Abolition of Zone 3

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From Sunday 4th March 2007, Zone 3 of the metropolitan fare structure was removed. Some history and outline of this occurrence and its flow-on effect to Metcard is presented here.

During the campaign for the 2002 State election, then Liberal leader Robert Doyle announced on November 6th that, if elected, his Government would abolish Zone 3. He estimated that over a four year period, this would require a subsidy of almost $96 million dollars to the transport operators to offset revenue losses. The Bracks Labor Government (which retained power) critisized this proposal on the grounds that the metropolitan rail system would not be able to cope with the resultant patronage increase.

Moving forward: In the months prior to the November 2006 state election, a number of metropolitan councils in Melbourne's east and south east joined forces to form a transport study group known as the "Eastern Transport Coalition". They carried out a comprehensive survey of travel habits across their regions with some interesting if predictable findings. Their work was designed to persuade the State Government to give serious review to both the metropolitan transport network and the pricing and zonal structure as a whole. Its timing was perhaps no coincidence and its findings could prove a valuable tool for either political party as the councils concerned lie within a string of marginal electorates.

Opposition Leader Ted Ballieu was the first to take aim at the hip pocket announcing that if elected, he would make metropolitan transport free to children and most students. His party costed this proposal at $285 million over a four year period. Tertiary students who funded their own transport costs welcomed the idea, however, more informed sources were alarmed at this frittering and pointed out that it would be better spent on fixing actual transport problems.
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On October 26th, Mr Ballieu sought more favour in this regard by announcing that if elected, he would abolish Zone 3.


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The Bracks Government were left looking empty handed as thus far they had offerd no match to the Liberals' cost savings ideas. Within four hours, Steve Bracks responded that if re-elected, he too would abolish Zone 3. In hindsight it is difficult to gauge how beneficial this pleadge has been to the Bracks Government as they lost two outer eastern metropolitan seats and narrowly retained a third. It is acknowledged that these losses were as a result of other transport issues in the region.


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The abolition of Zone 3 had a flow-on effect to the otherwise cyclic increase in public transport fares which from January 2001 have occurred every twelve months. There is a long lead-up time for the administrative and publicity requirements associated with these annual fare increases. Accordingly, it was announced that the next one would not occur until Sunday 4th March 2007 at which point Zone 3 would cease to exist. A considerable amount of publicity appeared in the print media and across the transport system advising of these changes. On February 2nd 2007, it was announced that the fare increase would be postponed until Sunday 3rd June 2007, however other changes already announced including the removal of Zone 3 would still occur on March 4th.

From the 18th January until the 3rd March 2007, the wording on the rear of metcards was altered to remind patrons of the imminent removal of Zone 3:


Ticket vending machines and station BOM's were both reprogrammed such that they would not sell monthly tickets with a Zone 3 component that would expire after March 3rd. It was originally intended that the same procedure would be applied to weekly tickets (whose sales are much greater). However it was realised that this would disrupt the purchasing habits of so many people, forcing them to que on Monday morning March 5th, that the situation would be intolerable. A special procedure was devised for refunding or replacing tickets witha Zone 3 component but not for tickets available solely in Zone 3 which are now valid in the extended Zone 2. From Sunday 4th March, ticket vending machines would not sell any Zone 3 tickets. If Zone 3 was pressed during the ticket selection process, the machines simply continued to display the "select zone" message. The fascia of TVM's have not been altered, however a number have had hand written notices affixed. Also from the 4th March, the numeral "3" no longer appeared as part of the printing process on any metcards. This has had an effect on the provision of zonal information on the rear of several BOM-generated metcards where Zone 3 was always shown as part of the standard availability of these tickets, namely Sunday Saver and Group Traveller.

Throughout the retail outlet network, all metcards valid for travel in Zone 3 were withdrawn. A new Sunday Saver for Zone 1/2 has appeared. The Fares and Travelling Guide booklet has also been reprinted (dated March 2007) with a similar cover to the 2006 issue. These copies should be treated only as an interim product as they will be replaced effective with the fare rise on Sunday 3rd June 2007.

Lastly, there is perhaps one final consideration that could be given towards the removal of Zone 3 and that is, having now done so, it reduces the recognition and data processing requirements of the forthcoming "myki" smartcard fare payment system.