Myki test centre: Daily and weekly capping

This is part two of my ten year old photos from September 2009.

At the time, Myki had been launched in regional cities, and was about to start in Melbourne.

Ahead of the wider rollout, I got to look around the Myki test centre, which was fascinating.

Around the place were lots of test cards and computers and other hardware

Myki test centre September 2009: Booking office computer and cards

Myki gates: at the time these hadn’t been deployed anywhere on the system – initially Myki readers were fitted onto the old Metcard gates.

History has shown that the Myki gates (in particular the readers) were too slow, and many of the readers have since been replaced by units made by Vix, which was the company that engineered Metcard, finally providing sufficiently fast response times.

Myki test centre September 2009: Fare gates
Myki test centre September 2009: Fare gates

Gate Controller – these are seen at railway stations, allowing staff to configure and control the gates. I don’t think the deployed units have the large emergency button – this seems to be generally placed discretely nearby.

Myki test centre September 2009: Gate controller

Myki Check devices were deployed to a lot of busier railway stations and tram stops to sit alongside Myki vending machines, though they are now being replaced by Quick TopUp machines (which can also check the card status).

Note the display shows daily and weekly capping – the latter was never rolled out (though I’d argue that it would be a worthwhile change – it is easier to understand than 7-day Passes, and better value for passengers)

Myki test centre September 2009: Myki Check

Tram vending machine – only one or two of these were deployed onto trams, for test purposes. They would have allowed people to buy or top-up a Myki card, though with coins only. They were cancelled in 2011 as a result of the Baillieu government’s review into Myki. It was reported later in 2011 that 500 of the machines had been bought in 2008, never to be used.

Myki test centre September 2009: Tram vending machine

Myki readers. Like the gates, these have also never performed satisfactorily, which led to the scrapping of the requirement to touch-off trams. These are also being gradually replaced with Vix units – they first appeared on E-class trams, but are also increasingly appearing on buses.

Myki test centre September 2009: readers

Those with long memories might recognise this part of the test centre – it was where in January 2009, one of the readers fell apart in front of then-Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky, as the TV cameras were rolling. (Kosky didn’t start the Myki project. That was her predecessor, Peter Batchelor.)

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, Myki is now in daily use and has gradually improved, including with faster online topup, the Vix readers, Quick Top-up machines, Mobile Myki and the removal of unwanted receipts.

Some of this newer technology is probably thanks to the open architecture design of Myki, but it doesn’t excuse that the original rollout was so troubleprone, the result of the State government insisting on building it from scratch.

Despite the problems with Myki, the purchase of an established system for Sydney wasn’t radically cheaper. I suspect the costs are mostly related to the size of the rollout – in particular the amount of hardware to be installed on vehicles and stations.

The scrapping of tram vending machines and short term tickets in 2011 has made life difficult for some users, including those who don’t regularly use public transport, putting them off using the system.

Perhaps more public transport networks will move to cashless in coming years, but it was a backwards move at the time. It would be easier to deal with if London-style contactless credit/debit card payment options was offered alongside the other options.

For all the faults, we’re stuck with Myki now, and at least it mostly works for most users. But let’s hope the improvements keep coming.

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12 thoughts on “Myki ten years on, and photos from the test centre

  1. Myki still feels considerably superior when compared to other cities in the ANZ region. Auckland’s HOP card is very slow and uses older looking infrastructure, Brisbane’s Go card is a similar situation (come to think of it they might use the same hardware). Although, Japanese Public Transport Ticketing (Icoca, Pasmo, Suica) are on another level compared to anything we have in this region.

  2. It is interesting to reread your 2014 post. In some areas we have come a long way. In other areas, not at all. For regular users now, I think Myki is fine and Melbourne’s fares are quite cheap, as long as you are not travelling one station or tram stop. London, tap on and off on some buses. On other buses, no tapping off. Gates at stations where you tap on/off with your Oyster Card, but at DLR stations, hunt around for the single machine where you have to tap on/off. Tourist perspective about London and it is hard to be tourist in your own city and imagine how things work for visitors. Tourists do feel the need to tap off on trams and I understand why.

  3. The new Vix scanners are much faster. They recently installed them at Huntingdale and one other station, and they are lightning fast. Only criticism I have of them though is that the old myki scanners made a different sound if the card failed to scan. The Vix scanners use the same beep sound for success and failure, but play it a different number of times for a failure.

    When you’re doing a touch off at a busy station it can be too late by the time the additional beeps play, and you might have just walked out of the train station, or bus, without correctly touching off your Myki card.

