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How Do Trams Work in Melbourne?

They help make Melbourne not only the most liveable city in the world, but also the easiest city in Australia to navigate. This distinction has been held for the past six years running. When visitors arrive in Melbourne, they frequently wonder if and how they will need to purchase tram tickets.

FAQs About Tram In Melbourne

The most important thing for tram travel is a myki card. These can be purchased from machines at train stations, select news agencies, and tram stops with machines. A myki card will cost you $6 and needs to be topped up with the money to travel.

There are no compulsory stops on Melbourne's tram network. Instead, passengers who wish to board should hail the tram as it approaches. In limited cases, where the tram is full, and no onboard passenger has requested a stop, or if the team needs to adjust to a disruption, drivers may pass passengers who hail the tram.

Travelling on trams in Melbourne's city centre is free. Tram stops in the Free Tram Zone are marked. A valid my card is still required if you start or finish a journey outside the Free Tram Zone.

In public transport in the United Kingdom and Australia, hail and ride is boarding or alighting a mode of public transport by signalling the driver or conductor that one wishes to board or alight, rather than the more conventional system of using a designated stop.

There are fixed stops for trams, and you don't have to flag down the tram as they will stop for passengers getting off or on.

Melbourne's Transport Zones

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First, it'll be helpful to understand Melbourne's transport zones. The metropolitan area of Melbourne is divided into three zones:

  • The Free Tram Zone spans much of the Melbourne CBD. You don't need to pay for anything when travelling by TRAM within the zone. For tourists, this is very useful because several tourist attractions are located within this zone. The Free Tram Zone is part of Zone 1. I'll discuss it further in the next section.
  • Zone 1 covers the city centre and some suburbs in the city's outskirts.
  • Zone 2 covers the suburbs farther away from the city centre, including Werribee and Frankston.

These zones dictate the fare. So, for example, a different fare applies when travelling within Zone 1 and Zone 2. But when you're travelling BETWEEN Zones 1 and 2, the fare is the same as travelling within Zone 1.

If you're travelling within the FREE Tram Zone, you don't need to pay anything because it's, well, free.

Free Tram Zone

Free tram rides are a hallmark of a visit to Melbourne, and they are one of the city's best features. Take the tram without buying a pass or a ticket. Those who stay WITHIN the FREE TRAM ZONE can ride for free.

A$4.40 will be charged if either your origin or destination is located outside the zone.

There are a plethora of alternatives once you leave the free tram zone. However, before we get to that, I'd like to introduce the wmyki.

How Does The Myki Card Work?

The myki is a reloadable electronic smart card that can be used on all Melbourne public transit services (bus, tram, and train). This card will allow you to travel freely throughout the city and its suburbs. We can't accept cash anymore, I'm afraid. To use the public transportation system, visitors staying in Melbourne for even a short time will need to purchase a myki card. This is problematic because the myki system is notoriously difficult to understand, especially for visitors.

How Do You Use A Myki Card?

Your myki will be charged for a two-hour fare, and you'll be able to use as much public transport as you like in those two hours.

If you need to make a few more trips later in the day, your myki will automatically update to a daily fare.

Buy a Myki smartcard and top up its stored value with some 'Myki money'. See below where to get a Myki smartcard from.

Once you have your Myki card with Myki money on it:

  • Get on board (best through a door)
  • Validate the Myki smartcard by 'touching-on' on one of the validating machines
  • Sit down (if there is a vacant seat) and then take in the passing scenery.
  • When your stop is approaching, pull on the cord above your head or push one of the driver alert buttons to tell the driver to stop at the next stop.
  • When the tram stops and the doors open, get off.

So how does it work? Well, it works just like Hong Kong's Octopus card or Tokyo's SUICA/PASMO card. You "touch on" the card — hover the card above the reader — before entering the train station or boarding the bus/tram and "touch off" when you reach your destination. But it's a lot more complicated. So here are some important points:

The standard fare is AUD 4.40, which is good for 2 hours — that is 2 hours from the moment you first use or touch on the card. However, if you touch on after 6 pm, the 2-hour fare is valid until 3 am the next day.

