What if to get a Slurpie at 7-11, you first had to buy a voucher from a tram conductor?
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.”
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
- See also: 29/11/2012: The removal of short term tickets will bring four distinct hurdles to casual public transport use
- and: 27/12/2012: Yes, there will still be paper tickets post-Metcard — so why not offer them more widely?