Sunday, June 12, 2016

How do the fair fares compare?

In the previous blog post, BrizCommuter provided an overview of the recently announced public transport fare review for SE Queensland. We have already ascertained that seniors and 8 or less journey a week commuters will see savings varying between 4% to 35% due to the single fare discounts. However, what about heavier users of public transport who may be affected by the change from "9 then free" to "eight then 50%"? Will there also be savings to families from the free fares for children on weekends?
The January 2017 changes    Screenshot from TransLink's website
BrizCommuter had a look at a few scenarios.
Scenario 1) A typical 9-5 worker who has 10 peak journeys between home and work each week.
Scenario 2) A 9-5 worker who has 10 peak journeys between home and work each week, 2 mid-week CBD off-peak trips (meetings, lunch time activities, or go card rorting), and 2 weekend journeys between home to South Bank.
Scenario 3) The same as 2) but also taking into account the costs for the rest of the family (partner and two children aged between 5 and 14) to travel from home to South Bank. The partner drives to work.

These scenarios will have the commuter living in the "old" zone 2 (e.g. Alderley, Eagle Junction, Morningside, Indooroopilly) , "old" zone 6 (e.g. Springfield, Cleveland, Loganlea), "old" zone 15 (e.g. Robina, Eudlo).

Scenario 1
Zone 2: Old 9x$3.93=$35.37  New 8x$3.20 + 2x$1.60 =$28.80
Zone 6: Old 9x$6.69=$60.21  New 8x$5.96 + 2x$2.98 =$53.64
Zone 15: Old 9x$13.09=$117.81  New 8x$10.32 + 2x$5.16 =$92.88

For a typical 9 to 5, 5 day a week worker, who drives at other times, there will be significant percentage savings for commuters from all of the sampled zones. However, the financial savings are much larger for longer distance commuters $24.93 from "old" zone 15 vs $6.57 from "old" zone 2. This adds to BrizCommuter's assumption that this fare review is biased in favour of longer distance commuters (who can still rort the system too!) This encourages environmentally unsustainable lifestyle of living longer distances away from the place of work. A good fare system should encourage short distance commuting, as does Perth's fare system which is approximately 30% cheaper than Brisbane's new fares for short distance journeys (existing zones 1 and 2). For commuters who already own a car, and have free car parking, it will still be cheaper to drive to work for short distance commutes.

Interestingly the fare review taskforce was far less skewed in favour of longer distance commuters. Unfortunately, the Palaszczuk government ignored this advice when they finalised the new fares.

Scenario 2
Zone 2: Old 7x$3.93 + 2x$2.68=$32.87  New 6x$3.20 + 2x$2.56 + 2x$1.60 + 2x$1.28=$30.08
Zone 6: Old 7x$6.69 + 2x$2.68=$52.19  New 6x$5.96 + 2x$2.26 + 2x$2.98 + 2x$2.39=$51.02
Zone 15: Old 7x$13.09 + 2x$2.68=$96.99  New 6x$10.32 + 2x$2.26 + 2x$5.16 + 2x$4.13=$85.02

For heavy public transport users, the new fare system is not so good. In fact the savings are less than $2/week for both "old" zone 2 and 6 commuters, and in some scenarios heavy public transport users may even end up paying more. A good fare structure should encourage heavy use of public transport, and encourage leaving the car at home. This fare structure does not do that for short to medium distance commuters without/not travelling with families. BrizCommuter might be using the car more at weekends!

Scenario 3
Zone 2: $32.87 + 2x$3.14 + 4x$1.57=$45.43  New $30.08 + 2x$2.56=$35.20
Zone 6: $52.19 + 2x$5.35 + 4x$2.67=$73.57  New $51.02 + 2x$4.77=$60.56
Zone 15: $96.99 + 2x$10.47 + 4x$5.23=$138.85 New $85.02 + 2x$8.26=$101.52

For heavy public transport users, travelling with the family on weekends, there are savings of between $10.23, $13.01, and $37.33 in "old" zones 2, 6, and 15 respectively. Depending on the cost of parking, it might be possible for the short and medium commuters to make a saving by using public transport instead of driving. Longer distance commuters may make a significant saving. However, due to slow journey times and poor frequency of weekend train services, BrizCommuter would doubt that even with the savings that the new fares would encourage long distance commuters to take the train instead of the car.


