Cash fares history as government seeks MyWay replacement

Ian Bushnell 28 April 2021 41
Light rail passengers

Canberra is a step closer to a new public transport ticketing system. Photo: File.

Paying for a bus or light rail ticket with cash is not about to return to Canberra’s public transport system, with the government dropping that requirement in a fresh approach to industry for a new ticketing system.

After deciding in January to return to a full tender process when negotiations failed with its preferred provider, the government has launched a market sounding, pushing out the adoption of a new system to 2023.

It is looking to replace the existing MyWay card arrangement, which is used in 93 per cent of adults trips, and introduce a new real-time passenger information system to replace NXTBUS.

The market sounding, which closes on 14 May, comes ahead of a final procurement approach expected in mid-2021.

The government has decided to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the COVID-forced move to a cashless environment to pursue a 100 per cent cash-free system, based on paying by credit/debit card and mobile phone.

Transport Canberra is also seeking to incorporate a real-time passenger information system into any future ticketing system to enable commuters to plan and pay for their journey within the same platform.

It wants any new ticketing technology to allow users, including disadvantaged groups, to connect with other transport services to allow simpler journey planning and provide more targeted services.

Any new solution will have to cater for concession holders and make the public transport system more accessible to those who most need it.


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Transport Minister Chris Steel said in January that cost had been the sticking point with the preferred provider.

“We want a ticketing system that provides the right technology solution for our city, but it has to be a system that is value for money,” he said.

Public Transport Association of Canberra (PTCBR) chair Ryan Hemsley said at the time that he hoped the new tender process opened the door for the type of innovative and user-friendly payment methods adopted in NSW that had proven popular.


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41 Responses to Cash fares history as government seeks MyWay replacement
David Shiels David Shiels 9:17 am 02 May 21

I agree that we need an Australia wide solution.
we could call it cash……
and for those who are concerned about handling it we could use an alternative. and call it tap and go…

ejae696 ejae696 7:37 pm 01 May 21

I don’t use buses frequently n haven’t for a few years but the other day I had my car at the mechanics. Being on a pension I live week to week and couldn’t afford an uber home or back to pick my car up. Great idea came to mind, ‘ i’ll catch a bus’. So I suss out all the buses and the out of the way connections I’d have to make to get closest to my destination.. I have a bad back so walking far isn’t an option. Anyhow, I write it all down after sussing it all out and thought brilliant, this won’t cost alot of money only time which I had that day. Then to my complete disappointment I see they don’t accept cash and I couldn’t buy a MyWay card anywhere in the area I was. This is such a pain for the people that don’t use buses often and if I were a visitor this would also stop me from using buses to get around. Maybe if I could use my debit card that would have been OK but to not be able to use cash or a debit card is just silly when u can’t access a MyWay card in the area. Lucky for me the mechanic rushed my car through and I was able to just sit around for n hour in the end but I was very disappointed n deterred from using buses in Canberra again. I’m sure I’m not the only one this has happened to. So if your going to take away cash payments then at least give us the option of using our debit cards. And not everyone uses mobile phones to pay either so please make it an option to use your actual debit card..

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:34 pm 30 Apr 21

But for the mulish determination to persist with light rail to the south (and eventually every other point of the compass) regardless of cost, something like this might have been affordable, thus obviating problems about payment modes and options –

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51657085

The evaluation later this year of the Luxembourg experience will be interesting –

https://www.eltis.org/resources/case-studies/free-passenger-transport-exploring-benefits-and-disadvantages

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 2:07 pm 30 Apr 21

Doesn't matter what payment options you have when the Government took away your local bus stop and doubled your commute time.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 2:04 pm 30 Apr 21

I use MyWay but what about visitors who are only in town for a few days? E.g. For Floriade?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 3:27 pm 01 May 21

    Trish Roberts what do you do when you visit Sydney or Melbourne and want to use a bus of tram? Simple you buy a Opal (Sydney) or Myki (Melbourne) or you find a stop that has a ticket machine that sells single trip. Bit like here already in someways.

Anura Samara Anura Samara 10:22 am 30 Apr 21

London and Sydney let you pay using your contactless debit card. In Norway, lots of public transport lets you pay using an app on your phone. Both options are fantastic - you don't need to go out of you way to find a specific card and recharge system.

Annabel May Annabel May 7:53 am 30 Apr 21

MY WAY is working well why change it?

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 10:11 am 30 Apr 21

    Annabel May because it sucks for casual users.

    Johnny Grey Johnny Grey 1:29 pm 30 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott Doesn't suck for me, and I am quite casual. And I randomly use busses and the tram.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 1:53 pm 30 Apr 21

    Johnny Grey sucks for me. I might use the bus every now and then. If my myway is empty I have to ride to a top up spot without paying. Even better is if I have friends from out of town. They often have to ride without a ticket to somewhere they can get one.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:04 pm 30 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott Top up your MyWay on line, like many of us do. No need to ride to a top up place.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 4:03 pm 30 Apr 21

    I haven't registered my card, and last time I checked that to two days for the funds to got through. Not exactly great for an unplanned bus ride. Doesn't help people without cards though.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 4:04 pm 30 Apr 21

    Also factor in that if you don't use it for a period of time, the card deactivates and God knows what happens to your funds.

    Tracy Hitchins Tracy Hitchins 8:03 pm 02 May 21

    Julie Macklin unless it’s changed it takes 3 days for the money to go to your card

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:56 pm 02 May 21

    Tracy Hitchins That's why I never let it run out. Easy to check.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 7:26 am 03 May 21

    Julie Macklin that's great if you use it regularly. But If you are only a sometimes user, it's easy to forget about it.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart Samuel Gordon-Stewart 1:51 am 30 Apr 21

COVID did not force a cash-free environment, although it did encourage it for a while. By all means offer other options but keep cash as an option too. Using COVID as an excuse to stop taking cash is disingenuous. The same can be said for ACT Government shopfronts which are still not taking cash.

