For anybody with an NFC (Near Field Contact)-compatible phone (such as my new Google Nexus 5), you can use the this little app — Tag Info Lite to read Myki cards.
Not that it’ll tell you very much — see below. All the actual useful information appears to be encrypted.
Apparently in some parts of the world an unencrypted copy of the card balance/status is also stored, allowing apps that will let you check your balance. For instance Farebot works with cards from Seattle, San Francisco, Singapore, the Netherlands and parts of Japan, and Travel Card Reader looks similar.
Shame Myki doesn’t appear to have this option, not even in PTV’s own apps — though I guess in theory they and/or Keane could do it, given they issue devices to Authorised Officers to do card checks.
With the old Metcards, you could easily see the expiry date(s) as it was printed on the card itself.
This is an opportunity, of course. As more phones include this technology, perhaps a future (hopefully minor) upgrade could allow people to check their card balance or fare expiry in this way.
(Some apps claim to do this with Myki, but what they’re really doing is checking your online account, which is not necessarily up to date — the card is the point of truth.)
Oh, and here’s what I get from a Brisbane Go Card:
Travellers Aid do good work helping those who need a little extra assistance getting around.
They have a fundraiser on at the moment: Myki card holders, for $2.50 postage and handling, and they invite you to add a donation (which I did).
My sister loves the Keep Calm meme, so I got this one for her birthday:
I didn’t even notice before seeing the photograph — check the crown!
The beauty of it is you can keep your Myki card in the holder, and touch on and off from there.
Alas you can only order one of each type… I’m tempted to place some more orders for this specific one.
From the (hopefully) easy to change, but quite beneficial department:
What if they ditched the rule that to touch-on a Myki (without an active Pass on it) you need at least 1 cent, and made it zero instead?
Why would they allow touch-on with $0.00? Well…
Myki cards would become a de facto single use ticket: You could touch-on, make a single trip, then touch-off, sending the balance into negative. You’d have to top-up if you wanted to use it again. So a single trip becomes $6 for full fare, $3 concession — in other words, a premium from the typical Z1 2-hour full-fare of $3.50.
(It wouldn’t resolve the problems of no single trip ticket on trams, given no sales on-board, and only a minority of tram stops having vending machines, but would help passengers on trains, and buses — assuming they’re still selling cards on buses; this was done at the start of the year but isn’t mentioned on the official info now.)
It gets around the exact fare top-up problem. It’s incredibly confusing that when buying a new card, you have to top-up with a little bit more than the fare. For instance if you have $3.50 on your card, you can’t use the weekend daily $3.50 fare all day, because it stops working when the card balance falls to zero, which might be as soon as straight after one trip.
It would resolve the free travel on no balance problem which famously resulted in thousands of Seniors Myki cards (valid for free weekend travel in Melbourne) being withdrawn and re-issued with 1 cent of balance. This issue also affects others, for instance those with a full fare Zone 1 Myki Pass trying to travel into zone 2 on weekends (which should be free) have problems if their balance is zero.
People might throw the cards away after one trip. That means wasted cards/lost revenue. How much do cards cost? Not clear, though this web site quotes numerous manufacturers in China supplying MiFare DESFire EV1 cards at under US$1 each if bought in bulk. (Is that legit? Are these unauthorised clone products based on that from the NXP/Mifare people, or do NXP just supply a reference design which anybody can manufacture?)
Cards thrown away may not be too much of a problem though, if people are aware that their subsequent trips are cheaper if they hold onto it.
The card cost will need to stay above the cost of a two zone 2-hour fare (currently $5.92), which probably means a price rise this coming January. But I’d expect it to go up anyway, as currently you can run down the balance to as little as one cent and still make one trip.
Am I missing anything?
Refactoring is a legitimate strategy in software development. It’s where you feel the design is (more-or-less) right, but the software implementation has gone wrong, and needs to be completely cleaned-up, by chucking it out and re-writing it.
So here’s a thought: if the single most annoying, unreliable, sluggish part of the Myki system is the Readers, then how much time, money and effort would it take to completely refactor all of the software in the Readers?
