Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Melbourne's Myki system doesn't work and costs you money

This will be a very quick post from me today on how much the new Melbourne public transport system's Myki ticketing system actually ends up costing you as a customer.

It is billed as a way to save you money because the system only charges you the minimum amount required to travel.  However unless you have a very predictable travel pattern then this is not the case.  Further the fact that it does not work means that you constantly have to fork out an extra $6 for replacement cards while your old card is being replaced.

Myki is inferior to the system it replaced

Myki was an attempt to move Melbourne's public transport system into the 21st century by replacing an old paper based ticketing system (which were dispensed from machines and put through barriers) with a card like system that you see in many other parts in the world (such as London, Hong Kong, Seoul etc).

However, unlike those other systems, the cards totally replace the paper ticketing system.  In Hong Kong and Seoul for example, if you are not a regular traveller (or a tourist as I was) you could buy a one trip single ticket or a multi trip ticket without having to pay the fixed price with no credit for the card system.  Melbourne scrapped their paper ticketing system so that anyone, even a person just taking a single journey has to buy the (relatively) expensive card and a ticket on top of that.

While the above is annoying I confess that I didn't think about it much because it did not affect me personally.  However what does affect me is that the technology is terrible.  Putting credit on your card at a station takes an inordinate amount of time - the lines that you see now to add credit at peak times are much longer than what you used to see under the old paper ticket system.  I overheard some computer programmers talking about how it was a terrible system and how each of them could have designed a better / faster interface.  They raised the very valid point that it should take no longer than using an ATM as it is essentially doing the same task but it actually takes much longer.

Finally - and this is the big problem.  The cards simply stop working after a period of time.  I was an early adopter of the Myki system and I am currently on my 5th card because they just stop working.  I got used to this happening and so carried both my regular Myki and a backup with a bit of credit just in case.  Yesterday - BOTH of my cards stopped working.  I called the information centre to find out if I was doing something wrong (by keeping it in my wallet etc) however they said that this should not cause an issue.

Myki does not save you money...AND you lose flexibility

The signs promoting the Myki system said that you could save up to $1 per trip.  This is very misleading but to understand why you need to understand how the ticket works.  You have a choice of two types of cards whenever you buy a Myki

  • A Myki Money Card:  These are basically cash on your card and deduct the lowest possible fair amount up to a daily ticket
  • A Myki Pass Card:  These are for tickets longer than a daily (i.e. a weekly, monthly etc.)
As you buy longer and longer tickets the cost of the ticket gets cheaper (the same way the old metcard system used to work).  However if you do not have enough certainty around your travel for the foreseeable future then you get stung.  

You can't opt for your card to be a Myki Money card this week (when you are only travelling once or twice) and a Myki Pass card next week (when you have to travel every day).  The amount you save is only applicable if you travel the same pattern all the time.  I travel fairly regularly and I do not have a set pattern!

While a new system was was not this one

Melbourne's public transport ticketing system was ageing and did need updating.  However this was a system that was ill conceived, over priced and doesn't work.  Further customers get screwed and the fines for travelling without a ticket because yours stopped working are unbelievable.

I was a big fan of the system when it was first introduced however after experiencing all the downsides I no longer think it is worth it.  The old system worked better, saved you money and headaches.  If you are bothered by this send an email to your state government representative and get some interest going in this issue!

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