Backward steps.

Myki is the Victorian government’s answer to NSW’s T-Card; an expensive white-elephant, highly likely to end up on the scrap-heap and with a cringe-inducing name that presumably marked the high-point of the career of some pony-tailed marketroid.

Myki is supposed to make the public transport user’s life easier, by being a contactless smartcard with the ability to always calculate the lowest possible fare for any given journey (I imagine whoever came up with this line was turning a blind eye to the likely cost of $15-$20 per user for the privilege of being able to hold the card itself).

Unfortunately, Myki’s mode of operation is going to make travelling quite inconvenient. If it ever passes its trial (conveniently chosen to be performed in Geelong, where they only have one bus, whose sole purpose is to transport workers between the Ford factory and anywhere-but-Geelong), travellers will not only have to validate their ticket when starting a journey, they will have to “tag off” when they complete it, or they will be charged a higher fare. Brisbane’s Go-card system (what is it with these marketing people?), which started not all that long ago, operates in a similar way and has resulted in an absolute killing for the government’s annual revenue.

Ultimately, the part that annoys me most about this is the social engineering of commuters; forcing users to adapt themselves to the system, rather than making the system fit them. If they have a ticket that is already paid for and valid for a period of time, then they just want to get on a frigging tram and sit down, preferably a long way away from the derro inhaling solvents on the back steps.

And when they get to their destination, they want to get off. Quickly, and easily, without being stuck behind the old dear who has lost her ticket somewhere in the bottom of her handbag, probably underneath that pile of used tissues that she’s pulling out right now.

Validating tickets at every turn makes that a pain. And if the government isn’t willing to put conductors back on trams, or staff back in railway stations, then no amount of money spent on technology is going to halt fare-evasion in Melbourne. Those people who don’t want to pay will continue to play gestapo-lotto with the roving thugs ticket inspectors and probably come out ahead.

Furthermore, one of my favourite bloggers, Daniel Bowen (who just happens to be the President of the Public Transport Users Association in Victoria) has noted that transitioning towards Myki is also going to herald another retrograde step. Melbourne’s weekly, monthly and yearly tickets have long had a nice lurk in that they are valid in all zones over the weekend. From January 1st, 2009, this feature will be gone.

I can’t see this doing anything to improve Melbourne’s weekend traffic congestion which, at least from my admittedly non-participatory point-of-view, appears to be worse than it is on weekdays and doesn’t even ease up in the middle of the day (at this point, insert standard complaint about soccer mums, four-wheel drives and private school Saturday sport. Make the bloody kid walk to his soccer match, Mrs Robertson-Smythe).

Lynne Kosky, expect a piece of my mind in your mailbox very soon.

4 responses to “Backward steps.

  1. You know in Hong Kong they have the same tag on/tag off system on the trains and buses and from the traveling around I did on the public transport system there I found (in my personal opinion) it worked fine. Everyone has their Optopus cards in their wallets and they just swipe them on/off. From what I remember, people got on at the front of the bus and then got off at the back door, so the flow of passengers was fine. I really don’t think its as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.

    I can’t speak for the Victorian ticketing system but I’d kill for that here in Sydney with the slow-assed ticket machines in the buses.

  2. You sir are over-reacting.

    Perth has had a fully integrated smart card system since jan ’07 and its the best thing that has happened to the public transport system.

    I stopped catching public transport about 8 years ago because of the mess with tickets and multi ticket punch thingies and the simple delay with getting on and off from huge queues at ticket machines.

    Started again this year and the new system is great, faster on and off. Basically no pausing getting on or off public transport at all, tag machine at every door, and at turnstyles at every station. Just tag as you go past.

    But then of course its done properly over here. If you’re a student, primary, secondary, tertiary your student card is a smartrider card. The old biddy digging for her ticket is never a problem, its her Senior’s card, you can bet she knows exactly where that is, its the only thing that makes it possible to live on the joke that is the pension.

    Oh and its also integrated into the parking ticket machines at the train stations.

    Plus it works out much cheaper than buying the old tickets everywhere even when you didn’t really need them.

    • Ash, people blocking doorways while searching for their ticket are already a problem *right now*, with the current system. The difference will be that in future, they will be not only blocking them on the way in, but on the way out too.

  3. It’s worth noting that in London they changed buses and trams to flat fares to get around the problems of masses of people tagging on and off.

    Anybody who doesn’t think it’s a problem should take a look at the doorways of a Melbourne tram in the CBD at lunchtime.

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