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Melbourne: Public Transportation
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Melbourne's Tullamarine International Airport is situated 21 Kilometres from the city centre.
A taxi to or from the City may be expected to cost between A$50 and $60, depending on the traffic and time of day - as higher charges are made at night. Travel time to the city CBD is normally about 20 to 30 minutes, but during peak periods can be above 50 minutes.
While Melbourne has an impressive metropolitan public transportation system, it is, unfortunately, one of a decreasing number of major cities on earth without a rail line between the airport and the city, There is however Route 901 SmartBus that departs from Bay 7 at the north end of the Qantas/ Jetstar domestic terminal (arrivals level - ground floor) every 15 minutes on weekdays until 2100 hours and later on weekdays and all weekends has a half hourly frequency. From 1 January 2015, fares are A$3.76 (adult fare) for a one way trip using a myki smartcard (purchase these at the airport for A$6 adults; A$3 concession). Travellers transfer to and from frequent Metro suburban trains at Broadmeadows railway station, See www.ptv.vic.gov.au
There is also the SkyBus that offers transport from and to Melbourne Airport and a major City interchange point at the Southern Cross railway station bus interchange (near the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets) for $18 per adult one-way ($30 return). A benefit of using SkyBus is the SkyBus Hotel Transfer Service, which, at no additional charge, can transport SkyBus users from and to Southern Cross station bus interchange and drop off points at or near most city accommodation. This transfer does not run 24 hours a day.
There are also many private buses offering transport between the Airport and the districts around Melbourne, (including the nearby suburban and the [not so near] country areas from which they originate.) There are also a number of shuttle buses that run directly from the airport to inner city hotels, avoiding the need to change busses at Southern Cross station. They depart from departure Zone L, which is a 10 metre walk from the SkyBus departure point, outside the international terminal. The shuttle busses serve a larger area of the inner city than SkyBus, so may be useful for people not staying in CBD hotels or who do not wish to change buses. Prices range from $18 to $25 depending on the location. The two main tourist shuttle companies are Starbus and VHA Airport Shuttle.
For travel on the public transport network, full fare myki smart-cards (see below) can be purchased and their stored value topped up at machines installed in Terminals 2, 3 and 4.
Visitors may purchase a myki Visitor Value Pack from the SkyBus Terminals at Melbourne Airport and the Best of Victoria Information Booth in the international arrivals hall. Concession, Child or Australian Seniors myki Visitor Value Packs may also be purchased at these outlets.
Full fare myki cards may be purchased from drivers and used on bus routes 901 (SmartBus to Frankston) - or local area routes 478 (Moonee Ponds), 479 (Sunbury to Moonee Ponds) that serve Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport (at the extreme Eastern end of the Airport, outside Terminal 1). As noted abovem, buses on the 901 route run every 15 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends, connecting with Metro trains at Broadmeadows railway station. This is a cheaper alternative to the SkyBus, although total travel times to the City will be at least twice as long during the offpeak, but often very competitive during peak periods because of road traffic congestion adversely affecting Skybus. See www.ptv.vic.gov.au
Cruise Ship Arrivals
For cruise ship passengers arriving at Station Pier, myki smartcards (see below) can be purchased at the Beacon Cove IGA supermarket beside the Port Melbourne tram stop across from Station Pier. myki Visitor Value Packs may be available at a counter setup inside the cruise terminal. The 109 is the only tram route from and to Station Pier and will take you into the CBD. The return journey may be made on the 109 tram from stops in Collins St, with the tram's destination indicated as being to Port Melbourne.
A taxi from Station Pier to Federation Square, at the edge of the CBD, should cost approximately $12. Hence, taking taxis in both directions may be slightly cheaper for a couple than the purchase of two myki cards, and even less if they can share a taxi ride. Remember that, apart from the free City Circle tram route and the free CBD tram zone (the latter introduced on 1 January 2015), a myki card will be necessary if, later in the day, you intend to use public transport to travel within or outside the CBD.
In general, Melbourne's Public Transport is efficient, inexpensive, safe and extensive. The system comprises trains, buses and trams (including two conversions of former rail lines that are now akin to 'light rail'). 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 a tram every 3-12 minutes, on weekends about every 12-15 minutes until nightfall when 20 minutes is a typical wait. The free City Circle tram goes around the Central Business District, including Docklands while travel on other trams (but not buses or the railway City Loop) is now free within in Melbourne's CBD.
