Recently, I was at Melbourne Central about to catch a train home with two dollars in my pocket. As I went to turn the coins into ‘Myki Money’ I realised there was only one machine accepting coins (no thanks to any warning signs). There were about ten people in the line. After I finally loaded my money, swiped my card and raced down the escalators, I arrived at the platform to see my train pulling off from the station. I was left to wait another twenty minutes for the next one. Horrible!
This story isn’t unfamiliar to Melburnians who know catching public transport is more of an abuse than a service.
The Liberal Government has labeled Myki an “effective and reliable” system. But last Sunday I had a few words in my head about the system and they were far from effective or reliable.
Myki has just added another layer to the diaster that is public transport in Melbourne. With no timetable cohesion between trains and buses, infrequent services, the need for facility upgrade and now a counterintuitive ticketing system, it is no wonder the car is the preferred mode of travel.
The current shambles in the Victorian Liberal Party is representative of former premier Ted Baillieu’s lack of leadership over Myki. If Baillieu really wanted to create an “effective and reliable” system, why didn’t he avoid throwing good money after bad, leave the fully functioning Metcard system, and pour that money into better services and upkeep?
Public transport expert Paul Mees says the Myki system displays spectacular incompetence on behalf of the Government and believes it should have scrapped Myki when it had the chance. Mees does not understand why Melbourne would spend a budget blowout of $1.5 billion when Perth spent just $35 million on a perfectly workable system.
Myki has also made the public transport system more difficult to use. If you were annoyed you couldn’t use notes on trams before, under Myki things have reached a new low. With no vending machines on trams or at stops, gone are the days when you could just jump on a tram – now commuters must have previously gone into a Myki retailer and topped up their card before boarding. The same procedure has been introduced to buses.
Mees describes the system as an “open invitation to fare evasion, because not having the ability to buy tickets on the tram or bus, or at the station – something no other system in the world has foisted on people – makes fare evaders out of honest passengers.”
Even if you were quick enough to think of whipping out your smart phone to transfer the fare across, the smart card is not that smart. It takes twenty-four hours for internet transfers to register. Are these the characteristics of an “effective and reliable” system?
Paul Wescott from the Public Transport Users Union says, “The ridiculous decision not to proceed with the planned short-term paper ticket means that passengers have to always have their Myki with them, or purchase a new one, provided they can find a place to do so – a particular challenge for bus travelers.”
For tourists this is also very problematic. A visitor in Melbourne wanting to use the transport system once is forced to buy a Myki card on top of their fare, despite the card being entirely useless once they leave.
Westcott is baffled the Government has not given a clear reason as to why there are no single trip tickets on the system. The decision was apparently based on a recommendation in Myki system report. Despite initial promises, it has refused to make the report public. Greens leader Greg Barber has taken the Government to the Supreme Court to try to get the report released.
To Westcott the Government’s back-flip to introduce single trip tickets for charities and the disadvantaged is proof, “despite denials, paper short-term tickets can be accommodated by the system.”
The Myki mess is a product of political incompetence and a commitment to neoliberal principles on both sides of Parliament.
It’s a belief that privatisation results in better services, which in the case of public transport is a recipe for disaster.
If we are ever going to see a truly “effective and reliable” transport system, qualified people must be put in the driver’s seat of transport policy. Government must focus on supply of – rather than demand for – sustainable transport to create a public transport system which will lure commuters out of their cars.