Farewell, myki. We will remember you only too well
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We knew you too well.
And hello to, hmmmm, a company from New Jersey called Conduent that boasts “we deliver mission-critical mobility and payment solutions that automate, streamline, and optimise transportation operations”.
We are pretty sure that is spookily similar to the pitch of the first myki operator 18 years and $2 billion ago, too.
But can Conduent hope to launch its mission-critical operation in a manner that is as richly entertaining as the original outing for myki?
Connoisseurs of grand public cock-ups will treasure forever the first day the myki system was demonstrated by the unfortunate transport minister of the time, Lynne Kosky. The myki card reader set up for the historic moment fell clean apart.
The then transport minister, Lynne Kosky, tests a myki ticket machine in 2008.Credit:
No, it really did. Ker-plunk. The very sound, you might imagine, of the heart inside the sinking chest of the hapless myki executive drafted in to demonstrate the wonders of the system when the machine fell off its stand, captured by the assembled TV cameras, whose operators fought to keep their cameras steady while laughing hysterically.
And then, when Kosky tried to load a card with a $20 note – this, after all, was long before COVID, when we still used banknotes – the stubborn machine wouldn’t accept her money. She figured she might have better luck by reversing the note. Nope and nope. Oh, dear.
The company that ran myki, however, was more than happy to accept the Victorian taxpayers’ money. About a billion dollars of it.
For starters, which is stretching the word, for starting became an elastic term, as elastic as the hundreds of millions in cost overruns.
When in 2005 the Victorian government signed the contract to get myki built, the exciting system was supposed to be operating in two years. Such touching optimism. It wasn’t until mid-2010 that you could use a myki card on Melbourne’s trains, trams and buses, and it was 2014 before it was extended to V/Line.
And what fun it’s always been.
We’ve all learnt the guilty, yet slightly thrilling, internal negotiation that follows clambering aboard a tram only to discover your card is rejected, out of funds.
With no ticket machine on board, and rarely one on a platform within hiking distance, does one continue the journey and hope no ticket inspector is around, or does one dutifully disembark and wander off in search of a 7-Eleven?
No one, of course, should answer that query, for to do so would, nine times out of 10, be to self-incriminate.
Oh, things improved when, years after London and just about anywhere else that considered itself a part of the 21st century introduced the ability to pay on the go with a credit card or a smartphone, Melburnians finally joined the party.
Those who used Android phones, anyway. The 61 per cent with iPhones could go whistle Dixie. And credit cards? Phtttt.
Happily, the chosen New Jersey outfit, which operates those mission-critical solutions in such places as Helsinki and Adelaide – but not, we understand, in New York City, London or even Sydney – is now promising Melbourne all the modern frills the travelling heart could desire.
What a time to be alive.
We can barely wait for the launch. And the traditional cost overruns.
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