Navigating Melbourne‘s needlessly complex public transport ticketing system is kinda like running the final maze on ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple.’ It’s mostly terrifying, full of surprise guards who have no right to be as aggressive as what they are, and just when you think you’re home free some jerk shoves the Shrine of the Silver Monkey down in front of you and fucks your world right up.
The Myki system has been the sole ticketing system for greater Melbourne public transport system since 2012, and yet even today it still takes officials multiple minutes to explain the system to confused travellers, in a scene that gets replayed at train stations countless times over and never stops being funny.
As it turns out, the system is so convoluted that the operating company has been very quietly issuing refunds on fares to people who have been switched on enough to realise they’ve copped a raw deal.
People who swipe on inside the CBD Free Tram Zone, but don’t travel outside of it (god, this is a mess already) have been getting charged for travelling in paid-Myki zone when they should be getting charged nothing.
The short version is that when Public Transport Victoria implemented the Free Tram Zone, they were simply relying on passengers to know their MC Esher-like fare system well enough to simply not touch on inside the zone, rather than upgrade the technology with location tracking information so the readers know when they are, and are not, in a free travel area.
Myki does not advertise it whatsoever, but you are absolutely entitled to a refund if you mistakenly touch on a tram in the city and hop off it before you leave the zone. The Myki readers, simply put, do not know any better and will charge you for the journey no matter what.
To date, the authority has processed some 787 refunds totalling just on $3,000 since the introduction of the Free Tram Zone in 2015. Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton asserted that even regular users of the system are still confused as to how it works, let alone infrequent travellers or tourists.
“I guess the potential for confusion is always there and we don’t always send out clear messages on when to touch on and off.”
“I know there is still some confusion among regular travellers let alone visitors. There is now luminous signage advising people of the Free Tram Zone but people can still miss it.”
For anyone travelling on Melbourne’s tram and train network, as many as three different, conflicting pieces of information regarding touching on and off can be conveyed to passengers, which serves as the root cause of the confusion. And the pricing structures remain largely a mystery to passengers, particularly so given that newer “faster” readers at train stations do not display Myki balances.
In somewhat good/bad/laughable news, the system is slowly inching towards being able to read smartphones and credit cards, in an upgrade that’s gonna cost Victorian taxpayers a cool $50million despite the feature being a requirement of the original contract.
If you think you’ve been slugged erroneously for touching on in the Free Tram Zone (and, perhaps more importantly, can prove it), the refund process can be found over at the Public Transport Victoria website
. Shock horror, it is quite complex.
Remember, always touch on at the start of your journey, and touch off at the end. Unless you’re on a tram. Or in the free tram zone. Or if you’re standing on one foot while under a full moon. And it’s half price if… like… you’re allergic to certain types of yellow food dye but not all of them and only if you can prove it by hanging upside down from a handrail while reciting the “yippee ki yay, motherfucker” scene from ‘Die Hard‘ but only as long as you keep your feet off the seats.
Or something like that.
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty.