What should be done with myki?

Road pricing in London, 18th century

The Age reckons myki is “failing at maths”, but I wonder if the key failing is actually with the way it’s managed rather than with any technical shortcomings.

This report in Tuesday’s paper said “hundreds of travellers (who use myki) are paying too much”. It follows an earlier report by The Age, back in April, when it was claimed that “one third of myki bills are inaccurate”.

Both these stories refer to MykiLeaks, a web site set up by Monash University student Jonathan Mullins. It enables travellers to review (some aspects of) the accuracy of myki statements on-line.

The Age’s latest report indicates a big improvement since April – the proportion of inaccurate statements is down from 33% to 15%. But if valid, that’s still a very high error rate even if, as The Age’s reporter says, the total dollars involved aren’t significant (the combined overcharge across circa 300 faulty statements was $1700, with the biggest error being a traveller charged $18 instead of $6).

But there are reasons to be careful about how much weight to put on the MykiLeaks results. One is that we don’t know how accurate the MykiLeaks algorithm is. Another is that only 2,000 statements have been submitted to the site since it started last December. That’s a very small proportion of the million plus myki cards on issue.

Such a small sample might not be problematic if it were randomly selected, but it seems unlikely the kind of people who use MykiLeaks are representative of the whole body of myki users. They could have good reason to be wary if, for example, they are in the small group who make the kind of complex, multi modal trips where myki appears to be weakest.

I don’t know for sure how accurate myki actually is or even what most of the errors are, but I don’t put a lot of store by MykiLeak’s findings. But that doesn’t really matter all that much because the key issue in my view is the poor public perception of myki – it’s pretty clearly a tainted brand. I’m the first to be wary of on-line polls, but surely it’s not without significance that a staggering 91% of the 5,657 readers who voted in The Age’s poll answered ‘No’ to the question: “Do you trust myki to charge you the correct amount?”.

Moreover, read through the comments on the article and it’s evident there are other issues too. Quite a few people have difficulty understanding their account statements. Others are annoyed by the considerable delay between topping up their account on-line via credit card, and when the funds become available for use. Many resent having to identify errors themselves and then contact a call centre to have it fixed up.

If The Age’s report is a fair account, the Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA) seems to be taking a defensive posture. That’s not good for business and it’s not smart politics either.

The best counter the Chief Executive, Bernie Carolan, could manage was to warn “myki users against giving their personal information to the (MykiLeaks) website”.  He also said he couldn’t confirm MykiLeak’s claims because the Government doesn’t have access to the site. Just as he did back in April, Mr Carolan again provided this reassuring, customer-friendly advice: “If a customer is concerned they have paid more for their fare than required, they should contact the myki call centre on 13 69 54”.

This sounds to me like an organisation that’s a little out of touch with its customers. People don’t want to hang on the phone to a call centre to correct a mistake they didn’t make. Moreover they expect the TTA will identify its own overcharging errors, not leave it up to customers and wait till they complain. Perhaps most of all, they want to be reassured – they want the TTA to tell them honestly and plainly if they’re being over-charged or not. Mr Carolan didn’t answer that question – he responded with bluster.

The TTA needs to stop being defensive and start being positive. Customers shouldn’t have to wait for a Mr Mullins to materialise in order to get basic information about the accuracy of the system. But given they have waited, the TTA should’ve negotiated with him long ago. If his program is a dud, then say so clearly and unambiguously. But if it’s reliable and accurate, the TTA should acknowledge any errors on its own part. It should explain the circumstances of any errors openly and frankly and put them in context so customers can make their own mind up.

The TTA needs to be pro-active about winning the trust of its customers. Not all travellers understand it can take days for an on-line credit card payment to be processed by the bank and the funds deposited to his or her myki account. It could make sense for the TTA to think about taking on this risk – the amounts at stake are relatively small beer and building bridges to customers might just be a smart business strategy at the moment.

