What if to get a Slurpie at 7-11, you first had to buy a voucher from a tram conductor?

What if to get a Slurpie at 7-11, you first had to buy a voucher from a tram conductor?

7/11 and tram

Some would argue the situation now, where no tickets can be bought on trams, and Myki cards have to be bought and pre-loaded (at 7-11 or elsewhere) is equally silly.

In fact, if you look at the recent (the past 30 years or so) history of public transport ticketing in Melbourne appears to show repeated attempts to move to self-service, pre-purchase tickets.

  • Scratch tickets, introduced in 1990 — competition-like 2/3-hour and daily tickets that passengers had to scratch to validate/establish an expiry date — some were in use as late as 2002
  • Metcards, introduced in 1996 — mag-stripe cards, predominantly purchased at machines. Coincided with the removal of tram conductors and staff at most stations
  • Myki, introduced into Melbourne in late-2009 — smartcard tickets, loaded with credit, ultimately with no ticket sales on trams or buses (apart from smartcard purchase and eventually topup on buses; presumably most people will buy one, but hopefully will rarely have to buy another)

One way of looking at it is to improve the efficiency of the network. Trams are no longer staffed by two people — one could argue this paved the way for service expansion (particularly on Sundays; frequencies pretty much doubled in 1999). Buses didn’t change their staffing — bus conductors were phased-out long ago.

Many stations no longer have a staff presence. Busy stations can get by with fewer staff than in the past — who remembers the vast number of ticket checkers at CBD stations in peak hour, and conversely the long queues to get in and out of places like Flinders Street on weekends because there were only a couple of staff on duty on the gates, and only a couple of gates open?

The other way of looking at it is a steady reduction in the quality of customer service. Tram passengers could previously board and sit down and someone would come to them and sell them a ticket (including paying with notes), give them travel advice, and provide a security presence.

Similar on railway stations, with the growing sense of unease on unstaffed stations (particularly at night) enough to prompt the Coalition in the last election to pledge armed guards after 6pm — despite that about half of reported assaults on railway stations occur at just ten stations, and much of it is before 6pm.

The long game?

If one were to theorise that the bureaucracy has been trying for some time to move to self-service tickets, and off-board payment, it looks like they have finally won.

Well, for now at least.

Terry Mulder remarked in the Herald Sun the other day:

“The Coalition Government will continue to refine the system over time, as they have done overseas,” he said. “We will not be re-introducing short-term paper tickets in the foreseeable future.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Metcard - not in useIt wouldn’t surprise me to see one or both major parties going into the next election with some kind of short-term ticket-related pledge.

Remember, Labor in their first term made changes to Metcard, restoring the availability of daily tickets on trams:

Daily tickets will be available to passengers on all Melbourne trams by the end of September, Transport Minister Peter Batchelor announced today.

Reversing one of the great debacles of the Kennett Government’s automatic ticketing system, Mr Batchelor said the conversion of tram ticket machines to introduce daily tickets would start from the beginning of September.

“By giving passengers the chance to buy a daily ticket on every tram, the Bracks Government is giving the people of Melbourne what they told us they want,” he said.

Daily tickets on trams in September — press release from Peter Batchelor, 28/7/2002

If you want to see short term tickets restored, now would be a good time to write to your state MP, and to sign the MykiSingles.com petition.

Update: If you saw this opinion piece in The Age today, it’s probably worth noting that while the author made some good points, he also made a lot of factual errors.

Yes, there will still be paper tickets post-Metcard — so why not offer them more widely?

This Friday is the last day for Metcard.

But if you thought it was the end for paper tickets, think again. Even aside from V/Line tickets, they will live-on.

As noted in today’s Age, despite the claims from government that it’s impossible to have paper tickets on a system that’s moved to Smartcards, there are several scenarios in metropolitan areas where passengers will continue to be issued with paper tickets.

myki_daypass_front
(This picture provided by “MAN_24.350″ on the BusAustralia forum)

This is a Day Pass, basically a zone 1+2 daily ticket. As you can see, it bears an amazing resemblance to paper tickets used before Metcard.

