Monday, 23 April 2012

If myki is the solution, what the hell was the problem?

myki discovery centre at Southern Cross station
(c) divacultura 2012

Last week I had the misfortune of arriving at Southern Cross station during peak hour and witnessing first hand the difficulties with myki now that the parallel Metcard system is being aggressively phased out.  Having survived the train journey itself where I experienced what the live cattle trade might be like, I travelled on the escalators to the concourse without incident.  It was here that I reached the myki bottleneck and witnessed one frustrated commuter after another hold their myki to the reader with no result.  Then it was my turn and my normally well behaved card failed to open the barriers for me too!  

Swimming against the tide of a mass of people pressing to exit the station is not an easy thing to do, especially when everyone is wet from the rain and frustrated that the tickets have so many problems.  I finally emerged, frazzled by the glares of my fellow travellers and noticed the statement proclaimed by the myki "discovery centre":  "myki - Victoria's new public transport ticketing solution".

This left me wondering what the problem was.

The paper Metcard system which is being replaced by myki seemed to work pretty well.  Occasionally there would be a glitch and a card would think it hadn't been validated, but in my experience this was rare.  As a user, my experience was that it was easy to use and I knew exactly what I had left on my ticket.  What more could a girl want?

There were a few problems with Metcard.  

One was the litter caused by people throwing their expired tickets on the ground.  That's not really a problem with Metcard, that's a problem with people.  myki has solved this problem.

Keeping track of business travel expenses and GST was time consuming and individual expired tickets needed to be kept as evidence.  Yawn.  myki makes this process MUCH easier.  With a registered myki I can download a report into a spreadsheet that tracks my trips, costs and GST.  All I need to do is cross reference it with dates of travel for business.  It's a dream.  Of course it would be better not to have to collect tax for the government, but that's a different story.

To cover unpredictable, irregular travel patterns, I had to have a poker hand of cards in my purse to ensure that all situations were catered for.  myki travels with me and adjusts fares automatically which means I don't have to think.  

That's pretty much it, I think.  So again, I wonder what problem myki is actually solving?  These three issues are fringe issues that are good to fix, but are they worth the millions of dollars that has been spent?

Generally, my experience with the routine of touching on and off at train stations and on trams has been fine. I've had a couple of times where the barrier won't open, but given the amount of travel I do on public transport, this is negligible.  When it comes to any of the back office processes though, it's a nightmare.  (There are links to my previous posts on these subjects at the end of this post. )  It seems that as more and more people are being forced onto myki because of the phasing out of Metcard, the system isn't coping very well at all.

There are brand new, purpose built myki barriers at the Bourke Street end of Southern Cross station, but these are not in use all day.  Why this is the case is one of the myki mysteries as people tell me that the so called "frankenbarriers" which have myki readers retro-fitted is the reason so many commuters have problems.  Busy commuters, trying to get where they are going will not be paying attention to these subtle differentiations - all we know is that we can't get out, or in! 

So tell me again - what was the problem that myki was solving?  What's it the solution to? It's really hard to remember. I was pondering these things as I completed a screening survey which is the first step in the process to be selected for the myki customer experience panel.  I was stumped when asked how I felt about myki.  Was I positive or negative?  I don't know.  Some things work and some things don't and it seems ridiculous that after so long and so much money everything is not working properly.  I think most people would think it's reasonable to believe that myki should be working; or else, don't roll it out.

Then I noticed this sentence over on the myki website:  If you use these stations, prepare for the change by ensuring you understand the myki system and by buying a myki in the next weeks.  (Italics are mine).  This is not an achievable task! Especially not in a short time frame.  I've been using myki for over a year now and I'm still making discoveries about how it works!

The readers are so touchy that an education campaign to explain how to use the myki tickets is now underway.  The slogan "Touch. Hold. Go" becomes "Touch. Hold. Go to another barrier and see if that one will let you out. If it doesn't see if you can find a staff member to help release you from this commuter hell."

Patronising signs abound in the city stations admonishing us not to "wave", "swipe" or do anything other than "touch".  If the average person needs educating to this extent then the system is flawed.  Let's face it, most people aren't average!

Apart from all of that, I really miss Metcards - they were handy as bookmarks. And they worked.

Here are some other posts I have written about myki:

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