Myki: swings and roundabouts for passengers

The Public Transport Users Association said today that the introduction of the new multi-million-dollar Myki ticketing system to Melbourne, and later to V/Line services would bring benefits to passengers, but also some problems.

“Myki does bring advantages”, said PTUA president Daniel Bowen. “It will provide much better access to the cheapest fares, such as $3 weekend daily fares currently available only at staffed railway stations, and will make them available on public holidays.

“Being able to travel on V/Line services without buying a separate ticket will be a plus, and we hope that the greater use of reusable Myki cards will speed up bus services.

Myki card“Because tickets will not have to be physically inserted into validators, they are expected to last longer and be more reliable. And finally you will be able to buy a ticket on the tram using notes.

“The introduction of Myki has also resulted in some welcome revisions to suburban bus zones[1], which will make some trips cheaper, and the current anomaly of two-hour Metcards bought after 1am not lasting two hours seems to have been fixed.”

But Mr Bowen said there were concerns about the system, and noted reports of overcharging in the regional cities where it had already been introduced.[2]

“Passengers will have to take care to properly touch on and off, and will be cautiously watching the scanners or checking their transactions on the web site to ensure the system is charging them correctly”, he said.

The PTUA remains concerned about slow scanner response times, given the requirement to touch off, particularly the impact on busy tram services, but also on peak hour buses, at suburban stations in the evenings when large numbers of people try to exit at once, and at special events such as the football.[3]

“The Transport Ticketing Authority needs to ensure that the scanners are fast enough to deal with big crowds, and government should have a ‘Plan B’ in place if the requirement to touch off causes unacceptable delays on crowded trams and buses. One option might be amending tram and most bus fares to a ‘zone-free’ flat charge, and removing the requirement to touch off, just as is done with the Oyster system in London.”[4]

Mr Bowen said that PTUA member feedback from regional cities[5], and close examination of the newly published government Fares and Ticketing Manual[6] had revealed some issues remained in the Myki system, including:

  • touch on and touch off scanner tones are identical, which may result in confusion or over-charging if the system thinks the passenger is boarding a service when they are in fact alighting
  • the lower limit for topping up a Myki ticket on buses is $1, leading to some users paying small amounts of money to the bus driver each time they board — the very type of time-consuming transaction Myki is supposed to eliminate
  • continuing issues with scanner reliability, with users finding that about one-in-three Geelong buses have a scanner not working
  • despite widespread belief that the Myki system will run on public transport throughout the state, there are apparently no plans to implement it on town buses in Ararat, Bairnsdale, Benalla, Beaufort, Cobram, Colac, Drouin, Echuca/Moama, Hamilton, Horsham, Korumburra, Lakes Entrance, Mildura, Portland, Rochester, Sale, Shepparton/Mooroopna, Swan Hill, Stawell, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, Wodonga and Wonthaggi. The PTUA believes that given the huge amount of money spent on Myki, it might as well run on all services throughout Victoria (with the possible exception of Wodonga, which is part of a cross-border bus service with Albury, NSW) provided this can be implemented cost-effectively
  • weekly, monthly and yearly pass holders for a single Melbourne zone will no longer get free weekend travel in the other zone, instead having to pay a surcharge
  • two-hour fares are no longer valid for travel if a bus or tram is delayed or cancelled and the service runs after the fare expiry time
  • Myki Money users with Auto Topup will find their cards locked if the Auto Topup fails due to insufficient funds in their bank account — even if the Myki card still has enough money on it to travel
  • it appears that even though the system will collect extensive data on users’ travel patterns, this will not be used to automatically refund or compensate passengers as a result of service disruptions or transport operators failing to meet the performance targets

Mr Bowen said the PTUA was providing feedback to the Transport Ticketing Authority in the hopes of getting these issues resolved.

“We hope that they will be making revisions to the system to ensure it works well for commuters. Melbourne’s public transport users have enough challenges with our packed trains, slow trams and infrequent buses, so the TTA will need to work very hard to ensure the introduction of Myki into Melbourne is as smooth as possible”, concluded Mr Bowen.

ENDS

References:

1. Metlink: Changes to metropolitan bus zone boundaries
www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/news/news-promotions/changes-to-metropolitan-bus-zone-boundaries/

2. The Age 22/10/2009 “Myki users overcharged”
www.theage.com.au/national/myki-users-overcharged-20091021-h917.html

3. Herald Sun 3/3/2009 “Myki to slow trams”
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/tickets-to-slow-trams/story-0-1111119012689

4. Zone-free trams and buses (except freeway express buses that currently cover two zones) could work by allowing any zone 1 or 2 ticket to be valid, so connecting train passengers would be charged no more, and cheaper zone 2 prices would apply to trips that only included trams or buses. While this scheme would make trams and buses inconsistent with trains, it recognises that most bus/tram trips are short distances, and would simplify the zone system, as well as removing delays due to having to touch off Myki tickets.

London moved to flat fares on buses and trams in 2004 as part of the rollout of their Oyster Smartcard. www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/archive/4388.aspx

5. Initial reaction from Geelong users from March 2009
www.ptua.org.au/2009/03/11/myki-thumbs-down/

6. Metlink: Victorian fares and ticketing manual (myki)
www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/fares-tickets/victorian-fares-and-ticketing-manual-myki/

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