Myki: the cases for and against

Myki and OysterIt’s a year today since Myki was switched-on in Melbourne. There were a lot of problems on day one, and many others have been highlighted in the last twelve months.

In today’s Herald Sun, Paul Mees argues Myki should be scrapped and replaced with a system from elsewhere, such as Perth’s SmartRider.

I argue that while it was a bad idea to build it, it may now be too late to scrap Myki; to do so now may waste $700 million, and it should be kept — but only if problems with it can be fixed cost-effectively.

Equally, a decision to keep myki must only be made if it can be made to work properly, and without going further over budget. We don’t want to be throwing good money after bad.

Slow and inconsistent readers, beeps that can barely be heard, reliability problems with vending machines and cards, slow online transactions, and incorrect charging have all plagued the system, and must be fixed.

So must design problems that make the system unfriendly to use: beeps for “touch-on” and “touch-off” that are indistinguishable, touch-offs on buses resulting in queues at doorways, and a plan for single-use short term tickets to require activation if bought from stations but not on trams and buses (which would inherit a problem from Metcard that enormously confuses occasional users).

I came to this conclusion after considering the key facts that while it’s had problems this year, the system largely works now; and most of the capital costs have already been spent, meaning it would be a huge waste of money to scrap it (and would probably cost more to find a replacement, though Mees disagrees on this).

Of course it makes sense that it’ll be the government’s full audit of the system that will determine what happens from here. Will be very interested to see what it says.

PS. People may have forgotten, but Metcard had big problems in its early years too. What’s that saying? Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

29 replies on “Myki: the cases for and against”

Mees is right on most stuff, but he’s wrong on this: the second chapter of A Very Public Solution explains the issue of infrastructure & technology fetishism which Melbourne has a particularly severe case of (solved by having three quarters of DoT taken out the back and shot). Mees himself is a little too far at the opposite extreme of technophobia – there’s nothing wrong with deploying reliable technology where this delivers an appropriate and cost effective solution. There’s also nothing wrong with dabbling a bit in bleeding-edge technology – by all means experiment if it’s cost-effective and low-risk to do so – but putting mission critical stuff like revenue collection and a billion bucks behind something like Myki is just nutty, and we said so at the time.

Agree, Daniel.
I like the fact that I only have one card in my wallet and not several.
All I have to do is touch on and touch off – MYKI does the calculations for you.
For all its faults, keep and improve MYKI.

I thought the ‘voice of the people’ sidebar in the Hun article yesterday said it all.

From memory, eight people were interviewed. NONE had any problems with Myki. Three used Myki and praised its convenience. Three didn’t use Myki – not because they’d tried it – but because they were famiiliar with Metcard and were concerned at the stories of problems. Two didn’t use, or rarely used, public transport.

This didn’t stop the Hun from a relentlessly negative article.

If they are looking for issues with myki, I’ve some suggestions:

1. Reader next to the front door of trams – remove them or angle them to encourage people to get out of the way. Or remind them of the numerous other readers in the tram – they all do the same thing. And have more advice regarding touching off on trams – as far as I’m aware (see #2), there’s no need unless you’re only in Zone 2.

2. Train staff. As far as I know, not one single tram driver has had anything beyond junk mail in their letterboxes.

I think this is a situation where the Lib’s are right on the money. It might cost a fortune to scrap the system and implement a new off the shelf solution, it might cost considerably less than $700million, until the audit is done we won’t know.

Agreed, most of the wrinkles have been ironed out, the larger portion of the money is spent (yes, too much) but it seems to work really well for The Spouse and offspring.

I got my Myki in early August and I love it. It’s much more convenient than Metcard, doesn’t get bent and isn’t easily lost. I’ve had very few problems with it overall and almost none in the last couple of months. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those dogging it don’t actually use it, that’s often the way.

I got my Myki for free when it first came out, used it, got pissed off with how useless it was and threw it in the back of my cupboard.

A few months later I realised that most of the Myki bugs had been fixed and I pulled it out of the cupboard.

The fact you can put an automatic top up on the card means you never have to worry about having loose change for a ticket, or running to a 7-11 to buy one. Also always getting the cheapest fare is good, be it a weekend, 2 hour or day pass fare.

I am surprised that one of the most basic actions of the card (it being read by the tap on machines) still needs to be worked on though, I quite often need to try a couple of times before it works.

