Oh Myki you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind

Since I apparently know a bit more about it than the average person, and I keep getting asked about it, here’s what I know about Myki, which for out-of-towners, is the very silly name for the forthcoming public transport smartcard ticketing system, which $494 million of tax-payers money is being spent on, whether we like it or not.

(They officially spell it with a small m. I’m not buying into that — it’s a proper noun, I’ll use a capital M.)

Of course, the following information may change as the system develops. And some of the stuff I’ve been told about it, I can’t pass on. (Not that any of it’s really that juicy.)

Myki tram mounting pointThey reckon it’s progressing nicely. They’ve started putting the mounting points for the equipment in. They’re going to do a trial in Geelong, before rolling it out further.

They’re likely to send the cards out to people who already have registered tickets, such as student pass holders, possibly Yearly ticket holders, and Seniors Sunday Pass holders. (In fact the latter group have already been told their current passes have been extended until the Myki tickets arrive.)

The tickets will be contactless cards, like those used for corporate building keys. You’ll wave them past a scanner, and it’ll beep and a light and/or display will flash. It should work within about 5cm of the reader, so you won’t need to take it out of your bag/wallet/pocket if you can hold it close enough. (Similar contactless cards were meant to be part of the current Metcard system.)

They’re going to want you to scan on and off — as you enter and exit buses, trams and railway stations. That way it records exactly where you travel. If you don’t scan off, you may get penalised by having to pay a “default fare”, which is likely to be the equivalent to what you’d pay if you had gone to the end of the line.

Personally I reckon it’s going to be a real mess, particularly on trams when they’re crowded. (Picture what will happen when you’re squashed in the doorway and you temporarily climb out to let someone off, then climb back in.) This is one reason London went to flat fares on buses and trams.

Registering your ticket will be optional. Obviously if it’s not registered, then if you lose it, it can’t be cancelled, and you’ll lose any money on it.

Fares essentially won’t change. The change will be in ticketing, not fares. In fact they’ve been adjusting the fares over the last couple of years to make the ticketing system simpler — like changing V/Line Return tickets into Dailies, for instance. (In Sydney they’re still trying to figure out how to get Sydney’s notoriously complex fare structure onto a Smartcard. That project’s been going for more than ten years.)

Later they might look at changing fares (such as more use of off-peak tickets), but that won’t happen until the system is in and bedded down.

You’ll still be able to buy monthly and yearly tickets — in fact you’ll be able to pay for 28-365 days in advance.

The way shorter-term tickets work will be slightly different though. You’ll put money on the ticket, then use it up. The basic fare will be for 2 hours, with a system of daily and weekly caps. The daily cap will be priced like a Daily ticket is now. So it’s like using a 10×2 hour; the second validation of the day (beyond the initial two-hour period) makes it into a Daily. On Sundays the cap will be $2.50, in line with the Sunday Saver price.

Likewise there’ll be a weekly cap, so if you use the ticket for a few days in a row, you’ll pay no more than a Weekly ticket. But there’s a catch. The current plan is for the weekly cap to apply only from Monday to Sunday. So if you use the system for 6-7 days over two “calendar” weeks (and not on any other days during those weeks), you’ll pay more than you would now if you bought a Weekly.

You’ll be able to check your balance on the scanners, and check and pay extra onto the card at the station ticket machines. There will be some kind of option for occasional users who don’t want a Myki card, eg disposable tickets.

So that’s it in summary. Whether or not the implementation is a complete mess like Metcard was remains to be seen. Given the huge amount of money spent ($494 million over 10 years), let’s hope not.

It won’t do anything for fare evasion (the smartest card can’t force someone on the tram to pay). Given the lack of staff, a lot of stuff won’t change, and you can bet occasional users will still find the machines more confusing than buying a ticket off a human. Hopefully for regular users it will be a little better, but the scan on/scan off thing makes that doubtful.

