One of the things they got right about Myki was designing it to be “open architecture”. This of course came at a cost compared with simply buying an off-the-shelf system, but it does mean that it’s modular — different bits can be improved and upgraded over time without replacing the whole system at enormous cost.
Thus, all CBD station and some suburban station gates have had new readers installed which are faster — up to the speed seen on systems elsewhere — and cope better with the number of people that use them.
Now they’ve started to appear on trams, and as you can see from this Vine, they are lightning fast:
This is a vast improvement. Unlike their railway station brethren, they show your card balance (or Pass expiry if you have one). This makes sense because unlike in a station, there is no other way to check your balance when on a tram.
Of course if your balance is too low, on a tram there’s nothing you can actually do about it.
And my only other niggle is that the text showing the balance is very small; some may have difficulty reading it.
One theory I’ve seen floated was that it was for privacy, to reduce the risk of someone mugging you for your Myki card. Really? Has this ever happened, anywhere? And is it likely inside a tram, where witnesses are likely and CCTV (on all the new trams) is all over the place?
But overall it’s a huge improvement. We don’t know what the costs involved are, but it shows the difference when you get a company with extensive smartcard experience (Vix aka ERG) involved.
Mind you, I still wonder if there’s more performance to be squeezed out of the older hardware.
A subtle change has appeared on the network. The automatic announcements at stations now say: Always remember to touch on your Myki at the start of your journey.
Tram signage is similar. They’re now reminding people to touch on… they’re less fussy about people touching off.
This seems to be a reaction to fare changes in January 2015. Most people now pay the same fare — the zone 1 fare applies for all trips within Melbourne except local outer suburban (zone 2) trips. The default fare if people don’t touch off is therefore the same as what they pay if they do touch off.
Combined with most readers being still agonisingly slow, it makes sense to simplify the message.
There are calls to upgrade Myki (and other systems) for contactless payment cards (eg Paywave and Paypass). This would certainly help people such as tourists who may not have a Myki card, though as with mobile phone NFC solutions, shouldn’t be seen as a cure-all. And it would need to be done cost-effectively.
There remain some serious problems with Myki. Future developments such as NFC aside, hopefully we’ll see more improvements such as these new readers continuing to roll out as the system evolves.