Further to my previous post on Opal cards, I’ve had a few more thoughts on the topic:
- Downside risk. If you buy a paper ticket, you’re set – got something to show to the ticket inspectors if they come a-calling, and even if you lose it the Sydney Trains staff are usually happy just to let you through the gates at the other end. With the Opal card, though, if you forget to tap off at the end of your journey (entirely possible at a station with no ticket gates), then you’re charged the full default fare, which’ll set you back up to $8.10 rather than the couple of dollars you were anticipating. If you forget a few times, there goes all the savings you made from the slightly cheaper fares.
- Policing difficulty. Paper tickets are easy to check – they have the journey information printed on them. How do you verify that an Opal card has been tapped on? Unless Sydney Trains has made a significant investment to kit out transit officers with some sort of Opal readers, it seems like they’re relying entirely on the ticket gates as enforcement mechanisms. From what I’ve observed, they work well enough, but what about the stations without gates? Then again, I guess not every station need them for the system to work – the majority of commuters just need to use a gated station at least once in their journey.
- Fashion. Apart from the other reasons I mentioned that people seem to like Opal cards, there’s also the trendy factor. There’s the novelty of using a newish technology for an otherwise mundane activity, and the card itself is fairly aesthetically pleasing. There are even Opal iPhone covers, for heaven’s sake! I suppose marketing the cards to probably Apple product-owning individuals is a good strategy – early adopters all over the place…