  4. Has it really been ten years.

    Those blue card readers, had nice large buttons I could easily press. Unlike the new ones, of which I deem are, not useable at all.

    Who is dumb enough to think, its ok to not have those short term, one use tickets???

  5. Why we didn’t opt for FeliCa-based systems like those in Japan and Singapore still confounds me. These are systems designed specifically for transit, and the response times are astoundingly fast: your card opens the gate even before it touches the pad.

    I wonder when Myki will be put on the Skybus or Stony Point ferry? These are services that would need to simply charge a set amount of money for the trip from the user’s balance. I’m still waiting for Myki to be expanded beyond transit, too. For example, for small purchases like 7/11 etc.

    But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with using Myki on long-distance V/Line trips!

    And how about allowing other transit cards to operate in Victoria, at least through using a simple debit? All the other transport systems in the country are MIFARE based, so should be compatible with our readers (one or two possible exceptions). Other countries have pulled this off, and the road toll operators have also done this very well in Australia.

    And then, let’s talk about completing the Mobile Myki rollout for iOS too

  6. So 500 tram vending machines were bought but never used? There are more than enough for each tram with some to spare. I can’t imagine it being hard to retrofit to also accept electronic forms of payment. What a joke.

  7. @Arfman, I really do agree that it was a waste of money to build up those machines just to have them join the scrap heap.

    However, on the question of retrofitting the hardware to accept electronic payments, the answer is a little more complicated. Both Myki cards and credit cards use implementations of a contactless card standard called ISO/IEC 14443. Myki (and most other contactless cards) using an implementation of this standard called MIFARE, while credit cards use an implementation called EMV. Although MIFARE and EMV are similar, a MIFARE reader doesn’t necessarily have the kit needed to read an EMV card, and vice versa.

    Aside from the compatibility issues, EMV is a much slower standard that MIFARE, and has been responsible for considerable slowdowns at payment barriers in busy stations where the option for tapping a credit card exists. Yes, the original Myki gates/scanners were horrendously slow and the newest scanners are not yet fast enough in my view, but the MIFARE standard allows the gates to theoretically become even faster in time. EMV would put a technical ceiling on read speed improvements. Another concern is that of control: once a ticketing system goes “open loop” by accepting credit cards, it starts to cede control over how the system operates to an unaccountable third party (Visa, Mastercard, Europay, banks, etc.).

    I’d really suggest checking out the blog Joel Breckinridge Bassett (https://atadistance.net), who is the only person who’s really gone into sufficient depth on this topic while exploring some of the broader social implications.

  8. How hard would it be to adapt the quick top up machines for installation on trams? At least that gives people the opportunity to top up myki on trams, plus they do not take up a lot of space on board. I realise the horse has bolted with contactless payments seeming like they are the next thing, but surely it is worth considering?

  9. I’d also like to add, that adding a weekly cap would be the thing I would wish for the most (closely followed by some sort of short trip fare and abolishing the free tram zone). As someone who has recently been commuting by public transport for periods of a couple of weeks at a time I find it a little frustrating. I realise that weekly passes effectively give free weekend travel v.s. using myki money, but a weekly cap would simplify the process for users.

  10. The system cost 1.5 BILLION to implement. It is the most extravagant IT failure anywhere in the world.
    Imagine what that money could have bought in terms of improving the public transport system itself.
    There should have been a royal commission, heads should have rolled.
    And what we got for 1.5 billion is laughable, especially in 2019

  11. The major issue for Myki system was the request for a bespoke system, when a off the self system would have been sufficient. The bespoke system added unnecessary expense that could have been better used for much needed improvements to the transportation network.

    One of my pet peeves of the Myki system is the use of the passes in the metropolitan area. As what has been done with most cities, a cap would have worked better as it is much more simpler for the end user, and the change to smart cards allows the system to track the frequent users and apply the fares accordingly.

    Smart card systems should do away with weekly, monthly and yearly cards as the technology should be able to figure out the correct fare for the amount of usage.

    Although not a perfect system (Multi modal still needs improvement), Sydney has a much better system, with the ability to use contactless cards a great benefit (I used it recently and it calculated the fares and caps correctly).

  12. @Ben (the second): “It is the most extravagant IT failure anywhere in the world”

    Not even close. Myki’s cost was huge, but it at least delivered something, and is seeing incremental improvements. Other projects went far higher over their budgets, and/or ended up delivering nothing.

    This list is far from perfect, but lists any number of other monumental failures. One UK NHS system cost an incredible 12 billion pounds, and much of it was never completed/used.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_failed_and_overbudget_custom_software_projects

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