Saturday, 19 June 2010

MYKI Mouse

Many disabled commuters cannot reach high enough to use MYKI

In December 2007 Perth commuters saw the opening of the Mandurah Line. It is over 70 kilometres long, including a lengthy underground section. It has 11 stations, including two underground stations. It carries 60,000 people a day. It has rail lines that do not buckle in the heat.

The cost of the line itself was less than a billion dollars, but as part of the project the government also purchased a fleet of trains and carried out a number of other improvement works - totalling $1.4 billion.

Here in Melbourne we've spent the same amount on the MYKI ticket system - which is not even properly operational. It is a staggering waste of money.

Back in January I tried to buy a MYKI card on-line, in order to take advantage of the discount for buying early. Despite filling out all the form - including credit card details - I got a message on screen saying they were unable to process my application at this time and to try again. I did, with the same result. I sent an email to the address provided for difficulties. I have never had a response.

MYKI was supposed to be a "smart card" which would take account of the complexities of Melbourne's fares, and automatically calculate the cheapest.

But this week we've seen the city saver fare scrapped because MYKI could not calculate it.

Some 35,000 people use city saver tickets each day, and now they will have to pay 90 cents more for each trip. So commuters are having to pay more for a system which was supposed to make it easier for us.

And this follows the scrapping of the "short trip" ticket - which allowed a commuter to travel several stops one way. When that ticket was abolished, many inner Melbourne travellers found their commuting expenses going up 70%.

MYKI is already causing significant delays at train stations. Many platforms only allow one person at a time to exit, and even the few commuters with MYKIs cause significant bottlenecks as they "touch off".

If we have to touch off when alighting from trams, the delays at each stop will considerably slow tram journeys.

Because MYKI scanners are higher off the ground than Metcard validators, many disabled travellers cannot use them - breaching anti-discrimination laws.

It is hard to believe you could blow $1.4 billion on a dodgy ticketing system like MYKI.

That's enough to build over a hundred kilometres of railway track. Or we might want to do what they did with the Mandurah line and have less distance but a long underground section and a whole lot of new trains as well.

With $1.4 billion, we could buy 93 new six-carriage trains and still have enough left over to train 200 new drivers. Imagine how that investment would make our system more frequent and efficient.

It's hard not to be angry about MYKI. We will never get that money back.

But it's only the tip of the iceberg - we have not had a proper focus on public transport in the Victorian government for many years, so commuters have to put up with an infrequent, unreliable, overcrowded and poorly staffed service - a service that doesn't even run 24 hours a day in our 24 hour city.

Smart utilization of our trains, trams and buses could give us a great public transport system. With peak oil making cars much more expensive, and with the climate crisis crying out for carbon efficiency in transport, it's time we took the needs of public transport seriously.

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  1. Recently I was in Sydney. Their PT has its problems, but ticketing isn't one of them. They have just reduced their prices, at least on medium to long distance journeys. It now costs less than $8 to go to Newcastle; it used to be around $30.

    MYKI should be scrapped. Strip the assets of the frauds that were commissioned to build it. Put the politicians who oversaw this farce out of office. And as you say, build new lines and buy more trains.

    Melbourne is soon going to be known as the city of the white elephant - the leaking roof on "Southern Cross" station, the MYKI debacle, that stupid ferris wheel at Docklands...

  2. Looks like my last comment didn't make it. It is wrong to say that City Saver is being removed because myki programming can't handle it, that's not true as it handles it perfectly. The removal of City Saver is because of the touch off requirement, which wouldn't be workable at peak times when trams are overcrowded.
    Tram overcrowding is the issue, only resolved by getting more trams, especially at peak times. This is not a myki issue and the trams will still be overcrowded when myki is fully implemented.
    It's easy to blame myki for this, but it simply isn't true

  3. It is a Myki issue. The architecture of the system is flawed. Touching off is for calculating fares for operators, not for improving the customer experience. The card reader's response is also far too slow.

    I favour making trams free for all trips instead, and keeping the Myki debacle for trains and buses.

    Of course we need double the number of trams too, and they should be converted to a traffic-free metro system too. That's the problem with blowing public money on systems on keeping private operators happy - as Brian points out the money would be much better spent on improved infrastructure and more transport.