..and you think myki is messed up now!

myki (pronounced /ˈmaɪ.kiː/ ‘My-key’) is the contactless ticketing system being intoduced across Victorian public transport. Thus far, it’s also considered to be a fairly colossal f*ck up.

It’s pretty hard to be Victorian and not have a firm grasp on the history of continued delays, hardware malfunctions and budget overruns of the implementation thus far, but what happens if we continue down the current path? I do a little imagining…


1997 – Final rollout of Metcard as Melbourne’s public transport ticketing system across trams, trains and busses. The implementation of this automated ticketing system is met with much criticism due to run overs in budget, and poorly functioning equipment.

2002 – Initial discussions around the introduction of a “Smart” ticketing system begin. The Department of Infrastructure erectes a display of smartcard ticketing systems by various vendors at Flinders Street Station – the future is coming.

2004 – Formal request for tender is raised. Ten tender offers are received from six bidders

2005 – Amid claims of nepotism and corruption, the Kamco consortium is selected to develop the system. They have no background in delivering a ticketing or transport system of this, or any other scale. The contract is awarded on the basis of a $494m budget, for completion by 2007. They name their system myki.

2008 – Victorian Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky announces that the full rollout of the system will not begin until the end of the year.

Feb 2009 – Four years on, all bus routes in the Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula area are completely switched to myki. The rollout is a roaring success with customers, as malfunctioning machines result in bus drivers waiving passengers on sans the need for payment.

May 2009 – Installation of myki readers begin on metropolitan Melbourne trams. In June 2009 the first myki vending machines appear at metropolitan rail stations.

December 29th 2009 – In a politically motivated move to ensure myki is “up and running in 2009”, the ticketing system is now valid for service across Melbourne train stations. Metropolitan bus and tram services are not enabled to use the system, leading to widespread confusion and the requirement of continued use of the metcard alongside myki.

Various “teething” issues come to light. Rollout to bus and trams is delayed due to transmission issues in the  building congested Melbourne CBD. Pensioners expecting to receive named cards are posted anonymous ones instead. Machines breakdown, and remain in this state for weeks on end.

July 25th 2010: myki became available for use on Metropolitan and suburban buses and trams.

November 28th 2010: Victorian State elections are held. A huge swing against the incumbent Labor government results. General media commentary suggest the failure of myki as a key election issue and contributing factor to the change in government.

December 28th 2010: The newly elected state government announces that it will halt any further rollout of myki, pending internal audit.

…now imagine this

March 2011: Following internal review, agreement is made to continue implementation, citing already sunk cost and the lobbying of Victorian rail operator Metro.

Metro states the need for an automated tracking system to improve service delays, and suggest the additional project requirements of “scrapping and starting again” would ultimately make operations unfeasible when considering future passenger growth.

June 2011: The state government continues it’s public backing of the ticketing system, despite an independent audit suggesting 70% of terminals are unavailable for for periods in excess of 1 day each month.

July 2011: A public campaign – backed by the Herald Sun – condemning service issues, delays touching on and off, and frustrations at overcharging, gains traction. “Send back out your myki day” is held on the 6th of July, with the department of transport receiving over 12,000 myki’s in the mail.

November 2011: Stuck between a political rock and a hard place, the Baillieu government presses on, publicly stating his support for the system. He continues that “myki is the future for transport in Victoria”, and that the Metcard ticketing system will be switched off in January 2012. At this stage, myki represents 6% of the total public transport ticketing for Victoria.

December 2011: In an attempt to increase uptake, the Transport Ticketing Authority announce Metcard users will be required to pay an additional 10% levy if they choose to continue using the old service. Widespread protesting entails.

January 2012: Uptake increases to 45%, resulting in further drain on an already overloaded system. Rush hours queues leaving the station often take minutes to clear. Ticket enforcement officiers are at a loss over how to police customers jumping boundaries over frustration at delay.

28 March 2012: Despite massive campaigning by political rivals and the media, Ted Baillieu delivers on his commitment to terminate Metcard. On the first full day of operation the central ticketing systems malfunctions – with some talk of sabotage – resulting in non-payment for all users. It becomes perhaps the only positive note discussed across talkback radio during the entire implementation.

