Myki has arrived

Myki has arrived in Melbourne. Kind of.

The government announced yesterday it is now valid for travel on trains only, so if that’s the third of the PT system that you use, and you never get on a tram or bus, you can use it.

I gave it a spin yesterday afternoon. Here’s what happened.

In summary? The travel worked, but I was unable to put any more money onto the card, on two separate machines.

Myki’s step backwards

Melbourne has had multi-modal ticketing for more than 25 years. The simplicity of it is the envy of cities that don’t have this. One ticket on tram, train and bus. But not with Myki. At least not yet.

Of course, if you’re desperate to use it anyway, you can’t actually go and buy a Myki card and play with it today — unless you want a trip to a regional city first. You have to order online, and it’ll take about a week to show up.

Once you have the card, you can travel by train on it.

Because apparently it’s all working on the train system. All tickety-boo. And nothing to do with the impending self-imposed deadline of the end of the year that the government set themselves.

“I have received advice from the Transport Ticketing Authority board that test data shows that myki is consistently reliable across Melbourne’s train network and they have therefore recommended the commencement of myki on the metropolitan rail network.”
Government press release

Trying out Myki on day one

So I tried it, with the kids trailing along with their Metcards, since they don’t yet have Mykis.

I moseyed down to my local station with my Myki (bought in Geelong) in hand.

I know from looking at the web site that the balance is getting a little low. Maybe I’ll put some more money on it.

Bentleigh Station only has one Myki vending machine so far, on platform 3. That’s because the plum spots near the main entrance (platforms 1+2) are taken by Metcard machines. Later on they’ll take those out and put in Myki machines. So, I head for the machine on platform 3 to top-up my Myki card.

Bentleigh Myki machine

Strike one! The machine is out of service. It has in fact been out of service for at least a week and a half now, despite me flagging it a week ago via a contact at the Transport Ticketing Authority.

No matter. I have $4 something on the card. Enough for a trip.

Touch on, touch off

Over to the main platforms. Touch-on with the card. It works. Slowly — about 2 seconds, not the 1 second response time claimed.

While waiting for the train I try the blue (Myki Check) machine, which can show me the card status and history. All looks okay.

Train arrives. One stop to Patterson. Off the train. Touch-off. Again, about 2 seconds.

It correctly charges me the discounted zone 2, 2-hour fare of $2.02. All good.

The Patterson station Myki vending machine appears to be functioning. So I put the card on the reader and try to lighten my pocket by topping-up the card with some silver.

The machine prompts me to insert the coins, but no. Not one coin will go in. I look closely at the slot. The lock thingy that prevents nefarious characters inserting unwanted objects is closed. It won’t take my coins. Strike two!

So I try topping-up by credit card. It prompts me to insert my credit card into the slot, then to look at the EFTPOS section of the machine for further prompts. It doesn’t ask for a PIN, but instead instructs me to remove the card again. I do so. The machine then thinks about it for a good 30 seconds or more, before finally reporting “Sorry, your transaction could not be completed.”

Myki machine fails to do credit card transaction

I try again with another credit card. Same result. Strike three!

It’s not really ready, not even on trains

Let’s read that quote again.

“I have received advice from the Transport Ticketing Authority board that test data shows that myki is consistently reliable across Melbourne’s train network and they have therefore recommended the commencement of myki on the metropolitan rail network.”
Government press release

I’m sorry Minister, but I beg to differ. If I have been unable to top-up my card at two separate locations (and remember, during the first stage of rollout, any station staff you might encounter have no ability to help with this), that means passengers at these two stations can’t pay for their train fares. This system is not ready, not even for trains.

Sure, you can top-up online or via the call centre, (it’s 13 MYKI, in case anybody needs to know).

As it happens, I tried an online topup. The first time, it returned an error, something along the lines of “No records found”, which made no sense. The second attempt worked, with the following cautionary note:

When topping up your myki via the website or the myki call centre, please allow up to 24 hours for the funds to transfer to your myki.

Up to 24 hours means the ability to top-up instantly while travelling is important.

Now, I know some people will want to get a card and try it out (especially since they’re free for now). But it’s really hard to recommend it to anybody for regular travel who isn’t looking for trouble.

