Melbourne can learn from Brisbane’s bus system

MELBOURNE prides itself on many things. But when it comes to transport, it has to take second place to the much smaller and less-populated Brisbane. That city has a bus service that should be emulated.

No doubt, Melbourne is trying to put something in place. But its most recent effort, the myki, has turned out to be an expensive disaster. An inquiry is underway to decide whether the system should be scrapped or extended to the rest of the state. It is already over budget by about 200 percent with well in excess of a billion dollars having been spent.

The Brisbane system works, and works well. One only has to place one’s go card next to the reader when one is boarding and leaving the bus and it registers immediately with a moderately loud beep so that the driver knows the passenger isn’t cheating. If the card has insufficient funds, the beep sounds different.

There are two swipe points near the driver so people can get off the bus without delay, even at peak times. Touching the card to the reader does not delay people at all.

In sharp contrast, one has to hold a myki close to a reader for at least 5 seconds before it registers. And it does so with such a weak noise, that hardly anyone, except the passenger, knows it has registered. The same process happens when one leaves the bus.

If everyone in the bus was using the myki, it would delay those leaving the vehicle quite a bit, not something that would be welcome on a working day. One needs to remember that Melbourne has about four times the number of people that Brisbane does.

The myki also has its quirks. I normally pay $4.96 for a trip to the city – but if I do not close the trip the same day, the next time I touch on, I am charged only 2.02 for the journey. I found this out by accident when I forgot to touch off while leaving the bus one evening.

And on days when the trip to the city from the suburb where I live is different – the route is split into two on the weekends, the first bus taking one to the next suburb and a second bus taking one from there to the city – I get charged $2.02 for the first bit and 98 cents for the second part. Puzzling indeed.

The Brisbane system seems to be similar to London’s Oyster card. If you register the card, then you are asking for trouble because your movements are tracked. But an unregistered card does not open you to being tracked as you.