2-hour Met ticket from 1991-92

So far I’ve found three cases where they’re being used:

Firstly, By charities, for clients in need who need to be given a public transport fare:

The Day Pass is for clients:

  • in emergency situations
  • who are extremely disadvantaged or disabled
  • who, for variety of reasons cannot use myki and/or unlikely to retain one
  • who aren’t able to use another product at the time of presenting for a Day
  • Pass, such as Access Travel Pass or Asylum Seeker concession

UnitingCare, quoting a Transport Ticketing Authority document

Secondly, Seniors are provided with travel vouchers each year, and these can be exchanged for Day Passes:

As a Victorian Seniors Card holder you can exchange your Free Travel Vouchers for a Day Pass as an alternative means to travel on public transport instead of myki.

The Day Pass is not available for sale to the general public and is ONLY issued under special circumstances, or to certain concession groups that are redeeming free travel entitlements or vouchers.

This Day Pass entitles you to one day’s travel on public transport in Zones 1 and 2 in Melbourne, as well as on regional town bus services where myki is operating. You must use a myki for any other travel undertaken.


In order for the Day Pass to be valid for travel, it must be issued to you at a staffed train station with the day, month and year of your intended travel, hole-punched. A Day Pass that does not have the day of intended travel identified in this way is not a valid ticket.

PTV web site

And finally, and I find this one the most amusing, they are to be issued to Seniors on Mornington Peninsula bus routes 787 and 788.

Why? Because of a shortcoming with Myki. You see, under Metcard Seniors can buy a Seniors Daily for $3.80, covering all travel in metropolitan Melbourne, including zones 1 and 2, and the entirety of routes 787 and 788, parts of which are beyond zone 2.

Myki couldn’t handle this. It deals with parts of those bus routes as being in zones 3 and 4, but it treats a Seniors Daily fare as only being valid in zones 1 and 2. Seniors using Myki to travel from say Portsea into Frankston, and then on to central Melbourne and back again ended up paying about $9 for the fare.

Rather than fix the problem in the Myki software, instead Peninsula Seniors will be sold a Day Pass:

If you are travelling on bus routes 787 and 788 and making a return trip across three or more zones in one day, seniors on the Mornington Peninsula can buy a Day Pass from the bus driver and continue to pay the Seniors Daily fare of $3.80.

The Day Pass is a paper ticket that is valid for one day’s unlimited travel between Zone 3 or 4 on the Mornington Peninsula and into Zone 1 in Melbourne.

You can purchase a Day Pass from the bus driver for $3.80 to travel on that day only. Show your Victorian Seniors Card to the driver to request a Day Pass.

The bus driver must hole-punch the day, month and year in the Day Pass in order for the Day Pass to be valid for travel. A Day Pass that does not have the day, month and year hole-punched, or which has more than one day, month or year punched, is not valid for travel.

When travelling with a Day Pass, you must show it to the bus driver when boarding, to train station staff to gain entry or exit from a gated station, or to an Authorised Officer when requested. You must also carry your Victorian Seniors Card when travelling with a Day Pass. Please note that Day Passes cannot be used to travel on any other day, other than the date specified.

PTV web site: Fares 2013

Perth paper ticket and SmartRider

What about others wanting paper tickets?

There’s no doubt that encouraging as many people onto smartcards makes sense from an efficiency point of view, and for regular passengers there are a number of advantages (even if the implementation has been extremely troubleprone).

But for a variety of reasons, not having some kind of short term ticket option opens up a world of problems.

I’m not suggesting that punch tickets be used more widely as a short term ticket — nor am I suggesting that the short term cardboard Myki tickets currently used (for now) in regional cities be brought into metropolitan Melbourne.

Myki vending machines and bus consoles are capable of issuing receipts for top-ups. These should be used to print paper tickets (as is done in Brisbane and Perth) which can be shown to staff — just like the Day Pass.

The removal of short term tickets will bring four distinct hurdles to casual public transport use

From December 29th, a month from today, basically all metropolitan public transport will require a Myki card, following the government decision in June 2011 to not implement short term tickets.

I expect regular users will adapt. Most of them already have. It’s the occasional users (and that includes locals as well as tourists) who will have four significant barriers to using the system.