Myki is not even colse to London’s Oyster card system, however it’s still ok and a few tweaks will make it pretty good.

I also love it when at the bigger suburban stations (like Footscray), they swing the fences open for people to bypass the terminal… but MyKi users have to turn around and walk back IN the terminal to Touch Off their Myki.

Love it.

I have been using a myki since my yearly ran out in the middle of Nov (sadly, no full time job = no more yearly). I have actually had few problems with it, just one or two annoyances. I manually top up though; still wary of the auto/website topup!

Once I got used to opening my wallet slightly to get rid of the influence of my student card, I’ve rarely had trouble touching on or off. The only thing I would change, as rob hinted above, it to change the angle of the readers, but at train stations, to suit the traffic flow. Having them at 90 degrees to the flow means you have to turn (or more often, stop) to see what’s going on.

Another solution would be two on each pole (or two poles close) pointing in opposite directions, or at 90 degrees, as appropriate. At my home station, where the exit is like a t-junction, to touch off you have to turn 180 degrees, and touch off while standing in the middle of the narrow stream of people, then turn back 90 and continue. It would be better to have them facing so that you could touch off as you are approaching.

That and different touch on and off tones would make it fine.

From what I can see (and I don’t have much more of an insight than that), there’s absolutely no need to scrap the Myki hardware. Most of the issues seem to be software ones; the only hardware thing that annoys me is the sunlight unreadable screens on the on-tram devices. Generally, it seems like the hardware is over-specced for the job.

(That’s of course assuming the problems with reading aren’t that the cases are badly designed — even then, they might be fixable).

I hope they’re not stupid enough to scrap the hardware because they don’t understand where the boundary lies with the software.

$10 per card is to much.

Me, wife & 3 kids – thats $50 just for the cards.

Wish I got em when they were free – but I didn’t.

I have been using myki for a few months now and I have had very little trouble with it. I have only used a pass and not spent any of my myki money yet except for the 2 times it mistakenly charged me 8 cents for traveling into zone 2 on a weekend. I find it very easy to use as I just place my wallet by the scanner to touch on and off, no need to remove the card from my wallet.

I wonder how long the plastic scanners will last in this cruel world. Many of them are already badly scratched and I saw one with a deep cigarette burn on the screen. With another year or so of use they will probably be very shabby looking. The top up machines seem to be constructed much more durably out of stainless steel with glass screens. When the scanners do finally need to be replaced they should be made from more sturdy materials to last at least until the next new billion dollar ticketing system comes along.

Jed, are you aware that charging extra for zone 2 on weekends when you have a zone 1 Myki Pass is by-design, and not a bug per se? It generally amounts to 6 cents per day, though with the March price rises, it should be zero, though Z2 passholders will still get charged for going into Z1.

(All of which doesn’t mean it should be that way, but it was a conscious decision, not a programming error.)

I’m still waiting for them to send my Seniors myki. Until then I cannot take advantage of the new free Saturday travel for people with a Seniors myki. I have sent them a message via their website asking what’s happening, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s unfair I tells ya.

I will tell you what’s unfair – asset rich ‘Seniors’ getting cheap public transport while I have to pay full fare.

One wage – Wife at home looking after two kids.
Happy to do give up the movies, eating out, drinking et al so the kids don’t grow up to be reared by child care workers. Our choice – Were happy to pay our way.

But getting a little bit sick of this entitlement attitude of all and sundry. Every loser gets issued with a health care card, every ‘Senior’ from Murrumbeena in a million plus house gets reduced travel fares.

However, my 1929 Californian bungalow abode (with room for a pony) is only worth $35,000. No wait, that was what I paid for it in 1979.

Agree with the Senior weekend discounts – surely just leave the concessions alone, ie if you’re a pensioner, you get concession; if you exceed the income/assets test for the pension, why are you getting a state handout? The money could be used instead to improve overall service level, for instance.

I’ve still had very mixed experiences with myki. The convenience of one card is great, but I have to check my transaction list constantly given I’ve been overcharged about 20% of the times I’ve used it. Their IT backend seems a bit confused because whenever I lodge a support ticket it comes back with a different (presumably internal) reference to that which is provided on submission…. I submitted a support ticket for that one, too…!

