Transport for NSW will be rolling out digital Opal cards for use on smartphones and wearables in 2020, according to a new report by the Sydney Morning Herald.
The NSW government has confirmed it will be trialling the tech next year, and those involved in the test will be able to use their phone or wearable’s digital wallet to pay for all forms of public transport, as well as selected private services such as taxis and Uber, says NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
The digital card will charge users at the same rate for fares and provide the same benefits as using a physical adult Opal card, such as off-peak pricing and daily and weekly travel caps, however it won’t support concession holders initially.
It’s like Netflix, but for Uber
The move follows in step with the Transport Minister’s vision for a future where all modes of transport can be paid for digitally.
"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," Mr Constance said.
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It’s unclear exactly what a subscription-style public transport system could look like, but Mr Constance suggested it could involve a regular weekly or monthly fee being deducted from a linked bank account.
"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."
The Opal card network operates public transport in the Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hunter and Illawarra regions.
While paying for travel through a smartphone wallet or wearable may be great news for some, it does perhaps raise questions about the accessibility of this future for others. Transport for NSW has suggested that users who don’t have digital devices will still be able to travel with their Opal or debit/credit card on the public transport network.