Ten years of Myki in Melbourne

Happy birthday Myki!

Yesterday marked ten years since the Myki system’s implementation in Melbourne. It was switched on for Melbourne trains on 29th December 2009.

The roll-out and first ten years of operation ended up costing a whopping $1.5 billion. The only Australian system of comparable size, NSW’s Opal system, was a little bit cheaper, but is still the same order of magnitude. My conclusion is that the size of the system (number of devices, and all the supporting infrastructure) is a more important determinant of cost than anything else.

Currently there’s a $700 million, 7 year contract in place to keep Myki running and for the current round of upgrades.

(If you’re wondering, the $100 million a year of costs is more than covered by fare revenue, which the PTV Annual Report says topped $900 million in 2018-19.)

After a very shaky start, and a long protracted roll-out that took more than four years (from regional town buses in early 2009 to V/Line in 2013), the Myki system has improved over time – and I suspect most passengers have become accustomed to its quirks.

But there definitely is still room for improvement, even without wholesale re-engineering of the system.

New Myki signage on trams, October 2015

How can Myki be made better?

Here are a few issues that should still be fixed:

Passes are confusing, and can result in passengers who travel every day paying more than necessary. This should be replaced by a Myki Money weekly cap, which was originally promised. (Monthly too? Perhaps.)

With readers often awkwardly located, touch-on and touch-off sounds should be made different so it is easier to identify that the card has been touched successfully, and in the intended manner. Sounds should also be consistent across Myki reader types, and made louder so they are easily audible in noisy environments. (There’s no need for them to beep once or twice depending on the type of ticket. Nobody uses this.)

Myki reader speeds are inconsistent. New faster readers have been deployed at many stations, and increasingly on buses and trams as well, which is a big improvement. (Thank you, open architecture.)

It would be good to know if this roll-out is going to eventually replace all of the older readers. Their response times were never acceptably fast and consistent – and are probably why the terminology changed from “scan” to “touch”.

The new readers either don’t display the card balance/expiry, or display it so small that it can barely be read. I know they’re trying to ensure people don’t dawdle at station gates, but some people now never see their card Pass expiry.

Mobile Myki: touching at a reader

Myki Mobile for iPhone would be a big plus – take-up on Android seems to have been reasonably good, despite some glitches, but making it available for iPhone mean almost all mobile phone users have the option.

If this can be achieved, arguably being able to use credit cards directly on the system (as in London and Sydney, both using variants of the same system) becomes less important.

Fare anomalies need to be fixed. This is not strictly a Myki issue, but the result of years of governments of both stripes fiddling with the fare system – first getting rid of zone 3, then making zone 1 and 2 an almost flat fare. The result is that Melbourne to Lara (58km) costs $4.40; to the next stop at Corio (64km) is $12 (peak). That’s completely ridiculous, and encourages people to drive across Geelong to Lara station before catching their train.

Expansion to the rest of V/Line would be useful, to make train usage beyond the commuter belt easier. This was originally the plan, but was “de-scoped” by the Baillieu government in 2011. I suspect there are probably issues getting Myki to handle First Class and seat reservations, which is why it was decided it was all too hard.

Free mode. Myki readers need this for the now regular bus replacement operations, to prevent issues with passengers touching-on when they don’t need to, and for regular free travel periods such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. (They might still need to be partly functional to cater for touch-off for people ending their trips, for instance just after 6pm when free rides start on New Year’s Eve.)

Myki reader on Christmas Day
Myki Reader prompting users to Touch Here on Christmas Day

Tickets for occasional users need to be easier to get. Single use tickets were also originally planned for the system, and de-scoped in 2011, along with tram vending machines.

Admittedly there’s some benefit from not having single use tickets – it reduces litter and waste, and encourages repeat use – but only if you can convince people to get a card in the first place. If not, the system remains a barrier to new public transport users.

Remember, concession cards can’t be obtained through the vending machines, which are the only option at unstaffed stations.

Are the cards sufficiently available for tourists? Can the refund system be improved?

And what to do about the lack of touch-on opportunities for tram users?

All this becomes less important if both major mobile phone operating systems can use Mobile Myki.

Myki billboard advertising, February 2014

Fix the web site. Most of it (including the overall look and feel) hasn’t been changed since it was originally released. Still the same tiny fonts and non-mobile-friendly layout.

And there’s idiotic stuff still on the web site: When you purchase a Myki Pass online, the default selection is Zone 1 to Zone 1, which would also be the most popular option. Leaving that default returns an error: This myki pass is not available at this time. Please select another and try again.