All railway station platforms are accessible by either ramps or lifts – sometimes both. City stations and some newer or busier suburban stations are also equipped with escalators. Hence, you should never need to carry luggage on a staircase – still an unfortunate necessity in some other cities.
Central Business District (CBD) Free Tram Travel Zone
Tram travel [but NOT travel on buses and trains] is now free within the Melbourne "CBD". This CBD free travel zone is an area approximately bounded by, Flinders Street, Spring Street, La Trobe Street and extending to the Docklands waterfront, plus the tram routes in Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street up to Victoria Street - where the Queen Victoria Market is located.
If travelling wholly within the CBD free travel zone do NOT touch on with a miki. If you do touch on, your card will be debited with the minimum two hour charge, even though travel within this zone is ostensibly "free". (This appears to be a failure on the part of those who have programmed the myki system but, as yet, there has been no plan announced to rectify this defect.)
Fares and the myki Smartcard
The public transport network is divided into two fare zones. Zone 1 covers all the inner suburbs, (virtually) all of the tram network and extends approximately 10-15 Kilometres out from the Central Business District (CBD). The middle and outer suburbs are within Zone 2, but from 1 January 2015 travel across the two zones became cheaper as a Zone 1 plus 2 two hour, daily or periodical fare became the same as a standalone Zone 1 fare. The even cheaper Zone 2 fares have been retained for local middle distance and outer suburban travel.
The public transport fare system in Melbourne (and extended to the V/Line short distance rail country commuter belt, but not to the longer distance train lines or connecting V/Line coaches) uses a smartcard known as myki (pronounced 'my-key'). This is comparable to the various smartcards used in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and some USA cities. There is a non-refundable upfront cost - for the myki card - of A$6 for adults and A$3 for concession holders (typically children, Australian Seniors, students and Australian welfare recipients). Adult "Senior" overseas visitors are not eligible for concession fares. As the upfront cost is not refundable, this differs from some overseas systems. .
It must be emphasised that no single journey tickets are available so a myki “stored value” smart-card must be used for even the shortest journey on public transport - except in the CBD free travel zone. Also, since a myki card and the credit on it is not refundable, unlike in some other systems, a visitor may need to leave "Marvellous Melbourne" with their myki card and the "value" stored therein as a "souvenir".
Myki cards can be purchased and "topped up" 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 at major tram and bus interchanges. (While the machines issue only full fare myki cards they may be used to “top up” any myki card. They accept most Australian coins, Australian currency notes up to $50 plus major credit and debit cards.)
The minimum top up value is $1, except online - where the minimum top up value is $10. The maximum top up value is $250
They can also be purchased and topped up (with cash only) 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 at the extreme northern end of the Airport, outside Terminal 1). The 901 route runs every 15 minutes on weekdays until 2100 and half hourly on weekends and between 2100 and about midnight on weekdays, connecting with Metro trains at Broadmeadows railway station. While this is a cheaper alternative to the SkyBus, a journey to the CBD may take two to three times as long, except during peak periods - when the tollway and freeway used by SkyBus can become extremely congested. See http://ptv.vic.gov.au/timetables
Myki cards 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. In such cases, an option is to purchase at myki online before your visit and to have a card posted to your home or to your friend/relative's address.
Myki smart cards 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 journeys) within a two hour period, a day or week (called '7 days' in the myki brochures). Holders of Australian Seniors' cards receive discounted daily travel. Seniors' myki cards are valid anywhere on the public transport system, except Skybus.
As a guide, from 1 January 2015 the cost of travel in Zone 1 (adult fare) varies from $3.76 for two hours to $7.52 for all day travel (i.e. More than a single two hour period.). This compares favourably with the cost of purchasing “All Day” travel passes in many other cities and the maximum charge is levied only if your miki is used for more than a single two hour period.
On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the maximum daily fare for any adult fare passenger anywhere in Melbourne is $6.00.
If you “top-up” through the myki telephone call centre (1800 800 007) or through online means but then do not use it on the transport system for 90 days, that top up credit will be archived and will be unavailable for use at a myki terminal until about 24 hours (at least) has elapsed after you then 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.
(The reason for this is that it is necessary for the value concerned to be stored on the myki card as well as being known to the system. The only way in which the value on the miki card can be updated is to physically present it to an updating device/terminal.)
