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Melbourne has an impressive metropolitan public transportation system. It is efficient, inexpensive, safe and extensive. The system consists of trains, trams (including two conversions of former rail lines that are now akin to 'light rail') and buses. The trams criss-cross the city and are probably what you will use most unless you head out to the outer suburbs; on weekdays you can expect one every 3-12 mins, on weekends about every 12-15 mins until nightfall when 20 minutes is a typical wait. The free City Circle tram goes around the Central Business District, including Docklands.
The system is divided into two fare zones. Zone 1 covers all the inner suburbs and most of the tram network and extends approximately 10-15 kms out from the CBD. The middle and outer suburbs are within Zone 2.
The public transport fare system in Melbourne (and gradually being extended to the V/Line country commuter belt but not to the longer distance train lines or connecting V/Line coaches) is a smartcard known as Myki (pronounced 'my-key'). It is
comparable to the smartcards used in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and some USA cities. Myki has a non-refundable upfront cost (for
the card) of A$6 for adults and A$3 for concession (typically children, seniors, students and welfare recipients). Overseas visitors are not eligible for concession fares.
No single trip tickets are available, so everyone must use the Myki “stored value” smartcard. For visitors, Myki is also not refundable when you leave.
You can buy and top up your Myki at about 800 retailers including all 7-Eleven stores, the ticket office window at Premium stations (those staffed for all trains – which include all stations in the CBD), staffed V/Line commuter railway stations or from a blue Myki card vending machine located at all train stations and major tram and bus interchanges. The machines only issue full fare Myki cards.
You may now also buy and top up Mykis on Melbourne metropolitan and provincial city route buses, including on bus routes 901 (SmartBus), 478, 479 and 500 that serve Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport (Bay 7 opposite Terminal 1). The 901 route runs every 15 minutes on weekdays and half hourly on weekends, connecting with Metro trains at Broadmeadows railway station. It is a cheap alternative to the expensive SkyBus. See www.ptv.vic.gov.au
Myki cannot be purchased on board trams or at most tram stops. In the suburbs, an agent may be hard to find if you are staying at a friend or relative's place and want to travel into Melbourne's CBD by tram or from an unstaffed railway station. In such cases, an option is to purchase a myki online before your visit and have it posted to your home or your friend/relative's place.
A further option for visitors is a Myki Visitor Pack, which includes discounts to various Melbourne attractions. These are available from Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square, Southern Cross station and the SkyBus terminals at Melbourne Airport. Please note that Myki cannot be used on Skybus to and from Melbourne Airport but is valid on the slower local buses and the semi-fast and frequent Route 901 SmartBusthat arrive and depart from a stop at bay 7 outside terminal 1: see www.ptv.vic.gov.au
The Myki Visitor Pack should also be available from the concierge at any good hotel.
The Visitor Pack includes:
* a full fare, concession, child or seniors Myki card, pre-loaded with enough value (Myki money) for one day’s travel in Zone 1, which includes the entire tram network
* discount offers at 15 attractions including Melbourne Aquarium, the National Sports Museum, Eureka Skydeck and Puffing Billy, saving visitors more than $130
* a protective Myki wallet designed by renowned Melbourne cartoonist Mark Knight
* a public transport map and information on how to use Myki.
A full fare myki Visitor Pack costs $14 and includes $8 myki money for travel.
A concession, child or Australian seniors myki Visitor Pack costs $7 and includes $4 myki money for travel.
It must be emphasised that short trip tickets are not available so you have no choice but to buy a non-refundable myki smartcard.
Myki smartcards within Zone 1 can be used on any of the three types of transport (bus, tram and train) and are valid for unlimited travel (including transfers and return trips) within a 2-hour period, a day or week (called '7 days' in the myki brochures). Holders of Australian seniors' cards receive discounted daily travel. Seniors' tickets are valid anywhere on the public transport system except Skybus.
As a guide, the cost of travel in Zone 1 varies from $2.42 for two hours to $7.00 for all day travel. Over the entire public transport network (Zones 1 and 2) the maximum fare for all day travel is $11.84.
On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the maximum daily fare for any person anywhere in Melbourne is $3.50.
