Over the weekend I was cleaning up piles of junk I have collected over the years, when I found a 2007 dated student concession card application form. Inside it provided an introduction to the ‘soon to come’ Myki system, where a number of statements have have since been proven untrue. So what promised features been cut from Myki in the five years since?
Scan of/scan off
The Myki website circa December 2008 promised the following:
myki is simple to use. Every time you travel by public transport you will scan on with myki at a card reader (called myki scanners) at the station gate or near the vehicle door. The system instantly recognises that a myki has entered the network. At the end of your journey, scan off with myki to finalise your trip details. myki money will ensure the best fare is calculated automatically for your travel.
The ‘instant recognition’ of Myki cards promised has never eventuated, with the Transport Ticketing Authority having to run a “Myki users urged to touch, not swipe or wave” campaign in early 2012 to reset user exceptions around the poor performance of the system.
Weekly best fare
Up until March 2008 the Myki website described the ‘best fare’ functionality as follows:
myki gives you the best fare for the way that you travel.
Using myki money, your fare will be capped at a 2 hour, daily or weekly (Monday – Sunday) maximum, no matter how much you travel.
Alternatively, pre-purchase of myki pass ensures you receive the best discounted fares.
In Melbourne, myki money can calculate your best fare as you travel, and deduct it automatically as you scan off at the end of your trip.
- If you scan on and scan off in Melbourne city one morning, myki money can calculate that the best fare for you is a two hour Zone One.
- Then if you travel more than once during the same day, myki money will re-calculate the best fare for you as a daily fare.
- The more you travel during the same week, myki money will automatically give you the best fare by capping your accrued travel to a weekly fare.
A weekly cap on travel was also described in the 2008 edition of the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual – the official document to all transport ticketing in the state.
The weekly fare cap is based on the zones used during the week (from 3.00 am Monday to 3.00 am the following Monday). If a customer pays for an off-peak trip, then the peak price of that trip is counted towards their weekly fare cap. This provides an incentive for customers to avoid peak times. The weekly cap will be the same as Weekly Metcards or Weekly V/Line tickets.
It appears that the weekly cap was killed off in mid-2008: the June 15 version of the Myki website is exactly the same as that a few months earlier, but only mentions 2 hour and daily caps. I haven’t been able to find official reason for the change, but presumably implementation difficulties killed it off.
Short term tickets
An integral part of the original Myki system was the sale of short term tickets: a cardboard smartcard that is bought from a ticket machine or bus driver, and provides the user with 2 hour of travel for a cost slightly more than the normal fare charged to standard Myki users.
Sales of short term tickets commenced in 2009 when Myki went live in Geelong, and they continue to be sold onboard buses in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour and the Latrobe Valley even today.
The sale of short term tickets from ticket machines was also built into the system, but the option to do so is currently disabled for machines located in Melbourne:
Expanding the rollout of short term tickets was cancelled by the Baillieu government in June 2011, acting on advice contained in a secret report by consultants Deloitte. Supposedly the continued rollout was cancelled because the cards cost $0.40 cents to manufacture – making up almost half of the $0.90 charged for a concession bus fare in Geelong! The withdrawal date of the tickets already being issued outside Melbourne is still unknown.
Ticket machines on trams
Allowing passengers to top up Myki cards onboard trams was the second part of the system cut by the Baillieu government in June 2011: these machines would also have sold short term tickets to occasional travellers.
A single Myki ticket machine was installed onboard a tram in early 2009 for field trials, with it remaining in place but not in use until at least November 2011:
Yarra Trams says that the change would reduce the tram company’s costs, boost space for passengers and reduce fare evasion issues by eliminating a key reason given for not buying a ticket – but everyone else says the change makes it much more difficult for passengers who only use trams to pay their fare.
So my verdict…
The entire point of a smartcard ticketing system is that it is faster than a magnetic strip based one: Myki fails at that. Maybe building the entire system atop Windows CE is the issue, perhaps it is because we hired a company that was described in a leaked draft of an Auditor-General’s report as having “no corporate experience in developing, implementing and operating a ticketing system”.
I’m willing to be more forgiving around the removal of weekly caps on fares: users currently have the option of buying 7-day Myki passes, so if one can plan ahead, the cost is still the same. I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where pay-as-you go weekly fare caps apply, and I can only imagine how difficult implementing the logic in software would be. Beyond the processing of a week worth of travel data to determine the cap, the correct handing of thousands of ‘exceptional’ use cases make the current logic look like a cakewalk – what happens if I travel in zone 1 for five days in a week, then make a single trip into zone 2?
The removal of short term tickets is a joke, but the government that came up with the specification in the first place is also to blame – Perth and Brisbane both use simple printer paper receipts for single trip tickets. So why use expensive cardboard smartcards when a piece of paper does the same thing, and requires less equipment than our current ticket machines are equipped with? Giving all users a way to pass through ticket gates is the only possible explanation I can see.
Given that we are already a long way down the path, going to paper tickets would need software changes in ticket machines, but a much simpler ‘solution’ is still available: jack up the price of short term tickets to cover the extra costs associated with selling them. If passengers don’t want to pay the extra each day, they can buy a reusable card like everyone else.
Finally: ticket machines on trams. If the government wanted to save money on the rollout of the system, they should have taken it out of scope at the beginning of the project. By the time the Baillieu government cut them in June 2011, the ticket machines had already been developed and tested, with hundreds of them already been purchased and sitting in storage. You might say that I’m arguing to keep the machines because of the sunk cost fallacy, but in reality the machines would have been quite valuable for tram passengers, assuming they operate as expected – which is another issue entirely!
I wonder what other promised features will go ‘missing’ as time goes on?
Thanks to Toby Nieboer (@tcn33) on Twitter for coming up with the ‘spot the Myki differences using the Wayback Machine’ game:
— Toby Nieboer (@tcn33) November 29, 2012