The Myki Mates (or Myki Mutes, as on seasoned observer called them, given their reluctance to talk to anybody just yet; perhaps they’ve been ordered to not speak unless spoken to) are out and about at CBD stations.
All the machines have been turned on, which means those of us who were mischieviously holding up multiple Myki or Short Term tickets to the scanners to get them to wake up (and say “Multiple cards presented!”) can now stop doing so.
The big test
As-of Wednesday, a thousand public servants have started using it as part of the final testing phase. They’re meant to be detailing their experiences to the TTA. Whether it means any major changes will be made is unknown as yet, but given the repeated promises the system would be public by the end of the year, I’d assume not.
Continual rumours are that (if everything goes smoothly) the system could be switched-on for the public on November 15th. Who knows if this is true.
My Yearly/Monthly tickets have ran out. On Thursday I bought a weekly, which will expire on Wednesday Nov 11th, as perhaps more than most people, I’ve got an incentive to be using the thing from day one. Theoretically as soon as it’s switched-on, I can start using the Myki card I got in Geelong in March. (Actually I could touch it on now, but it’s not valid for travel, though it may well take my money away.)
Swings and roundabouts
And I must say, despite the delays, despite that I still think the money would have been better spent elsewhere, and that I think it has its faults, now that it’s almost here, I am kinda looking forward to it, because it does actually bring benefits.
- The cards should be more reliable
- So should the scanners/validators, given they have no moving parts
- It’ll be easier to travel by V/Line and within (some) regional cities because you won’t have to buy a new ticket
- Better access to the cheapest fares; getting through station gates will be quicker
- Tram ticket machines will take notes
- It should speed up buses, given how slow it can be to validate a Metcard while boarding
Whether these are all worth the huge price tag is another matter, of course, but even I’m a little taken aback by the sheer amount of doom and gloom around it.
That said, there are a three key things I still think they need to fix:
- I’ve already talked about touching-off on trams and buses (which would require some changes to fares)
- They need to change the scanner sounds so the touch-on and touch-off is different, because people are finding they’re doing one while thinking it’s the other, resulting in being over-charged. Currently the scanners instead distinguish between concession and full fare (as Metcard does), which is useless to passengers
- The scanner speed needs to improve. A month ago I found Bendigo buses were taking 2-3 seconds per scan. There has been a software update since this, but it’s not yet clear if the response time has been cut.
- The web site is clunky, and doesn’t work in Google Chrome (and last week it went down for some hours)
Anyway, we’ll see how it goes in the next week or two.
And when they switch it all on, I plan to be ready.
The Age’s FAQ
The Age got a bunch of information from the TTA and distilled it into an FAQ in today’s paper. It was pretty good, but I think some of it fell victim to the TTA’s spin cycle, and here I humbly offer some comment on the answers that were provided.
What if I decide I do not want myki once I have bought it?
You can cancel it, but it will cost $9.80.
Alternately you could use up the balance, then chuck it away; then it would only be costing you the original purchase price.
The $9.80 fee only applies if you want a refund on money on the card.
Can I remain anonymous?
Not if you want all the benefits offered by myki.
True, but if you’re paranoid, the benefits probably aren’t compelling. An anonymous Myki is much the same as most tickets now (except more expensive) – not registered/protected against loss.
What will happen to the existing system, Metcard?
It will run alongside myki for at least six months, probably longer. It could theoretically remain until 2012.
Assume this is the TTA’s spin talking. We already know the rollout will happen mode-by-mode, line-by-line. At some stage Metcard validators will still be around, but you won’t be able to buy a Metcard anywhere, only use the ones you already have. And those will then run out. So it’s not like it’ll still be a choice most people can make.
How do you use myki?
By holding the microchipped card within five centimetres of a reader at train station entrances…
hahahaha! Now, I checked this one with the reporter. The TTA told him this.
No way is it five centimetres. It’s more like five millimetres.
Do I have to touch off?
No, but if you do not you will be penalised – at a minimum you will pay $2.02 extra on a two-hour zone one ticket.
In general if you don’t touch off, they assume you went to the end of the line (or travelled in both zones on the train system). If you were going to be paying the same anyway (eg the two-zone fare), then arguably there’s no point in touching-off.
If I top up my card, will the money be added immediately?
Only with cash. It will take up to 24 hours for the money to be available on your card if you top up by credit card. And if you add money via BPay, you will wait up to five days.
Whoops! The Fares and Ticketing Manual says if it’s done on the system, even with a card, it’s instant. On the web, call centre etc, it may take up to 24 hours, depending on when the scanners (many of which are mobile, on trams, buses etc) get the update from the central servers to say it’s happened.
A post on a discussion forum suggested updates to station machines might be every couple of hours (since they’re all hard-wired onto the system), and vehicles may get updates by wireless connection if and when they pass depots, but certainly when they go into depots (which could be as little as once-a-day). Probably similar for the handheld scanners used by V/Line conductors and bus/tram/train Authorised Officers.
Place your bets
So, who wants to bet what happens next?
Running in Melbourne in the next couple of weeks?
Some fatal flaw found and embarrassing delay until after the New Year?
Will it mostly work, or be a big FAIL?