What is a GO card?

The GO card is your link to public transport in South East Queensland operated by a company called TRANSlink.

The idea behind the  GO card is easy: Always touch on and touch off and get charged automatically. Whenever you enter a bus or a train station hold your card close to a box with the translink sign. It will beep a single time and give you an optical signal blinking green if you are a regular paying adult or beep twice blinking yellow if you are a child, senior, person with a disability, etc. eligible to be owner of a concession entitlement card. If you leave your vehicle of transportation touch your card again on the box and see on a display how much you were charged and how much money is left on your GO Card. The area in which TRANSLink offering its service is divided in different zones. The more zones you are traveling through, the higher the price of your ticket. On www.translink.com.au you can check in advance your travel route, details about your arrival and departure times as well as the prices. To travel between 9am and 3.30pm, 7pm until 2am on weekdays, plus all day on weekends and on public holidays saves you 20 per cent (known as off-peak discount). The GO card is available at many newspaper agencies and train stations with service points and will cost 5 dollar deposit. You can recharge it automatically if it is linked to your bank account or you recharge it like a prepaid card for your mobile phone with an amount of your desire.

Sounds not too complicated, he? Of course there are some details to make it more interesting: Unlike in Berlin, no ticket has a validation for a whole month or a year but you may travel for free after your 9th journey in a 7 day period (Monday to Sunday) regardless of the zones travelled. Question: What is a journey? A journey consists of one or more trips. If you go from A to D, stopping in between at B and C for example to change from bus to ferry or train, is it defined as 3 trips but only as one journey unless you wait longer than 1 hour between your trips or you get off at one zone and continue your travel in a zone which is not the same or adjoining. The maximum time for a journey is 5 hours and your final transfer has to be started after 3,5 hours. In every other case it counts more as one journey (and you probably have to pay a higher price).

The zone concept is neither very transparent nor fair in my opinion. When I took the bus from the suburb Indooroopilly to the City Centre, it payed about 4 dollar 50 Cent in peak time crossing 2 or 3 zones. The distance is less than 8 km. A journey from Indooroopilly to Robina at the Gold Coast is more than 90 km far away and necessitates to cross 14 zones. Costs are about 12 dollar 30 cent regular or 9 dollar 70 cent off-peak which obviously is a good deal.

Summed up I have to admit that the GO card works well, speeds up the progress of people getting on a bus although slowing down a bit getting off again. There is one flaw in the whole system I immediately recognized due to my unbeaten talent of smart analysis: Imagine you have a GO card with the minimum required 2-3 dollar credit on it but travel from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. You touch it off and see on the display that your card needs to be recharged quickly because you can’t even fully pay your recent journey. Don’t worry as long as you don’t use this card any further because you don’t have to pay than you have credit on your GO card. And that’s the snag: Five dollar card deposit plus three dollar minimum credit on your card sum up to eight dollars you have to invest as minimum before you can travel anywhere but that’s already enough even for the most expensive journey. If you are a commuter traveling long distances with a fee of 12, 20 or more dollar per journey, you could always buy a new GO card and forget about the old one having a minus of some dollar which you normally had to recharge first plus some dollars more for your next journey but this method is not very common in Australia, Jason said. Might be – in Berlin I can clearly foresee this flaw massively exploited if the GO card should ever hit Germany. An easy change could be to raise the card deposit from 5 to 30 dollar – problem solved!