What Myki is missing – and how it could help solve the ‘tourist problem’

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If you haven’t realised, the Metcard is going to be scrapped in 2013. So that means, everyone must get a Myki card if they want to continue using the Melbourne public transportation system. But, while the card is fine, there should be another input method. One that could also solve the tourist problem that plagues Myki – your mobile phone.

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.

Yes, the Australian market is small. NFC isn’t present on all phones – like the iPhone. As well, some phones that have NFC don’t use it for commerce applications (e.g. the Nokia N9, which uses NFC as an alternative way to connect two devices via Bluetooth). But broaden out to outside of Australia, and you can see a market growing. The United States, South Korea and Japan are some of the big users of NFC – the very same locations where a bulk of tourists come from.

And plus, tourists don’t know what the hell is Zone 1 or Zone 2. All they care is, “Can I get to Melbourne Zoo by tram?” or “What route is it to Crown Casino?”. The pricing within and between zones is irrelevant. (Though, if you are a tourist and looking to stay within Melbourne and not venture out to the outlaying suburbs, then you should stick to always Zone 1)

In actual fact, this is becoming a reality – in London (the very same system where myki is based on), they will be accepting NFC and contactless methods to pay for public transport, rather than paying for tickets to get on.

By the end of 2012 card readers across the whole of the Transport for London (TfL) network will have been upgraded so that a touch of a contactless bank or credit card will allow passengers to touch in and out for pay-as-you-go travel on the bus, Tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Tram and London Overground network

Look, I fully support Myki. I’ve been an active user myself. It has made it easier for me to go and take public transport. And I’m assuming more Victorians are slowly getting used to the idea of Myki, since there haven’t been any more calls to scrap the system any more. But it is time we do some upgrades, including making the time of swiping on and off faster, and also getting terminals that don’t fail on buses and trams.

But most importantly, Myki should be upgraded in order to allow NFC for both tourists and domestic users who don’t use the system all that often – and this should be done before the cut off date. Of course, this would require spending more money on a project that has already blown its budget, and delayed constantly. But this is needed – much needed to solve the ‘tourist question’.

Admittedly, NFC wasn’t a big thing when this was first proposed. However, where we are heading now shows that NFC will be future of payment. If Myki is to succeed for the better, it better do some future-proofing right now. Because by 2013, if this hasn’t been resolved, Melbourne could be the only city where tourists can’t use our public transport network.

That would mean Sydney would be better than us, Melbourne.

We don’t want that, do we?

(And if you’re from Sydney, it was a joke.)

Image: sam_churchill/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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