Last Wednesday the Ombudsman/Auditor General report into government ICT (Information & Communications Technology) projects was released. Included in the list of projects gone bad that it investigated was our old favourite Myki, with some interesting findings on the timings and costings:
The TTA business case dated 27 April 2004 had forecast total expenditure of $741.9 million over the life of the project (2004-17). Following the award of the contract in 2005, the budget was revised to $999 million … In April 2008, the budget was increased to $1.35 billion…
More interesting is what the conclusion is on where to go from here:
In my [The Ombudsman’s] view, the TTA focus in the short-term must be to ensure the operational efficacy of myki as soon as possible and replace Metcard. I can see no reason why the TTA cannot immediately commence planned transition from Metcard to myki on a station by station, line by line basis. This will minimise the significant costs associated with running parallel systems.
I think this makes a lot of sense — provided they can come up with a solution to the short term ticket problem, preferably, of course, continued availability using cheap thermal tickets, as seen in Brisbane. They should also do another “free” card offer (perhaps just make the card free with a balance deposit).
It’s not just the costs of running Metcard and Myki, it’s also the problems caused by the two systems coexisting — primarily slow and unreliable/unresponsive “Frankenbarriers” at major stations, and bus/tram location detection problems because drivers have no access to Myki consoles to log what route they’re running, and the GPS apparently can’t work it out on its own.
Other than these issues, Myki pretty much works, and it’s time for the government to bite the bullet and get on with it.
I saw the TTA’s old transition plan as being the logical way to go.
For instance, with trains, one day you’d arrive at your station to find the Metcard vending and booking office machines gone, Myki machines in their place, with only Metcard validators remaining (for existing tickets). Station and TTA staff (Myki Mates) would be there for a few days to explain to you how to buy a card, charge it up and work it, answer questions, solve any problems.
Have a few teams converting a few stations each day, and you’d soon have the biggest part of the network/regular passengers switched (eg “station by station, line by line”, as the Ombudsman says.)
Then do the same on trams and buses.
Residual Metcards (weeklies, monthlies, yearlies, 10×2) would disappear over time and at some point they would offer fee-free refunds on them (as has occurred when other types of tickets were withdrawn). Once they’re all gone, remove the Metcard validators.
(In fact I suspect Metcard Yearlies have almost disappeared, given it was about a year ago when they switched to selling Yearlies only on Myki.)
Sure, there’ll be glitches along the way, but if the government gets on with it, it’ll all be over and done with and working, well before the 2013 state election, and won’t be something that’ll haunt them going into the next poll.