Guess what? Another bug has been found in Myki.
(No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.)
You know how you can load a Pass (weekly, month, yearly etc) onto your Myki, and use it, and load a second Pass which won’t activate until the first one has finished?
Well there’s a bug which sometimes causes the second one to activate before the first has finished.
I know this, because my new Yearly activated 13 days before the old one had finished, leaving me with two active Yearly Passes.
So far PTV is saying three people have contacted them about it. I did… at least one person reported it on Whirlpool, and possibly even a second — surely that couldn’t be the only three people it has affected?
Or are there more people who haven’t yet noticed? It’s unclear if this happens to everyone who (quite legitimately) loads two Passes onto one card.
What is particularly surprising is that this is a part of Myki that has worked flawlessly since I’ve been using Passes on it in 2010. For something so fundamental to go wrong smacks of a new software version being rolled-out without having been fully tested.
If you use Myki Pass, now would be a good time to check your transaction records and the card status and make sure it’s doing what it should be doing.
We are writing to provide you with some important information about a matter that has affected some of your Commuter Club customers.
As you are aware, when a Commuter Club customer renews their annual myki pass for another year, we add that second pass to a myki a few weeks before the current pass expires, so it is ready to use straight away.
For a small number of customers, the second myki pass loaded to their myki, started before the first had expired.
We are contacting those affected customers to make them aware of the situation and advise that a reimbursement for the number of days the pass activated before it should have is being refunded to them via cheque.
Please be advised this matter has been corrected.
Update 13/4/2013: Yesterday they finally came back to me by email and said a refund is being issued for the lost 13 days:
Our records indicate that the second pass loaded to your myki card [removed] started before the first had expired.
Our investigations confirm that your second myki pass activated while you had 13 days remaining on your first pass and as such a cheque reimbursement of $70.00 will be mailed to you within the next 10 business days.
$70 is enough to buy 2 x 7 day Zone 1 Passes ($35 each), making up the 13 days lost plus one. However, given the current Yearly Pass I’m on expires next year, after next January’s price rise, it may not cover those 13 days.
At least some others affected are getting their refund as Myki Money loaded onto the card instead of a cheque.
It’s still unclear how many people have been affected, and whether they have proactively sought them out, rather than just waiting for complaints to come in.
Update 18/4/2013: The last communication to me said they’d refund me $70, which sounded about right. But today I got an email saying:
After considering the details of your special consideration claim, a reimbursement has been granted and an amount of $ 35.00 will be posted to you as a cheque within the next 10 days.
Ummmm.. Hmm. Better get in contact, I suspect.
Update 29/4/2013: A follow up email acknowledged that the one quoting $35 was wrong, and said I’d get a cheque for the full amount (eg $70).
Then a cheque arrived for $35. It was mailed before the last email though.
Better contact them again.
Update 2/5/2013: They’ve acknowledged the error and are sending out a second cheque for $35, making a total of $70.
One of the reactions to the news of top-ups on buses was that it would slow down buses because top-ups take too long. Some people claimed it can take well over a minute to do a top-up.
I was doubtful about this, so I tried it. I used a note and a couple of coins (as it will be on buses — cash only) and filmed it.
I make that about 30 seconds. Perhaps it would have been quicker if I was more familiar with the location of the note reader!
Of course on a bus, you’ll just hand your cash to the driver. He’ll need to stash it somewhere, and tap into his console how much you’ve put on, before you touch your card to update the balance. (This happens now in regional cities.)
Myki has a number of problems that need fixing, and the overall usability may affect the top-up times for people, but I’m not sure 30 seconds is too bad from the machines. Hopefully on-board buses it’s faster.
For comparison, buying a Metcard with cash from a vending machine also took about 30 seconds.
#Myki topups coming soon to buses (but will they avoid the issues of slow transactions and security?)
Leader Newspapers is reporting that Myki topups will be allowed on buses from next month. A maximum of $20 will apply.
Well, that’s about time. This is good news for passengers.
Firstly, it means the Myki consoles will be activated, with Metcard equipment removed. The coexistence of the two systems has caused a lot of glitches, particularly crashed readers unable to be easily restarted, and incorrect zone detection.
Secondly, it resolves issues for middle and outer-suburban users with topups. Bus drivers do carry preloaded Myki cards for sale, but with no short-term tickets, and many suburbs having few retail outlets, and online topups being quite slow at times (because transaction has to be loaded onto bus readers for collection with the card), this is an important option for many, particularly those who don’t use trains, and those who don’t want to use Auto Topup (which does avoid these issues).
There are two issues that have been highlighted with topups on buses.
First: that it’ll slow down buses. That one is easy to solve: don’t give change. This will cut the time taken for each transaction, but it’ll also encourage users to load up more than a trip and/or day’s worth of Myki Money in each transaction.
