Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Australian Fare Comparison

Sydney - not quite integrated fares
Before writing a conclusion on the 2013 World Fare Comparison, BrizCommuter decided to compare Australian cities in a bit more detail. Car running costs for a Toyota Prius (which is a relatively expensive car to run) have also been thrown into the mix. List of cities is no particular order in this particular blog post.

Fare Zones:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - 23
Melbourne - 2
Sydney - 3 to 5 depending on mode
Perth - 9
Adelaide - 1
Hobart - 3+
Canberra - 1
Townsville - 6
Darwin - 1

As you can see, SE Queensland has far more fare zones than elsewhere in Australia, although this may be due to TransLink's network coverage of more than 200km along the coast. Maybe some fare zone consolidation is required in SE Queensland? Adelaide, Canberra, and Darwin have just one zone. It should be noted that due to variations in the distance in zone borders from the CBD, that some of fares below may vary depending on the exact location.

Peak single adult fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $3.85/$5.13
Melbourne - $3.50/$5.92
Sydney - $3.60/$4.40 train only ($2.10/$3.50 bus only, $5.60/$7 ferry only)
Perth - $2.03/$3.68
Adelaide - $3.19
Hobart - $2.24/$4.80
Canberra - $2.52
Townsville - $2.90/$4.20
Darwin - $3
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $2.77/$11.08

Brisbane has the most expensive peak single adult fare for a 5km journey. Melbourne has the most expensive peak single adult fare for a 20km journey, mainly due to 20km just being over the border of zone two (Melbourne's has just two fare zones). Fare zone consolidation isn't such a good idea for those who live just beyond the fare zone border! Sydney disappointingly has an unintegrated fare structure for single journeys. It should be noted that in most Australian cities it is more expensive to use public transport than to drive a car in the peak for short journeys.

Off peak single fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $3.08/$4.11
Melbourne - $3.50/$5.92
Sydney - $3.60/$4.40 train only ($2.10/$3.50 bus only, $5.60/$7 ferry only)
Perth - $2.03/$3.68
Adelaide - $3.19 ($1.75 inter-peak)
Hobart - $2.24/$4.80
Canberra - $2
Townsville - $2.90/$4.20
Darwin - $3
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $2.77/$11.08

Brisbane fares better off-peak due to the 20% go card off-peak discount, but bus fares are still relatively high. It is still cheaper to drive for 5km off-peak than use public transport in 66% of these cities.

Daily maximum fare 5km/20km:

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $27.72 to $34.65/$36.99 to $46.17
Melbourne - $7/$11.84 ($3.50 on weekend)
Sydney - $22
Perth - Unlimited ($11 after 9am)
Adelaide - $9.10
Hobart - $9 ($4.50 off-peak)
Canberra - $7.60 ($4.60 weekend)
Townsville - $5.80/$8.40
Darwin - $7

Due to lack of daily ticketing product Brisbane with fare capping only occurring after the 9th journey. Perth only has a post-9am daily ticketing fare, and it would be difficult to rack up a fare similar to the maximum in Brisbane. Sydney also fares badly in this comparison for short journeys. It should also be noted that on weekends and weekday evenings Perth offers group travel for up to 7 people for just $11.

Weekly maximum fare 5km/20km (or alternative):

Brisbane/SE Queensland - $34.65/$46.17
Melbourne - $35/$59.20 (28-365 day pass also available at $4.30/$6.64 per day)
Sydney - $44/$52
Perth - Unlimited
Adelaide - Unlimited
Hobart - Unlimited
Canberra - No weekly ($72 to $90.72 maximum per month - 36 journey cap)
Townsville - $23.20/$33.60
Darwin - $20
Car (Toyota Prius*) - $159.79

Weekly maximums are a mixed bag. BrizCommuter could not find any periodical fares for Perth, Hobart, and Adelaide (email BrizCommuter if you know otherwise). Brisbane's capping after the 9th journey makes it cheaper than Melbourne and Sydney for weekly maximums. The Toyota Prius comes out high here - the figures based on 15,000km/year suggest that if you use a car only for commuting it may be more expensive than using public transport, however if you use a car for other purposes (shopping, leisure, school run, etc) then the car may be cheaper overall. This probably requires a more in depth blog post in the future.

Weekday midday off-peak inner-suburban train frequency (per line):

Brisbane/SE Queensland - 15 to 120 minutes
Melbourne - 10 to 20 minutes
Sydney - 15 to 30 minutes
Perth - 7 to 15 minutes
Adelaide - 15 to 30 minutes
Car (Toyota Prius*) - 0 minutes (unless you loose your keys)

Of the 5 major Australian cities with a train network, Brisbane and Adelaide have the worst train frequencies, which reduces the value for money of the fares. It should be noted that in general the bus only cities have lower fares, and Sydney also has lower bus only fares compared to train fares. In a car-obsessed society, frequency is the key to attracting commuters from cars to public transport.

So which Australian city is best or worst for public transport fares? There isn't really an answer. The bus only cities generally have a simpler fare structures, with some issues around periodicals. The cities with trains are a mixed bag, with Brisbane being the most expensive for short single peak journeys and daily travel, and Sydney being the most expensive for frequent weekly use for short journeys.

Fare structures with smart cards seem to be messy, with no perfect solution in Australia. Brisbane lacks a daily fare product. Melbourne's is good, but lacks off-peak incentives (other than free train travel before 7am on weekdays). Perth appears to lack a weekly option. Have Australian cities skimped when purchasing software modules for their smart card systems? For example London's Oyster Card can cope with peak, off-peak, daily, weekly, other periodicals, and different fares between bus, tube, train, tram, and ferry. BrizCommuter may look different smart card systems in a future blog post.

* Car running cost source 


  1. Just because other system have implemented periodicals doesn't make it a good idea. I would hate Melbourne's idea of a loadable periodical.

  2. I live at Auchenflower and travel to and from the Brisbane CBD. I cannot understand why on the train it is one zone and the bus two zones? The peak fares currently $3.05 and $3.58 respectivley. From Auchenflower train station to Taringa train station we go to two zones again at $3.58 - which is about the same distance travelled, if not shorter, from the city to Auchenflower, and is the same price fare from Central. I feel like I am being penalised for living close to the city. Thanks for listening!

  3. Simon - you might not like loaded periodicals, but many smart card systems offer them and they are popular with commuters in those cities. BrizCommuter will take a look at smart card periodical options in a future blog post.

    1. Be that as it may Briz, I bet people would change their tune if the cost of implementing such complexity was passed on to them through the fare box. They pay through taxes, but it doesn't register in the same way.

  4. Anonymous January 3, 2013 10:31 AM

    In regards to why bus is two zones from city to Auchenflower, have no idea.

    For trains and travel generally. The reason why Auchenflower to Taringa is two zones is the zone boundary is at Toowong station, marked as 1/2. So if you travelled from Toowong station to Taringa station, you would only be charged for a one zone trip.

    So it is not so much a matter of being penalised for living close to the city, but a case of crossing a zone boundary.

    There are many examples where a long trip can be one zone, but going across two stations (bus or train) is two zones.

    I think fares should be point to point rather than zonal system, which would eliminate the anomalies highlighted above and in your post.


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