Our friend Victor is Sydney is about to visit Melbourne and no doubt he will travel on our trams. While Victor has used our Melbourne trams before, here are some tips for him and for others who might visit Melbourne and use our trams.
You have to buy a Myki card, a stored value card as is used by public transport systems all over the world. You can buy them from ticket machines, newsagents, 711s. That is, many many places. They cost $6, or $3 for concession folk and with the maximum full fare of $7.80, cheaper on weekends, in Melbourne for a day's travel on trains, trams and buses, it is not a bad deal at all. If you only use the system once for the day, you will pay the default fare of a two hour ticket at $3.90, much cheaper, but not so cheap if you travel for one stop and have to pay the default fare of a two hour ticket. There is nothing cheaper. That is what you pay and while the day ticket for multiple travel is cheap, a single trip to travel one stop is not.
You touch on. That means you hold the card steady at a reader. Most Myki readers are not very fast. Just be patient and don't wave your card around madly over the reader. That does not help. Hold it still where it is to be read.
When using trams, you must touch on your card. While you can touch off your card, there is no need. The system knows all about you if you touch on a tram with a card. You will pay the default two hour fare and if you touch on again more the two hours later, you will pay the day fare. If touching off your card makes you feel better, do it before the tram has stopped and the doors have started to close.
Yes, doors closing. With the exception of busy city tram stops, you need to be at the door and ready to get off the tram when it stops. You will be taken to the next stop if you stand up once the tram has stopped, try to touch off with you Myki and then get off the tram. Trams are moving beasts and they must move without delay.
There are heaps of customer service folk at major tram stops in the city, but if you need to ask the tram driver a question, keep it concise and direct. It is no good asking such vague questions such as 'where does this tram go?' The destination at the front, rear and both sides tells you this. 'How do I get to...?' is a good start. Note, add the important information, such as the words street, road or suburb. Asking for Fitzroy when you want Fitzroy Street in St Kilda will ensure you go wrong.
I have been left behind at stops, so take it from me, hail the tram, especially if the tram is operating on a street where multiple routes operate. Something like six tram routes pass The Highrise. Should I expect every tram to stop in case I want a tram for that particular route?
Leaving the tram; pull the cord or push the button or check by the indicator that someone else has, even if you are sure the tram will stop. No kittens will be tortured if someone has already done so. If you expected the tram to stop and it didn't because you did not put in the call, it is your fault and no one else's. I too have gone past my stop because I was engrossed in my phone. Again, that was my fault.
Mobile phones can be the enemy of successful tram travel. Which is more important to you at the time? But phones can be your friend for tram travel too. Download the Public Transport Victoria app to your phone, PTV and the Yarra trams app, Tram Tracker or the alternative, Tram Hunter which is my preferred choice for its simplicity. It is hardly objective, but I think the maps and other information on vehicles and at city tram stops are quite helpful to find your way. Another mea culpa. I nearly missed a tram because I was so busy looking at my phone to see when the next tram was due.
After some forty plus years of tram travel, how often I have heard the shriek and stumbling as a tram started off. Surprise! You are on a vehicle that moves. While trams aren't as smooth as trains, they are smoother than buses, but you still need to hang on unless you are young and fit and have good balance. Hand over hand as you move about a moving tram, handrails to hanging straps, or as a last resort a person who is hanging on. Choose a cute one, as I once did on a train as it swayed over a set of points.
Melbourne's tram drivers are quite used to avoiding hitting pedestrians. Why not give it a shot and walk in front of tram, or duck behind, like locals do? The locals mostly know what they are doing. You as a tourist do not. So, yes test out our tram driver skills, and perhaps our public hospital system shortly afterwards.
Boarding a tram. It is foolish to queue up to get on at the narrow front door when big wide doors are open further along the tram. It is not like you have to pay the driver as you board.
If you are an old person with a dodgy knee or lots of wrinkles, you probably will be offered a seat. Mind, if I am reading or looking at my phone or gazing distractedly out the window, I may not notice you. If so, ask and public opinion will be on your side. If you sit near the front door of a tram, that is where all the oldies obsessively like to get on a tram, expect to have to offer your seat.
At many city tram stops and some out of the city are live tram arrival displays. These are only accurate to around two minutes. If you are at a platform stop, then it will be a level surface to board low floor trams. The live tram display indicates by a wheelchair symbol that it is a low floor tram. The wheel chair symbol also means indirectly that the tram will have air conditioning, for heating and cooling.
When there are two trams at a city stop, the first one will be busy and unless you are in a mega hurry, consider getting on the second tram. You will probably get to your destination at the same time, but in much less crowded comfort. Weekdays, off peak, when visitors will be travelling, the trams for individual routes run at between every 8 to 12 minutes.
Our trams are a pretty good form of public transport, so enjoy riding on them but take some care too. As my father once said to me, a tram always rings its bell before it hits you.