Myki, you had a good run. But it’s time to tap off

There are plenty of things that divide us in this city – whether to hate Carlton or Collingwood, whether cyclists should be allowed to exist peacefully or be target practice for urban four-wheel-drivers, what kind of alternative milk to order in your coffee – but if there’s one thing that unites us, it’s the feeling of contempt and embarrassment about myki.

This clunky, awkward and often faulty public transport ticketing system has frustrated, angered and bewildered passengers since being unveiled in 2010 to replace the old paper Metcard.

Myki has frustrated users since its inception.Credit:Meredith O’Shea

Arriving behind schedule and hundreds of millions over budget, myki was riddled with errors from the start. Users complained of slow lag times when tapping on and off, difficulties topping up, problems getting refunds, and that weird thing where it used to spew out paper receipts to everyone who didn’t want them.

And what about Melbourne’s hapless visitors? There’s nothing more heart-rending than watching a group of newly arrived tourists reading the myki instructions on a tram and trying to work out how to travel around this city without copping a fine. “So I need to tap on, unless I’m in the free tram zone in the city, but if I’m on a bus I have to tap off, but not on a tram.”

What’s more, new users have to fork out $6 for a myki card (after they figure out where to buy one) and then load more money onto it before they can even hop on a tram. It’s hardly convenient, user-friendly or good value. Come on, let’s make it a little easier for those choosing to enjoy our city.

Myki cards, though not perishable items, expire.Credit:Scott McNaughton

When myki was first launched, tapping on and off on trams was horrendously slow due to connectivity issues, leading to the entire tram network being reclassified as zone 1 so users didn’t have to queue to slowly tap off. Meanwhile, many users still need the help of a mathematics professor to decide whether a myki pass or myki money is better value.

While many of the issues have been fixed in the decade since myki was implemented, it lags behind other public transport ticket systems around the world.

It’s time to move on. And catch up. With the myki contract due to end in November, this is our chance to ditch this clunker and create a system that is modern and simple to use.

I hate to say this, but maybe it’s time we had a look at Sydney’s Opal card. This system allows users to travel using credit cards or tap-to-pay-enabled smartphones and watches – a futuristic utopia compared to ours. In an age where we can pay for pretty much anything using our phones, having to carry a plastic card to pay for transport feels outdated. While the rest of the world has iPhone 14s, we’re battling on with the Nokia 3310.

Since 2019, Android phone users have been able to buy tickets with their device, but due to problems with the state government striking a deal with Apple, iPhone users are still unable to do so. Melbourne’s future ticketing system needs to enable credit card payments so passengers can use their phone, smartwatch or credit card to hop on public transport whenever they feel like it (yes, we can still keep the plastic tickets for those who prefer to use them).

While we’re talking improvements, let’s make topping up easier. Myki users are often forced to become unwilling fare evaders. Say you hop on a tram, try to tap on then find you have no money on your myki. You can top up online, but it will take 45 minutes to upload. So what do you do? Hop off and wait until your card updates? While many of us are super organised and have set up automatic top-up, or are constantly on top of our finances, many simply are not.

Oh and another thing. The expiry. What the heck? A plastic card is not a litre of milk, so why does it need to expire? I remember when my first myki expired, the shock of having to go to an actual train station, line up, talk to a real human being and obtain a new card, like it was 1984. A complete waste of time.

Myki, you had a good run. But it’s time to tap off. Let’s use this opportunity to take look at some of the slickest and most successful ticketing systems around the world – why not start with London, Sydney and Singapore – and create a new system that makes travelling around Melbourne more of a treat and less of a headache.

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