I got into Melbourne, Australia yesterday. I was still trying to find my way around when I came across their tram system. It’s hard to miss, being the third largest in the world. To use it (as well as other forms of public transport), you need a Smartcard they call “Myki”. This is not a blog post about where to buy Myki or how to use Myki. There are plenty of other websites that cover those subjects. No, after raving about Hong Kong’s public transport Smartcard on a previous blog post, I would now like to present the alternative case – Melbourne, Australia’s “Myki”, and how NOT to implement a Smartcard. Here are just a few of the things that jump right out at me:
1) Charge a non-refundable, upfront fee. Myki costs six dollars right off the top (with no credit loaded on the card). That’s just a money grab, plain and simple.
2) Don’t give them a choice. You don’t have the option of cash/one-time tickets, so if you want to use public transport like that great tram network, you have no choice but to buy a Myki card. And if, for instance, you happen to leave it at home and you need to get somewhere, then I guess you’ll be buying another one, won’t you? And imagine thousands of cruise ship passengers stepping onto dry land and heading to the tram to do a little sightseeing in Melbourne, just to find out that they each need to pay $6 for a card before they can go anywhere. That should go over well.
3) Make them beg. If there is a balance on the card and you want it refunded back to you, you can’t just turn in the card and get your money with a thank you and a smile like I did in Hong Kong. No, you have to fill out a form and wait 21 business days before they mail you a check. It’s completely impractical for a tourist and besides, a check? Seriously? Just what century do you think this is, Melbourne? And the best part? When you fill out that request, you have to provide a reason why you want a refund of your balance! The options include Medical Condition, Ticking/Equipment Fault, and Special Consideration/Other Reason, which features a blank area where you are required to write up an explanation of why you want to get your own money back off a card you shouldn’t have had to purchase in the first place!
I have been in a lot of cities on this trip and I have to tip my hat to Melbourne – this is unquestionably the rock stupidest Smartcard I have seen so far. What amazes me is how they got it so wrong. It’s not like they were tasked with inventing time travel. This has been done before, many times, and much better. All they had to do was fly to one of those cities, ride their metro system, take a few photos, fly home and start work. The saddest thing is, it cost them a billion and a half dollars to grunt out this steaming pile of public transport. I know these charges are pretty small in the grand scope of things, but considering how ridiculously expensive Australia is already, to be nickel-and-dimed over and above that with this kind of nonsense is just insulting. I bought a Myki card anyway because, well, I didn’t really have much of a choice if I wanted to get around. But I am annoyed by it. And one of the cool things about having a blog is that I can share that annoyance with the world. Cheers Melbourne. Please don’t try to invent time travel.