New South Wales will trial a digital Opal card saved in your phone or wearable device during 2020, according to information leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald. The trial will enable participants to pay for NSW public transport buses, trains, light rail and ferries as well as taxis and ride-share services like Uber without physically tapping a plastic Opal card or bank/credit card.
Use of an Adult plastic Opal card has been optional for several months since New South Wales enabled all MasterCard, Visa and American Express cards to be able to tap and pay for public transport Opal rides.
The digital Opal card testing trial will similarly be limited to adult fares with associated peak/off-peak, Sunday and multiple trips per week benefits. At this stage it is a unclear whether the digital Opal card will involve minimum extra weekly fees once it is rolled out to everyone as the New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance said:
The digital Opal will be used to pay a nominal fee each week or month for unlimited access to all public and private public transport providers.
In the not too distant future, I envisage a subscription style transport service where people use their Digital Opal cards to pay for a subscription service for transport – like Netflix.
It’s great that New South Wales is innovating with new and more useful ways to pay for transport services. However I hope New South Wales keeps the plastic Opal card as an option because there are quite a few people in the population for whom a digital Opal card would not be practical or easy to use and they shouldn’t be blocked from using public transport.