What does that error mean? It’s because since 2015 you’ve had to buy Zone 1+2 (for the same price). Why not either tell you that, or automatically change the selection?

The same page has a “Which zones do I need to travel in?” link. This goes to a PDF with another link in it, to a page which doesn’t actually tell you anything about which zones you need to travel in.

Myki receipts, Flinders Street station

Oh well, at least they got rid of the compulsory (and often unwanted) Myki machine receipts.

What else would you fix?

  • Remember, fares go up on 1st January. If you use Myki Pass and want to beat the price rise, buy a Pass before then. Your card can hold your current Pass and your next Pass.

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.

26 replies on “Ten years of Myki in Melbourne”

1. Roll out to Echuca, Maryborough and Ararat where reservations and first class are not an issue.

2. Allow use on SkyBus.

I think the ticket inspector types make use of the different beeps for cards types. I used to see lines of uniforms listening for the double beep and asking to see concession cards at Melbourne Central. It’s the only way I figured out what it meant.

Although not directly related to today’s article, fare evasion remains a big problem on the metropolitan network, especially on the buses.

Take a ride on any bus route and notice the number of people who simply don’t touch on.

Even fewer seem to touch off.

Myki expiry is a bugbear of mine. It’s nowhere on the card and catches you by surprise. The process of swapping over your Myki at a station is fairly quick, but you need to set up your automatic top ups all over again.

It is rare that I use a machine to top up a Myki but I had to for a niece recently. Mikey Money or Mikey Pass? I didn’t really know and went for Money and that was correct, but how is a novice supposed to know?

First off, I repeat what both points expressed by Keven above, and, what Chris said above about the expiry date. MUST be printed on the ticket.

Also, all of the points expressed by yourself above too.

I will add,

++ Having MyKi valid across all of V/Line trains, even if they are just for second class passengers, and/or just for the D car only?

++ Why not on V/Line coaches too, especially some areas like South Gippsland, and more?

*** ONLINE AREA ****
++ The online area, needs to have, ‘do I have enough for’ and, where my myki funds are not enough, ‘how much must I add for this trip’ too.

++ The ability to land directly on the website, without the need to navigate around the website.

*** THE FARES ***

++ Introduction of a short trip ticket, with increments of 2, 4 and 6 stations on most train lines

++ Introduce local zones similar to the old neighbourhood system. That shall cover most travellers.

++ Fares charged at hourly increments, with higher costs for peak hour vs off peak hour. Similar to today, you pay for the four most expensive hours in that day.

You can use Myki on the V/Line coach between Geelong and Jan Juc – surely wouldn’t be too difficult to extend to Apollo Bay? And would make sense for it to be on the South Gippsland coaches, and the rest of the V/Line train network as well. Yes, first class and reservations might be an issue, but it could handle economy no worries? You already use Myki when travelling in the commuter band on long-haul services, and there are carriages for passengers without a reservation (including Myki).

It would be good to have the Rail+2 reintroduced – surely that’s not too difficult for Myki to handle. Not sure about the old neighbourhoods, though – would add more complexity to the system. Off-peak charging could also work – and Myki already has it for V/Line services.

The V/Line fare anomalies need to go. These might require more work within the Myki system, but some can be fixed just by changing the charging – if the Government insists that travel into Zone 2 from Zone 1 is free, the same benefit should be extended to those travelling right across Zone 2 into Zone 3 and beyond. And the other way around – travel into Zone 1 from Zone 2 only costs $1.40. If you touch on in Zone 1, you should automatically get a Zone 1/2 Myki product if you touch off within Zone 1 – sounds like the passes do it (only because the Zone 1/1 option isn’t available). With Lara straddling Zones 2/3/4, the fare to travel between Geelong and Melbourne should be the total of a Zone 4 and Zone 1 fare ($6.80), not the premium $13.40 in peak.

@Paul, in some cases there might be no need to touch on/off on a bus. For example, if you’re connecting from a train and your bus is in the same zone, then when you touch off at the train station you’ve already paid your fare for the journey. You can touch on and off on the bus and you’ll be charged $0 if it’s within the 2 hours.

Can you really use Mobile Myki availability as a reason not to provide other single use tickets – even if it was avilable for iPhones, how many Android phones out there have the required NFC hardware to make it work? Of the bottom end ~$200 phones I’ve seen, none have it.