The daily fare is AUD 8.80. It is the maximum you can spend per day as long as you travel within Melbourne City (Zone 1) and suburbs (Zone 2). Meaning if you use the card once, you're going to get charged A$4.40 for the first 2 hours. If you use it again after 2 hours, you'll be charged A$8.80, valid for another 2 hours. But if, after 2 hours, you decide to use it again, you will no longer be charged because the A$8.80 daily cap is already reached. Same with succeeding uses on that day. It sort of automatically becomes an unlimited pass.

On weekends, the daily cap is only AUD 6.40. The same reduced rate applies to public holidays.

A 7-Day my Pass is available for only AUD 44. It is a good deal if you're exploring Melbourne for seven days. Note that these are consecutive days.

Passengers 5-18 years old can avail of the 50% concession discount. The card price becomes only A$3, weekday fare A$2.20 for 2 hours, daily rate A$4.40, weekend daily cap A$3.2, and 7-day pass cost A$22. Passengers younger than 5yo can travel for FREE.

You don't need a make when travelling by tram within the FREE Tram Zone. If you have a myki, you DO NOT need to touch your card within the Free Tram Zone. But if your starting or ending point is outside the zone, the A$4.40 2-hour rate will apply.

Where To Buy

Myki smartcards cannot be purchased on trams or at tram stops.

You can buy a Myki Card Online, or at 800+ retailers including all 7-Eleven stores, or the ticket office window at Premium railway stations (those staffed for all trains - which include all stations in the CBD), or staffed V/Line commuter stations or from a blue Myki machine located at all train stations and major tram and bus interchanges.

  • Tram Drivers do not sell Myki cards.
  • Do not risk travelling outside CBD without a validated Myki, as you will be fined if caught (tourist, visitor or local).
  • You can use your Myki smartcard on Trams, Trains and Buses (not Airport Bus).

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Tram Network Map

Use the Metropolitan tram network map to navigate where you want to go. The trick to the map is to locate the point you wish to go from and to and then, using the colours, see the Route #Number and Destination. Then, when you arrive at the tram stop, look a the front of the tram for the number and destination to get on the right tram.

For example, today, we are going from Melbourne (CBD) to Hisense Arena, located within Melbourne Park. The colour line is 'purple' (lighter than the 2), so tracing the line each way, it's easy to see it's the #70 Line going to Wattle Park.

Catching a tram in the CBD may seem a little daunting, but it's easier than it seems. It's only a short walk between the five main tram route streets: Flinders St, Collins St, Bourke St (all running east-west), and Swanston St and Elizabeth St (running North-South).

So plan your journey out of the city by deciding which of the five streets is closest to you.

Plus, there is always the City Circle Tram (ugly brown route) you can use to join two networks, but as already mentioned, all routes are within walking distance of one another.

How To Use Melbourne's Trams, Trains & Buses

Having a lot of available transportation modes is both great and confusing. So how do you know which is the best option for your desired destination?

If you own a smartphone, you can download the PTV app. PTV stands for Public Transport Victoria, the agency that governs and runs the tram, train, and bus systems in this part of Australia.

On the app, enter your origin and destination. If you've allowed the app to use your location, it can show you the station nearest you. It will then present a selection of routes that you may take. Pick one based on your schedule and preferences.

Then follow these:

Train

  • Touch on your myki card as you enter the station. You will find myki card readers at the entrance gates.
  • Head to the designated platform. You'll see the platform number on the PTV app. Also, look for signs to double-check. You'll find the train timetable on the platform. Check out the signs on the train or at the platform to make sure you're boarding the right train.
  • If you're making a transfer, there is no need to touch off the card UNLESS there are barrier gates in between.
  • Touch off your myki card as you exit the station.

Bus

  • Make your way to the bus stop. There usually is a timetable displayed at each stop.
  • When your bus arrives, hop in.
  • Touch on your card as you enter. You'll find the myki readers onboard the vehicle.
  • When you reach your destination, don't forget to TOUCH OFF before alighting the bus.
  • TRAM

Make your way to the tram station. There usually are timetables posted at each stop. Often, there's also a digital screen announcing what trains are coming next and at what time. You can refer to this to make sure you're boarding the right tram.

