Happy birthday Myki!
Yesterday marked ten years since the Myki system’s implementation in Melbourne. It was switched on for Melbourne trains on 29th December 2009.
The roll-out and first ten years of operation ended up costing a whopping $1.5 billion. The only Australian system of comparable size, NSW’s Opal system, was a little bit cheaper, but is still the same order of magnitude. My conclusion is that the size of the system (number of devices, and all the supporting infrastructure) is a more important determinant of cost than anything else.
Currently there’s a $700 million, 7 year contract in place to keep Myki running and for the current round of upgrades.
(If you’re wondering, the $100 million a year of costs is more than covered by fare revenue, which the PTV Annual Report says topped $900 million in 2018-19.)
After a very shaky start, and a long protracted roll-out that took more than four years (from regional town buses in early 2009 to V/Line in 2013), the Myki system has improved over time – and I suspect most passengers have become accustomed to its quirks.
But there definitely is still room for improvement, even without wholesale re-engineering of the system.
How can Myki be made better?
Here are a few issues that should still be fixed:
Passes are confusing, and can result in passengers who travel every day paying more than necessary. This should be replaced by a Myki Money weekly cap, which was originally promised. (Monthly too? Perhaps.)
With readers often awkwardly located, touch-on and touch-off sounds should be made different so it is easier to identify that the card has been touched successfully, and in the intended manner. Sounds should also be consistent across Myki reader types, and made louder so they are easily audible in noisy environments. (There’s no need for them to beep once or twice depending on the type of ticket. Nobody uses this.)
It would be good to know if this roll-out is going to eventually replace all of the older readers. Their response times were never acceptably fast and consistent – and are probably why the terminology changed from “scan” to “touch”.
The new readers either don’t display the card balance/expiry, or display it so small that it can barely be read. I know they’re trying to ensure people don’t dawdle at station gates, but some people now never see their card Pass expiry.
Myki Mobile for iPhone would be a big plus – take-up on Android seems to have been reasonably good, despite some glitches, but making it available for iPhone mean almost all mobile phone users have the option.
If this can be achieved, arguably being able to use credit cards directly on the system (as in London and Sydney, both using variants of the same system) becomes less important.
Fare anomalies need to be fixed. This is not strictly a Myki issue, but the result of years of governments of both stripes fiddling with the fare system – first getting rid of zone 3, then making zone 1 and 2 an almost flat fare. The result is that Melbourne to Lara (58km) cost $4.40; to the next stop at Corio (64km) is $12 (peak). That’s completely ridiculous, and encourages people to drive across Geelong to Lara station before catching their train.
Expansion to the rest of V/Line would be useful, to make train usage beyond the commuter belt easier. This was originally the plan, but was “de-scoped” by the Baillieu government in 2011. I suspect there are probably issues getting Myki to handle First Class and seat reservations, which is why it was decided it was all too hard.
Free mode. Myki readers need this for the now regular bus replacement operations, to prevent issues with passengers touching-on when they don’t need to, and for regular free travel periods such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. (They might still need to be partly functional to cater for touch-off for people ending their trips, for instance just after 6pm when free rides start on New Year’s Eve.)
Tickets for occasional users need to be easier to get. Single use tickets were also originally planned for the system, and de-scoped in 2011, along with tram vending machines.
Admittedly there’s some benefit from not having single use tickets – it reduces litter and waste, and encourages repeat use – but only if you can convince people to get a card in the first place. If not, the system remains a barrier to new public transport users.
Remember, concession cards can’t be obtained through the vending machines, which are the only option at unstaffed stations.
Are the cards sufficiently available for tourists? Can the refund system be improved?
And what to do about the lack of touch-on opportunities for tram users?
All this becomes less important if both major mobile phone operating systems can use Mobile Myki.
Fix the web site. Most of it (including the overall look and feel) hasn’t been changed since it was originally released. Still the same tiny fonts and non-mobile-friendly layout.
And there’s idiotic stuff still on the web site: When you purchase a Myki Pass online, the default selection is Zone 1 to Zone 1, which would also be the most popular option. Leaving that default returns an error: This myki pass is not available at this time. Please select another and try again.
What does that error mean? It’s because since 2015 you’ve had to buy Zone 1+2 (for the same price). Why not either tell you that, or automatically change the selection?
Oh well, at least they got rid of the compulsory (and often unwanted) Myki machine receipts.
What else would you fix?
- Remember, fares go up on 1st January. If you use Myki Pass and want to beat the price rise, buy a Pass before then. Your card can hold your current Pass and your next Pass.