Don’t change the hardware and cards, which has cost a bomb to buy and install, but (assuming the protocols the Readers work with is okay, and the hardware/cards are up to scratch – they’re used in other cities, after all) upgrade the software.
First you’d tweak the rules/logic a bit to help fix the worst issues — for instance, you might:
- ditch the confusing and not-very-good-value 7-day passes and replace them with an automatic weekly cap
- allow travel on a zero balance (rather than $0.01) to get around issues when people load the exact fare onto their card
- and you’d want to change the beeps to remove the meaningless double-beep and instead have differentiation between touch-on and touch-off
Then you’d hire a small team of gun programmers and testers, and let them get to work, with a small budget of say $1 million (about a 50th of the annual cost of running the ticket system) and some specific targets, starting with:
- fixing known bugs
- maximum 1 hour from online topup to it being available at fixed (railway station) readers
- and the most important one: consistent maximum 0.5 second response times (but preferably closer to 0.1 or 0.2), as seen with other cities’ smartcards
As my friend Josh often says: How hard could it be?
How often does the Myki reader in the middle at the main entrance to Bentleigh station break down?
Thanks to my archive of Tweets, the answer is: at least seventeen times since the start of 2010.
Two of three #Myki scanners at Bentleigh stn this morning were inoperable, displaying this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielbowen/4544311585/
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 23, 2010
#Myki machines at Bentleigh Stn still "starting up" tonight, 10 hours later http://flic.kr/p/7VyMvK
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 23, 2010
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) December 19, 2010
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 4, 2011
Hi @mykimate, yet again Bentleigh station platforms 1+2 entrance, middle reader not responding.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) September 5, 2011
Hi @mykimate, the recalcitrant Bentleigh stn platform 1/2 middle reader is not responding *again*.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) September 7, 2011
Hi @mykimate, Bentleigh stn platforms 1/2 middle reader not working AGAIN. (Suspect it's a dud given how often it breaks down.)
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) October 31, 2011
Hi @Mykimate, yet again the middle reader at entrance to Bentleigh station platforms 1+2 isn't responding. Many times now. Dud unit?
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) January 22, 2012
Hi @mykimate. Bentleigh station, platform 1+2 entrance, middle reader, not working AGAIN. Why is this one so problematic?
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 17, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 27, 2012
Good morning @mykimate, the troublesome reader at Bentleigh station (centre at entrance to platforms 1+2) was "Out of service" again today.
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 1, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 3, 2012
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) March 5, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 1, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) April 30, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) May 19, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) July 22, 2013
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 12, 2013
Was it more than 17?
I thought there’d be more complaining tweets during 2010, especially as the one in December 2010 (following those in April) makes it clear that particular reader regularly has problems. I wonder if Twitter has lost a few of my tweets.
Of course, I don’t check it every single day of the year. There’s a fair chance it’s been out of action more often.
Early on in the development of Myki, I got the impression that there’d be a degree of automatic detection of out of service devices. Along the lines of: it’s peak hour, there are five readers at this entrance, and the other four have had lots of Myki cards presented, but this one hasn’t — get someone to investigate.
Plus of course, why do they crash in the first place?
What is amazing is that a single reader would be so unreliable. Is it a dud? Who knows.
The other week I experienced a Myki triple-whammy. Three modes, three stuff-ups.
Tram (one with all Metcard equipment removed) – at least one reader that was initially out of service… another was running, but was incredibly slow.
Bus (ditto; no Metcard equipment on-board) – one reader near the back door not working or switched-off (display completely blank).
Train – at Flinders Street’s main entrance from Swanston/Flinders Street, no gates at all were allowing entry. They appeared to all have “Validation disabled”. This wasn’t just half, as you might expect if they’d configured different gates for different directions; none were allowing entry. Eventually some Metro staff manually opened one gate and everyone trying to get in was herded through without touching-on. (It was about 8:30pm; not packed, but not quiet either.) Ka-ching – lost revenue.
It’s unclear if this last issue was equipment failure, or staff not able for some reason to correctly configure the gates due to lack of training or other issues.
Myki is not a new system anymore (and nor was it ever a cheap one). It’s been running in Melbourne for more than three years. These kind of basic reliability issues should have been rectified by now. No wonder people are still grumpy about it.
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.