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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