The importance of bank card fare payments

Bank-issued cards for fare payment would largely resolve a multitude of problems

With speculation mounting about State Budget pressures, both The Age and Herald Sun have reported on doubts around proposed upgrades to Myki under the new contract.

There are numerous improvements that would be welcome, but the most important, the one that absolutely should not be dropped, is providing the option of bank-issued cards for fare payment.

It’s vital because it largely resolves so many issues:

  • Fixes most issues with new/occasional users not having a card
  • Helps overcome the lack of card purchase and top-up facilities on buses and trams
  • Avoids people (including tourists) having to guess how much they need for their fare, because you don’t have to pre-load the money. Even with the nearly flat fare system, estimating in advance is difficult
  • Avoids online top-up delays
  • Avoids transit card expiry issues – for some reason Myki cards expire after just 4 years
  • Reduces card wastage and issuing costs
  • It resolves the iPhone dilemma (and it’s how most cities enable iPhone payment)
  • It’s better than the current Android Mobile Myki solution, which still requires setting up and preloading a “virtual” Myki card

Overall it makes public transport a much easier option for both regular and occasional users – including tourists – you don’t need to know anything about fares or ticketing to start using the system. Just tap and travel.

There’s some fine detail of course, including how to enable concession fares and other discounts on bank-issued cards, which might require some form of pre-registration.

It’s also important to maintain options for those who don’t have bank cards, or don’t want to use them.

(No, removing ticketing and making the system free is not a viable or sensible option.)

Using a Mastercard on a London Oyster fare gate
Fare payment using a Mastercard in London

Other ticketing system upgrades should include:

  • Automatic fare capping so you don’t need to pre-load a weekly Pass to get the cheapest fare – important with bank-issued cards
  • Covering all of V/Line and regional town bus services, currently using a mess of various paper tickets, so you can travel seamlessly anywhere in the state
  • Replacement of the remaining original slow readers (mostly found on older trams)
  • And of course numerous minor usability improvements such as the way card balances are displayed on readers, and removing the pointless double beep – preferably replaced with differing touch-on and touch-off beeps

Some people give the current incumbent NTT a bad rap, because their predecessors Keane/Kamco were involved at the start of Myki, which many of us would remember was a protracted mess.

But the system has improved a lot in recent years, including the steady upgrade to new faster readers – which I’m told are compatible with bank-issued cards. And let’s not forget the receipts.

The other contenders (Cubic and Conduent) would also bring expertise to the table, as they run multiple big systems elsewhere around the world. But given the current budgetary pressures, the question is how much equipment they’d need to replace along the way, and the cost and disruption that might result. Hopefully minimal.

Expect a decision and announcement soon, because the current contract expires in November.

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.

13 replies on “The importance of bank card fare payments”

On the weekend I had a layover in Singapore and went out to a day trip, and got to experience the payment card through phone based scenario, and I can say it was pretty miserable all up. To use generic payments (on iphone, but I had an android phone previously and reemmber the experience being similar), you have to have your phone unlocked shortly (a second or so) before touching, so you have to do it while walking to the gate, lest you stop everyone behind you. And if its iphone then you have the added complication of faceid while walking with a mask, which doesn’t work all the time.

Also, none of the screens on either the phone or the reader told me how much I was actually going to pay, and only showed up a day after on my bank statements. I ended up finding a seven-eleven there and purchasing a physical card for the rest of my day there.

It also couples the ticketing system to the internet, which we know is incredibly reliable and always available everywhere in melbourne. The credit card system was designed for people standing at a checkout, not on a tram.

London seems to have got it right – no hassles tapping a card there and you get the benefit of the daily cap etc. Of course, tourists aren’t eligible for concessions there, but perhaps it’s not unreasonable to require someone eligible for a concession fare to use a Myki or whatever.

This system has been operational in Sydney for a few years now and it works brilliantly. Based on the same daily caps and fares as the Adult Opal card. SE Queensland and Adelaide are moving in this direction too.

@Michael, I haven’t tried it, but I believe it’s possible to use iPhone Apple Pay without unlocking your phone, if you switch on a specific setting… if you’re brave enough to allow payments while the phone is locked, of course.

As for the vagaries of internet connections, fare payments with credit cards don’t rely on a live connection. How it works is described in a previous blog.

I was happy that I still have an older iPhone with a home button and fingerprint ID, when I was in London recently. I was able to use the phone for public transport trips by just taking it out of my pocket and double-clicking the home button, then waving it on the Oyster reader. I can’t imagine how this would be better with a phone on which I need to use face ID.

To those commenting about needing to unlock your iPhones for using them to tap-on and off… Please go into Settings -> Wallet & Apple Pay and switch on the “Express Transit Card” option. This will allow a specific card from your Apple Pay Wallet to operate with registered transit providers without the need to unlock your phone. No need for Face ID or Fingerprint unlocking at all – just tap your phone and keep moving.

For iOS devices the Express Transit Card settings enable a selected payment card to be presented at the gate line reader without prior biometric validation. Apple introduced this feature specifically to meet the needs of transit riders and operators who both value a high throughput of passengers at peak hours. The feature is restricted to gate line readers configured by the transport operator with specific identifying parameters that the iOS device detects when initially presented. Works well for iPhones and for Apple Watch as well.

In regards to “Covering all of V/Line and regional town bus services, currently using a mess of various paper tickets”. With my yearly myki pass, I was able to book a day trip to Warrnambool for no extra cost, it was only on the day that myself and a friend realised we had snapped up seats in Car A in an N Carriage. i.e. the seats that were deemed “1st class” prior to the fare cap.

A V/LINE staff member informed us that they no longer have that classification so Car A is lumped in with economy (about time :) ).

Which then begs the question. Has the new fare cap has kicked off a gradual phase out of having to book reserved seats for long haul journeys? (I hope so)

Presumably someone rocking up to a ticket window at a “paper ticket only section” within say less than 15 minutes of a “sold-out” N-Carriage set, could still purchase a paper ticket for the unreserved N carriages with the only caveat being that it might be standing room only. Presumably a risk of standing room only will become the norm state-wide once paper tickets are scrapped across the board (in my opinion, the advantages of consistency will outweigh the occasional standing room only encounters on long haul journeys, in my view).

Several VLine stations that are paper ticket only does have infrastructure for Myki, but Myki for long-distance services was scrapped by Ballieu. For example, when I was in Ararat last year, I saw infrastructure that would’ve supported Myki at the entrance to the station, but no reader (just a pole). I can’t speak for Warrnambool, but I am not sure if they have the infrastructure (such as a pole) there to support Myki unlike Ararat. Correct me if I am wrong on that account.

@indigohex3 – I believe they did a complete rollout of the civil works to support Myki at every railway station in Victoria, before it was decided to descope the V/Line intercity part of the network from Myki – so any station older than 10 years old should have the bases for readers and the equipment cupboards.

This is the Myki backend gear they installed at Avenel station back in 2007, which never got used.

With Conduent now the winner, from what I experienced in the greater Paris system (which apparently they supply), was the Smart phone app on my Samsung worked very well, with my phone not having to be unlocked to go through the turnstiles. I was easily able to add my Decouverte pass. It was probably the most responsive system I had ever used.

That being said, I think we need to start moving away from things like passes as the technology should work for us, not the other way around. I’m hoping caps replace passes, as passes are from a time when to give frequent travellers a discount, you sell them a long term ticket, but now with the technology to know who has been frequently travelling, there is no need for it.

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