In October 2015, the Greens launched the Open Up Opal survey – a community survey into the Opal Card. You can fill out the survey here, which remains open for people’s comments. All questions are voluntary and anonymity is assured.

Since October, hundreds of public transport users have written in to provide feedback on their experience of the Opal Card.

How is the information being used?

  • In November 2015, Dr Mehreen Faruqi spoke about the Open Up Opal survey in the NSW Legislative Council, bringing some of people’s primary concerns with Opal Card to the attention of the House. You can read the whole speech here and watch it on Facebook here.
  • Questions have been asked in parliament in Question Time and on notice in response to feedback.
  • A Greens survey into Opal Card retailer surcharges exposed the ubiquity of extra fees on card top-ups, and was covered in news.com.au.

A preliminary report:

Over 200 public transport users responded to the Open Up Opal survey in its first month of operation. Through this feedback, a few things became clear.

Consistent criticisms:

  • The inability to top-up small amounts
    • Some retailers stipulate minimum amounts (e.g. $40)
    • Minimum amount of online topups is $40!
    • Not tourist friendly
  • Easily the most common criticism was the lack of integration in fare pricing, i.e., being double-charged for a single journey when having to switch transport modes (e.g. from a bus to a train).
  • Privacy concerns, including Opal giving public transport user information to law enforcement agencies
    • Being forced to give personal details in order to be eligible for a Concession or Pensioner Opal Card
  • Opal top-ups should be allowed at station windows, with any amount available
    • Top-ups not available as much in regional or suburban areas
    • Lack of top-up machines at stations – should be at all stations
  • Extra fees are common from Opal Card retailers via card surcharges (ranging from $0.05 to $2 for a $10 top-up)
  • Price of public transport is still high and comparable with cost of petrol if driving to Sydney from e.g. Blue Mountains.
  • Poor systems – difficult to tap on/off; reader response time is slow.
  • Bus Opal readers regularly don’t work (though a lot of people thought that was a good thing – they got a free ride!)
  • General frustration about station staff not being available to help with top-ups, fare glitches, being overcharged etc.

People liked:

  • General convenience of not having to buy paper tickets
  • Better for environment
  • Free travel after 8 journeys

Some quotes from public transport users:

Ticket and top up machines need to be installed at each train station.

 

Can officers bloody chill about concession opals and student IDs?”

 

You have to pay the full train fare when you transfer between buses and trains. I wish it was more streamlined so you paid less for transfers, no matter which form of transport you were transferring between.

 

Opal was a missed opportunity to eliminate the penalty for transferring from one mode to another. Why does taking two buses count as one journey but a bus and a train count as two journeys?

 

I’m concerned about privacy. Concerned enough that I only ever pay cash to top up my unregistered card. This makes it slightly harder to get a top up, because I have to plan to have $50 cash (my usual amount).

 

Make all public transport free, and have the Opal Card there to request a joke from the computer.

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