Myki strikes again

There’s now proof that the introduction of Myki will actually slow down trams. The Libs FOI’d the test figures, which found that:

…if 20 passengers join a tram and another 20 alight at the same stop, the predicted average time a tram would be stationary was 38 seconds under the new myki smartcard compared to 33 seconds with the current Metcard tickets.

Oyster in MelbourneThis is because while the single act of scanning your ticket will be quicker than at present, you will have to do it both when you board and when you exit the tram (or bus).

So tram trips will be even slower than today. Ain’t technology grand!

The Transport Ticketing Authority was warned about this. I’ve checked my notes, and the PTUA flagged it with them as early as November 2004. (And more publicly in 2006.)

The root cause of this mess would appear to be the government’s desire to get super-accurate patronage figures from the ticketing system. That’s what they wanted from Metcard, which resulted in the (unnecessary) rule that those with a valid ticket re-validate on every trip, even if there’s no staff member there to verify that they do so to prove they’ve paid. Even if everyone did it though, it doesn’t work because you can’t tell where people get off the vehicle, and in the case of the trains, at bigger stations you have no idea what train the person then boarded, unless they have to use the ticket to get out a gate at the other end.

Of course they also want it so that the system can figure out how many zones you travelled through, even though only a couple of trams venture outside zone 1, and most bus and tram trips are relatively short and likely to include one zone.

So what’s the solution? Here’s one scenario:

(Interjection: The following is not necessarily PTUA policy.)

Well for a start, stop thinking a ticketing system is also nirvana for the bean counters. Reality is the most effective way to get accurate stats is still to send out real humans to count passengers. Enabling vehicle drivers to easily report crowding levels on their specific services would also help.

Given that most trips on trams and buses are not long distance, they could remove the scan-off requirement, and make them zone-free: that is, charge the cheapest zone fare (a zone 2 fare, which is also broadly the cost of the City Saver fare) on trams and buses (except the Eastern Freeway buses, which for those travelling into the city are the equivalent of a two-zone train journey) or if the passenger also uses a train during the same two-hour period, charge them just for that instead.

This would also remove the anomalies of buses and trams that are in different zones to their connecting services, discouraging their use, and the sting where travelling a couple of hundred extra metres down the road doubles your fare.

There is a precedent for this: London switched to flat fares on trams and buses in 2004 with the introduction of their Oyster smartcard.

And the bottom line is it would be simpler, easier and quicker for passengers.

Which is why it won’t happen, of course.

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12 Replies to “Myki strikes again”

  1. There is button on the tram AVM communication system for drivers to send in loading information to the central control location. I forget what it indicates but something like 1/3 full 1/2 full etc.

  2. The Myki curse. It will never eventuate. A simple solution to ticketing is to bring back the connies, a recent report by John Odgers from RMIT said they would only cost $12 million a year, not $1.3 billion or the annual $300 million operating costs of metcards that are a rip off. Tickets under my solution would be a flat rate of $3, and the ticket lasts daily for every person. No concession cards, inspectors, and can be used on all 3 modes of transport.

  3. Isn’t there funky scanning technology to count people?

    Surely absolute numbers boarding and stepping off trains, trams and buses at each stop is what they need – and not whether it is Arthur, Martha or Little John doing the stepping.

    (If they need that info – they can do periodical surveys!)

    M.

  4. There’s another factor we should factor in: how much gloss Lynne Kosky puts over the introduction of Myki. I suspect the money used in its advertising campaign(s) could be used to restaff all stations on the Epping line.

  5. The funny part at the introduction of the metcard was the realisation that the data collected in one day of the service running took longer than a day to process. I wonder how long it took them to cut it down and catch up.

  6. Reuben, why only just have ticketing staff? I’d like it if they built food shops/cafes at each stop (perhaps a food court at the bigger ones) to help pass the hopelessly long wait between trains – and perhaps at the smaller stops, the cafe staff can sell tickets too.

    A win-win! :)

    Oh and Daniel, this really is a comparison between people walking straight onto/straight off a tram, and doing it going via the Myki machine. I’m not a fan of this project at all; but it doesn’t stack up as badly when you look at it that badly.

    Pity the trams are already hopelessly slow to start with.

  7. I loved the Oyster system in London. We used PT the entire time and it was FAST getting through all the barriers and on and off buses. And you were buggered if you went further than the zone you’d paid for because you couldn’t get out of the station. LOL – good way to recoup fares that might have otherwise been lost due to people possibly abusing the system.

    If the same system was set up here, I’d be very happy, but as per usual, Kosky does everything half-arsed.

  8. You’re right, Somebody. I think we should also have petshops at every station because we all know how much we love peering at cute little kittens on our way to various engagements.