The vast majority of commuters will see fare reductions with the new fares, expected to be introduced in January 2017, which is a good thing. However, the financial savings will be significantly less for those who "do the right thing" by living closer to their place of work, and using public transport instead of driving at off-peak times and weekends. Many of these are young adults and families. It is a shame that the very people who should be rewarded for trying to use public transport are the ones who will benefit the least from the new fare structure.  

The poor functionality of the go card system prevents an equitable daily and weekly capping, as occurs in London. The "9 then free" was good in that it encouraged heavy use of public transport. The down side that as it was not zone based, and was thus rortable by longer distance commuters who could save more than $50 a week by making the effort to go "extreme rorting". The elimination of this appears to be have been compensated with large $$$ value fare reductions for longer distance commuters, who incidentally can still rort the system. However, the lack of free journeys screws those who genuinely use public transport frequently, most of whom are inner-suburban commuters.
Cheaper zone 1 fares in Perth   Screenshot from TransPerth's website
So what would BrizCommuter do without improvements to the go card system's functionality? Well despite its rortability, maybe the 9 then free wasn't a bad idea after all? Shorter distance ("old zone 1 and 2") journeys should match the inner-zone fares in Perth ($2.25 to $2.55) instead of $3.20 set the Queensland government. Outer zone journeys should be increased to match the existing fares for the inner of each of merged zones (so still no increase for any commuters). When the next generation ticketing system is introduced at the end of this decade, an "account based" system is urgently required that can handle daily and weekly capping.

As always, feel free to use the comments system if you disagree!


  1. I think you raise some valid points, however regardless it's overall a step in the right direction!

  2. I don't know why you have such a thing about weeklies, whether periodicals or capping. Personally, I'd rather the money and time be put into improving service quantity and quality respectively. Sure, the elasticity of having zero fare is going to be higher than any discount but I doubt enough to offset the lost revenue being put into services and/or reducing the base fare.

    10 then 50% discount was almost perfect and provided a great trade between revenue and equity. The only real way it could be made better is a charge for long distance commuters doing a lot of short trips early in the week to make it up to the longest 10 journeys.

  3. A comment is made in the survey saying that fares cover only 25% of the cost of public transport. So what's the point?

    How about eliminate the cost of running a fare system, eliminate the cost of fare compliance and massively increase utilisation by eliminating fares. Make public transport free. Put savings from fare compliance measures into public transport behaviour enforcement.

    Make public transport truly about reducing traffic on the roads.

    Secondly, if you believe fares will reduce in the long term you must also believe in politicians telling the truth. There'll be a 20% fare increase by July 2017, to recoup the lost money.

  4. Simon - daily and weekly tickets are popular as it means that public transport costs can be predicted irrespective of how often it is utilised. It also encourages frequent use of public transport, and leaving the car at home, which is something the new fare structure does not do well.

  5. Briz, I would dismiss the argument about predictability promoting leaving the car at home. Car costs cannot be predicted accurately. Transit costs can. Indeed, the predictability is not increased by the weekly fare.

    Many people have this love for the idea though. I don't think it is based on any objective evidence or reasoning. I've never seen any.

  6. Simon - BrizCommuter would expect that TransLink's survey will show that the return of periodicals are popular. As a previous commuter in London, it was great to just pay the weekly or monthly fare, and know that however many times you used public transport (unless you travel outside of your zones) you won't rack up extra cost. The capping of daily fares for non-periodical ticket holders in London is also very popular with tourists.

  7. You had me up until one statement.

    I disagree that living close to your work is "doing the right thing". I've heard this a number of times, and I refute this as a false assumption. All things equal, I agree with the statement, but life is NEVER simple.

    My partner and I have strong ties to the Gold Coast and although my partner has a career on the Gold Coast, I'm in a profession where there are no jobs on the Gold Coast (insert almost any profession here). So, I could "do the right thing" and move to Brisbane and destroy my partner's career, which is on the Gold Coast, she works at various locations, most of which have no public transport access. Or I could "do the wrong thing" and live on the Gold Coast and commute to Brisbane, allowing my partner to have a career.

    I would LIKE to live close to my work, but since that isn't an option I don't see how a long commute is doing the wrong thing.

    Anyway, besides that thank you again for spending the time to bring balanced and evidence based information to the public transport traveling public.


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