And there’s really no excuse for account statements that a substantial proportion of customers don’t understand – public transport shouldn’t be an IQ test. Either the market testing of the statements was inadequate, the explanation is deficient, or the charging system’s too complex.

The TTA should see customers concerns as a message rather than an annoyance.

23 Comments on “What should be done with myki?”

  1. Lynne says:

    My normal pattern of travel results in a consistent overcharge of $0.94 per day (for a total amount that is not equal to any valid fare). This error was reported to Myki in January and is still unresolved. All responses were consistent to continue to contact them for reimbursement, the suggestion that absent fixing the actual problem they could scan for overcharging and proactively refund the overcharging were met with the reply that I should stick to Metcard!

    They really do need to improve their credibility and as you suggest they should be embracing the existence of Mykileaks by making transaction reports available without personally identifiable information and then actively testing the site to discover what they think are its errors. The developer of the site is certainly more responsive to email communication than the TTA.

    Also if the overcharging problem is so rare why isn’t Mr Carolan trumpeting their statistics to the world, I suspect the numbers must be so high that they are too embarassing to announce.

    • Sam Tsering says:

      I was also over charged over a long period of time. I found the Metland customer services appaling so got help from the ombudsman and finally I am getting refund but with an admin fees of $9.80 deducted which I am not happy at all. The lesson for me is never use Myki.

  2. Alexander says:

    …met with the reply that I should stick to Metcard

    And you should! They wouldn’t be getting my beloved 10×2 hourlies till they pry them from my hands. They’re not as convenient as a smartcard should be (zones, you see), but they’re a lot better than Myki is.

  3. Johnyboy says:

    I know myself and others have been at the myki idiotic machines and some take your money and do not give the money out. I rarely travel on public transport but when I did i find the automaic ticket machines gobbling up coins . The self serving machines in the safeways are just as bad. i put in coins and they do not record them. I had to argue with the idiotic safeway staff. It took $4 from me. It didnt record it.

  4. Thankfully I travel enough to warrant travelling on a periodical pass. I usually buy a month or two at a time and I haven’t had any issues of getting over charged so far. This aside I encounter plenty of problems (touching on at Fairfield, and not being able to get out the gate at Flinders Street is the most common).

    The biggest problem I’ve had though was trying to get a replacement concession Myki after l lost my wallet. An absolute nightmare of dealing with person after person that simply did not have a clue.

    I lost the wallet, after about 3 days I realised it wasn’t likely to turn up and called to put a stop on the periodical and cancel the card and get a new one sent out. Unfortunately because I’d lost my wallet I’d also lost my credit card and couldn’t make the $10 payment for a replacement at the time, so I asked to put the stop on the periodical and then get then I’d go in and fill out the form and pick up a replacement card at a station and pay in cash. By the time I got the chance I’d received my new credit card (one phone call got that sorted!).

    A visit to Flinders Street got me directed Southern Cross because Flinders Street apparently couldn’t issue replacement cards. Southern Cross told me to visit Flinders Street. I figured it’d be easier to just fill out the form in front of them, and put in the new credit card details. I decided to not risk filling it out incorrectly and showed the form to the person at the desk. All ok. In their internal mailbox it went.

    Two weeks later I still hadn’t received it and called them. They said the form hadn’t scanned properly and the credit card details weren’t legible. I gave them the details over the phone.

    5 days later two letters in the mail from Myki! One telling me I hadn’t filled the form in properly and I’d need to submit a new form with legible credit card details. I guess the letter writers were a little less honest than the poorly trained call centre staff? The other letter contained a new myki. Great, except this was a full fare.

    Another phone call and they tell me to hang onto this one until I’m no longer a student and if I just want to give them the credit card details they’ll send me a new concession card. “Uh, I’m not paying for another one.” “I’m sorry sir if you ordered the wrong card you’ll have to pay for a new one”. “I didn’t order the wrong card, you sent the wrong card”. Grrrr….. A call escalation to a supervisor gets them to agree to send out the new concession card, and lucky me I get to keep the full fare one for nothing, complimentary for the hassle!