Maybe the answer is to order one online, and tuck it away somewhere and keep using Metcards for now until Myki is fully functioning.

The simple truth is the government has rushed this thing to the table while it’s still half-baked. After foolishly having promised it by the end of the year, they’ve switched only part of it on, but even that part doesn’t work properly.

They should have waited until it works.

Thursday update: I took another ride this morning.

While the vending machine at Bentleigh still hasn’t been fixed (despite it making the front page of The Age yesterday), the money deposited via the web site on Tuesday night had shown up on my card correctly.

At Glenhuntly, I successfully deposited a bunch of coins onto my card on one of the vending machines, and inspected my history. The other machine somehow couldn’t show me my history. I didn’t test the topup on it, but the coinslot wasn’t blocked like at Patterson on Tuesday.

Touch-on and touch-off worked okay, except that one scanner at Glenhuntly didn’t work until the third try (it twice said “please try again”). The system appeared to charge me the correct $2.94 zone 1 adult 2-hour fare.

Friday update

Another trip this morning, this time Footscray to Bentleigh. Stopped off at Flinders St to see how the gates respond to the card. The answer is s..l..o..w..l..y… (at least on the first gate) but it did work. The hack job to get the Metcard gates to recognise Myki cards meant it flashed up a code which I don’t recall the exact wording for, but seemed to imply the Metcard barrier thought it was an employee pass. The second gate was faster.

“Myki is here” posters have started going up (noted at North Melbourne and Bentleigh, with the latter having other posters describing how Myki works). But the posters about it still being in testing are still up at other locations (such as Footscray) — potentially confusing.

The vending machine at Bentleigh has been fixed… almost. Topped up my card with cash. Tried with a credit card though… no go, it came back with an error saying it’s not taking cards.

Consumerism Photos

I’m sharp and smart


Daniel's sharp and smart

(It’s a sharps disposal container at Monash Medical Centre.)

Also spotted just before Christmas, reindeer carrot in Safeway:


  • “The carrots preferred by reindeers.”
  • “Ingredients: Carrots, magic, love.”

I wonder if the ACCC would approve of those claims?


Quick lunch review

El Fresco cafe, Centre Road, Bentleigh.

Maybe the notice in the front window saying they need experienced staff should have been an omen.

Stools in the window to watch the passing parade — excellent. Smokers’ tables far enough away that smoke shouldn’t be a problem except during a strong southerly.

The drinks arrived quickly. Tasty, but small. $6 for a banana smoothie that size? Yikes.

The food took ages. Even after they said they’d check on its progress it seemed to take ages. How long can an omelette and pancakes take?

They did apologise when it eventually arrived, and my omelette was tasty — a tad more well done than I’d like, but no complaints (especially compared to my own disaster-area-like creations). M’s pancake okay, though suspected not real maple syrup.

I’ve been there before and it was okay without being remarkable, with the feeling that it was a tad overpriced for what it was, underscored today.Thumbs down!

Not entirely sure it was open, but shoulda just walked down to the Spotted Dog.

Consumerism Culture Melbourne

Christmas is coming

So here we are, Christmas Eve. After yesterday’s heat, it was still 30 degrees C overnight. Thankfully it’s cooled down now to 25, and I’ve opened up the house to let it all in — though hopefully not too many flies.

Tomorrow we’ll pile over to my sister’s house for Christmas lunch, but it’s looking like we won’t get to use the pool, as evidently it will be cooler, so not the stinking hot Australian Christmas we sometimes get.

“We can’t replicate an Australian Christmas over here. It’s too cold. Sometimes it snows. You can hear sleigh bells. Nah, it’s not like Christmas at all.” — Lee Tulloch in New York, The Age, 22/12/99

Brighton Beach Station Christmas decorations
Brighton Beach station

Bourke St at Christmas time
Bourke Street

Little Bourke St at Christmas time
Little Bourke Street

To all those reading, thanks for all the comments over the year, and have a great Christmas and New Year.


The hidden message in the train seats

Many of Melbourne’s train seats look like this:

Train seats

Look closely. Those are not all just random shapes designed to hide the dirt.

Anything look familiar?

