Four years of myki - A history.

So, today is the fourth Anniversary of myki going live on Melbourne Trains.

The truth was though that very few people got to use it that day.  Only those who had a myki from the various regional trials were able to try and top up, touch on and touch off for the very first time on a Melbourne Metropolitan Service.  The rest of us had to order our cards online, and wait for them to be delivered.

Year 1

I got my first myki on January 6th 2010.  On that day I was topup transaction number 1 at my station vending machine.  Anyone remember when the vending machine receipts counted transactions?  Some of the ones at Melbourne Central were up to 70 or 80 thousand transactions before they changed the software so it didn't show any more, which happened when machines finally started selling full fare myki cards.  But more on that later.

My very first myki trip I had a problem, the old retrofitted Metcard "Frankenbarrier" as they came to be known didn't let me out, the checking my card at a blue "myki check" pole confirmed it did in fact touch me off.  Later I got better at working the "Frankenbarriers" and mostly I didn't have many problems and it was usually pretty fast.

But lots of people DID have problems.  WIPING and SCRUBBING and SWIPING their cards, instead of "Touching" as myki wanted you to do.

Which brings us to the major flaw in myki, which still exists today:  Reader speed.  If the readers were fast enough and worked well enough, it really shouldn't matter if you wave or swipe or scrub your card.  Just having the card close enough to the reader should be enough, as is evidenced in numerous overseas systems.  People regularly compare myki to other systems like Oyster in London, Octopus in Hong Kong, and Clipper in San Francisco.  And there are numerous others.

Every single myki user has at some point had a slow or unresponsive reader.  It continues to this day, and as I'm sure anyone would agree simply isn't good enough.  Especially for the money we've paid.

Online topups in the early days were notoriously unreliable, with topups taking days or weeks to reach your card.  Thankfully this appears to have improved such that now it's possible to get a topup with in a few hours, but the damage was done early on and a lot of people refuse to use online topup (and also Auto-Topup, which had several major flaws which have only recently been rectified).

We had to wait almost a full seven months before we could officially use myki on trams and buses, though many people gave it a go prior.  Vending machines started going in at CBD Superstops early in 2010, and I believe I was the first person to ever top up at one.  The first day of Tram and bus was Sunday July 25th 2010.

Nothing much happened as far as myki was concerned from that point on.  With a looming State Election, the Labor Government were in my opinion too scared to roll the system out any further and risk the ire of an angry public, many of whom hated the system with a vengeance.  This was basically the first political delay for the system when it should have been rolling out further.

On November 27 2010 A State Election was held and the Ted Baillieu led Coalition Government was brought to power.  The Coalition had been staunch opponents of myki which meant that almost certainly things were bound to change.

At the end of 2010 the first set of test myki barriers was installed at Parliament Station and later a set at Melbourne Central.

Year 2

In early 2011 the Baillieu government announced it was reviewing myki, the second political delay.  I personally agree that a review was necessary, but unfortunately it did drag on a bit.  Options given were scrapping the system entirely, reducing the size of the rollout, or perhaps modifying the system.  I have no doubt that Baillieu would have done anything to scrap it if he'd been able to, just to put one more nail in the Brumby/Bracks Government coffin.

In early July a bank of myki barriers started installation at the V/Line Platforms at Southern Cross Station, which seemed odd because all progress on myki had been stalled due to the review.  Shortly after this on July 13th 2011 the Baillieu Government finally announced that myki would be kept, with some key alterations from the original plan:  there would be no vending machines installed on trams (even though about 500 of them had apparently already been purchased); short term cardboard myki tickets which had only been used in regional areas up until that point would not be rolled out in Melbourne and would eventually be phased out completely; and the rollout of myki to V/Line would be reduced to only cover the "Commuter" belt of Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Seymour, and Traralgon.  Services past these points would still require paper tickets.  Also rollout to V/Line coaches would not occur.

Progress from this point was scant, with barely anything occurring until late December 2011, when an announcement was made about how myki would progress and about some further changes to the system and also the impending decommissioning of Metcard.

