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May312013

Myki wants to fine me for hypothetical trips

A colleague of mine received a fine this morning for not ‘touching on’ her Myki, though she thought she had. (For those unfamiliar with Melbourne, Myki is the city’s public transport ticketing system; it requires you to hold a smartcard near a reader at the beginning and end of every trip, from which it calculates your fare.) Having only recently moved back to Melbourne, I wondered what the rules were if you had purchased a Myki pass valid for, say, six months, but had failed to ‘touch on’ for a particular journey. No-one in the office was able to tell me, so I called Myki. And very rapidly felt like I was trolling them.

A lot depends on the discretion of the ticket inspector. However, the rules – as stated to me by the call centre operator – appear to be, “If you don’t touch on for a given trip, you can be fined.”

I questioned the rationale behind that for my given example of a six-month pass.

“We need to know that you have a valid ticket, and that you’re not travelling outside your valid zones. If you don’t touch on or off, we can’t track that.”

That’s fair enough, but let’s say I have a Zone 1+2 Myki; I’m covered for essentially the entirely of Melbourne, extending to the end of all metropolitan train lines.

“You might have started your journey or intend to finish your journey in Zone 3 or 4.”

I’m not even sure where those zones are – rural Victoria, I assume – so I specified my example: I have been ‘caught’ on a tram, with my six-month ticket. Trams cannot go further than Zone 1. Why should I be fined?

“We need to make sure you’re paying for your journey.”

Right, yes, okay, but I have a six-month pass, I persisted; I have paid for my ticket. This is where it got interesting.

“You would be fined because you may have on a previous journey been travelling on an invalid ticket.”

Excuse me? I want you to be very sure of what you’re saying to me, I told the operator: you’re suggesting that, if I get ‘caught’ on a tram with six-monthly Zone 1+2 ticket, but don’t touch on, you might fine me because on a previous day I might have travelled in Zone 3?

“Yes.”

You would fine me for the possibility of previous invalid journeys?

“Yes.”

 

Astonishing. Ludicrous. And so wholly without justifiable rationale it’s both laughable and insulting. (Not that I said this to the poor woman; I think my questions were enough.)

I was afraid of asking whether it was also Myki policy to fine me for hypothetical future infractions, in case it gave them ideas, so I instead asked what my responsibilities were in finding a working card reader on a tram or bus: if the one within reach were broken, would I be expected to push through a crowded service to reach a working one?

“You must do everything in your power to find a working reader to ‘touch on’.”

That’s quite broad, I complained, and I’m not sure what it means. Could you help me out with some examples? Do I need to push through a crowd to get to the other end of a tram at peak hour?

“You must do everything in your power to ‘touch on’.”

What if the tram is really full, and I can’t push through? Should I get off?

“If you really wanted to do the right thing, you should get off and catch the next tram, yes.”

 

Wow. I’m getting a sense of why so many Melburnians dislike Myki.

I don’t blame the Myki call centre operator. The system of rule enforcement is clearly overly rigid, but that’s not her fault, and having to rationalise things is rarely something call centre staff do well; an attitude of, “I just work here, man” is a failure of the organisation, not the staff. (Though, having the courage to answer questions with, “I don’t know”, is something more people could do with.)

The Myki rule setters, however, have things arse-backward. The primary purpose of a ticketing (enforcement) system is to make sure passengers pay for the trips. Everything else is secondary. Fining people for taking a trip they have paid for is outrageous – it’s not fare evasion, it’s “tracking-system-evasion” at worst. I had a yearly travel pass as a kid; I’d just wave that at a driver or gate attendant and off I went; sure, passenger numbers were harder to track, but how on earth did we get to the point where not letting a company track you while using their service is worthy of a fine?

Public Transport Victoria – if you run services that are usable, but make it unreasonbly difficult for people to satisfy all your conditions (e.g. touching on), give us some bloody leeway. Don’t be dickheads. The problem I’m seeing isn’t one of technology, or infrastructure – it’s a “them’s the rules” culture lacking flexibility and compassion toward your consumers. No wonder people don’t like you.

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Reader Comments (12)

Brilliant post! Everything you have mentioned I have struggled with!

It got the the point were I just stopped using public transport & started driving to work in the city.
With the cost of parking ($8 day early bird) & petrol plus the added convenience of my own space & quicker travel times, it became a more viable option to drive. I am quite lucky with my driving situation. $8 car park for 4 days & office park once a week.

The whole concept of having to "touch on" when it is near impossible to get onto a Tram at peak is absolutely ludicrous.

To add insult to an already injured system, I attempted to Top-Up my Myki at the local milk bar. I wanted to add $20 to my card & pay via eftpos. When the shop attendant replied with "No, $50 min for card" I was shocked. How can we be expected to pay so much just because we want to use our cards?
After a lengthy discussing with the Myki customer service, it was brought to light that it is up to the resellers discretion to set EFT minimums.
Sorry WHAT?!
It just added more fuel to my already raging fire about how shit this system really is.

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter@xander85

It's concerning that Myki is collecting information for tracking purposes, rather than as evidence of payment for a particular trip. It would also be worthwhile checking the express language of the legislation and rules - are you required to travel with a "valid ticket" or are you required to "touch on"? The devil is always in the detail.

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFelineCyclist

I understand FelineCyclist (and many other)'s concerns over being tracked. Big Brother is a constant fear for many and with good reason, only 200 years ago we lived in a society where power meant freedom from responsibility, we wouldn't that to happen again... *cough*
The good that can be done by tracking travellers however, may outweigh some of the detriments in my opinion. For instance, noticing that trams on a particular line at a particular time are overcrowded and scheduling extra services to deal with the load is made a thousand times easier by tracking systems... but I digress.
With respect to the current topic, Martin, I totally agree, and I used to be a policeman in the transit division so I tend to defend the rules most of the time. I think the problem actually lies in their fee structure and how the system operates. In Perth, Singapore and many other places you have to touch on and off because you get charged per trip not for a period of time. It makes sense to people that they must touch on or off because otherwise they're not paying for the trip (which is incidentally, usually cheaper than the equivalent ticket in Melbourne). Company gets their money, people get from place to place, transit officers have their rules followed, nice easy rules.
What's my point you ask? Not sure.