More information, if you want to read up on it:

Or go to Spencer Street/Southern Cross Station and have a look at the display there.

Update Thu pm. Added picture of a scanner mount.

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21 Replies to “Oh Myki you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind”

  1. Daniel
    great summary! I sense a major stuff up looming!
    A couple of questions:
    * how will a ticket inspector know that someone’s ticket is valid just by looking at it?
    * my current ticket takes up almost no room in my wallet – will the myki ticket also be just as small and flat?
    * will annual tickets cost the same and still be able to be purchased by corporations in bulk and given to staff (with staff paying them off in their pay over a year)?
    thanks!!

  2. They’re installing something similar at the rail stations in Sydney at the moment.
    Those readers had better have a very short range, because a lot of scanners are being located in (relatively) narrow walkways that are also used by people who are just transiting outside the station entrances.
    I don’t want my chip to be scanned multiple times as I walk past the station entrance.
    (nor do I want BB to know when and where I travel).

  3. Boston recently rolled out a card-based fare system (the CharlieCard), all purchased through ticket machines or online. I guess part of the idea was to get rid of the employees at the token booths, but there has been so much confusion over the ticket machine interface that they still need an employee in the station, showing people how to use the machines.

    I’m really happy about the lack of tokens though. I recently moved to Toronto and I’m waiting on pins and needles for the same thing to happen here.

  4. Daniel, I had a suspicion about this: “But there’s a catch. The current plan is for the weekly cap to apply only from Monday to Sunday. So if you use the system for 6-7 days over two ‘calendar’ weeks (and not on any other days during those weeks), you’ll pay more than you would now if you bought a Weekly.”

    That sucks for people who don’t commute to work on a “normal” basis. I go to the city 2-3 times a week and as such a current 5x daily or 10×2 hour ticket is great. If my costs go up due to myki then the “Fares essentially won’t change” statement is misleading and incorrect.

    Great summary of the new system anyway. Thanks.

  5. We have a pretty similar system in Perth now – it was rolled out over the last year or so. It works well for me, mostly on the trains. There isn’t too much of a snarl of people waiting to “tag off”. Not sure how well it works on buses.

    You need to be pretty near for it to scan, so no false reads, but you can leave it in your wallet, which is nice. I just put mine in the front pocket of my bag, and hold the bag up against the reader.

    As to inspectors – I think they have hand-held scanners that can check the current state of a card.

  6. I have been a regular PT user, but am now a casual one, and I like the Perth system a lot. You can see all your travel on the web, allowing you to check the charges. It also charges the cheapest ticket based on travel.

    And no more requirement for change, which was the worst part of the old system.

    Also, we don’t have trams, which I guess are easier to jump on and off without paying than buses. But as for fare evasion on trains, all the major train stations have a barrier system, like the London underground. This must surely help with fare evasion.

    One downside I see is that you can’t punch on a friend, like you could with the old paper multirider system.

  7. Wow, questions, questions questions…

    Cait: Expected to be more scanners per door, yes.

    Anonymous: Inspectors will use an electronic reader. Tickets are expected to be slightly thicker – think electronic door keys. No change expected on Commuter Club yearly fares.

    Erica: In Melbourne they already got rid of most of the staff when they introduced the current magnetic-stripe ticket system in the 90s.

    Michael: Yes, it won’t work as well as a current Weekly. However if you regularly use the system 2-3 days a week, you won’t pay more. It’s a little complicated to fully explain, but you would only pay more if you used it something like Thu/Fri/Sat, Mon/Tue/Wed (and no other days in either of those weeks).

    Neil: Only a handful of central Melbourne stations have gates. Others only get occasional inspections.

  8. I really hope they haven’t built this thing from the ground up because the Oyster system in London is already very good and surely they could buy the same stuff from the same supplier and just program it and tweak it for our network.

  9. Regarding standing near a scanner or getting off to let someone move, then getting back on: The system should be able to recognise when a card is scanned twice (or more times) in a row on the same vehicle, and decide that the latest scan was that person leaving the vehicle. That’s not hard.

