Myki Isn’t Horrible, But It Has Plenty Of Room For Improvement

Having a bit of fun with mates back at Uni poke fun at Myki reminded me I haven’t shared my full thoughts on the system. Myki is a system I have to use here daily in Melbourne and while it’s not horrible, it far from being an efficient, reliable ticketing system.

Myki works like a lot of other fare card systems around the world, including the one being installing on SEPTA. To pay your fare, just touch-on to a reader when you get on and touch-off (unless on a zone one tram) when you get off. Sounds simple right? Well, it should be, but it isn’t. Trying to accurately guess how long it will take for your card to read is like playing the lottery. Sometimes, you’re lucky if the reader even chimes. It’s not hard to see why fare evasion on trams is very commonplace here. Occasionally, if you’re really lucky, every single reader on the tram will be out of service and your ride is technically free. Given that Myki averages five days to fix a problem, jot down the tram number if your want to cheat the system (not that you should of course).

Fare evasion on the trains is a little bit harder, as some stations actually have fare gates. Others (namely those not in the CBD or considered “Premium”) usually don’t, and you’re on the honor system to use one of the Myki posts. If it isn’t working, better hope you’re not going to a gated station or better have a lot of proof, otherwise you’re screwed, and your $3.58 trip just became a $212 one. I haven’t been on Melbourne’s joke of a bus system enough to vouch for it with certainty, but given that you touch-on in front of the driver, I’d expect evasion on busses to be difficult as well.

The Myki machines that actually issue and recharge cards generally work, but when they don’t, they can be hilarious. Typos are not uncommon. The Fare Guide button was never functional. Canceled Short-Term Tickets are still referenced in the help. Not faults with the machines, but the software on them. The machines themselves are fine, especially given how much of a beating they take. They’re the same ticket machines NJ Transit uses, just built with Myki in mind instead.

In short, from what I’ve heard from mates here, Myki falls short on a lot of promises that were made. It was very late and way over budget. Working readers, even brand new ones, is a huge gamble. Given that fare cards is hardly a new concept for public transport, it’s remarkable how much and how badly Myki gets wrong. It’s not the worst system I’ve ever used, but it comes close.

Eric Myki