War on Everything

The apparent incompetence of Victorian state governments never ceases to amaze me. The steady war on public transport is a great example. Ted & Co. have now decided that it’s a good idea to drop the Metcard, and also drop the rollout of single-use Myki tickets. Lolwut? You’re trying to tell me that the only way I can ride public transport in Melbourne is to buy a non-refundable $10 card that doesn’t come pre-loaded with any credit, then add credit to it at a railway station? If a family visits Melbourne and wants to catch public transport, they need to buy one of these cards for each and every family member? I can’t actually pay for tram travel on a tram, or at the majority of tram stops? Are you for real, or are you just doing it for the lulz, Ted? I know you inherited the Myki fiasco from Bracks/Brumby, but you’re supposed to be making things better, not worse. The only way I can spin this as a positive is to imagine that it’s an attempt to discourage people from using public transport, combatting the chronic crowding that makes Sydney’s peak hour trains look empty by comparison. I can’t see that being a net improvement, as it will just push more people onto the already congested roads.

I can’t see how anyone could get a smartcard ticketing system so wrong in the first place. Myki cards cost $10 upfront, come with no credit, are non-refundable, and expire after a few years. They also cannot be bought at unstaffed stations (the majority of them). You can’t travel when you run out of credit, but there is no way to add credit on trams, or at most tram stops. It doesn’t automatically promote to a weekly fare if you travel a few times within a week — you need to decide in advance to convert credit to a weekly pass, so you still need to know in advance that you will be travelling several days in the week, and you need to queue up for the ticket machine to get this registered on your card. Didn’t anyone think about what it would be like to actually use the system?

When in Melbourne after the Metcard system is retired, I will resort to hiring cars, walking or fare evading. Myki just doesn’t look to be worth the trouble.

Couldn’t you have looked at a well-established system for an example of how to do it right? Tokyo’s Suica costs ¥500, and comes pre-loaded with ¥500 credit. You can return it at a railway station and receive a refund for any credit left on it. The Hong Kong Octopus Card is sold for a refundable deposit of HK$50, plus however much initial credit you want (e.g. HK$150 fro a card pre-loaded with $100 credit). You can continue to travel for some time if the balance drops below zero, so you aren’t out of luck if you can’t find a place to top it up when you’re rushing, but you need to have a positive balance when returning the card if you want your deposit refunded. You can also buy stuff from some vending machines and shops with Suica or Octopus to save fumbling for coins — no chance of luxuries like that with Myki.

While I’m ranting about Melbourne public transport, what’s with the war on accessibility at railway stations? The redesign of Footscray station is horrible. You took away the lovely ramps and put in steep stairs and slow lifts that have broken down almost 200 times since they were installed. The ramps were used by everyone. They posed no impediment to parents with prams, people in wheelchairs, elderly people who avoid steep stairs, and all the people carting their shopping in granny trolleys. People could move quite quickly on the ramps, too. The stairs are completely unsuitable for prams, wheelchairs and granny trolleys, and also steep enough to slow down able-bodied people. The lifts are slow, unreliable and ultimately insufficient for the number of people who need to use them when they’re working.

The makeover of North Melbourne station is a pain, too. It’s nice that you added a way to change platforms at the city end, so you don’t have to walk all the way to the far end to change trains, and it’s nice that the ramps at the far end haven’t been removed. But why the hell did you decide it was necessary to close the station entrance at the far end? Now if you actually want to catch a train to or from North Melbourne station, you’re going to have to use slow, unreliable lifts, or escalators that turn into stairs when there’s a blackout. Once again, parents with prams, people in wheelchairs, and less mobile people who have trouble walking up and down immobilised escalators have been screwed over. Why?

This entry was posted on Monday, 12 September, 2011 at 2:06 am and is filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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