The Conundrum of Touching Off on Trams.

I've been using trams a bit more this month due to a small change in travel habits.  The major thing I've noticed is the amount of confusion over the requirement to touch off on trams.

So, the way it works is:

There is NO need to touch off on trams, if your entire trip takes place in zone 1, you will NOT be charged a z1+2 default fare the next time you touch on (like on trains).  The majority of tram routes only exist in Zone 1 anyway.  The three main exceptions are routes 75 (City - Vermont South), 86 (City - Latrobe Uni/Bundoora) and 109 (Port Melbourne - Box Hill).  On those routes, if you travel in the zone 2 only portion of the route, you should touch off to receive the lower zone 2 fare.  But this won't effect the vast majority of tram users.

Confused?  Of course.  In fact when explaining to people how it works, inevitably their eyes glaze over as most normal people really don't care, until it actually comes time to touch off.

When a crowded tram pulls up, people start getting off.  Some of them touch off because they think it's required.  Others who know the rules get irritated by the people who don't.  I witnessed several times this week people advising others that they don't need to touch off.  Of course such advice can come in a helpful friendly tone... but, this being Melbourne, some impatient individuals can actually get quite nasty about it, shouting "You don't need to touch off!  You're holding up the tram!"

I've posted on twitter this week about this and a few of my followers have responded by saying "But I like to touch off on trams, so I know I've been charged properly".  Which is fare enough.  But they shouldn't need to.

As usual, it's not the fault of commuters that this situation has arisen, it's the fault of both our Politicians and myki themselves, who implemented a quick a nasty fix to avoid having to touch off.

Let's look at a scenario.

Say your full fare myki has $3.40 left on it.  You get on a tram in zone 1, and touch on.  You travel for a while, and then get off, without touching off.

You then get on another tram.  When you touch on, you get a "declined" message.  What's happened here is you were automatically touched off from your previous trip, and charged $3.50 for a 2 hour fare.  But that's put you into debit and your touch on won't process until you top up again.  Which, of course, you can't do on trams.

The reason people like to touch off on trams is that it's the only current way that you can see you've been charged the right amount, and that you've got enough left to travel for your ongoing journey, perhaps on another tram.  Which, again, is fair enough.

Now lets imagine a world where I developed the myki ticketing system.

In my world, there is a thing known as a "Tram Touch".

When you get on a tram in my world, and touch your card to the reader, you get charged the appropriate fare straight away.  So, if it was your first trip of the day, you would get charged $3.50.  This would be clearly displayed on the reader and there would be no need to touch off.

If you had previously travelled on another tram or train or bus, the "Tram Touch" would simply display $0.00 charged, because you had already been charged that day.

If your "Tram Touch" took place in zone 2, you would only be charged a zone 2 fare.  If you travel into zone 1, you got to do so for the price of a two hour fare, which in my mind is worth it due to how long that would probably take.  And coming home again, because you would be touching on in zone 1 You would get charged the difference between a zone 2 and zone 1 fare, and if it was outside your original two hour fare period you would get get charged a whole 2 hour zone 1 fare.

If you did try and "touch off" on the same tram on the same journey, nothing would happen.  You've already been charged on that tram for that journey, and the reader would simply display a $0.00 dollar amount and your balance.  The second "Tram Touch" would not show on your travel history.

And hopefully people would soon learn that there is no point touching off any more because it actually doesn't do anything.

And sweetness and light would prevail, instead of the current confused state of affairs that is only leading to animosity between commuters.

Who knows.  It might even lead to something called a "Bus Touch".


  1. Another reason that I touch off on trams is that when you subsequently do a "Check Myki" on a ticket machine it will show you the expiry time of your 2-hour fare. If you don't touch off it doesn't show that.

  2. This isn't even mentioning when you get off a tram without touching off, only to get on the exact same one an hour and a half later as it's done a full cycle, only for it to think you're touching off as you touch on, and then locking you out for 5 or 10 minutes.
    A fun thing to have to explain to ticket inspectors.

  3. There are reasons why people might like to touch off. But they are probably not the type who do it at the last second and delay the tram, or miss their stop, as happens. It is the ones who think they must touch off to complete the transaction who cause the problems, so it is clearly about education.

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