@Jordon, the Authorised Officers (ticket inspectors) use the lights on the gates to highlight concessions. They don’t use the double beeps, which in any case go off for Commuter Club ticketholders too, who don’t require concession cards.

@parker, descoped = removed from the scope, eg cancelled.

@Dan, when you say “new” – are you aware that you can get an existing/expired card replaced for free?

@number, even if the travel is included in an existing fare, that’s not really an excuse for not touching-on. I suspect they need to declare buses are now operating like trams, allow people to board at any door, and do more random ticket checks.

@Marcus, I don’t think it completely removes the need for single use tickets, but providing phone app or other methods (even if limited to phones with specific features such as NFC) reduces the need.

Android app isn’t great. Tapping on older terminals are unreliable at best. I found out the hard way, if your phone dies, your myki isn’t backed up on Google Pay, so you lose the card/balance.

The reason people don’t touch on/off in buses/trams/etc is because they already have a valid ticket. They’re not fare evading.

Moat peoole don’t need to touch off if you’re traveling around Melbourne. Your fare gets deducted next time you touch on. Why slow everyone down?

Why don’t they have myki machines inside the trains like Adelaide? Much cheaper to roll out & maintain.

Spending $100m to make $900m seems excessive.
It was a fairly incompetent process from the beginning.

Fare structure is fairly expensive for short rides. Its often much cheaper to drive & pay for parking, e.g. Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, City, Footy, etc when you have at least one paying kid in tow.

They should have off peak metro fares, especially on the crowded tram routes, to encourage offpeak travel.

Speaking of free modes – why not allow Early Bird fares for all myki-enabled transport modes in Zones 1+2? It really isn’t fair on people who have missed out on free trips for well over a decade simply because the mode of transport offered in their area isn’t an electric Metro train. There is absolutely no difference between touching on a myki at Dandenong station or at Tarneit station or a DART bus at Doncaster or the 75 tram outside the East Burwood Kmart – all of these are in Zone 2 and only differ by the service operator and the vehicles used. In fact, probably more than half the people I see on buses don’t even bother touching on in the early morning because they know the connecting train is free, and having to pay for the ten-minute trip to the nearest Metro station defeats the purpose of the free trip.

Melton, Doncaster, Templestowe, Warrandyte, Bundoora, Donvale, Vermont, Wantirna, Rowville, Montrose, Mount Evelyn, Kilsyth, Chirnside Park, Wattle Park, Deer Park, Mill Park, Maribyrnong, Somerville, Somerton, Mornington (twenty is enough I think)

@Chris: We used to have off-peak fares in the Metcard era but I think they were canned when myki took over. Note that the single trip fares were also dropped at the same time, with myki fares being equivalent to a single trip of the discounted 10x 2-hour and 5x daily fares. City Saver fares were another thing which vanished around the same time I think (City Saver was basically CBD plus Richmond/North Melbourne, cheaper than a Zone 1; I think it may have been for (Connex/Metro) trains only like the Early Bird tickets but I can’t remember).

I tried using Google pay for my Myki and after holding up far too many fellow computers at the gates at Flagstaff due to speed and reliability issues.. I’ve gone back to a card.
Nice in concept.. the real life experience is poor.

I think making users pay $6 for their initial card needs to be scrapped. The Ventra Smartcard in Chicago initially costs $5 but is credited in travel money once registered online, so effectively free. Keeps waste/surplus mykis down whilst encouraging registration and by extension, auto top up and expiry notifications

I think the fare structure around short trips needs to be reviewed. That it costs the same to go 5 stops on a tram as it does to go from Cranbourne to CBD on a train is wrong and encourages fare evasion for short tram trips (also hurting myki data reliability)

The ‘touch off’ instruction needs be clarified to users. There is ZERO reason for any suburban commuter to touch off UNLESS the entire journey is in zone two. Every night, queues form at train stations as people wait to touch off, when this is completely unnecessary unless there are gates. I think the reason for the ‘touch off’ instruction by PTV is purely for data collection purposes

Single use tickets need to be available for people who don’t have nfc compatible smartphones and don’t have a contactless debit/credit card. Also overseas/interstate travellers etc who may not have mobile data to set up a virtual nfc card

Contrary to the people above, I was using the mobile myki on a Samsung A8 with almost no issues. Battery life on your device can be an issue late at night. You do have to hold your phone to the old readers for a significantly longer time than a regular myki