There is no need to worry about zone boundaries or how long you've travelled because Myki automatically calculates the "best available" fare for your journey.
Fare evasion is rampant in Melbourne and visitors may be tempted to try to get away without having a validated Myki
card, especially on trams. However, be aware that if you get caught without a validated myki when inspectors do a spot check, there is zero tolerance and you will have to pay a hefty
fine of $212. Giving inspectors (known as "authorised officers") the tourist excuse "I did
not know" probably will not get you very far. The Victorian Government has made it clear that fare evasion has a serious adverse effect on the state's finances, hence the "zero tolerance" policy. However, authorised officers have a job to do and are no more invasive or oppressive than in any city overseas.
You must validate your Myki at a railway station barrier or validator,
or on board a tram or bus by “touching on”. You must touch off, except on
trams for a trip wholly within Zone 1 (the vast majority of tram trips). If in doubt, always “touch-off”.
On buses, you have to “touch-on” your Myki via one of two lime green validators near the driver. On trams,there are several validators near each door. At railway stations, there are myki validators at the entrances and exits. Remember to ” touch-on” and “touch-off” each time you use it as this enables the system to calculate the lowest fare for the time and zones you have travelled.
When touching on or off, hold the card against the lower part of the
validator for a few seconds, until you hear several “beeps”. The display will (briefly) show the current
value on the card - plus the cost of the journey when you “touch-off”. At railway stations the barrier (if any) will open.
Do not “swipe” or merely “tap” the card against the validator, as this will not give it time to complete the transaction.
Be warned: your myki must have a positive balance for you to commence travel so check how much is deducted each trip.
If you “top-up” through the Myki telephone call centre (1800 800 007) or through online means and then do not use it on the transport system for 90 days, that top up credit will be archived and unavailable for use at a myki terminal until about 24 hours (at least) has elapsed after you use the card again for the first time after this period. This should not cause single visit tourists a problem but it should be remembered by regular visitors
If you buy a 2 hour trip (by touching on your loaded myki) in the evening and validate it after 6pm (1800), it is valid for the rest of the night. After midnight Sunday-Thursday, you'll have to hail a taxi, as public transport stops running. Public transport from the city runs until about 0100 and there are Night Rider buses (all departing from Swanston Street near St Paul's Cathedral) through the early hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Myki is valid for NightRider buses.
Many of the sights and places of interest in Melbourne are easily within walking distance of each other, so if you're looking to save money or just get a bit of exercise after a night of drinking and noshing on meat pies, get out and walk. There's really no better way to get a feel for a new place than by exploring on foot because you're in control and can stop whenever you like or check out the hidden streets and alleys.
A good thing to do is to explore Melbourne city by using one of the free tourist transportation services. Try the Melbourne Visitors Shuttle operating daily every 15 minutes from 10am (1000) to 4pm (1600) and visiting 15 interesting stops around Melbourne. You can get on and off at any one. Ask at the Information Centre at Federation Square for a brochure detailing the places of interest or download one online. (See http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/Gett...) Unfortunately, this bus will soon have a $5 fare (August 2013 and onwards).
The City Circle free tram (route 35) does a circuit of Melbourne and also has a commentary. Here again, you can alight at any place of interest. The City Circle trams are the old W class types with some more than 70 years old. The route is usually busy and trams can be crowded. A brochure is also available for this, or you can look at the routes and timetables online.
For more detailed information of Public Transport in Melbourne please refer to www.ptv.vic.gov.au which may assist you in planning your journeys.
The introduction of the Myki smartcard public transport fare system in Victoria has been controversial but seems to work well. Fare evasion has become part of the Melbourne culture but visitors are strongly advised not to be tempted to follow the locals because there are regular inspections on and off the vehicles and the fines are severe. Having said that, Melbourne's public transport system should meet the needs of most visitors and is a good way of seeing the city with someone else doing the driving! Melbourne is generally a safe city and there are no areas that visitors would be advised not to venture into. However, Melbourne is a spread out city by international standards so it is wise to be aware what is going on around you without being too concerned.
Public transport is an excellent way of seeing Melbourne without having to worry about the often horrendous traffic congestion.