After all, we’re stuck with no single tickets for now — we might as well make the most of it to speed up bus services, which unlike the other modes have suffered greatly in the past from delays caused by on-board sales.
What should be permitted though is to split the topup across multiple cards, so that for instance a family boarding can give the driver a $20 note and have $10 of that loaded onto the parent’s card, and $5 onto each of the two kids’ cards.
Secondly, some bus drivers have grumbled about possible security issues from carrying large amounts of cash.
I would think it wouldn’t be a larger amount of cash than previously under Metcard, but it is likely to be higher denominations — people will topup less often than they bought tickets, but are likely to chuck $20 at a time onto their card.
The security risk is easily solved by using the method that has been used by many North American bus systems for decades: give no change; all cash goes into a locked box which can only be opened at the depot.
So, I think both issues are easily solved — but it’s not yet clear if they have been addressed by PTV for the April rollout.
It’s not clear when trams will have their Metcard equipment removed and headless mode will be fixed… I don’t think I’ve seen a single tram which doesn’t still have a Metcard machine fitted.
When it eventually happens, it won’t mean topups are available, but at least other issues should be resolved.
Noted at Flinders Street Station the other week, on one of those automatic rotating advertisement things: competing ads for Myki.
(The third ad in the sequence was not Myki-related… after that it flipped back and repeated the two above.)
It’ll be interesting to see if these types of adverts encourage people to use off-system top-ups such as at 7-Eleven, and/or auto-topup (which works quite well for Myki Money users, and is literally a “set and forget” system — once set up, this too is instant).
It was 44 years last week since the 1969 crash of the Southern Aurora into a goods train at Violet Town in northeast Victoria. (Upgrades to safety systems should ensure such a crash doesn’t happen again.)
The CFA has published a set of photos and a fascinating article about the disaster — well worth a read.
As it happens I went through Violet Town just after Christmas, with time to spare, and snapped a few pictures.
On the citybound platform are recognisable Myki reader mounting points and one of the big Myki/Kamco equipment boxes — with the change to the Myki rollout plan in 2011, this and other stations beyond the V/Line commuter belt might never get Myki. (I wonder if anything is inside the box?) A newer Albury-bound platform didn’t seem to have the mounting points.
The modern-day daytime equivalent of the train that crashed, a southbound Countrylink XPT zoomed through… notice how much it bounces around — perhaps a result of continuing problems with the track upgrade on the line.
Myki cards have a four year lifespan. With many cards bought in Geelong in late-2008 and early-2009 now expiring, a number of users are getting replacement cards.
Some are going back to the original retail outlets, post offices in Geelong and Corio, and buying new cards (the cost of which can be refunded as part of the expiry process).
Lo and behold, they’re finding that those new replacement cards also expire this year.
It appears to be because the expiry date of cards sold at retail outlets that don’t have Myki consoles is set during the card distribution stage, and these retailers are still selling stock from 2009.
This explains why cards like my original one expired on 22nd of January 2013 even though it was bought in April 2009. The expiry clock can start ticking before it’s sold.
It’s difficult at this stage to determine how many people are affected. Probably not a huge number, but PTV/Myki are aware of it and are hopefully moving quickly to resolve it.
Update: Evidently cards sold from vending machines don’t have this problem;
it’s unclear how it works with station booking offices and the newer retailers such as 7-11, which have consoles that may encode the cards when they are sold — ditto cards sold at station booking offices and newer retailers, as long as the Myki console is correctly used to initialise the card. One observer has noted that when buying the card, it’s worth ensuring you get a receipt just in case they don’t do this step correctly, as the card won’t function at all if not.
But first I want to mention the known bugs… that is, leaving aside “by-design” flaws and issues such as bus/tram incorrect zone detection hopefully likely to be resolved by the end of Myki’s headless mode.
Known bugs in Myki
Myki Pass Retail Console Bug. There’s a bug in the retail consoles which means that if your Myki card (which has a four year lifespan) expires in less than a year, you can’t buy a Pass of any duration. So you might have 300 days left until the card expires, but you can’t even buy a 7 day Pass.
This does not affect Myki vending machines; it’s unclear if it’s an issue with railway station booking office equipment.
Free weekend travel — not quite free. If you have a Zone 1 Pass, then travel in zone 2 on weekends and public holidays is free. That’s because to calculate your fare, it uses the Weekend Daily Cap (currently $3.50) but subtracts the two-hour fare of the Pass (also currently $3.50) making it zero extra cost.
But the bug is in the way this calculation is done at touch-on and touch-off. It turns out if the Myki Money balance is zero, it won’t allow you to touch-off in zone 2 (eg having touched-on and travelled from zone 1) — and presumably will also stop you touching-on in zone 2 as well.