At this stage, total implementation costs are in excess of $2.5b

11 April 2012: Following malfunction of terminals at Southern Cross station, a early morning crush turns nasty when ticket inspectors and gate attendants refuse to let people though without swiping off. A crowd forms and things soon turn nasty. A brawl entails, resulting in two ticketing inspectors being taken to hospital, and 12 commuter arrests.

#mykifail becomes a trending topic for 5 days straight.

May 2012: Crisis meetings are held. Despite the best effort of project managers, engineers, and consultants, longstanding issues cannot find resolution.

June 2012: Sensing political armageddon, the Baillieu government announces a return to the Metcard while further internal audit can occur.

Augest 2012: myki is scrapped, and a new implementation schedule is drafted with the goal of taking a an off-the-shelf system through rapid implementation. Implementation is slated for 2014.

It’s a scary future, but maybe one not that impossible. I feel for the guys working on this project; God knows I’ve worked under similar circumstances previously. Whatever the outcome, mark my words, Project Management text books will be written on this.

I’ll leave you with this: Wikipedia on the Software Death March

edit: Thanks to @kiwiguy72 for some additional historical background!

5 Responses to “..and you think myki is messed up now!”
  1. Johnny Davis says:

    Nice one, Steve.

    As someone who doesn’t live in Melbourne its nice to catch up on what is going on with this disaster.
    I find it amazing that this has been such an issue when similar systems have been such a success in other countries.

  2. Kiwiguy72 says:

    Unfortunately some glaring inaccuracies in this:

    There has been no widespread myki machine breakdown. Those that have (or have been vandalised which is more common) have been fixed within 2-3 days.

    There were always plans to continue using Metcard (not Metlink) alongside myki as the transition occurs. This has actually been the cause of many of myki’s problems. For example buses and trams currently operate in what is called “headless” mode, with no driver interaction and relying purely in GPS for location. This has resulted in the occasional overcharge on buses that are on the Zone 1/2 boundary. The intention is for drivers to input their route into the driver console with GPS only used as backup locating. However this can’t happen until the removal of Metcard as obviously it’s not practical for drivers to use multiple consoles.
    Another issue has been the so named “frankenbarriers”, now 14yo Metcard barriers that have had myki card reader hardware sandwiched into them. This has inevitably caused issues. However proper myki barriers have since been installed at Parliament Station and just this week at Melbourne Central.

    Other issues requiring Metcard removal are the ability to top up on trams and buses. Also, while all train stations now have a myki top up machine, not all platforms do as the prime location is currently used by the Metcard machine(s).

    I have been a myki user for over a year now and have encountered relatively few issues using it.

    As the myki rollout continues (after the review), people will see it only get better. Unfortunately its image has suffered due to the botched rollout, however the Labor Govt paid for that at the last election. Now what should be happening is the Govt to stop delaying it and start getting it to how it is intended to operate.

    Many people have believed the bad (and in some cases deserved) publicity around myki, however I know many people who, once they took the plunge and started using it have wondered what all the fuss was about.

    Finally, if you do decide to use myki, the “touch” message is for a reason, don’t blame myki for not working if you try to scan, swipe or wave your card past the readers. If you touch and hold it where indicated you’ll receive a response in less than a second in most cases.

    • dave says:

      Kiwiguy72 Stop lying, there are so many myki machin break down in stations, its not just the barrires, the all myki system is a joke

    • Benjamin says:

      The one at Northcote station reader has not been working for a couple of weeks now. That means only one working and when that goes down I have to ring up so I don’t get overcharged. Yeah really working mate. Also a total stuff up is that if I top up from a website I have to wait 24 hours for it to show up???????? This is terrible.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yasmin Ghaliya, Naomi Foster and Mel Pay, Stephen Colman. Stephen Colman said: New blog up: "…and you think myki is messed up now" http://stephencolman.com/2011/01/22/and-you-think-myki-is-messed-up-now/ […]

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