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Let me say at the outset, I was an early adopter of myki. As a former transport reporter for The Sunday Age, it seemed I should really test it out in the field.
I lost my original card last year, at a football game where my team was destroyed by Collingwood and my children and I caught colds. The reason I mention this is that my card was not old, not more than seven months, but it had been trouble for much of that time.
I used to think it was my swiping technique. Other commuters cruised through as I stood there muttering and huffing at the card reader. Then on Wednesday, I took five boys, aged under seven, to the city. Four needed myki cards and I swiped them easily through. My technique was fine. My next job was to top up.
After handing over $50 to top up my card, the machine said it could not upload the money onto my card and that I needed to contact myki. Getting on the phone with five boys in tow at an unstaffed station was not an option. I decided to use the last credit I had on my card and made my way in.
That night, I got on the phone to Public Transport Victoria. Two ‘‘customer care’’ conversations later they agreed that my card had not uploaded the credit and I would be given a case number. They wanted me to check whether the money had left my account and to email my receipt. More jobs to do for myki.
Yesterday I decided to travel by car because I did not have a working ticket. I popped into Southern Cross Station’s myki centre to find queues, five deep, waiting for assistance at the top-up machines. I tried a reader in the centre, only to be told they would not read my card. Eventually, the customer service woman swiped my card and confirmed (drum roll) it was faulty.
I filled out my details for a replacement card and was given a ‘‘temporary card’’ which I would also have to upload with credits and I could keep for emergencies. My real new card would arrive in seven to 10 business days. What is not clear is why I cannot continue to use the card I have in my hand and register it as my real card on the spot. It would not have my name on it, which might be annoying, I suppose. At any rate, I couldn’t upload the credits then and there because the queues were still too long.
That brings me to today. I left a few minutes early from home to make sure I had time to upload my credits onto the card. There was a queue (again) for the myki machine.
The woman in front of me cancelled her transaction after getting flustered when she heard the train. I thought: ‘‘I can do this quickly, I know what to do’’. Alas no, I was too late, the train pulled out. Now here’s the thing, both of the card readers were ‘‘out of service’’. That means I could have got on the train, without uploading credits onto my temporary card, and without a valid ticket.
Public Transport Victoria has taken the cheap way out by retiring an efficient Metcard machine and leaving a slow myki machine to take up the slack.
All this begs the question, when will myki be ready? We are told we all have to get used to the new system. I would say I am - I’ve been using it for more than two years. The system is still not ready yet everyone is supposed to use it.
Deborah Gough is The Sunday Age's consumer affairs reporter
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