Connor Thomas Connor Thomas 12:16 am 30 Apr 21

While it's fine to replace these we need to have options for students who don't have a credit card and kids.

We cannot discriminate against anyone using public transport so I urge the government to make at least 2 forms of payment

Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 7:55 pm 29 Apr 21

As long as it is easy for casual users. Tap a credit or debit card and it should work.

Henry Thomson Henry Thomson 7:44 pm 29 Apr 21

I can fly (covid aside) anyway in the world on any airline, and in many and a growing number of cities using my credit card.

In Australia I have separate public transport cards for the ACT, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.

Perhaps local and state governments might cooperate on a card payment system that can be used nationwide (for concession or multi trip fares) in addition to enabling the tap and go feature of credit cards for full fare and occasional users. State governments have been able to do this with motor vehicle eTags on pay roads.

    Christian Beitzel Christian Beitzel 8:13 pm 29 Apr 21

    Henry Thomson OPAL has credit card/applepay/gpay tap and go in Sydney.

Robert Hawes Robert Hawes 7:38 pm 29 Apr 21

Should be able to recharge the ticket on the bus using a credit/debit card. This would be especially useful for those that have concession tickets.

Tim Cole Tim Cole 7:32 pm 29 Apr 21

I wish ACT Gov would integrate with Opal, as a single fare zone. NSW has all the infrastructure needed, saves us having to reinvent the wheel and outlay more capital.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:04 pm 30 Apr 21

    Yes, that would be handy. The ACT should still be able to hopefully set their own prices within the ACT. That depends on the Opal program though.

Sean Bishop Sean Bishop 5:33 pm 29 Apr 21

Well they may want to install at the platforms some recharge points.. it'll still cause an argument to those who can fine you on the "intent" to pay a fare but not able to

David Murn David Murn 3:56 pm 29 Apr 21

Maybe they should just require a platinum credit card to pay for your bus tickets?

Low income earners are more likely to need public transport, and are also more likely to use cash. This would seem to discriminate against those who only have legal tender.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:17 pm 29 Apr 21

    David Murn legal tender is any form of accepted payment. I assume you really mean to say cash which is an example of legal tender but so too is a stored value card (like the current MyWay) and debit/credit cards.

    Fact is very few bus/tram services accept cash these days and there is no legal requirement for them to accept cash.

    David Murn David Murn 5:26 pm 29 Apr 21

    Legal tender means that it must be accepted for payment of a debt. Cash is accepted by anyone, MyWay is not.

    Just because there may be no legal requirement to cater to the poor, it doesn't mean that public services shouldn't still try to do it.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:39 pm 29 Apr 21

    David Murn ah no it doesn’t. Just because you have something like cash that is considered legal tender doesn’t mean it has to be accepted. Acceptance of a form of tender is a contractural issue between seller and buyer.

    And for the record cash isn’t accepted by everyone. Plenty of places now days do not accept cash.

    Tim Cole Tim Cole 7:30 pm 29 Apr 21

    David Murn why would low income earners pay more? Cash fares were more expensive than MyWay fares to encourage people to use them.

    David Murn David Murn 8:05 pm 29 Apr 21

    You are right, vendors can choose not to accept cash, and make that agreement before the transaction. As I tried to point out though, not everyone has a credit card ready to recharge with the minimum required top-up, simply to take a bus trip.

    With regards to legal tender, once a debt has been raised, an offer of legal tender is exactly that.. legal tender. A restaurant cannot give you a meal, then afterwards refuse your cash payment, and tell you that you must pay in bitcoin.

    David Murn David Murn 8:06 pm 29 Apr 21

    I didn't say they'd pay more, however the fact that you have to pre-purchase rides, whether you use them or not, means that some people will pay more. Maybe they should allow people to cash in any unused rides.. although I imagine unused rides are part of the business model.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:45 pm 29 Apr 21

    David Murn your last point is moot. If you go to the restaurant and they advise no cash but only accept Bitcoin then you by eating there have accepted their terms, so no you cannot just hand over cash.

    That’s the same with public transport in many cities in this and other countries. Very few accept cash these days.

    Helen Prior Helen Prior 4:16 pm 30 Apr 21

    Ashley Wright whatever happened to the words "legal tender?"

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:40 am 02 May 21

    Helen Prior I thought I explained it above. But anyway just because something is legal tender doesn’t mean it is automatically accepted. When you buy something (even paying for a bus fare) you are entering into a contract and you pay by the means set out in that contract. If a vendor says no cash then they are well within their rights to refuse cash.

    Also think you will find the only place cash of any denomination must be accepted is at a bank.

Karen Feng Karen Feng 3:45 pm 29 Apr 21

we need a universal system. so we an use public transport all over Australia

    Sean Tomlinson Sean Tomlinson 11:32 pm 29 Apr 21

    Karen Feng it’s hard because state governments tendered different companies to build the transport smart card systems. Sydney opal was based of London’s oyster smart card system. Brisbane and Melbourne are based of other older systems and the ACT is different again. Putting them all together would cost millions and I doubt the states would do it

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:08 pm 30 Apr 21

    Sean Tomlinson A start though, as we are going to get a new system, would be to join with the NSW Opal card system. That would be one less different system.

    Sean Tomlinson Sean Tomlinson 5:58 pm 30 Apr 21

    Julie Macklin it’s the choice of the government’s who do the tendering process. Ideally yes. But reality maybe not

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:06 pm 30 Apr 21

    Sean Tomlinson Yes, they chose the present system.

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