Smart cards

It looks like the humble Metcard will be replaced by a brighter and better (or at least smarter) card starting in 2007. I read the original report in The Age, and I have to say that some things worry me. At first sight, it seems to be similar to the system in use in London (called ‘Oyster’ there; I wonder what “cool” name will be used locally) in that it uses a smart-card that can be recharged at will and the fare you’re charged is calculated based on your total usage (the best – lowest – fare is selected for the set of journeys you make in a day; not sure how it scales for weekly/monthly/yearly tickets).

However, the issue of having to validate your card at both ends of a journey seems, well, complicated. Not so much for train trips, as you already have to validate your card as you exit the City Loop stations; however, I can see how this would create a bottleneck at the door of trams in popular stops. Not having been in London after the Oyster has become more popular (it was just being launched the last time I was there), I’m not sure how they deal with it; they don’t have trams, though, and I don’t think buses are as complicated a problem (less people, narrower doors).

While I think this will end up being a good thing (albeit marginally), I can predict that there will be a lot of criticism due to the cost of the change ($494 million), that there will be cost overruns, and that there will be lots of “teething” problems during the first few months that will cause users to say, basically, that they were better off with the old system. And I don’t think the change will affect the problem of fare evasion that much, if at all.

What does everybody else think? Is the current system really that bad that we need to throw half a billion dollars at it?

5 Comments so far

  1. Edouard (unregistered) on July 13th, 2005 @ 6:44 am

    Personally I liked the “good old days” back when we had conductors going around the trams and trains. I feel the current system we have now is easily evaded and required inspectors (to check the tickets like conductors) anyways.

    The new smart cards do seem handy in the respect that they can be scanned through your wallet which means no more fumbling to get your ticket.

  2. William (unregistered) on July 13th, 2005 @ 12:00 pm

    I agree having Tram conductors was a good idea, and is the added “personal” friendly/human touch of our Tram system.

    I hope they bring back conductors for our city trams, even of just for the Commonwealth Games next year.

    I’m sure visitors from outside of Melbourne coming he the games would appreciate it!

  3. adrian (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 5:35 am

    anything to get rid of those pesky ticket inspectors i say.

    if the public transport system was fixed to a point where passengers feel that they are paying a fair fare, perhaps there need not be such a huge budget thrown towards complaince.

    the new system, while is an expensive venture in the first instance, would make those thugs redundent, and perhaps the public transport providers can finally afford some monies towards genuine customer service.

  4. Larina (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 2:29 pm

    I used an Oyster card in London for over a year, and found it rather convenient … there were a few different options (monthly or weekly tickets for tube and/or bus, and prepaid credit), and it was pretty versatile. What bugged me though is how they made a bit of deal about that feature of calcuating the most economical ticket based on your usage at the end of the day, then it never happened. They brought in the Oyster cards, and gradually added features, and when I left London in February that feature (potentially the most convenient of them all) still hadn’t been introduced. So if Melbourne follows suit, don’t expect all the conveniences to happen at once!

  5. Michael (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 11:42 pm

    I love the smartcard idea! I think its an inovation for Melbournians everywhere :) But I liked the original idea, with an ‘etag’ style system. Thats would have been cooler. They won’t bring ‘tram conductors’ in such but they’ll bring ‘tourist information staff’. If they bought back tram conductors, everyone would wan’t them to stay, but if they bought tis (tourist information staff’ people wouldn’t nag for them to always have them.

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