Getting around with Opal

After years of waiting and watching other cities have electronic ticketing gradually rolled out, Sydney has finally joined in on the fun and kicked off the trial of our own smartcard ticketing system, dubbed “Opal”.

Last week the customer trial officially launched, with apparently ~200 people registering interest to get in on the fun. Unfortunately, while this is only covering one ferry route out of the whole ferry, bus and train network, initial impressions are good. By taking their time in implementing Opal across Sydney’s public transport network, they can help sort out any issues that may arise, and avoid any pitfalls that may appear (like the botched roll out of Myki down in Melbourne)

The Opal card itself looks much nicer than other cards from other states, a nice deep black for the adult fare holders, compared to the horrible ‘green’ of the Myki cards used for all in Melbourne. Students, pensioners, etc will have different coloured Opal cards when they are rolled out.

Opal Card IMG_7813

‘Topping up’ your card balance is currently done in three ways; over the phone via credit card, via automatic topups (when your card hits a set balance, your card is automatically topped up) or in person at an Opal retailer.
The current setup at the retailers is simply an ePay terminal with an Opal card reader attached.

Opal Card IMG_7808 Opal Card IMG_7809

Topping up in person at a retailer means the balance hits the card immediately – whereas over the phone (or internet later) may take up to an hour.

Tapping on at a ticket barrier is very quick and smooth.

Just quickly hold your card against the reader and you’re through. Much quicker than the good ol’ paper tickets, or other electronic ticketing systems (though I’ve only personally had a play around with Myki)

Likewise at places without barriers, the standalone readers are very quick to register a card tapping on or off.

However you must remember to ‘tap’. Not wave or swipe your card against the reader, which is probably a more natural movement.

Overall, first impressions are great. I’m looking forward to losing all the paper tickets I’ve been carrying around with me, and having to remember to purchase new ones weekly, etc. Now it’ll just be topping up my card, or setting up an automatic reload. Easy.

From here I’m looking forward to seeing how the roll out of Opal continues.

Some things I’d like to hope were being considered include things like Passbook support:

Opal Passbook Example
For a simple balance check, an app really is just overkill. A passbook pass can support push notification updates etc and are synced between your iOS devices.
I’ve put together how Passbook support could work here.

In the meantime, it’s a matter of sitting tight and waiting for the rollout to continue!

    1. Hey Nick,
      Basically, your ‘credit’ is kept on the card itself. This means when you use the card, it doesn’t have to ‘phone home’ to check your balance, it’s all done between your card and the reader/barrier. Makes the whole process much quicker.

  1. Hey mate…

    I’m hoping you may be able to shed some light on how you developed your passbook pass for your Opal Card. I’ve developed a few myself through third party apps but never been able to have any aspect ‘update’ with push notifications… well at least automatically through an external source like

    Any tips (or at least a copy of your pass which is customisable) would be greatly appreciated.

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