Tram signage: No ticket sales on trams from 29th December / Myki is the only ticket you can use from 29th December

Confusion

As with any big change, there will initially be confusion due to out-of-date information floating around. Take for instance the widely regarded Lonely Planet, which until a couple of days ago, said on its “Getting Around” page for Melbourne:

Metcards allow you to travel on any and all Melbourne bus, train and tram services, even if you transfer from one to another. Tickets are available from Metcard vending machines and counters at train stations, on board trams (tram vending machines only take coins and only dispense City Saver, two-hour and daily tickets), from retailers displaying the Met flag (usually newsagents and milk bars) and the Met Shop. You can purchase tickets directly from the driver on bus services.

Obviously in time this information will get updated — just in the last few days Lonely Planet has updated the page with the latest information, including removing references to the Met Shop at the Town Hall, which closed last weekend, in favour of the new PTV Hub at Southern Cross.

(In contrast, the official Tourism Australia page on transport in Melbourne is hopeless. Its top link is some obscure coach company called Transport Network Australia, and there is no mention at all of PTV, Metro, Yarra Trams, Myki or even older entities such as Metlink. Meanwhile, Wikitravel is out of date, but not hopelessly so. Rough Guides mentions nothing but Metcard. Frommers is pretty much up to date, but with last year’s prices.)

But even if you do look at the official Myki info, can you figure out what to do?

Adapting from a system where you say up-front when and where you want to travel, and buying a ticket for precisely that, to one where you get a re-usable card, load money onto it, then use it up, is a big change, and even if you know precisely how the system works, it’s difficult.

For instance, you’re arriving in Melbourne for a day. You know to buy a Myki, and can find somewhere to do so. How much do you load onto it so you don’t have too much left over when you leave?

Let’s say it’s a Saturday. The maximum weekend fare is $3.30. So, you should load $3.30, right?

Well, no. For a Myki (using Myki Money) to touch-on, the balance must be above zero. So for travel for the day, you’d need to load $3.40 (at a machine, because they don’t take 5 cent coins — at a retailer you might well be able to load $3.35.)

This is not super-simple to understand.

Queue at Flagstaff for Metcards (after Metcard machines were removed)

Cost

Then of course there’s the cost of the cards. $6 for an adult/$3 for concession. It may not seem like much, and I suppose it isn’t… for one person.

But if you’re travelling in say a family of four, you’re suddenly looking at $18 plus the fares. For a short visit, or for locals who only use public transport once-a-year, this is a not insignificant outlay.

And if you load up too much money on the card/s, it’s a hassle to get the balance back — the only way to get a refund is by cheque, taking 21 days — next to useless for international travellers.

(I have Go cards from a trip to Brisbane last year which still have about $8 on them, for this reason, even though their refund system is a little easier to use.)

Availability

The third hurdle is availability.

While Myki cards and topup are widely available (moreso than in Perth), there are some significant gaps.

You can only buy buy only full-fare Myki cards at railway station/tram stop vending machines. To get a concession Myki you have to order it online or find a Premium station or retail outlet.

On trams, you won’t be able to buy or topup a Myki card at all. There will be no options to legally ride a tram unless you already have a loaded card.

This presents an enormous barrier to occasional users who want to catch a tram.

Tram ads: Myki is the only ticket you can use from 29th December

Psychological

Finally, something which I think gets forgotten…

Even if you figure out what you need to do, get over the cost issues, and it’s possible to find the card(s) you need…

I think there’s a psychological barrier to buying a re-usable card when you only want to use it once, or once in a blue moon. (No, the balance does not expire after 90 days.)

I know people who visit Brisbane and are happy to pay the much higher fare for paper tickets, knowing that Go cards are cheaper. So it is too with Myki at the moment, while Metcards are available.

Not everybody wants that kind of souvenir of Melbourne. Not every local or regular visitor will be able to tuck it away in the drawer and trust themselves to be able to find it again when they need it.

Conclusion

I’m sure the government would like every single Melburnian to have a loaded Myki card in their wallet, ready for use, and for every visitor to buy one too. The reality is somewhat different.