    I would expect this to be already catered for, otherwise the scan on/scan off won’t work at all. There shouldn’t be any more delays – everyone has to walk past the door to get out of a bus or tram, and the tickets work fast enough for there to be no problem.

  10. Philip: I know they’re using some off-the-shelf components, but it’s clear they’re not buying the whole system pre-built.

    Given a card can scan from 5cm away, it could be in a bag or pocket. I honestly don’t know if they’re going to be able to figure out a scan on vs a scan off under those circumstances (though the scanner may indicate it, if the person is able to see/hear it).

  11. After having experienced the London, Hong Kong and Tokyo systems, and being a carless person, I’m really looking forward to myki. But then i’m a major nerd who usually has no problem with new technology. However I do feel for pensioners and the tecnologically inept.

    I foresee a media story not long after myki’s inception. A little old lady will get on a tram, and scan on. The tram will be very full. She will accidentally lean up against the scanner and scan off in zone 1. The tram will cross into zone two, and inspectors will get on board and check her ticket and fine her because she didn’t scan correctly.

    Don’t say it can’t happen :)

  12. daniel, i have to say that i’ve learnt more from your summary than i have from the entire myki site iteself, which is more about marketing than informing. For what it’s worth i reckon if they remove those wrough iron fences at some railway stations then the stations will be more accessible (easier to get in and out) and there will be less congestionm if they have a few validators spread out near the station entrance.

  13. I mainly use a 10x2hr, with about 3 or 4 days return and 2 or 4 single days, so my main question would be: is the value deducted for a 2hr fare the equivalent of the present 10×2 cost, or the normal single-buy cost? One hopes it is the former, otherwise it’s a stealth-rise.

    The other thing is whether it would be 2 hours exactly or 2 hours from the next turn of hour. This time I hope it’s the latter, for the same reason.

    I’d also like a different sound for check on and off… doo dih for on, dih doo for off, or something. Display would also be nice, otherwise I’m just a teeensy bit paranoid, especially considering the excessive confrontationalism of the inspectors.

  14. Just remember kiddies, the system apparently loses around $50 million (yes, $50,000,000) in fare evasion, which is an estimation. This new system will make it easier for a specific group of passengers, not everyone. It won’t make tickets easier to buy or use, nor will it fill the extremely costly gaps in the system (empty stations, etc). Can someone remind me exactly how much money is being pumped into this elephant and why are the priorities a little on the fuzzy side?

  15. Boston, a city with a transit system that makes Melbourne’s look downright competent, rolled our their smart card (the Charlie Card) last winter and it, well, works pretty well. Boarding on trolleys (trams) and buses is much faster without cash (no POP system here) and transfers are much easier. Plus, when it is coordinated with commuter rail and boats, it will go even better. Now if they would only simplify the fare system (although they did flatten the subway fare structure) it would be even better. Yes, no more tokens are a breeze.

  16. In Brisbane they have been rolling out our Smart Card system for what seems like forever. I think it is over 2 years. It doesn’t work yet though… We have a pilot system (on one line only) which has been going for over 12 months at least – still not available to Joe Public.

    It will work on Trains, Ferries and Buses. But given that the readers have been out in the weather (on train stations) for over two years, they are already deteriorating and will probably need to be replaced before the system goes live…

    And when it is live, as I understand it, it will charge you the best fare on a weekly basis. Those (like me) who buy a quarterly or yearly ticket, will pay MORE under this new and improved system….

    http://www.translink.com.au/qt/TransLin.nsf/index/smart_main

  17. Sounds very much like the Oyster system in London. Those were good and made cheating the system VERY hard because you CANNOT get out of a tube station without making a ruckus. Hopefully it will work just as well.

  18. Wow – and I thought your old system was good when I tried it back in 2003. Meanwhile, Sydney can’t even sort out integrated ticketing…

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