A few weeks ago I asked the question – How far is Myki making you walk? Turns out many think that selling a tickets onboard public transport is a needless luxury, and that forcing users onto direct debits or online purchasing is a perfectly acceptable replacement. That might work for some, but public transport is supposed to be for everyone.
Over on Reddit, somebody got it.
Back when I was a poor uni student, well before Myki came into play, I used to scrape together coins for public transport. I didn’t often have a lot of money in my bank account, so an auto-top up may not have worked when every cent counted.
So how does find passengers who have to scape their money together for a bus fare?
Route 903 is a good start – it does four hour long circuit of Melbourne, from Altona in the west to Mordialloc in the south, passing a real mix of suburbs: Sunshine, Essendon, Coburg, Preston, Heidelburg, Doncaster, Box Hill, Burwood, Oakleigh and Mentone.
Onboard I found a long reel of unwanted Myki receipts.
- Passenger 1: Northland. Added $3.50, new balance of $2.29
- Passenger 2: Northland. Added $10.00, new balance $10.46
- Passenger 3: Avondale Heights. Added $4.00, new balance $4.88
- Passenger 4: Sunshine North. Added $3.00, new balance of $2.43
- Passenger 5: Sunshine. Added $6.00, new balance of $10.92
- Passenger 6: Sunshine. Added $5.00, new balance of $1.54
- Three passengers had a negative balance before they were forced to topup,
- Two more passengers had a balance of less than a dollar before they topped up,
- And only one passenger maintained a ‘healthy balance’ of more than $10.
Also note that only one passenger added enough money to their card to meet the $10 minimum online topup, the rest scraping their pockets for coins; and that none of the passengers maintained a balance substantially higher than $10, the bottom end trigger for auto-topup.
Six passengers on one bus route isn’t a conclusive answer to how people use public transport, but it does point to one fact – there are people out there who don’t have the funds to spare for direct debits and bulk online purchases.
When developing software or websites, one of most hard-earned lessons is you are not the user. From usability expert Jakob Nielsen:
This is why it’s a disaster to guess at the users’ needs. Since designers are so different from the majority of the target audience, it’s not just irrelevant what you like or what you think is easy to use — it’s often misleading to rely on such personal preferences.
The solution for technology nerds – user research and testing. The same lessons apply to those in charge of public transport.