Consumerism transport

Advertising – it’s part of the plan

Massive billboards to remind us about how great the government is? It’s part of the plan.

Big billboards - it's part of the plan

That’s Richmond Station; there’s others at South Yarra and Malvern and no doubt elsewhere.

Mind you, the first of the new trains apparently hasn’t actually made it into service yet.

It’s a bit like Myki. Lucky they’re not putting up lots of billboards for that… What? Oh. D’oh!

New Myki advertising on stations

PS. Previously:

PPS. The photo on page 4 of today’s MX may look quite familiar.


Melbourne becomes a big city

When I first visited London in the 90s I was staggered by the scale of it. Not so much physical size, but the mass of people. I remember being at Piccadilly Circus on a Sunday and there were just swarms of people, heading in all directions.

I felt like a small town hick who had visited the city for the first time.

At the time, Melbourne didn’t have the same sense of “busy” that it does now. The CBD was pretty dead outside working hours, and until shopping hours were liberalised in the mid-90s, it virtually shut down at 1pm on Saturday, with no life again until Monday morning.

That’s changed in the last ten years. The growth of the CBD’s residential population, together with the population growth in suburban Melbourne and the CBD’s 7-day-a-week shopping, eating, events and nightlife have brought it to life.

Bourke St Mall

Flinders and Elizabeth Sts

As Melbourne’s built environment was transformed, so was its sense of self. Suburbanites again flocked into town for the football, or a show, or to eat and drink. Licensing laws were deregulated, transport, venues and parking were improved, quirks such as the city’s jumble of laneways were celebrated; precincts such as Lygon Street, the Queen Victoria Markets and St Kilda were tweaked. Students — local and visiting — became a fixture on the city’s streets.

The Australian

Apparently Melbourne is now the 89th biggest urban area by population, and if the predictions are right and we’ll be growing to 5 million in the next decade or two, it’s going to get busier. Projections show particular growth not just in 9 to 5 commuters, but in visitors — from overseas, interstate and in particular coming in from the suburbs.

Melbourne’s becoming a big city.

Consumerism Food'n'drink

Stealth advertising

Seen on Saturday: Don’t go to Dan Murphy’s for your booze — keep going and come to Winelovers Warehouse instead!

Clever advertising?

Technically they’re their truck is illegally parked, of course, hanging out of the parking space into No Standing territory. But I wonder how many people were suckered in?

transport Twitter

Myki newsflash

This was my favourite Twitter post of the week, which I’m repeating here while it’s still timely:

NEWSFLASH: Govt to change state to the Assyrian Calendar, giving 3 more months to get #Myki right “by the end of the year”

(W00t — Retweets!)

And yes if you’re wondering, I had done some research before posting it. Perhaps appropriately, the end of the Assyrian calendar year is the “Month of evil spirits”, or ܐܕܪ.

(Your computer will need to be configured to display non-Western alphabets to display that properly.)

Best #Myki machine display yet! GHY #fb on TwitpicThere is speculation of an imminent launch for Myki in Melbourne, but there’s been those kinds of rumours flying around for the last month or so.

Meanwhile it appears there are still a lot of evil spirits in the system, with scanners responding slowly or not at all, and on Wednesday for the second time I saw a Myki vending machine doing its weirdo update thing in the middle of the evening rush hour.

Melbourne Urban tribes

Legal precinct stereotypes

William StreetIn the legal precinct (William Street between Little Bourke and Latrobe Streets, for non-Melburnians), there are three distinct groups of people that strike me as common, but whom you don’t see much of in other areas of the CBD:

1. Young men looking uncomfortable in shirts and ties (and sometimes suits) — eg defendants and witnesses… there are women and older men too of course, but they don’t stick out as much. Most of them seem to smoke (at least, most of those standing on the street), and the tattoo count seems to be above that of the general population.

Sometimes they have an entourage who are similarly dressed-up, and sometimes they have an entourage who are in their usual clothing, which makes the defendant stick out even more. None of this demographic knows where to stand on the Flagstaff station escalators.

2. TV crews hanging about the entrance keeping a lookout for some of those defendants, especially in front of the Magistrate’s Court.

3. People in capes and funny wigs (various legal eagles), who in this neck of the woods, don’t raise an eyebrow.