Preventing you touching-on outside your Pass zone is perhaps understandable, but stopping you touching-off when the system knows a zero fare is chargeable is clearly a bug.
Zone overlap travel followed by zone 1 travel. The scenario: Use Myki Money, and make a trip first in the zone 1/2 overlap (charged at the cheaper zone 2 fare, $2.42), then after the initial 2-hour fare has passed, make a trip in zone 1 ($3.50), then after another 2-hours has passed make a third trip in zone 1 ($3.50).
You should pay the Daily Zone 1 cap ($7.00), because all of your travel has been within zone 1. But you actually get charged a Zone 2 2-hour fare, plus the Daily Zone 1 cap (a total of $10.50). This bug was first found back in 2010. As far as I know it hasn’t yet been fully resolved, though I seem to recall they now do scans of the database to find and reimburse people who have made this combination of travel.
None of these three bugs are likely to affect the majority of people, but neither are they completely obscure.
Update April 10th: Last week a bug with overlapping Passes emerged; sometimes a second Pass loaded onto a card may activate before the first Pass has expired. Details here.
Other things that have to be fixed
Here’s a list of other things they could/should fix — and I’d note many of them should not be not expensive or difficult (though given how the project has been run so far, who knows):
- faster touch times — as discussed previously, Myki is noticeably slower than Perth and Brisbane’s systems. I’m guessing this wouldn’t be easy to fix, but would make a huge difference.
- different sounds for touch-on vs touch-off so less people need to visually inspect the screens, speeding up queues — the current distinction (single/double beep) is pointless
- fix the unwanted receipts issue — at least the modification they’re rolling out now removes many of the unwanted details on credit card receipts, but at present you’ll still get an EFTPOS receipt when you don’t want one
- speed up online topup, particularly for fixed devices — eg be in a position to guarantee topup available at stations within 60 mins
- short term tickets (printed like receipts, as is done in Brisbane and Perth), even if Daily is the only option. Price them as high as you like, but have them available.
- …which includes fixing the pricing differential in regional cities — it’s as little as about 6% difference at present in some cases — no wonder the majority of people still buy individual tickets on regional buses
- better contrast colours on vending machines by default, to help with sunlight
- cut cost of 28+ day passes to make them more attractive (they’re way overpriced compared to most other cities around the world), so they’re a no-brainer for regular users, linked with…
- educate/promote no need to touch-off on a Pass
- consider scrapping 7-day pass and replace with 7-day cap, to simplify things for users — this was originally planned, but got scrapped for some reason
- proper refund system (not just card return) for Myki cards at the airports and cruise ship terminal — prob not needed if short term tickets provided
- if short term tickets aren’t coming back, remove all mentions from system (eg vending machines, forms) — a vending machine rollout on now fixes this, but it’s taken 18 months to get it done, and some forms still mention them
- have some useability specialists go through the whole system, especially the web site transaction list
- upgrade Myki Check devices so they can collect online topups — this is a source of confusion currently
- remove the multiple cards detected error if the second card isn’t a Myki — should be as simple as checking the card type flags and/or card number ranges. This would make it easier to use your Myki card from a wallet or handbag.
- sort out a better process for expired cards, for instance so they can be exchanged over-the-counter at any staffed railway station — my first card was bought in April 2009, but expires today. I only got the email about replacement on Friday
- have online top-ups which are not completed after 90 days go back to the originating bank account, not into “archive”, so they are more visible to people, and the perception is the money hasn’t been “stolen”
- show expiry time for Myki Money fares
- make the minimum balance for touch-on be zero (instead of above zero) if a valid fare product for the touch-on zone is on the card — currently for instance to use a $3.50 weekend fare you have to load a little more onto the card so the balance stays above zero. This is counter-intuitive.
- automatic operator compensation to eligible customers
Finally, two things that should be dead easy and cheap but would help stem the tide of (sometimes unwarranted) negativity:
- issue promotional Myki cards, eg AFL team colours, to help improve take-up and “win the hearts and minds” of grumpy users
- publicise the actual good things about Myki, such as “change of mind” at railway stations, the fact that you can start a (metropolitan) trip with as little as 1 cent on your card (which may prevent missing a train when you need to top-up), and the now much easier access to cheap fares like the $3.50 Weekend Daily (which is also available on public holidays, a clear advantage over Metcard)
It’s not refundable, but you can now “return” unwanted Myki cards — apparently they’re donated to charity (though it’s not clear if this means the cards themselves, or the balance from them).
I wonder how many get handed in?
Of course, people who host visitors can always keep the cards to share/give to others.
(Tipoff: Matt McBride)