    Eventually, more than another week (and a phone call) later a new card finally arrives in the mail. A concession card. Finally.

    I take it to the station, go to touch on. No credit. Despite the assurance of every single person I’d spoken to over the entire saga that the remainder of the periodical ticket I hadn’t used would be on the card. Thankfully it only took one more call to get it sorted, and lucky me again they re-instated a full monthly pass on there, despite the fact I’d used it had been activated 5 days before I called them in the first place (and only used for 2 of them).

    It took a full 2 months, two visits to two different offices, 4 letters sent to me, and about a dozen phone calls all in the name of replacing a single card. In the meantime and not wanting to spend money I didn’t really have to spare. I’d been buying weekly’s and daily’s sure that my myki would be arriving again soon.

  5. Russ says:

    Julian, my girlfriend’s experience was … similar. She was pointlessly made to go back to the vendor she got the original card to get a replacement, the money on the original was never transferred despite several calls, the time and bureaucracy involved in replacing a simple card was out of control.

    Alan, I’ve written quite a number of online credit card payment systems. There is ZERO reason to wait until the money is settled before modifying an account. Once a bank approves a payment the merchant gets the money, otherwise credit cards would be useless, the risk is entirely on the customer who’ll receive an overcharge fee. All waiting does is significantly complicate the system, as they need to keep a list of unsettled payments. Not topping up an account immediately is a fail, the type of design decision that only a body that doesn’t have to worry about customer perceptions can make.

  6. Lynne says:

    @Russ the reason they advise 24 hours for a top-up is not to do with credit card settlement but is because the readers on busses and trams are not in communication with the central system that takes the payment. Therefore they need a daily cycle in order for these vehicles to return to the depot and the readers to be updated with outstanding top-ups. My experience on my local bus was that even 24 hours wasn’t enough in many cases, the readers were not being consistently updated every night.

    • Russ says:

      Lynne, that’s equally appalling, for a whole host of reasons. 1) Moving vehicles ought to be capable of checking with a central server for updates; wireless is not a difficult concept, even if it lowers reliability a little. And 2) non-anonymous Myki cards ought to be capable of monthly billing, like almost every other charged service (CityLink, phones). Stored value smart cards just aren’t a very good solution, but alas, we are stuck with them now.

    • That can’t be the case as if you top-up at a machine or at a merchant facility the credit is allocated immediately, it’s only online top-ups that require 24 hours to clear.

      There were also the many cases in the teething stage (although I’d argue the system is still teething) where Tram top up machines were hitting dead zones in the city.

      • Russ says:

        Julian, the card stores the value on it, it is updated centrally at the machine. That is one reason why scanning is so slow. It has to update the card.

      • Lynne says:

        @Julian, Just to be clear I was referring to online payments needing the return to the depot.

        @Russ, I’m not defending the decision. In regard to your point 1 I would imagine transaction times would blow out even further if the reader was required to communicate wirelessly back to a central system. In regard to your point 2 I don’t see why that couldn’t be done with the system today if they wished.

        • Russ says:

          Lynne, I didn’t think you were. Short answer to 1) No. Updating a shakily held card wirelessly will take several orders of magnitude times longer than using a wireless internet connection to send 30 characters. Assuming the internet connection is reliable (and there is no reason it shouldn’t be, as even in a remote part of Melbourne that can be ensured by wiring bus stops), it should take less than 1/2 second. And there is an upside to having all transport on a network: authorities can reliably report where they are. On 2), exactly!

        • Regardless of where the value is stored if the only reason online payments take 24 hours to clear is that trams or buses need to head back to the depot, then any hardwired machine (train stations) should be able to see the credit immediately. They don’t though, they still take the 24-48 hour period to show up, which indicates there is another reason it takes this long.

