Myki needs updating, and fast after Metcard is gone

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It is just a few months before Myki is to officially replace Metcard as the ticketing system for Melbourne’s transportation system. However, once we get Metcard out, the Victorian Government needs to seriously upgrade Myki to future-proof the delayed and overbudget project, or else we would be forced to create a new system down the track.

Technology

The technology needs to be drastically improved. Response times are long (but are getting shorter) and we should be a bit worried, especially when we’re expected to use this system fully by 2013. I’m more worried about the buses and how sometimes the reader is out of service. These machines are meant to be running so people can tap onto the Myki system. There is a fault somewhere, and this needs to be addressed.

It also needs to be updated to newer technology. Back in March, I outlined this proposal – as a way to solve the major problem of tourists when the Victorian Government scrapped the short-term tickets:

Think about this – simply use the Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 4S (with the iCarte case) or any NFC-enabled phone to tap onto the myki card reader. Rather than getting the tourist to pay for a myki card – even if it is temporary; simply charge the fee to their credit card or bank account linked to the particular NFC service like Kaching or Google Wallet.

Your phone, loaded with a Myki app, connected to a service where you put money onto the device. Or, even simply tap on your credit card and pay-as-you-go. Either way, NFC is booming – and the system needs to be updated to take that into account. But instead, we got the ‘Visitor Pack’. For $14, you get $8 included on your Myki card, and discounts on 15 destinations. While discounts and a map will let them travel around the city – it is up to the tourist to claim back their leftover money. And they’re not even out yet.

It solves the tourist problem, despite the fact it is more a tacked-on solution – except it doesn’t solve improving Myki for the future.

Expansion

By 2013 – Victoria would have two ticketing systems. Myki and the paper ticketing system which V-Line still uses. Myki does work on V-Line – but only if you live within Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong. We should unify the two, and for one reason only: by 2013, Metcard is gone, giving regional Victorians who come to Melbourne and want to use our public transport system unable to use the system unless they are willing to get a ‘Visitor Pack’.

Plus, it would make it easier for tourists to simply use the one card – it does mean, however, they’ll have to top up a lot more money since fares are higher than metropolitan Melbourne.

In fact, why not expand its use to other forms of transport. A proposal outlined by the Taxi Industry Inquiry has suggested that Myki should be used as an option to pay for taxis. As the Herald Sun notes, “passengers will be 10 per cent better off than if they use Cabcharge… [and] would break the Cabcharge monopoly”. Simply tap on when you get a taxi, and then tap off afterwards. Myki should also be expanded to the Skybus shuttle that takes you from the city to Melbourne Airport and back.

A simple concept yes, but will add more to the cost of running and maintaining Myki.

Going National?

Perth, Canberra and Brisbane already have a smartcard system, and Sydney is set to introduce one by 2014. It might be time to consider a scheme where these cards can interact with each other’s systems. For example, I could use my Myki card if I want to travel on Cityrail instead of using their upcoming Opal system. Or a businessperson from Brisbane could use their go card to use Melbourne’s own public transport system.

This kind of interstate system isn’t new – look at e-TAG. That system was originally developed for Melbourne’s CityLink before being adopted for all tollways. I’m not saying each state has to scrap theirs and implement one of the others, but we should consider some sort of way of allowing these smartcards in interstate travel.

For Myki, Perth’s SmartRider and Brisbane’s Translink go card, they use some form of MIFARE card. So that makes this a little bit easier to develop, because you are dealing with one vendor as opposed to many different vendors of smartcards.

The Money Issue

Of course, it isn’t without some cost to the taxpayer – either we increase the fees slightly to compensate for the additional spending to fix this, or just given as a Government budget expenditure. However, for Myki to continue in this decade and beyond, it needs to be upgraded. The taxpayer has spent billions on this project – a project that was a great idea. However, the company that was contracted to do so has made a mess of it.

In the very first lecture of my study in Software Engineering, learning about how disastrous failures can be – Myki was one of them. If the right company – a company that had experience in developing such a system – then the cost wouldn’t be that high since we wouldn’t be spending much money on fixing the system, and we could have tacked on NFC or some other improvements.

But will there be political power in improving the system? Maybe not.

Any suggestions on improving Myki? I would love to hear them, so please do put them in the comments.

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  • James

    Myki problems:

    * can’t hear the beep* can’t see the screen* top-up machines are insanely slow (compare Sydney)* most readers require you to hold the card vertically and keep your fingers clear of the touch surface (stupid)* some stations have pinch points where a train stops, unloads, and all the people getting off and trying to touch off prevent people from entering at the same point to touch on and catch the same train
    The question no-one can answer is why this system cost well over $1 billion?For f*** sake, even Hobart has a smart card ticketing system we could have stolen!

  • DianeRehkop