When your team arrives, hop in. There is NO NEED TO TOUCH ON if you're travelling within the FREE tram zone. If you're travelling Zone 1+2, you must touch on. But you don't need to touch off.

When you reach your destination, there is NO NEED TO TOUCH OFF if you're travelling Zone 1+2 or within the FREE Tram Zone. Touch off only if you're travelling within Zone 2.

IMPORTANT! When travelling outside the free tram zone, don't forget to touch your myki. It's easy to game the system and deliberately skip touching on to save dollars, but please DON'T do it. Unfortunately, it's also easy to forget to touch on. 

But bear in mind that sometimes, ticket officers show up and inspect random passengers' cards. 

If you're caught not paying the right fare, you may be fined around A$250! I've seen this first-hand at Werribee Station. Several ticket inspectors checked the myki of alighting bus passengers.

Other Transportation Options

Of course, the public transportation system isn't perfect. Delays happen, and some stations are sometimes temporarily closed for various reasons. They don't happen all the time, but if you're in a hurry and can afford it, you may take a taxi or Uber.

Uber is generally cheaper than taxis. If travelling within the CBD, you'd prefer walking. Melbourne is a very pretty city, with a distinctly European vibe that other Australian cities don't possess. You'll also stumble upon delightful surprises like artful graffiti and food kiosks.

How To Catch A Tram

Trams help Melburnians and visitors make over 200 million passenger trips a year and are integral to Melbourne's public transport system. Being a champion tram passenger can help us keep the network running to get to your destination on time.

Be A True Champion

We all want to get to where we're going on time, as quickly as possible. Sometimes, trams can be crowded, but being a true champion can smoothly help us reach our destination. See Tram top tips to keep us all moving on below:

Clear Steps

For your safety, A, B and Z-Class trams are equipped with sensors on the steps to prevent the doors from closing when someone is detected on them. For this reason, standing on the steps means the doors can't close, and the team can't depart, so be a champion and keep the steps clear.

Move Inside To Touch On

Be a champion, move right inside the tram, and touch on at any myki reader whenever possible. It helps everyone board smoothly and quickly rather than lining up to use the same myki Readers positioned at the doors. And remember - you don't need to touch off unless your journey starts and ends completely in Zone 2.

Clearing Doorways

Keeping doorways as clear as possible allows other passengers to board and disembark safely and quickly. Be a true champion when waiting at a tram stop, allow space at doorways and let passengers disembark the tram before boarding. Where possible, move right inside the tram cars after boarding to allow space for those boarding behind you, and help the tram depart on time.

Take A Stand

Some people have more of a need for a seat. Be a champion, keep a lookout for your fellow tram passengers and offer your seat to someone who may need it more than you do. Priority seats for ill, injured, pregnant, or accessibility needs are located near doors. Remember that not all disabilities are visible.

Removing Backpacks And Bags

Be aware of your surroundings and other passengers. For example, remove backpacks from backs and place bags out of other passengers' way, on your lap if you're sitting or between your legs, if you're standing.

Know Which Direction

Some people knew the tram number but did not realise the same number tram goes in two directions and looks identical regardless of its direction except for one main change. 

The number stays the same, but the destination on the front of the tram changes. They boarded the tram and went all the way to Box Hill (109) instead of their ferry at Port Melbourne.people walking on sidewalk near white concrete bui

Safety

Melbourne's tram system is the largest in the world, and trams have been an essential part of the city's transportation infrastructure for decades. Given that 75% of our network is subject to interference from other traffic, it's vital that you take a few elementary precautions to ensure your online safety.

It's not uncommon for our teams to have to make an unscheduled stop when they're out on the road and other vehicles are nearby. If you must stand, always have something to hold onto, such as a pole, handle, or strap, and sit whenever possible. When you're near tram tracks, put down the headphones and put away the phone.

Conclusion

You can ride any tram in the central business district for free, not just the city circle tram. The 96 tram from the city is a popular option for tourists because it travels directly into the heart of St. Kilda and also stops in Fitzroy, Brunswick, and Brunswick East on the way back.

You can catch this tram right in the middle of Melbourne's bustling central business district (CBD) and Bourke Street shopping precinct, making it easy to arrange a get-together with locals or fellow travellers.

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