Myki Visitor Value Pack
A further option for visitors is a myki Visitor Value Pack, which includes discounts to various Melbourne attractions. These are available from the SkyBus terminals at Melbourne Airport, Southern Cross railway station and the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square. Please note that myki cards cannot be used on the commercial service provided by Skybus to and from Melbourne Airport. However, myki cards are valid on the slower local buses and on the semi-fast and frequent Route 901 SmartBus, which arrives and departs from a stop at Bay 7 outside Terminal 1 - at the extreme Eastern end,: see www.ptv.vic.gov.au
The myki Visitor Value Pack should also be available from the concierge at any good Hotel and also at Backpackers Hostels.
The Visitor Pack includes:
* a full fare (or concession/child/Australian 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, possibly saving visitors up to more than $130
* a protective myki wallet designed by a 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.
Using the System
As noted above, If travelling wholly within the CBD free (tram) travel zone there is no need to have or use a myki. However, if you do have one, do NOT touch on, because you WILL be charged if you do.
Outside the CBD free (tram) travel zone, there is no need to worry about zone boundaries or how long you have travelled, since the myki system automatically calculates the "best available" fare for your journey.
Except for travel wholly within the CBD free travel zone, whenever you travel, you must validate your myki at a railway station barrier or “reader”, or on board a tram or bus, by “touching on." From 1 January 2015 with the merging of Zones 1 and 2, it is no longer be necessary to touch off on buses, trams or at railway stations unless you are making a local Zone 2 only journey or a V/Line trip.
If in doubt, always “touch-off”.
On buses, you need to “touch-on” with your myki at a lime green coloured "reader" near the front entrance door, close to the driver. (There may be two of these “readers” at a bus entrance door.) Buses should be entered only via the front entrance door and should be exited via the rear exit door, "touching-off" at one of the "readers" near this exit door. This allows the free movement of passengers attempting to enter at the same time as others are leaving.
On trams, there are several lime green coloured “readers” near each door. At railway stations, there are myki “readers” or barriers at the entrances and exits. Remember to ”touch-on” and “touch-off” each time. This enables the myki system computers 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 “reader” for a few seconds, until you hear a “beep" - or two "beeps" if a "concession" card is being used. The display will (very briefly) show the current value on the card - plus, if you “touch-off”, the cost of the journey you have just completed. At railway stations the barrier (if any) will then open.
Do not “swipe” or merely “tap” the card against the “reader”, as this will not give sufficient time to complete the transaction.
Be aware that your myki card must have a positive balance for you to commence your journey each time. So, if you know that your balance is small, check how much is deducted for each journey.
A two hour journey purchased by touching on your loaded myki in the evening - after 6pm (1800) - is valid for the remainder of the night.
After (approximately) midnight Sunday -Thursday, you may need to hail a taxi, since public transport stops running after (roughly) midnight. Public transport FROM the city runs until about 0100. However, through the early hours on Saturdays and Sundays there are Night Rider buses available (all departing from Swanston Street near St Paul's Cathedral). Myki is valid for NightRider buses. (See http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/...
Fare evasion has been rampant in Melbourne. Visitors may be tempted to try to get away without having a validated myki card, especially on the 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 $217. Giving an inspector (known as an "authorised officer") the tourist excuse of "I did not know" may 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 they are no more invasive or oppressive than in any city elsewhere in the world.
Having said that, Melbourne's public transport should meet the needs of most visitors and is a good way of seeing the city, with someone else doing the driving.
Many of the sights and places of interest in Melbourne are easily within walking distance of each other. So, if you are seeking to save money or simply to have some exercise after a night of drinking and noshing on meat pies, get out and walk. There really is 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 small side-streets and alleys which abound in Melbourne.
Another good thing to do is to explore Melbourne city by using one of the 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 of these stops. Ask at the Information Centre at Federation Square for a brochure detailing the places of interest or download one on-line. (See http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/visi... However, this bus service now has a $5 all day fare for Adults, but Children (under ten years of age) can travel for free.
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 old W Class types - with some of them now being more than 70 years old. The route is usually busy and the 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 it now 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 practices of some of 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 into which visitors would be advised not to venture. However, by international standards, Melbourne is a spread out city - with parkland and open areas. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of what may be going on around you, without being too concerned.
Public transport can be an excellent way of seeing Melbourne without having to worry about the often horrendous road traffic congestion.
Visitors should note that, in common with other transport systems, maintenance and improvement of public transport (and road) infrastructure often takes place in the Summer holiday period. This may result in the curtailment of services, delays and the replacement of Train or Tram services by Buses - as a temporary measure. In Melbourne, this period occurs after Christmas and, often, throughout most of January.
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