Encouraging new customers to use your product — initially occasionally, perhaps, with the hope they’ll switch more regularly — means it has to be easy to obtain.

I think there’s a real concern that the removal of all short term ticket options (particularly from trams) will make it too hard for new users to (legally) jump on board.

Already I know of one dedicated motorist who, looking for any reason to stick to his car, is using the “you can’t buy a single ticket” excuse — even though it’s not quite true yet.

How this plays out after December 28th is anybody’s guess. It will be fascinating to see what happens.

Charity auction: Travel like it’s 1999 – buy this pristine unvalidated Zone 1 Metcard

Back in June, when you could still buy unvalidated Metcards (eg at railway stations) I bought a Zone 1 adult daily and popped it away.

I am now selling it for charity, either for those of you who want to take one last train ride with one (yeah even though you can still buy one on a bus or tram) or people who want an unvalidated Metcard for their ticket collection (and were foolish enough not to buy one earlier).

And of course, I filmed myself buying it:

(Lookie here kids, this is what we used to do when we could buy a ticket just for one day of travel. Ah, those were the days.)

I was going to wait until December for this, but the window of opportunity to use it is shrinking fast, because railway station Metcard validators have started being removed, on the basis that almost every Metcard out there in use has already been validated.

Metcard and Metcard keepsafe walletI’m not listing stuff on eBay anymore, after eBay’s subsidiary Paypal decided they no longer wish to do business with me. (In short they’ve decided I’m some kind of fraudster, but won’t tell me precisely what it is I’ve done wrong — so my Paypal account is “Limited” which means I can do bugger-all, and they won’t fix it. I should probably talk to the Financial Ombudsman about it at some stage.)

So instead, I’m going to ask for bids here, as a blog post comment.

Your name (publicly displayed) can be anonymous or an alias, but you must leave a valid email address. (As per normal comment moderation, if it’s an email address never used here before, you may see a short delay before your comment is published.)

The reserve price is $7.60, the original price of the ticket.

I’ll chuck in a pristine Metcard keepsafe wallet (a glorified cardboard envelope issued by Metlink). Fool your friends by keeping your Myki in it!

The winner will be the highest bidder as at 8pm AEDT on Thursday 29th of November. If two of you manage to bid for the same amount, it’ll be whoever placed the bid first.

I’ll contact the winner directly via email. If the winner bails out for some reason, I’ll chase the second-highest bidder.

I’ll ask for bank deposit and send it as soon as the money comes through. I’ll pay the postage to anywhere in Australia.

Daily MetcardAll funds raised (including the original $7.60 purchase price I paid for the Metcard) will be donated to the Australian Red Cross. (Note: this has been organised without the knowledge of the Red Cross… but I hope they don’t mind.)

I have no idea if this will work in actually raising any charity funds… but I hope someone is interested. (Last time I tried something like this, nobody was!)

Unvalidated Metcards can no longer be used if you can’t find a station validator

My last MetcardAt railway stations around Melbourne, they’ve started removing Metcard validators as part of the final switch to Myki. In some cases, some station entrances have no Metcard validator at all now.

In theory this doesn’t affect many people, as it’s been several months since multi-trip Metcards were sold, and also since unvalidated single trip Metcards were sold. You can now only get Metcards on trams and buses, and they’re already validated at purchase.

Accordingly, the the rules have been updated to say that an unvalidated Metcard can’t be used for travel if you can’t find somewhere to validate it:

All ticket validating devices for validating or re-validating Metcards at the entrance to designated areas are being progressively de-activated and removed.

On and after 12 November 2012, a Metcard will be valid for an entry to a designated area where the ticket validating devices have been de-activated or removed, or for a journey on a train commencing from that railway station, only if the Metcard had previously been validated and the whole of the journey or the entry conforms with a journey or an entry
authorised by it.

On and after 12 November 2012, a Metcard that had not been previously validated prior to an entry to a designated area where the ticket validating devices have been de-activated or removed is not capable of being made valid for that entry or for a journey on a train commencing from that railway station.

– Page 4ii, Fares & Ticketing Manual

It goes on to say that if the gates won’t let you out (which may happen say trying to exit a CBD railway station after commencing a trip with a Metcard which was validated on a tram or bus originally, but was not validated when you started your train trip) you can show it to a staff member to be let out.

