Automatic ticket machines have been a part of Melbourne’s public transport system for over ten years now. You’d think that in all that time they would have ensured that the system actually works by now. I still feel that these machines are the most useless invention ever created. Just what exactly are they good for? All they do is sell tickets… and a lot of the time they can’t even do that properly.
The new MyKi automatic ticketing system should have been introduced this year but its introduction is already two years behind schedule. I can understand the current government’s anxiety in not hurrying to bring these new machines online, especially considering the part that the introduction of the current ticket machines had in the downfall of the Kennett government a decade ago.
Of course many people forget just how hopeless the Metcard machines were when they were introduced in the late 1990s. I can still remember the fiasco that occurred when the current ticket machines were placed onto the trams, trains and buses. It seemed that 75% of the time, or more, these machines were out of order. Worse still, Mr Kennett seemed to focus more on the ‘so called’ problem of fare evaders than ensuring the machines worked. Even today the machines I encounter will be out of order about four or five times a month, which I suppose is a big improvement to the way it was a decade ago, but it is still not good enough.
I never really understood the reasons why Mr Kennett wanted to bring in these machines and get rid of tram conductors and ticket sellers from train stations. I also do not understand why the current government wants to continue with this policy rather than having actual human beings. Sure I do understand the economics of it, that it is cheaper to run a machine than it is to pay someone a wage (although when you consider how much the government has paid to introduce MyKi…) , but one thing that the economic rationalists never realise is that people can do so much more than a machine. Can a machine that is designed just to sell tickets assist an elderly person to find a seat on a crowded tram? Can a machine help deter thugs from harassing other passengers or vandals from leaving their tag all over a tram? Can a machine have a friendly chat to passengers who are on their way home after a hectic day at work? Can a machine help a disabled person find the correct change that the need to buy a ticket? Can a machine give directions to tourists who want to find a particular spot? No! Of course a machine cannot do all of these things. These machines can only sell tickets, and as we have seen time and again, they can’t even do that very well!