Designing an Inclusive Opal Public Transport Ticketing Experience

  • 2023

  • Design Research

Designed By:

  • Symplicit - K.Diamond, H.Ruiz, S.Passey, L.Rhodes
  • TfNSW - C.Mastrantone, P.Morter-grant, M.Rogers
  • M.Alishah, W.Wright, A.Ryan and P.Kottarathu sasi

Commissioned By:

Transport for New South Wales


Designed In:


Public transport is crucial for many, but ticketing systems can hinder access, negatively impacting a person’s mobility. How do ticketing systems impact people’s experience using public transport? How can we design a transport ticketing system that promotes equity and resilience to ensure that no one is left behind?

  • MORE
  • Transport for NSW (TfNSW) sought to understand the ticketing needs and behaviours of the more than 5 million customers within Greater Sydney who take over 4 million public transport trips each day. The purpose of this initiative was to identify opportunities to reimagine their Opal ticketing network to better support accessible, secure, sustainable, and equitable passenger journeys. The challenge arose as TfNSW, a NSW government agency, needed to ensure that their future ticketing programs would continue to meet the expectations of a Greater Sydney population that is growing in diversity, with changing needs, priorities and vulnerabilities evolving alongside technology.

  • This project used human-centred, mixed methods research to understand how the Opal network can better serve passengers' ticketing needs. Narrative interviews examining lived experience, ethnographic studies, and a survey were conducted with commuters, travellers, and errand runners on the Opal network, including vulnerable community segments. Exploratory qualitative data was analysed, forming insights validated with survey data. A mental model map, personas, and a Transport Resilience Framework were developed to provide an innovative way to empathise with passengers and develop ticketing solutions supporting mobility resilience - the ability to continue to easily move around regardless of a person’s current situation.

  • By reframing ticketing as a crucial experience influencing accessibility, equity, and resilience of public transport passengers, our research empowers leaders in a large government agency to adopt a more empathetic and inclusive approach to designing next-generation ticketing solutions. The research artefacts have been utilised in 9 cross-divisional design workshops to develop a more inclusive, passenger-centric model for the future Opal network, which will result in increased secure, sustainable mobility for users. Furthermore, our design-led approach has raised awareness of passenger-centric design and has inspired other government business areas to embrace similar ways of working.

  • In addition to more conventional human-centric design tools (e.g., personas, mental model maps), this program developed the Transport Resilience Framework which visualises dimensions of passenger resilience related to public transport ticketing. Using interview data collected from vulnerable segments that included people with diverse disabilities, those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, First Nations communities, and those underserved due to location, the Framework conveys how a person’s relationship to ticketing influences their overall mobility resilience. This unique Framework positions a ubiquitous transaction activity against key dimensions of autonomy and choice to reveal how ticketing solutions (e.g., contactless payment) support or impede resilience. The Framework is illustrated as quadrants: - The y-axis represents a user’s autonomy to travel on public transport; the poles are the user’s ability to travel without others’ aid versus the user’s need to depend on others. - The x-axis represents a user’s ability to choose alternative ticketing solutions; the poles are the user’s ability to use multiple ticketing solutions versus the user’s dependency on a single solution. Plotting a user’s experience on the Framework indicates how well the ticketing system supports their overall mobility resilience, thus providing a tool for design teams to extend passenger empathy to include resiliency.