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPog

Wait a minute... I just read that you have both fare payment options in Melbourne... what the?!
/headdesk

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPog

I've wondered about this, as I use a monthly pass and often cannot reach a (working) machine on the tram to touch on. My next question, which this pretty much answers, is that if I forget my Myki, or lose it, but can prove that I had a paid up monthly pass on my registered Myki, will they let me off, even though I didn't have it and couldn't touch on? I will go ahead and assume they'll issue me with a fine, but if I contested, would it be waived I wonder?

Back in Metcard days, when I also bought monthly passes, if the front of the ticket stated it was to expire on <date>, then inspectors were satisfied. They would not check the magenetic strip to see if you had validated it for that specific trip.

I guess it becomes a case of which inspector fines you, and which person in the office gets your letter arguing it.

As an aside, there are also regular audits conducted where staff count the number of people on trains and trams (yet to see on buses), at various times during the day. It's usually by staff from a temporary agency, so I'm unsure who is collecting this data. So surely that will indicate where and when more transport is required, albeit less accurately?

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Why am I not surprised?
My biggest complaint about the whole system is how difficult we have made public transport for occasional users and tourists.
Want to get on a tram and buy a ticket? No way, Joe Public. Here's a few hoops to jump through first.

May 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCrimsonG.

A few points spring to mind here:

Did your colleague receive a fine in the post, or receive a Report Of Non-Compliance from an Authorised Officer? AOs do not issue fines. They issue a RONC, and the Department of Transport decides whether it becomes a fine. Most do, but not all. (Also not clear if your colleague had a Pass.)

Secondly, the rule about touching-on on every trip is exactly the same as it was under Metcard. It was technically required, however officialdom had a position that they would not issue fines to people travelling on already-valid tickets who had not re-validated them, because it is not fare evasion. (See: http://www.danielbowen.com/2010/03/16/revenue-protection/ ) As far as is known, this is still the position, and in practice most AOs won't bat an eyelid if presented with a Myki card with an active/valid Pass which has not been touched-on for that particular trip.

While the call centre should know what they're talking about when asked for advice, we all know there are cases where the representative won't...

In this case what the rep has said is at odds with previously stated positions from officialdom, but the stuff they said about trams also contradicts the law, which merely says you have to take "all reasonable steps" pay your fare. (Source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_reg/tr2006351/s12.html ) If a tram is so crowded you can't touch-on (and remember that trams are getting extra readers as Metcard equipment is removed) there is absolutely nothing that says you have to get off and wait for another one, and I'd be pretty confident that if it went to court, no judge would rule that it was reasonable to do so.

June 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Thank you muchly for your comment, Daniel, it's very informative!

June 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterMCJ

It sounds like a pass might have been added but not activated. Either because never initially touched on or myki money was in negative. Theoretically you should touch on and off every trip. Keeps log of pax numbers and shows data as to overcrowding etc.

As for comment above re top up min of $50 at milk bar, that is not fault of myki but retailer. They are the ones who put minimums. Bear in mind you can top up via EFTPOS at CVM's at stations, and some tram stops. Also 7Eleven.

June 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I travel daily in Zone 2 full fare but am repeatedly charged for Zones 1 & 2. This is due to cross over of zones and being told the following by Public Transport Victoria, " We advise that as trams currently do not have all of the new myki equipment installed yet, the system may be unable to pick up a [bus/tram] location as accurately as it will be able to when everything is installed. As a result of this, myki readers on a tram can sometimes think they are in a different zone and can charge a different fare. This is very rare and is only expected to impact people who travel near zone boundaries. In many cases you will actually pay a lower fare"
Ummm, Very rare? lower fare??!! Yeah right. That is why I am ringing every month putting in a request to be reimbursed and that is why I now possess 3 Myki cards due to my funds running low because of this totally insufficient system.
A bike is looking better by the minute!

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuying a bike!

Hi there,
Came across this post when I was researching about my own myki fine. Sounds like a similar situation to mine! I was fined for not revalidating my valid ticket, although mine is not a myki pass.

I received a tram fine for an offence on June 10th, Queen's Birthday Public holiday. I have validated in the morning at 9am + and when I boarded the tram a second time around 1pm, I have failed to touch on. My understanding was I have already paid the fare for the day ($3.50), as it was a public holiday and that no extra money would be deducted if I touch on and off again. I was also accused of having fare evaded multiple times based on the fact that I did not touch on again (which is untrue, I always touch on again on a weekday, unless it is after 6pm).

Unfortunately, I did not know it was part of the myki rules that I have to revalidate even if a fee is not payable... Hence I got an infringement notice. I tried to appeal it but was unsuccessful. Really really frustrated as I am not a fare evader!!!

July 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I have drawn some comfort from reading your posts :) Today I received a response to a review request for an infringement notice I was issued. I am currently somewhere between feeling angry and bemused. I was travelling on a faulty card, unbeknown to me, my card was beeping as I touched on but not recording that I'd touched on. I only found this out later the same day I was stopped by an AO and told I hadn't touched on. It was when I came to touch on again and noticed that no money was being deducted for my earlier tram journey that the fault came to light. Of course PTV won't accept the evidence I presented in my letter to them, or at least I don't think so, as they make no reference to my faulty card whatsoever. Where do I go from here? Now I take the car more often...

July 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterV

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