On December 21 it was announced myki cards would drop from $10 to $6 in price for full fare, and from $5 to $3 for concession.  I also discovered on December 22 that a single Vending Machine at Jolimont station was already selling Full Fare myki cards, and I became one of the first "real" people to buy one at a machine.

Year 3

From February 2012 the rollout ramped up.  Metcard Machines started being removed from Train stations, starting at the Williamstown Line and then going clockwise around the train network.  Also myki Ticket Office Terminals started being installed, and "Frankenbarriers" were progressively replaced with myki barriers as more people started using myki.

As removal of Metcard equipment (and corresponding installation of more myki machines and readers at some stations) continued, the sale of Metcards started to be withdrawn.  The first were Weekly and Monthly Metcards which were removed on March 25th 2012.  Anyone wanting that kind of ticket needed to switch to a myki pass.

The final Metcard machine at a Train Station was switched off the week of July 23rd 2012.

Metcard Validators at Train Stations also started to be removed.  They were almost all gone by the time Metcard was officially "turned off" on December 28 2012, with Melbourne becoming myki only on December 29.

Year 4

There were still two major events to occur: Metcard equipment needed to be removed from Trams and buses, V/Line Commuter Services needed to begin.

I came across my first tram that had been fully "mykified" on March 28 2013.  From that point on the removal of Metcard equipment from trams was fairly swift and most of seemed to be gone by the middle of 2013.

V/Line Commuter services were announced on June 11 2013.  It rolled out on a line by line basis, starting with Seymour on June 24, and finishing with Geelong on July 29.

Bus myki equipment seemed to be installed fairly quickly from the beginning of the year, replacing the Metcard equipment.  There was much to-ing and fro-ing in relation to on which date Buses would start accepting myki top-ups, and some rumours that it wouldn't happen at all.  An official start date of May 27 was announced, though it would appear not all buses were ready and not all drivers had been trained.

So, here we are, four years later.  myki seems to have been completely rolled out, well as rolled out as this government intends.  Whether it may change after the 2014 State Election remains to be seen.  If I were the ALP I would certainly promise to bring back short term tickets which would almost certainly win them a few votes.

Bugs and problems with myki have been numerous.  Readers are mostly alright but you can never 100% rely that they will always be working, all of the time.  There's always that little "myki moment" where you hold your card to the reader and nothing happens for just a little bit too long before you finally get a flashing light and a beep.  There was a period earlier this year where tram readers were highly unreliable, though they seem better, at least at the moment.  Ridiculously cryptic messages like "In Service - Processing Please Wait" certainly don't help matters.

Tram drivers were meant to input route details so that when you touch on and off the correct route shows on your travel history.  This seems to happen sometimes, but more often than not it just shows as "Tram".  Who knows why.

At this point in time it doesn't appear possible to set myki barriers to be unidirectional, they can either be in or out but not both, which explains the silliness of the Elizabeth Street subway at Flinders Street Station where single barriers can allow entry or exit but not both.  Whether this is a fault, or a decision made by Metro/myki/whoever, isn't clear.

Bus readers continue to inexplicably be a problem, often out of service or only partially operational.  Buses often charge the wrong amount because the bus thinks it's in one zone when it's actually in another.  This happened to me as recently as a few weeks ago, and I rarely catch a bus, so I can only imagine how many regular bus users are being overcharged.

But potentially the biggest problem with myki is that many people (rightfully) don't trust it.  I seriously think it's going to take a long time for people to fully embrace the system, even a year after it became the only ticket in town.  Fare evasion is rife in Melbourne, though myki is probably only one of the reasons.  As a honest passenger I hate fare evaders but I have to admit that at some level I understand why at least some of them do what they do.

Who knows what the future holds for myki, and more generally for our Public Transport System.  I can only hope that things improve greatly in 2014.


  1. With many of the Mykis obtained online four years ago now expiring and needing to be replaced, expect a whole new wave of angst and annoyance with Myki. This system will never be accepted by Melburnians. It will always reflect our PT system - modeled but falling so far short of what is possible overseas, a system built for a price and it shows.


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