’s expression of interest, the tender includes looking at the integration of features such as contactless credit card validation or ‘tap on and tap off’, additional smartphone payment options and other ticketing reforms such as user account-based options.

The proliferation of smartphones and mobile apps over the past decade has transformed people’s lives through the integration of services that once required a visit to a booking office. As a result, we’re not nearly as reliant on coins or plastic cards (and our wallets are much lighter).

But keeping pace with the rapid speed of technology change requires continuous investment in improvements. myki has come a long way since its debut in late 2007, with a significant increase in usability and convenience for commuters as a result.

The recently updated Public Transport Victoria (PTV) app includes new ticketing features which let you top up instantly by scanning your myki card using your smartphone (watch the video), and you can also set your myki account to auto top up when you run low on credit.

Plus, there’s mobile myki which enables android phone users to touch on and off, check their balance, auto load funds and top up using a Google Pay-based digital myki.

But there’s still room to make our current ticketing system more convenient and accessible, and to also improve the way we charge for fares, making better use of Victoria’s public transport services.

Currently the ticketing system only accepts myki cards (in physical form or through mobile myki for android phones) and all transactions need to take place solely within the myki ticketing system.

This can be a barrier to public transport use, particularly for occasional users or visitors. It can also cause issues for regular public transport users, such as those who misplace their card or run out of credit while trying to board a bus or tram.

Opening the ticketing system to interact with credit and debit cards, as well as popular phone payment systems, would make our public transport even easier to use, and is already available in places like Sydney, London and Singapore. Travellers around Victoria would then be able to touch on or off the ticketing system with the payment methods they already carry.

And as businesses leverage technology to disrupt traditional transport models, we’ve also recommended the ticketing system be opened to third parties to facilitate new opportunities for on-demand transport access (also known as Mobility as a Service).

Around the world, leading ticketing systems enable people to book both public and private transport trips using a single app or website that integrates multiple combinations of different transport services, at varying prices. This approach encourages people to monitor different transport prices and identify the most affordable and efficient service to suit their needs.

Finland was the first to achieve multi-transport ticketing across different services in one app, centralising transport information for the country’s entire transport system. In Germany, the government and private sector partnered together on a booking platform that works for public transport, car hire and even bicycle sharing services.

Opening up the ticketing system would enable third party transport services to integrate public transport trips within their own journey planning, booking and billing systems. Victorians could then use a single app or website to plan and buy transport trips, reducing the need to consult maps or check timetables.

Together with increased opportunities for public transport fare reform, we’d love to see all of these options on the table as the tender procurement process continues – in line with our recommendations in Victoria’s infrastructure strategy 2021-2051.

The current myki system is difficult and expensive to alter. Introducing greater flexibility for fare reform and future modifications is an opportunity to steer changes in travel behaviour that can reduce congestion and get the most out of our transport network.

In recent years we’ve looked at ways to make the public transport system cheaper, fairer and more accessible through changes to how fares are priced based on when, where and how people choose to travel.

Our report Fair move: better public transport fares for Melbourne recommended lower fares for buses and trams to make greater use of these public transport modes, as well as discounts for off-peak travel (as is the case currently in Sydney and London, with New Zealand also recently making off-peak fares permanent).

Fare reform can help reduce road congestion and public transport crowding and make the ticketing system fairer. Our modelling finds a shift to discounted off-peak fares, together with lower fares for buses and trams, results in up to 96,000 fewer car trips across Melbourne each day, delivering a better travel experience for everyone.

And with a greater number of Victorians working regularly from home and commuting less often, a more flexible and convenient ticketing system could also encourage more people back to public transport.

You can read more about our recommendations for public transport reform in Fare move: better public transport fares for Melbourne.



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