Touching on and off should give really good data on travelling patterns to help improve the system (wishful thinking, I know). I’ll always touch on, but won’t touch off if it isn’t to my advantage to do so (regional anomalies again mean it is sometimes cheaper not to, even considering default fares). Regional default fares rely on the V/Line conductor setting it for outbound trips (at least if you get on at a suburban station – not sure what the default setting is on the Myki gates to the regional platforms at Southern Cross – does anyone know? Inbound, it’s the trip to Zone 1 – I tried it at Geelong once) – and I reckon in recent times my Myki has been checked only about 50% of the time. Inbound in the evening returning, touching off at Sunshine gives me a daily Zone 2/3/4 – touching on again for the Zone 1 part of my trip to West Footscray, I just let the default Zone 1/2 fare do it’s magic rather than touch off – I’ve already got a Zone 2 product, so it takes $3.00 off the Zone 1/2 fare, meaning I only pay $1.40 rather than $4.40.

Re the City Saver, I think there was one you could use on any mode in the City Saver area (although not completely sure about buses), which was different to the short trip (two sections) or rail+2. I used to use the Rail+2 when I lived in East Melbourne over 20 years ago – West Richmond to Flagstaff.

All good points made here and in the comment section.

Some other points:
Zone 1-only fares: This is a disadvantage for most inner-city commuters since they were abolished. It makes long trips quite cheap but short trips rather pricey.

Short-Trip fares: I know these were abolished under Metcard but with the current technology, surely it is feasible to re-implement it these days…

@Beano – Agreed.

@Heihachi_73 – City Saver was available on Buses (barring National Bus Company routes, IIRC) and Trams as well.

@Steve Gelsi – The Rail + 2 was the rail version of the Short-Trip fares for Trams. The City Saver differed in that you could only use it in the area, where Rail + 2 could be used anywhere on the system…

– Android/Google Pay Myki cannot be transferred if your phone is lost, stolen or had to be factory reset unless you do that in advance (because of course you’d know that in advance). You need to set up an entirely new card in Google Pay.

– Android/Google Pay Myki funds can only be transferred to a new Android Myki card manually by Myki customer service, and only if registered to a Myki account. Can’t be done via Google Pay itself which is ridiculous.

– Android/Google Pay Myki often crashes and doesn’t read following the first swipe an auto-top up. Need to revert back to my old physical card at those times so the growing queue behind me don’t ark up.

– New Opal cards are free. Myki should be the same. You pay what you load onto it.

– mobile-friendly site is ridiculously overdue

I think the placement of touch on/off machines needs some consideration. In the new skyrail stations, the machines are at ground level – some seem to have gates and some don’t. That means it is entirely possible to sail through the open gates without touching on (which I have done – it’s easy to do when you are thinking about something else at the time). Then up you go to the platform, see the train approaching, realise you haven’t touched on – what do you do? – go down to the concourse and miss your train or jump on without touching on? It there were some machines on the platform you could still touch on and not miss the train. I note that on some of the older raised train lines the machines are on the platform (e.g Canterbury).

I’m not sure whether the MTA in New York does this anymore, but when I was there in 2013, there were the striped magnetic cards that pop out of the ticket machines, which I can refill. And I remember single-use Myki-activated paper tickets being issued when I rode the bus in Ballarat in 2009. Perhaps the following may be one solution:

– Reinstate/continue said paper-tickets as temporary Myki recharge cards for those single users who show up at the door/stop/station.
– Charge $1 for those that switch from temporary paper to permanent plastic to partially cover costs. Alternately, paper tickets can be made ineligible for any further discounts beyond eligibility for concession fares. (The latter is what Sydney’s Opal do with paper tickets.)
– For those that get the permanent plastic card charged straight away, then they get the card free like Opal, and can get further discounts like off-peak (inc early bird), round trip, counter-peak (basically away from CBD in AM, towards CBD in PM), or short-distance (say less than 2-3km) travel.

Agree with the comment about the placement of Myki readers. Yes in a best-practice world you would always touch on when entering the station (and you are forced to when there are gates) but I think there would be some benefit in also having the ability to touch on (or off) on each platform. Simple station layouts with two platforms at ground level have that anyway. At Geelong, the station staff keep reminding people via PA messaging to remember to touch on before crossing the footbridge to the island platforms 2 & 3. At West Footscray, I imagine the new platform will have its own readers, not sure where but maybe also on the concourse.

On the other side, examples like Caulfield and Footscray, where you may want to interchange between platforms – you can’t seamlessly do that compared to somewhere like Richmond, South Yarra or the City Loop stations.

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