I think the problems are in general pretty well known, so I guess they have to cost the effort needed to fix the priority problems, vs the cost of a completely new system… interesting to see the outcome…

I find that myki works best on trains. I used myki money since febuary last year and travelled by train twice weekly. Trams are generally okay except once I touched on (didn’t touch off as instructed) and then later in the day for the return trip I touched on but the reader touched off my myki. Buses are okay except for when the bus is packed (notably the 900 between monash uni and huntingdale) and touching off is a nuisance.

Other than that, in principle, it is faster and more convenient than metcard

@Dave, what overcharging are you seeing? Any particular scenario? The one that was causing me problems appears to have been fixed (buses near zone boundaries).

@Jon, yeah I’ve seen that problem if the return trip is on the same physical tram, on its journey back. Do you know if that was the case? That’s another issue to do with running Myki and Metcard in parallel.

Great site Daniel,

Just wanted to have my 2 cents.

Myki does have it’s problems- it’s been a mess from the start, and $1 billion+ is definitely not worth it (it doesn’t really seem complex technology at all)

However, if we ignore all the technical glitches, one would appreciate it has come a long way (works now on all forms of PT except V/line+ less cases of over charging etc)

I find it so conveniant not needing to have loose change with me, as well as not having to line up every morning at the station to PAY and to VALIDATE, I just walk past all the Metcard people by touching on.

It’s also brilliant in the sense that the fare is calculated for me (plus zones travelled in) and we can have both Myki Pass+Money on the same card. Additionally, Myki fares are CHEAPER.

The reason I don’t want it to be scrapped by the Government is because I hold no doubt, we won’t get another smart card system replacement anytime soon, and the word “Myki” will haunt any government which proposes advancing Melbourne forward like other major cities which have smart cards.

We’ve gotten this far, and to go back now means sticking with Metcard for many, many years to come.

> It’s also brilliant in the sense that the fare is calculated for me (plus zones travelled in)… <

I reckon this advantage has been massively under-acknowledged. (Perhaps because many of the more influential voices rarely leave zone 1?)

I'm fond of the way Myki has spared me having to decide what zones I'm going to travel in at the outset. Similarly Metcard required us to guestimate before departing whether one would finish a return journey within two hours.

10 x 2hr Metcards solved part of this problem (daily price maxing out at 2 x 2hrs price; matching Myki's lower prices on any given trip) but even there I still have to possess all of the 1, 2 and 1+2 options to be fully covered. Further, if I use, say, my zone 2 Metcard to go shopping locally in the morning, then my zone 1+2 to visit the CBD in the afternoon, I can still be caught out paying more in total than Myki's integrated daily maximum if, for example I'm unexpectedly delayed beyond two hours on that latter trip.

As someone whose PT use is not dominated by a predictable daily commute, the savings afforded by Myki's "pay for what you actually used, not what you thought you might use" approach do add up.

@Daniel re: overcharging. It was consistently happening on a tram then train change (feeder tram to station). Lately, not so much, but I’ve also been travelling the particular combo in occurred on less too. Hopefully it’s all sorted now…

@Jon, I’ve had the same physical tram issue quite a few times. Daniel, how does running metcard/myki in parallel affect this?

@Dave, was that where the tram thought it was in Z2, but it wasn’t, and the train trip was in Z1, therefore you got charged Z1+2 instead of Z1?

Re: Jon’s example, the parallel running of Metcard and Myki means that bus/tram drivers don’t have a Myki console they can use. Amongst other functions, this will be used to enter details of the trip they are taking, eg the route and direction, which gives the Myki equipment on-board more information to be used to correctly charge.

In Jon’s example, the Myki equipment doesn’t know that the tram got to the end of the line and reversed… so it figures another touch from the same Myki card is now a touch-off.

@Daniel, It could have very well been the same tram as it was definitely the same class but not 100% sure. Although it makes sense that this will be fixed when drivers have a Myki console.

Haven’t caught a bus in Melbourne since myki started, went to Brisbane last week and used their smart card for a few days.

Its hard to remember to touch off in a bus, I forgot once. And also logistically difficult if you are carrying anything and trying to avoid falling down the stairs.

Daniel, no, I was being charged two separate z1 fares (ie z1 daily) instead of each trip counting within the 2-hour fare window (in one case, something like 19 mins of travel got counted as a daily…). Touching off on the tram, I think, didn’t seem to help – it seemed to be ‘closing’ that fare period then the next touch on would start a new fare.
As I indicated, fortunately it has stopped happening of late… fingers crossed it stays that way.

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