  9. Daniel,

    Just started reading you “What I know abou Myki” post and it prompted me to write. The current system has contactless cards. Those yellow dots on validators and bariers are readers and the yellow dots on the big TVMs are writers, plus premier stations have facilities to re-charge the cards. So they do exist and there are cards out there in use.

    I tend to agree with your solution of flat fares – $2.50 / 6 hours capped at $7.50. Regardless of mode of transport or origen/destination.

    I will run contrary to your desire of quick access in stating that I believe that all (ALL) points of entry and exit to the Public Transport System have barriers. Busses are the only mode that currently have this – one point of entry (front door) and a driver. Trains are halfway there but need barriers at all stations and they need them functioning at all times. Trams are the problem and require a shift of thinking. There is no reason why Trams can not be made front door entry only, put swing barriers across the back doors to prevent entry through them. Have a TVM behind the driver, a space just inside the doors to allow people to congregate before moving onto the tram and a barrier between that space and the tram propper. Patrons would board the tram, those with tickets would proceed straight through the barrier to the tram, those without would purchase from the TVM. This does take space out of trams and will slow their progress a bit, but it will all but eliminate fare evasion and the extra revenue can be used to purchase more vehicles to counter the lost space. Extra vehicles will equate to extra services will mean fewer people getting onto a tram at a time will make for faster boarding – win -win – win.

    Just my thoughts.

    Just quickly read your readers comments.
    Ren, The melbourne system is great, it is fast getting on and off busses, trams and trains. Why does everybody have to bag what they have at home. I remember in London having to scan my ticket, walk through a barrier (like the ones we have here) and then push my way through full height, heavy, rubber padded doors (which were quite narrow – made me glad to be only 75kg) to get off the station – a lot less friendly than our system

    The Myki system will give the commuter absolutely nothing that the current system doesn’t, in fact it gives you less in that you are forced to swipe off your mode of transport – dig out that pass as you get off. I am yet to get an answer from Myki on how it os going to calculate best fare, eg. I’m a regular zone 1 user, using a 10 * 2-hourly ticket, but one day a month I venture into zone 2, currently I buy a single 2-hour zone 1&2 ticket to make that journey what will Myki do?

    The commuter has no record of what has been deducted from their ticket, the Myki validators will have a display to show how much value is left on your card (the only way you are going to know). This will slow down vehicle entry even more because people will be stopping to check their balance. The system will not provide usage reports to the individual – no receipt for deducting value. This on its own is wrong – give me your visa card, trust me.

    On the plus side, the system will give the operators and the government more information.

    The system will generate more income for the operators and government, tho more from penalties for failing to swipe off than through reduction of fare evasion. Fare evasion will continue, many a soul currently boards a tram with a valid (but unvalidated) ticket and only validates it if an inspector gets on board. That isn’t going to change, nor is the habit of not valiating for travel between small (barrier-less) stations. And those people who don’t carry tickets now won’t carry tickets then either.

    The government has its head in the sand and no clue about how the system can work.

  10. Thanks Nigel.

    Well aware Metcard was intended to have contactless cards, which ended up being issued to staff only.

    You’ve misinterpreted my comments about flat fares. I am not suggesting a change to the proposed daily cap, I am only suggesting trams and buses (not trains) should be counted the lowest possible single zone fare to avoid scanning off.

    Barriers can not be used unless a human is watching over them. Otherwise fare evaders can get around them (so they’re pointless) and the mobility impaired can’t get through them. One-way flow systems in buses and trams would mean the mass removal of seating to cope with wheelchairs (and I suspect in some vehicles would be impossible to implement due to wheel cavities).

    I suggest there is no public transport system in the world that successfully combats fare evasion without humans doing the job.

    Re: zones and Myki; it looks like you will be able to have a single Myki card with a prepaid monthly (or longer, up to a yearly) Zone 1 ticket on it, and credit for going into zone 2 periodically — which sounds like it’ll do what you want. I’m in a similar situation — I carry a Zone 1 Yearly Metcard and a Zone 2 10×2 hour for occasional (weekday) journeys into Zone 2.

  11. in Perth we have the Smart Riders which is a plasic card with a chip in it that you just have to wave in front of a sensor, it beeps at you, and you walk away. Tag on as you get on and tag off as you get off. you can do it just as you walk past – it doesnt take any longer thank that. you load your credit on at machines at the train stations.

  12. Shaz, yes, understand the theory, but if you’ve ever been on a city lunchtime Melbourne tram you’ll see what the problem is. At a single stop, many dozens of people may be getting on AND off, via the same doors. Under these conditions it is inevitable that tagging/scanning the cards both on and off will add to the stop time.

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