Myki mystery

Hong Kong Subway
Image by mikeleeorg via Flickr

I’ve spent a couple of weeks in Hong Kong, and am familiar with the Octopus card. I’ve lived in London, and traveling on the Tube to work every day, clocked up a lot of experience with the Oyster card. So, I was interested to see how Victoria’s own Myki would fare, and I was willing to be an early adopter.

The stories in the press haven’t been pretty. My personal experience was varied, but comes down on the side of bad.

I normally use a Zone 1 weekly ticket, so I decided to simply transition over to a Myki with a weekly ticket on it, rather than risk using the new Myki money system. However, it appears that you can’t escape the latter system, as I found out the hard way.

It started off well. I ordered my new Myki ticket for free (offer extended now to the end of January) and it arrived in the post a few days later, with my name spelled correctly, and the right letter (!) accompanying it.

I went to the train station to put a weekly ticket on it. It was a little unintuitive to load it up, but I’m sure next time it will be quicker.

Arriving at the exit barriers at Parliament station, I encountered my first problem. I wasn’t sure where the Myki had to be put in order to be scanned. As people banked up behind me, and I tried attempt after attempt, eventually I found the right spot. It’s on the side of the barrier (rather than the front or top), on right side of the passenger using it, and at about their knee level. When you scan properly, a message “CSC PASS” appears on the display at the top of the barrier and the gate opens.

Heading home, I knew where to scan, so went through okay. But getting off at my station (in Zone 1) to head home, I was engrossed in my podcasts and I really can’t tell you if I “touched off” at the station or whether the machine didn’t read the card correctly.

The next day, mysteriously, the Myki card didn’t appear to scan correctly when I got on the train, and when I again got to the barriers at Parliament station (confident in my ability to get Myki to scan correctly) they didn’t open. There was no error message, no beep. The Myki card simply wasn’t recognised.

Luckily I was carrying around my receipt for the weekly pass, which I showed the barrier attendants, as there was no other way to indicate to them that the Myki card was valid. They let me through then, and again in the afternoon when I experienced the same problem trying to get home.

Here’s what I learned later: even if you aren’t using the Myki money system, you still need to touch off, as it turns out that Myki will assume that you’ve travelled to the end of the line if you don’t, which means you get charged the difference between a Zone 1 trip and a Zone 2 trip. In my case, this difference was $2.02, so my Myki money balance went from zero to negative $2.02. If you have a negative balance, the card won’t work.

That evening, I rang Myki to complain about my card not working, and spoke to a helpful person called Vinh. After several periods of clarifying what happened, punctuated by long periods on hold, he explained that I’ll be getting a credit for $2.02 to get the card working again. He wasn’t sure if $2.02 was the right amount, because he couldn’t see the negative balance on his system.

Despite the positive news from Vinh, my card continued to be ignored by the barriers for the rest of the week, and the balance stayed at -$2.02. Hopefully next week it will be working, but by this point, I don’t expect it to.

Lessons learned:

  • Always keep the receipt handy for the weekly pass, since this is the only way to prove that I’ve actually got the right to travel on the train.
  • Always remember to touch on and off, even if I’m not using the Myki money system, and even if there isn’t a barrier at the station that forces me to scan the card to get out.
  • Keep using the old system for as long as possible, since the weekly passes cost exactly the same and I don’t need to keep a separate receipt nor remember to touch on and off.
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4 thoughts on “Myki mystery”

  1. I’ve had my share of fun too – ordered on first day and card arrived on day 7 as advertised. Got the “Concession” letter but was leaving the state so couldn’t deal with it for a couple of days. But all was ok. Needed it sorted since my Yearly Metcard expired on Jan 10 (in the suburbs, Jan 11 on the city barriers – difference started when DST started – go figure) and I didn’t want to buy a new Yearly and then convert it to MyKi.

    Got back from QLD Saturday night, first chance to get on PC was Sunday evening – login, find my card, everything good – can’t work out how to buy a pass. So I call the 13-number. He tells me it’s under “Top Up”. GRRR. Buying a pass is NOT a top up. It’s a purchase of an item to be loaded onto the card. Top-up is about balances (or fuel or lollies – things that get used up and need replenishing). If you’re going to coin product-related vernacular, make it compatible with the language.

    Anyway, purchase 365-day pass, $1170 as expected, VISA card, all good. ACCEPT, NEXT, YES. Gives me my reference number and tells me it’ll be 24 hours before the pass exists.

    WHAT? You can top-up over the ‘net but you can’t get your top-up until 24-hours later. So, if you’re low on money you HAVE to go to the machines. What’s the point of having a ‘net presence? And I didn’t feel like spending $1170 on some cruddy machine.

    So I turn up this morning and there’s nothing on my pass. I find out from station-staff that I need to put it on the vending machine to transfer the pass to the card (makes sense) but there’s no pass on the machine. It means it when it says 24 hours.

    So I travelled without a valid(ated) ticket. I’m not giving them any more money (and didn’t have time). Got to Parliament and considered my options – wave the MyKi at the machine and play dumb? I see the AO’s are out in force, this could get ugly.

    Solution? Waved my EXPIRED Yearly Metcard at the dude on the barrier, he opened it, I walked straight through. Wonder how I’ll get home tonight?

    And, Andrew, your story is wonderful – how could they stuff that up more? Although they do need a mechanism to capture the people who want to do exactly what it appeared you did – buy a Zone 1 ticket and then use Zone 2 occasionally. What do you think they SHOULD have done? It’s an interesting question? Just do nothing and let the AO’s catch you if you ever do illegally venture into Zone 2? Disable your card until you verify that you didn’t use Zone 2 (how?). Either way, the negative balance is just wrong (especially if FoH can’t see it).

    No wonder it cost $billions. They needed to code in all this insanity :-)

  2. Andrew, exactly the same thing happened to me with my 28 day pass. I had difficulty touching off at my station on my way home & wasn’t sure in the end if it was successful. Turns out it wasn’t & I ended up with a -$2.20 balance. It took 2 calls & 8 (working) days before my myki began working again. The myki call centre told me I should purchase other tickets in the meantime, as I didn’t have a valid ticket to travel. I let them know exactly what I thought of that suggestion, because as far as I was concerned, I had purchased a 28 day pass, which was currently expiring while I couldn’t use it.

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