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Metcard

From Academic Kids

Melbourne's
public transport
Metlink
Metcard
Railways
Trams
Railway stations
Tram routes
Bus routes

The Metcard is the ticket used to access public transport in Melbourne, Australia (under the moniker 'Metlink'). It is a universal ticket which allows commuters to ride on the city's trains, trams, and buses.


Contents

What is a Metcard?

A Metcard is a thin cardboard ticket with a magnetic strip carrying fare data.
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Metcard-handyhints.gif
A 'handy hints' Metcard


Metcard History

Metcards were introduced during the privatization of the Met public transport system under the government of former Premier Jeff Kennett. They replaced a functionally identical yet technically simpler system of punch tickets and scratchies.

Much controversy still surrounds the system, particularly because the traditional conductors on the city's trams were made obsolete, and the machines used to buy or validate the tickets are notoriosuly quick to break down. The machines were attacked by vandals so frequently (often by pouring liquids into the coin slot), that they were modified to make them harder to damage. Still, a 2001 audit showed that nearly 1 in 4 of the machines at train stations did not work. The machine's operators Onelink however claim far fewer break downs than independent reports suggest.


How Metcard Works

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Mvm1-machine.jpg
A MVM 1 Metcard vending machine

All forms of public transport can be accessed by using a single Metcard. Metcards are a time and zone based ticket, with validity periods ranging from 2 hours to yearly, and three zones covering the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Metcards can be purchased from rail station Ticket Vending Machines, staff at Premium Stations and City Stations, Ticket Vending Machines on board trams and the Stony Point Train, Bus Drivers, the Met Shop (inside the Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street) and at a large number of retail outlets.

Not all ticket types are available from all retailers. On board trams and buses, only 2 hour, daily, city saver and 60 plus tickets are available. 5 packs of Daily tickets are only available at retail outlets and the Met Shop, but not from rail stations. And in Zones 2 and 3, the Off Peak Saver ticket is still only available from rail stations despite its validity recently being extended to buses.

This system was designed to encourage people to pre-purchase their tickets at times they do not intend to travel, and keep a number of them on hand for when they actually want to travel. As was widely predicted, this is contrary to the expectations of most people and has not worked out as the planners would have liked.

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Metcard-bus-validator.jpg
A Metcard validator, this type is found aboard buses.

Metcards are 'validated' when entering or exiting railway stations, and getting on trams or buses. The first validation prints an expiry date on the back of the ticket, subsequent validations were once mooted to be used for allocating revenue and crowding, but this was never a smart move as conclusive data on both is impossible to determine. Both have since been abandoned in favour of fixed revenue allocations and manual surveys. Subsequent validations are therefore technically unnecessary unless you plan to exit a gated rail station.

However, most suburban train stations are unstaffed and can easily be entered without a ticket, and trams no longer have conductors. Ticket inspectors randomly check trains and trams, but their sometimes heavy-handed tactics have resulted in public discontent and even court cases, with at least four successful assault convictions and numerous disciplinary sackings.

Zones and Fares

The public transport system is broken up into three ticketing Zones: Zone 1 (Yellow), Zone 2 (Blue), and Zone 3 (Red). The first two zones form concentric rings around the inner suburbs, and Zone 3 covers the Outer Eastern suburbs.

Tickets are valid within the selected Zone or Zones only (however, tickets of weekly or longer duration may be used in any Zone on weekends). A tourist would be unlikely to need more than a Zone 1 ticket.

As of January 2005, a daily Zone 1 ticket costs $5.90 AUD, and a weekly Zone 1 ticket costs $25.90 AUD. Starting from 2005, Metcard prices are increasing an average of 2.25%.

Future

The Metcard system is to be replaced from 2007 with a new smartcard ticketing system, despite existing validators already supporting smartcards as well as magnetic cards. The two systems will coexist for several years.

However, as the new system has been announced as a Tag On, Tag Off system (where two validations are required per boarding), additional hardware would be required above what is already provided to allow the exit validation to take place. This system would in theory calculate whether a person crossed zone boundaries while on board, though it does also put the multimodality of the system at risk as it would make it very easy for a future government introduce a fare system that charges by distance.

It is also unclear whether Melburnians will embrace a system that requires them to validate twice per boarding when few were ever willing to validate once per boarding under the existing system. It is not expected that additional staff will be included to monitor compliance, and the process for checking tickets will become more complex, which would easily result in a further drop in the level of checking that takes place at present.

As a result, it is unlikely that the new system will reduce Melbourne's chronic level of fare evasion. The continued absence of staff (particularly Tram Conductors and Station Staff) will make it no harder to travel without actually buying or validating a ticket under the new system.


External links

  • DoI - Smartcard ticketing Home Page (http://www.doi.vic.gov.au/doi/internet/planningprojects.nsf/HeadingPagesDisplay/Smartcard+ticketing+for+public+transport?OpenDocument)
  • DoI - Smartcard ticketing FAQ (http://www.doi.vic.gov.au/doi/internet/planningprojects.nsf/headingpagesdisplay/smartcard+ticketing+for+public+transportyour+questions+answered)
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