Ultimate Opal Hack Day 5: Hacking is in the genes

Angus Kidman 3 June 2016


One final hack for the week in honour of my grandfather.

Throughout this week, finder.com.au editor-in-chief Angus Kidman is undertaking the Ultimate Opal Hack to celebrate the imminent end to free Travel Reward journeys for Opal customers. Learn about why he's doing it and what's involved.

The picture above shows my late grandfather's handwritten travel itinerary for Friday 18 July 1986, almost 30 years ago. Rising at a suitably early hour, he caught the 6am service from Wick to Inverness. Then he switched to the 10:25am from Inverness to Aberdeen. Finally, he boarded the 1pm service from Aberdeen to Stirling, arriving in time for dinner. I hope he enjoyed some haggis.

I mention all this because throughout the week people have been asking me: why are you doing this? Part of the answer is that I really do want to highlight what a good deal you can get from the Travel Reward on Opal right now. But part of the answer is that it's genetic. My grandfather caught trains all day when he could. My father caught trains all day when he could; his jaunts across Europe in 1976 and 1983 are equally the stuff of family legend.

So I'm just carrying on the tradition. Blood tells. As I've already said once this week, "it's the journey, not the destination". Plus , we all have Scottish ancestry (my grandfather was visiting his mother's birthplace during his holiday) so frugality is a given.

Timetable cramming is also a given. When I planned this trip, I feared that Opal hacking might be dead as soon as July (the earliest possible date for price changes). The only week in June I could manage it was the one just passed, and even that was a stretch because of my insane schedule. In the nine days to today, I'll have also been in four different Australian states, and that means that the final journey I need to make with my Opal card is to Sydney Airport.

Except I can't do that. My key accomplishment this week has been to go everywhere I want for just $19.72. If I hit the airport station, I'll have to pay a platform access fee of $13.40, nearly doubling my bill in a single hit.

Hence, my final Opal Hack for the week is to get off one station earlier, at Mascot Domestic, and take a 20-minute walk to the domestic airport instead. That's a free trip I can't resist. (The alternative is the also-free-after-eight-trips 400 bus, but getting onto the route for that would be more trouble and more time-consuming from my CBD office than the walk from Mascot.)

Angus at Mascot

Between now and 5 September, when the Travel Reward disappears, I'll keep Opal hacking. I might sneak in the odd weekend trip to Newcastle or Goulburn. I might cover off the ferry extremities I didn't do this week, like Watson's Bay or the Stockton Ferry. I won't catch a bus to the Northern Beaches or Rouse Hill, because there are limits to anyone's suffering. But even come September and the new rules, I'll be sticking to my Scottish principles: if you can get something you enjoy cheaply, why not?

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2 Responses to Ultimate Opal Hack Day 5: Hacking is in the genes

  1. Default Gravatar
    Helen | June 8, 2016

    Good for you, Angus. I haven’t opal-hacked until just recently. I sort of felt that it was not within the spirit of the rules. That changed a few weeks ago when a broken down bus necessitated a bus-switch and the driver insisted we should not tap on and off (which was incorrect). Whammo, two no-tap off $4.50 charges on my account counting as zero journeys INSTEAD of my $3.50 trip 7. This meant my JUST TOPPED UP WITH $10 Opal card was out of cash, and I still hadn’t done my 8 trips for the week. I tried to fix it with the opal people, but they’d have none of it — apparently a side effect of the broken down bus was that neither bus 1 nor bus 2′s journey registered until the following week, so rather than give the customer benefit of the doubt, the customer would have to go out of pocket for OPAL’S MISTAKE. Meaning, I’d have to front up money to the opal people for my 7th and 8th journeys (planned for two $6.88 train/bus rides) and then TRY to get the $9 back, PLUS the $6.88 fares back, at some point. Having previously had no success when being charged incorrectly for journeys 7 and 8, in getting those charges fixed, I wasn’t going to front them ANY more cash than the $5.50 ($9-$3.50) I figured they’d already stolen from my account.

    I sat at home and stewed all weekend, missing several engagements I’d had planned for 60 days, because another $20 on opal just wasn’t in my ethical budget. Of course, I still had to get to work on Friday, so I admit it, I blatantly fare-dodged, telling drivers who recognised me, “Look, you know I commute my transit every day. There’s a problem with my opal journey count and balance and I’m trying to get it fixed.” They waved me on, having had plenty of experience with a poorly-functioning opal system in their buses, and therefore believing my explanation of an accounting mistake with my card. And in between, I called and re-called opal, trying to talk sense into them, and failing.

    And I determined… until next September, I will opal-hack every Monday of every week to cost them a total of several hundred dollars in lost fares, just because they wrecked 3 days of my year by refusing to correct an error in fare accounting for my card.

    On Mondays, I go in an hour early ($3.50), stop for coffee, and then take a bus 1 stop to work ($2.10). 2 journeys down. At 4 other times during the day, I walk out the building to the bus stop, take a 2 block bus ride ($2.10), and enjoy a nice walk back to work. That takes me up to 6 journeys. Maxing out my $15 daily cap with my last bus ride of the day, from work to home, I hit journey 8 on Tuesday morning with the bus in to work ($3.50). $18.50, and my travel is free for the rest of the week.

    Doing this for only two weeks so far, I’ve met any number of other opal-hackers who frequent the same stop, and make the same walk back to the same building in which I work. Talk on the way back this week was of when we’d heard the cut-off date for the hack would be.

  2. Default Gravatar
    waldowhere | June 5, 2016

    Getting to the 400 bus is not difficult or time consuming. After getting off of train at Mascot Suburban, just walk one and-a-half blocks along Burke Street (in the same direction as if walking all the way to the airport) and turn into Coward Street. The stop is less than 100 metres along Coward Street. Botany Council even has a bus shelter there for the times when there is some light rain. On weekdays the 400 towards Burwood comes about every 20 minutes. Then it is 1 stop to the domestic terminal, which is outside he Qantas Domestic arrivals. I do it once q fortnight and save quite a lot. The same can be done easily in reverse.

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