Monday, February 08, 2010

Myki and Me: A Love Story (NOT!)

When the Victorian government decided to spend a couple of million on the public transport system it didn’t opt to replace train tracks that seem to buckle in the heat every summer, neither did it choose to increase services during peak hour, nor to man stations (a radical concept that would create employment, reduce fair evasion and be of service to the public). No, the Victorian government decided to overhaul the one part of the system that seemed to be working quite adequately-the ticketing system.
They decided to introduce Myki.
In theory it’s a great system-in theory.
As the mother of two regular train users there’s been more than one occasion when a monthly ticket has met a soggy end in a uniform pocket long before its expiry date. And I’m no stranger to the words “mum, my ticket’s run out”, usually heard at ten to eight in the morning. So I liked the idea of Myki. A plastic card has a greater chance of surviving the spin cycle and being able to keep track of ticket validity and top up accounts online could be a real time saver. So I duly applied for, received, registered and activated Myki cards for the family.
And that’s when the trouble started.
The week before school went back I found myself at the local railway station and decided to load tickets onto the girls’ cards so they would be ready for use. The first transaction went well. I had no trouble purchasing a ticket for the master of the bleeding obvious. Delighted with how easy the system was to work I went ahead with a second transaction. Part way through the ticket purchasing sequence the screen went black. A few seconds later it started flashing system error/out of service. O-oh!
When I got home I checked the account, no ticket had been credited. I checked my bank balance, payment had been made.
I’m sure there are systems in place for this eventuality, so I call Myki. It takes fifteen minutes for the operator to understand my problem (I paid for a ticket and it wasn’t credited to the card-not rocket science folks). I am assured that the ticket will be credited to the card within twenty-four hours.
It was not.
So I called Myki.
And explained the situation again.
I was told that the system had gone down (I fairly much had figured that one out for myself), offered profuse apologies and told the situation was being investigated and a ticket would be credited to my account within forty-eight hours of my original report. In the mean time would I like to purchase another ticket to ensure the card was valid to travel? As it happened, yes I would. So I purchased a second ticket for the professor of pedantic’s card.
All appeared to work well on the first day of school and although I had received no refund or ticket credit, I gave Myki the benefit of the doubt and let the situation rest for a further two days.
Since it was now five days since my original report and I have heard nothing I call Myki.
And explained the situation again.
The operator tells me that a ticket was credited to my card twenty-four hours after my initial report. I explain to her that I purchased that ticket and my enquiry was in regard to the ticket for which I had been charged but not yet received. Hmm, tricky. I’m referred up the line.
Yes, they understand the problem. Do I have a receipt? No the system shut down after taking my money but before issuing a receipt. Did I pay by cash or card? Card. Then my bank statement will show a debit to Myki without a corresponding credit to the Myki card. Could I forward them a copy of my bank statement? (My second thought was lucky I used my card. My first thought was what? Your system fails and the onus is on me to prove you took my money!! My third thought, if you’re interested, was and if I’d used cash I’d be stuffed at this point.) The situation will be resolved within forty-eight hours of receipt of said evidence.
It was not.
So I called Myki.
And explained the situation again.
Yes, they have my bank statement. And there is a credit on the account. I point out my second purchase and ask if there is a second credit to the account. After much waiting, to-ing and fro-ing, they don’t know. My report is being referred up the line. Somebody will contact me within forty-eight hours.
On Saturday master of the bleeding obvious reports that her card is failing to touch on and has recorded a debit.
So I called Myki.
Who couldn’t help me at all but assured me somebody would look into it by the end of next week. I pointed out that meant I couldn’t use a valid ticket for a quarter of the time I had paid for (and yes, I had a receipt to prove it). Awfully sorry but there’s nothing they can do.
So I wait until this morning and…
I call Myki.
And explained the situation.
Over half an hour of negotiation later they agree to rectify the erroneous negative balance. (Because even in a Myki world 7 days is not 28 days and school buildings do not wonder between transport zones) This should correct the problem. I’ll know for sure in twenty-four hours.
And, no, there has been no further progress on the other situation.

Quite frankly Myki is a total balls-up. The system went down and it is me that is out of pocket, inconvenienced and has the aggravation (and expense-all those phone calls) of sorting it out.

Myki might be haemorrhaging cash but they’re not going to stop the flow by taking money from the little people. They’re going to drive us all to boycott the system.

Electronic ticketing systems have been in place all over the world for years (London’s Oyster card comes to mind). Surely the Victorian government could have installed a system that was tried and proven elsewhere. At the very least they could have asked what problems arose with those systems and anticipated similar issues here-an ounce of prevention, as they say.

In the mean time my advice is to avoid Myki for as long as you can. That way they may have the system sorted before you’re forced to use it. And if you’re game to give it a try don’t use cash-you may need to prove your purchase with a bank statement.