Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Test-driving Myki

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-15

The myki transport ticketing system pushed (way over time, way over budget, and way under-scrutinized) by Joh Brumby for Melbourne has been running in Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula.

It might work there, and the testing has had a really low bar, but it certainly won’t work in the high-load areas of Melbourne.

So, as someone who relies on public transport, living in Melbourne, but spending most weekends on the Bellarine, here are a few observations:

It can take forever to validate a Myki ticket.  The first hint about this is the time taken between the bus driver punching in what ticket you want, putting the ticket on the scanner, and waiting for it to issue a really annoying “ta-da” fanfare that sounds like a third-rate ringtone played through a guitar distortion pedal and a big fat Marshall amp.  Let’s hope that Melbournians aren’t subjected to the “ta-da”.

But worse is the time it takes to re-validate the ticket when getting back on the bus.  You have to place the ticket flat on a vertical surface and hold it for a while – something that could be difficult for someone with shaky hands and unsteady feet.  The problem is that the validation is useless.  The reader can keep complaining about an invalid ticket unless it is oriented pretty accurately when you first go near the reader, even if you replace it, because, as the bus driver said, you have to move it well away from the reader once it has registered a problem.

I had to move the ticket about an arm’s length away from the reader and bring it back again for the reader to finally figure it out.

Can’t see you being able to do that on a peak-hour tram!

So, when the reader is misbehaving, it can take 30 seconds to finally get it to accept your ticket.  That would be bad enough getting into a tram or train, but is made at least twice as bad given that you have to get it validated on the way out.

Can you imagine what it will be like at the corner of Flinders and Swanston in peak hour?  Can you imagine what just the extra time taken for people to get off trams will do to the time it takes for a tram to go the whole route?

Of course, it’s not going to be easy to hold your ticket the right way either, because you can bet that you’ll be jostled by people moving in and out of the tram at the same time, and my experience with having to move the ticket well away from the reader to get rid of its confusion means that the system will never be able to do as originally touted – being able to read the ticket while it was still in the pocket.

On top of all this, the system is supposed to figure out the best transport price for you.  I’m very skeptical it will do that correctly, unless there is no charge made or calculated for some time.  This is especially true for the longer periodical tickets.

The only way the government can guarantee the charge calculations giving the best value to the user is if there is very little differentiation in price between getting 7 dailies versus a weekly.

The only thing anywhere near as bad for Melbournians as the introduction of myki is if the deplorable Connex, who cannot run trains if the weather is either warm or wet, take over the trams too, which looks like a distinct possibility.

It’s pretty rough when a died-in-the-wool lefty will look at the Brumby government and look back at the horrible Kennett transport "innovations" with fond nostalgia!


2 Responses to “Test-driving Myki”

  1. I am wondering how the 4-man Inspector Posses on the Werribee rail, will be able to tell by looking at the card, if the holder has scanned it before boarding.
    On buses, the driver has a smallish control over policing on-scans, but not in those ‘high-load’ instances.

    Where a swipe has been ineffectual, the scanner seizes up, a light on it goes red, and the few but interminable seconds which elapse before the light is green to accept a re-try, will really impede high-loads in Bourke St trams (on which you will never see any elected State member).

  2. 2. the scanner shows the $ value of the ticket, BUT the scanner is too low, and the font too small, for the upright boarder over 160 cms to really read without bending (which involves sticking arse into face of boarder directly behind) …
    3. adding cash to the ticket involves that Ta Da!! thing with the drivers computer – a truly hateful sound, and also impedes boarding traffic. The drivers computers breakdown a lot, and much time elapses as drivers radio base for Tech assist.

    4. witnessed on Ballarat bus:
    Driver to teen: If you kick that scanner once more you’re off the bus!

    Teen: (kicks scanner again)

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