The billion-dollar-plus Myki ticketing system is slowly moving forward. They’re expecting it to be switched on (at least in part) in Melbourne by the end of the year, followed by V/Line sometime next year. It already runs on regional town buses in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Seymour and the Latrobe Valley.
Interestingly there are apparently no plans to run it on more regional town buses. So despite the fact that a lot of people assume it will be statewide, it won’t be. It won’t be used on buses in: Ararat, Bairnsdale, Benalla, Beaufort, Cobram, Colac, Drouin, Echuca/Moama, Hamilton, Horsham, Kilmore, Korumburra, Lakes Entrance, Mildura, Portland, Rochester, Sale, Shepparton/Mooroopna, Swan Hill, Stawell, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, Wodonga and Wonthaggi.
Wodonga is probably fair enough, as they have a cross-border bus system with Albury. But the others? Sure, most of them are small bus systems, but it seems baffling to me that after spending over a billion dollars on a new ticketing system, you wouldn’t roll it out right across the state, providing the benefit of single card ticketing, instead of stopping at 99% of services as they’ve decided to do.
The Melbourne rollout
Forgetting the astronomical cost of the thing, it’s quite interesting to see how it’s progressing.
Evidently the migration across Melbourne will go something like this:
- Switch Myki on, so those with Myki tickets can travel around the system. That’s why inner-city station gates have had Myki readers put on them. During this first stage they’ll continue to sell Metcards.
- Stop selling Metcards, start selling Myki. It’s expected there will be discount deals on obtaining Mykis to encourage people to switch early. Allow old Metcards to continue being used. This stage may take a while, which is why all tickets will work everywhere as they do it.
- Then they’ll switch off and remove the Metcard equipment, including replacing the station gates with shiny new Myki-specific ones. Given past experience, there would be a period when old Metcards can be exchanged for Mykis.
Following the Melbourne rollout will be V/Line.
I’ve written before about how the tickets will work, but it comes down to: short term tickets (2 hour/daily) for occasional use; Myki money (the equivalent of the discounted 10×2 hour rate, with a daily cap, and Weekend Saver rates on Saturdays and Sundays), and Myki Pass (the equivalent of a weekly, or a 28 to 365 day pass). You can also have a card that has a Myki Pass for some zone(s), and Myki Money for when you travel elsewhere. More on this in a new article on the PTUA web site.
A few weeks ago I got to look around the Myki test centre, to see the equipment that will be introduced across Melbourne. Many of the station vending machines and station/bus/tram readers are already in place, ready to be switched on. New station booking office computers will replace the current Metcard equipment. Authorised Officers (ticket inspectors) will carry portable readers for checking tickets, as will V/Line conductors and coach drivers.
The equipment is all based around off-the-shelf hardware. At least some of the handheld scanners are Psions running Windows CE. Most of the rest of the smaller equipment (eg readers) also run Windows CE. The booking office computers are standard PCs with card readers. The whole system is not open source, but is open architecture, that is interfaces between the various components is open, which enables new technology as it’s developed to be bolted on more easily.
While in the test centre, I was able to test using a poll-mounted reader at walking pace. Approaching it, I could hold my ticket onto the reader and continue moving, with it correctly reading the ticket without me slowing down. A good sign.
However, it’s notable that in Bendigo last week, the two buses we caught had readers that appeared to be slower.
So it’ll be interesting to see what the reality is once it rolls out. I can imagine widespread delays on trams and buses and at stations if the scanners are too slow. And I expect this may be the case on busy trams anyway.
Touching on the card from within a wallet is unreliable; it may depend on there being only a very small gap between the card and the reader.
Some other points
Some other snippets of note that I’ve gleaned from about the place:
They’re now using the jargon “touch on, touch off”, as they think “scan” makes people think of supermarket scanning, eg movement across the reader, which doesn’t work as well. You touch the ticket to the sensor and hold it still.
Readers and ticket vending machines all have numerous anti-vandalism measures fitted. Apparently the vending machines have bullet-proof glass, and the one that got smashed a few weeks ago apparently had had a concrete block smashed against it for 45 minutes to make it break (they’d seen the CCTV footage).
Hallelujah, tram machines will take notes.
It’s possible to touch on and enter a station or vehicle, then change your mind and touch out, with no charge. (The vehicle has to be at the same stop you boarded.) Useful for those times you enter the station then discover the trains are disrupted and you look for alternate transport.
At present when you touch on or off, it makes the same beep, and a problem such as no balance left on your card also makes the same beep. Apparently the TTA are looking at changing this — at least I hope they do.
It’s possible to buy multiple short-term tickets in one transaction from machines, and it’s possible to buy short-term tickets from machines using Myki Money credit on your card.
There will be balance-checking machines at stations (blue), which can also list your transactions. They’ll monitor their use and may replace them with additional scanners (yellow) if people don’t use them very much.
You can also check your balance and view transactions on the web site, though the feature to show you where you travelled doesn’t seem to work. (And the transaction list doesn’t seem to work at all in Chrome.)
The station fare gates will be configurable, eg one-way, two-way, all open, or open until someone tries to get through without a ticket. A console nearby will control them, as well as allowing staff members to check passengers’ Myki tickets.
The short term tickets have no identifying features on them. If you have more than one, you can’t tell them apart without touching them onto a scanner. Be very careful if you have an old one in your wallet and you stick today’s in next to it.
Want to know more? If you’re a PTUA member, or want to join, there’s a Q+A session with the Transport Ticketing Authority on Monday at 6pm.
That concludes my braindump. Obviously some of the above may be subject to change.
Update Friday: Here’s a poster showing the various system parts, along with jargon intended to be used by staff.