It also specifically flags that no Metcard is valid on a service commencing after 3am on the 29th of December (in other words, the end of day in PT terms of the 28th).

So I guess the final service you can use Metcards on would be the last Nightrider bus trip commencing just before 3am on that Saturday morning. No doubt some fans will work it out and travel with Metcards on that last trip.

At this point, anybody who has unused Metcards they can’t use should trade them in for Myki Money. This doesn’t incur the old $9.80 fee, and can be done over-the-counter at Premium railway stations (for most Metcards) — or if this isn’t convenient (or you have Weekly and longer term tickets) then you can do it by post.

Metcard never did work perfectly, but there’s little visibility of Myki reliability

I think most people would agree that with Myki we’ve got a problem. A system which is enormously expensive, which is generally less responsive and reliable than similar systems elsewhere, not to mention not offering a single use ticket option.

But one argument I don’t buy is that Metcard is perfect. The bureaucracy will claim it was near, or at, end-of-life. And certainly it doesn’t work perfectly. Only a couple of weeks ago I watched Metro staff at Flagstaff trying to unjam a ticket from one of the gates.

Metcard replacement form

In fact, Metcard never really did work perfectly. A big part of the problem is the mass of moving parts.

Here, from seven years ago, is a photocopy of the form I filled-in to get my Yearly ticket replaced when it went kaputsky part way through its twelve month life. At least with a contactless card such as Myki, such things (while not unknown) seem to be a lot rarer.

But how does reliability compare between the two systems (even taking into account that Myki is a bit hobbled for a few more months by tram and bus drivers not having any control console)? PTV’s Track Record has details of Metcard reliability, but not Myki. Surely it’s time this changed.

No, the law doesn’t demand that Myki accept 5 cent coins, or that Metcard machines accept notes

You know in the end the machines will win (1/2)The question seems to keep coming up as to whether it’s legal for Myki machines to not accept 5 cent coins; or indeed whether it’s legal for Metcard machines on trams to only accept coins (not notes).

Some people assume that because it’s all legal tender, it must be against the law to demand specific currency, or otherwise limit the payment options (such as only providing a limited amount of change).

As this page from the Reserve Bank says, legal tender doesn’t mean there’s any obligation to accept it:

It is the Reserve Bank of Australia’s understanding that, although Australian currency has legal tender status, it does not necessarily have to be used in transactions and that refusal to accept payment in legal tender banknotes and coins is not unlawful.

So you might not like it, but it’s not illegal.

PS. Some people even claim stuff like this that they don’t like is unconstitutional, and someone should be taken to court. Good luck with that.

A photo of mine reused by the Myki Customer Experience Panel (but I don’t mind)

Yesterday I was taking a look at the Myki Customer Experience Panel web site — that’s the set up where they ask a cross-section of Myki users about the system; get them to answer questions about what they’ve seen and how things are working for them. While some may moan about the extra cost, it’s tiny compared to the total budget for the system, and it’s the very type of consultation we need more of, I think.

Anyway, I was clicking around and looked at the Polls page:
Myki user panel pic

…and I thought hello, that photo of all the Metcards looks familiar.

Ah. Yes indeed. Very familiar:
Metcards

It’s my hand, my photo, snapped in 2010, and originally used in this blog post comparing different fare options for regular PT users.

It’s not the first time one of my pics has shown up elsewhere. In 2009 one of mine showed up in a London Daily News story about UK trains. In 2008 two of my photos got morphed together on Channel 9 news.

I don’t actually mind my photos being re-published. I deliberately put a Creative Commons licence on most of what I upload to Flickr. I’m more than happy happy if someone re-using a photo of a PT problem that I’ve snapped helps get a stronger message across.

But I do actually specify my photos as “Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike”…

I haven’t found it yet, but perhaps the Myki Customer Experience Panel’s fine print somewhere hidden away on the site includes the attribution credit?

Update Friday: Here’s another case, from Green Left Weekly:

Green Left Weekly used one of my photos without attributionMyki and Metcard readers, W-class tram