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A few weeks ago I emailed a formal complaint to the TTA, hoping that they would ignore me and give me reason to take the whole myki overcharging thing to the ombudsman. Unfortunately they were very professional and responsive. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing to complain about the ongoing overcharging of a significant percentage of myki account holders. I’m the person responsible for the MykiLeaks website, and I find the prospect of having to maintain it for an indefinite amount of time unsatisfactory. Please provide answers to the following questions:

Are you aware that some travel patterns produce overcharges with near consistency?

What is the current accuracy rate for myki on trains, trams and buses respectively?

How do you calculate the accuracy? Is it based on the number of reimbursement requests, or some other means?

Is there likely to be a resolution to the overcharging problem in the form of a system improvement?

If not, will automated account auditing be implemented, such that reimbursements for overcharges occur without request from the user?

Regards,

Jonathan Mullins

They wouldn’t provide me with a written answers to the questions on account of the ‘complexities of the system’, instead they invited me in for a little chit-chat with the TTA’s General Manager of Operations.

So last Monday I left work early to make my way to the TTA’s offices on Collins St, ironically arriving late on account of train problems.

Level 38 of the ANZ building sports a lovely view of the inner city, the buzz of Flinders St and Southbank against a backdrop of St Kilda and Port Phillip Bay in the distance. When I first stepped out of the elevator I thought… ‘well, I guess I could stomach telling my friends I worked for the TTA if I got to hang out here every day’.

A giant myki logo is proudly presented on the glass wall that separates from the lobby from the TTA’s office proper. The place really is presented well. In my dreams I always imagined a chaotic scene of bureaucrats running around yelling at each other, telephones ringing out, some bald guy occasionally poking his head from an office in the corner, swearing at his assistant for not producing the report he asked for 3 minutes ago.

In reality the TTA felt like a buddhist retreat in the clouds. Smiling faces, clean carpet, unscuffed desks and polished glass. I wonder if it’s like that every day?

After some introductions and smalltalk, we got down to the business of overcharging on the myki ticketing system. I wish I had some exciting news to report, but unfortunately the information I learned wont come as much of a surprise. The bottom line as I see it, based on what I learned at the meeting, is:

  • Overcharging will continue to occur until Metcard is phased out, at which time buses and trams will magically know what suburb they are in. Something to do with a driver console or some such. Maybe they currently use random number generators.
  • The TTA have some form of ongoing system testing in place, in the way of pretend passengers that travel through the network and then check their statements — I hope they use MykiLeaks, that would be so cool.
  • There is no automated checking of all customer trip data that alerts myki to a suspected overcharge and flags it for checking.
  • As a consequence, there is no automatic refunding of overcharges.
  • Implementing automated refunding of every overcharge is not an option, as Kamco / myki / TTA / whoever believe that not every ‘apparent’ overcharge is actually an overcharge. ┬áSomething about a zone or a GPS thing or something. Yeah I don’t know either.
So what did I learn? Well, I learned that the people at the TTA are very friendly and hospitable folk who manage to exist in a reasonable state of calm despite being at the pointy end of a very public fuck up. At least that’s how they roll on a Monday afternoon. Power to them, I wish I dealt with stress that well.
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5 Comments

  1. The situation with the consoles seems to be:

    Myki runs in “headless” mode at the moment, and trams/buses rely entirely on GPS (which isn’t very good) to know where they are.

    Once Metcard is switched-off and the drivers have access to the Myki consoles, they’ll enter the route/direction etc information into the console. This info will be used in conjunction with the GPS to determine the zone, and will be more accurate.

    For instance you’ll no longer get a zone 1-only bus thinking it’s in zone 2, and nor should you get the common problem of the bus in the zone overlap that thinks it’s only in one zone.

    Why the GPS is so poor, I don’t know.

    • Yeah I can understand that GPS is flakey in places (particularly the CBD), and that it could cause problems with determining which stop etc. the user touches on/off in.

      Linking the headless mode with overcharging only covers the problems not even detected by MykiLeaks. My guess is that an overcharge as a result of a GPS problem would also have incorrect trip data on the statement, appearing to justify the fare?

      I guess we’ll have to wait for another year to find out what improvement we’ll get when Metcard goes :)

  2. Maybe you have some data from outside Melbourne? The regional buses with myki have been running in the ‘proper’ mode since the start.

    Even then the GPS may still be off. Here is an example from some recent travels in Geelong:
    http://twitpic.com/7eg85j

    The buses ‘through’ run different routes, and in the case of one of these, the driver didn’t change the route number on the console until after I boarded, in central Geelong, so it thinks I’m in Corio!
    No harm done as I only travelled a single zone, but would be worth looking out for.

    • That’s an interesting point… I wonder which is more reliable, GPS or bus drivers!

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  1. […] issues is the more common occurrence, so I got sent the same canned response.)Further readingMore about overcharging on ‘headless’ buses by Jonathan Mullins, creator of the MykiLeaks toolReason why a Myki pass is better than Myki money […]

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