  7. Bruce Dickson says:

    Approaching Melbourne’s transport systems from another significant angle, the city – with its recently announced, discontinuation of a one day (Myki) fare forcing people to buy 10 fares in advance and its e-TAG freeway travel requirement making no provision for rental cars to directly pay the tolls while on the freeways themselves) – is fast becoming one of the most unfriendly cities to visitors you could find, in terms of ‘ease of process’ in getting around.

    To an outsider it would appear that the planning approach being adopted does not actively try to factor in tourists’ circumstances and the value of the tourism economy to the city at all.

  8. rohan says:

    No idea if this will help, though it should, but just today legislation was introduced to create the promised Victorian Public Transport Development Authority …..


  9. Sam Tsering says:

    Myki suffers a fatal desease so it should be put to an end as soon as possible so that commuters don’t catch it. Over several months my myki has been over charging me. After a stressful communication with the Metlink and help from the Ombusman, the Metlink has agreed to refund me however the Metlink still wants adminin fees of $9.80 for the refund – a joke customer service. I will never ever use Myki and strongly advise allits users to carefully check the transactions on aregular basis.

  10. Hi Alan, just found this post while Googling…

    In my opinion, the reduction in error rate from 30% or so to 15% is not indicative of any improvement to the myki system. When I first put MykiLeaks online, most of its users were people who had already detected overcharges on their statements the old-fashioned way, and began using MykiLeaks to save them the effort. Certain travel patterns consistently produce overcharges, so these users were biasing the data.

    Now that MykiLeaks has received media attention, there’s a more randomised selection of statements coming in, particularly on days that I release statistics. I’m inclined to think that the current error rate according to my data is a rough estimate of the actual error rate since myki went operational. The fact that myki haven’t countered my claim suggests it’s well above their target of < 1%.

    I think it's a joke that nothing has been done to rectify the situation. The fact that the end user has to give their personal details to a complete stranger (me) to automate the auditing process is ludicrous. After-the-fact corrections to user accounts should be made automatically, end of story. I wrote the initial code for the site in two evenings, surely there's a collective braincell down at Kamco capable of doing something similar.

    Cheers, Jonathan

  11. Lynne says:

    It seems like they may have started doing proactive refunds now, I’ve recently had a couple of un-asked for reimbursements applied to my account.

  12. al melbs says:

    I’ve been having a horrendous experience with Myki and their attitude towards customer service. I feel at a complete loss, so thought I’d post everything here as a warning to anyone using or considering using Myki.

    On the 7th of October I decided to start using Myki. I paid $10 for a card, and topped it up with a one-week pass, costing $32.

    On the first day, on my way home, I got stopped by the gates at Flinders St. Myki said I had insufficient credit on my card. This was confusing as I’d paid for a weekly ticket. The guard there told me that somehow the weekly ticket hadn’t activated. He could see it was there, but it hadn’t actually activated. I now had a Myki debt of the price of a days journey; this was only a few bucks so I paid it off. The guard said I’d have to go to the Myki centre at Southern Cross to activate the weekly ticket, so off I went.

    As I was leaving, he told me that Myki didn’t work, was a farce and should be avoided. How I wish I’d been given this advice prior to buying my Myki card. My nightmares were only just beginning.

    I headed to Southern Cross. Despite the fact that this was in the evening, after a days work and in the opposite direction from my home. When I got there, none of the people in the Myki centre knew why this had happened, but assured me my weekly ticket would activate the next day.

    On the second day, I got to work OK, so assumed my problems were over. Not so. In the evening I had the exact same issue at Flinders St. Weekly pass not activated, Myki debt for days travel, another journey to Southern Cross (carrying my laptop and all my work things) and another promise that the weekly pass would activate the next day.

