An Inconvenient Opal Card

Opal card fresh from mail

I finally received my Opal card in the mail today after waiting for it for over a week. Sure, I ordered it on a weekend, but it’s not like anyone takes trains on a weeke–Oh.

Regardless, what’s important is that it finally arrived, and I hope it can make some difference to my travel expenses that have been slowly creeping up. Say what you like about the wages rising in Australia so it’s justified that the cost of living is also high, or vice versa — when it’s all said and done, there are still those that earn too little to pay such extravagant public transport fees on top of it all.

As I’ve been stewing this past week, I’ve pondered on why Australia’s system couldn’t be like Hong Kong’s Octopus card where you can immediately purchase and use your card, not to mention top it up and use it immediately without having to wait 60 minutes for it to go in.

True, Hong Kong’s Octopus card costs $40HKD upfront to purchase, but this is the equivalent of $4-5AUD and you can get this money back if you sell back your Octopus card as my parents and brother did before we left, though I kept mine. I would much rather pay an additional $5 if it means real convenience, and much more for HK’s quality of service I witnessed. Opal cards may be tied to the user, but with the cheap transport costs in HK, even if you did lose your Octopus card, at the most you’d lost a couple of hundred HKD, or maybe $40AUD.

I’ve nicknamed my Opal card ‘Octopus’, as if I’m still hoping that Australia could somehow catch up with HK’s system, despite Australia designing it for Hong Kong to begin with, but it’s all just a pipe dream. Bring in a subpar system a decade late? Sounds like Australia..


@BeauGiles on Twitter posted a comment in response today (2014-04-08):

@hanezawakirika noticed one can't comment on posts ;) But later in the trial you'll be able to buy Opal at retail

That’s certain a relief to hear, but introducing this late as well as the convoluted system in general feels like it may have scared away the potential early adopters, especially those that have used other systems overseas…