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Myki – why touch when you can steal?

Have you ever looked up at the sun and just basked in its brilliance?  It’s so amazing that something so large and all-encompassing can be seen by every human in the world at some point in their life. I sometimes feel like its glorious rays are just beaming down on me alone, giving me little butterfly kisses on the cheek. This is what happens to me every day when I leave work….at 5pm! Since leaving investment banking, I may have lost the free taxi ride home when I work past 8pm (or 9pm if you’ve spent your $25 firm meal coupon), but there is certainly something very invigorating about strolling to the tram stop with the sun out, knowing that you are going home.  I must admit that my journey home is the best part of my day….almost. 

Since moving back to Melbourne and rediscovering the “why walk when you can tram” philosophy, I have also had a rather convoluted introduction to Myki, Melbourne’s new ticketing system. You see when on my journey home at 5pm, when the birds are chirping and the trees seem to be swaying to the beat of my walk, there is one moment of darkness that I must undergo. A moment where the eyes of the world (or at least my tram) descend on me to pass judgment, condemning me to hang in the gallows of public shame. The reason for their scorn?…..I don’t touch on and….[insert noise of audience gasps and maybe the odd woman screaming then fainting]…I don’t touch off. I don’t pay for using trams.

Now before you lambast me with abuse that I am a criminal because “fare evasion is stealing”, I need to explain how I came to be the person I am. [*cue montage Italian music from The Godfather Part II…and possibly say the start of the following sentence with a bad Italian accent] A while ago I arrived back in Melbourne and was told that I needed to get a Myki to get on the tram and go to work. So I went to my local 7/11 and bought my card for $15 and put $30 of credit on to it.

I remembered reading an article that the Myki system had this revolutionary new technology that made it better than any system around the world because when you got on the tram, the card just needed to be on you (it could be in your wallet, handbag or in your pocket) and you would just need to pass through the door which is equipped with special technology, and it would automatically deduct the fare amount.  So armed with recollection of this one article I managed to read about Myki, I had my card in my pocket, stepped through the doors and on to the tram and sat down. What I didn’t realise was that in the short time that I was away from Melbourne, Myki had not only taken longer to implement than it would take me to squeeze coal in my hand to create a diamond, court a man and get him to propose marriage to me using said diamond on top of the Eiffel Tower, but the Myki system had also changed methodologies and technologies so often, you’d almost think the developers had no idea of what they were doing…..regardless I quickly learnt that the article I read was no longer correct and I was fare evading. Apparently I needed to “touch on” with my Myki – but there’s no need to “touch off”. Phew, thanks for that tip Myki!

But whilst I still understood the “touch on” action, what I couldn’t understand was the philosophy behind it. I asked several friends to explain the concept but couldn’t get a straight answer. Basically what I still don’t understand is why can’t I get on the tram, not “touch on”, and stand around the ticket swipey things, and if I see a tram inspector coming, quickly swipe my Myki ready for them to check? If they ask questions about why I just swiped, I just say that I just got on. Right? Or why can’t you say to them, half-feigning ignorance “oh I only touch off, isn’t that the same thing?”

The answer I constantly got from friends was “if you don’t swipe then you’re stealing”. But let me get this straight. Apparently this multi-billion dollar system, relies on me and my conscience “doing the right thing”. You know because “the right thing” is paying for a transport system that was completely bungled, delivered late, is privately owned and most of my fare will end up in a nice bar chart in their next year’s Myki Annual Report, and not to mention still runs on some ad hoc, sun-dial led timetable and I probably have a better chance of catching a flight to India, finding a future predicting swami and getting him to predict when my tram is going to rock up. Basic economy game theory even suggests that I’m better off just paying the $207 fine than ever paying the fare. Seriously, someone please tell me where is the incentive to “touch on”? Why touch when you can steal?

I can already feel your judgment burning my skin through the computer (actually no that was because I had the fan heater near my foot for too long but anyway…) – you along with the rest of the world (ie. My tram)…I can feel your judgment. I almost think that the actual intended reinforcement mechanism of this stupid regime was not the threat of a fine but rather the judgment passed by fellow commuters. That’s why they make the music for when you “touch on” so loud and when you don’t have enough money on your card, everyone can hear the machine’s deep, sad, low tones lamenting the fact that you must a poor bastard.

But before you get on your stupid high horse and switch into your self-righteous voice, I should perhaps mention that I am not a total thief. My philosophy is to “touch on” if the tram is empty and I can get a seat – if I get on and my face is unwillingly, nuzzled into someone’s armpit clearly due to a policy of over-crowding our trams, then I don’t pay. The policy is simple. So simple in fact that I’m almost certain the developers of Myki could understand my policy…but they will probably need several years and $1.5 billion to do so. Idiots.

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About Arani Satgunaseelan (78 Articles)
Corporate nerd. Wannabe blogger.

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