    I can understand teething problems in a new system, but Myki isn’t new. On the third day I had the same problems again. The weekly pass wasn’t activated, a third evening trip to Southern Cross, and no explanations from anyone as to why this was happening. I’d had enough. I wanted my money back.

    This was where the real problems began.

    One of the attendants at the Myki centre apologised for the system fault and assured me that a refund wouldn’t be an issue. He filled out a form on my behalf, took away my card and sent it all off to be processed. I was told this would take up to three weeks(!) That seemed like a long time, but at least I could now enjoy the reliability of a paper ticket.

    Eight weeks later… TWO MONTHS… I get a letter from Myki (a letter!) containing a cheque (I know! I haven’t seen a cheque in years! They have my card details, why not… nevermind) for half the amount I was promised.

    Myki had deducted a handling fee of $9.50. They also say it’s their policy to not refund on the card costs. So, in short:

    – My card was faulty.
    – It cost me $9.50 to have someone sit on my case for two months.
    – Faulty card = tough luck. No refund.

    I asked if I could have my card back, seeing as it had cost me $10. Nope. I can’t.

    The letter also said that the handling fee was Myki policy, as explained on page 75 of their terms of service. I wasn’t aware of any terms of service. I certainly wasn’t offered a copy of them when I bought my Myki card.

    I’ve been on the phone to myki many times, trying to get this escalated and my money refunded. I have done nothing wrong, and I don’t think it’s fair that I should be made $19.50 out of pocket for something that is no fault of mine.

    Although I’m trying my best to be civil with Myki, their attitude towards their customers is very upsetting. Their customer service is non-existent.

    I know it’s only $19.50… But to some people that might be a lot of money. Either way it’s almost a weeks travel cost. To me it’s the principle of the matter. I feel that people need to know that Myki are essentially thieves. They have taken my Myki card and will not give it back.

    • Dave says:

      I’d say the myki had a myki money balance of $0.00, and an active pass. If the money balance is 0 or lower, the pass won’t work – even if valid! So you also needed to top up the myki with $5 of myki money. An absurd requirement, there is an overall positive balance on the card (active pass) but the +0.01c requirement for it to work breaks the whole thing. I remember when myki first came in they ended up having to credit all pensioner accounts with a few cents to allow Sunday Pass (free) travel – the seniors myki cards were mailed out with a 0.00 balance and consequently wouldn’t work (as happened to you).

      Too late, but the administration fee is being abolished as of January 1. Maybe use that to argue for a refund. If they can do it now, why not before?

      The requirement to post back faulty cards is also absurd. The same thing happens if you switch between concession and full-fare mykis. Since the card is electronic, and the only way to check if it is valid is using a reader, why on earth do you need a different card to signify concession (or pensioner) status!! For some people switching could be a semi-regular event – with the required many weeks wait to exchange cards! And in the meantime, you’re expected to use… a metcard to travel. Or the second myki you have to buy.
      I’d laugh, but it’s not going to be funny once metcard is phased out.

      See also about myki changes as of 1/1/2012:http://www.danielbowen.com/2011/12/22/fss-xmas-and-myki/

      • Dave says:

        I forgot to add, most station staff (even now) don’t appreciate the requirement for the myki money balance to be positive for a valid pass to be allowed to function. I think a lot of people have had ‘faulty’ cards replaced because this hasn’t been properly communicated by the TTA. Even after 2 years of operation.

        The other problem with using myki money and passes together on the same card is that the pass will always activate at its first opportunity. So if you buy a pass on Friday morning, but want it to activate Monday, and just use myki money that day to travel – you can’t. You’re stuck with the pass being active over the weekend too (when it’s normally cheaper to travel using weekend fares).
        Solution – you need two “smart”cards, one for your pass, and one used mainly as myki money. So much for rationalising the number of tickets you need to carry around (as was the design intent). I can easily envisage a system in which you need to touch on twice at the same terminal within 5 seconds to activate a pass, otherwise it sticks to myki money. More control, little increase in complication.

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