The CEO of Public Transport Victoria (PTV), Ian Dobbs, has warned that any tweaks made to the back end of Victoria's Myki contactless ticketing system may result in "glitches" for customers using the system.
The PTV CEO made the comments on ABC Radio yesterday, saying that changing things, like a three-month online top-up suspension, could prove difficult at this juncture.
While top-ups made on a Myki machine or at retail outlet are immediately added to the Myki card, online top-ups are only added if the card taps on at a Myki reader or machine, because the funds need to be transferred from back-office systems to the card.
If the card isn't used within 90 days of the online top-up, it's suspended, although this doesn't affect funds already on the card. The next time the customer goes to travel and uses a card reader, the top-up won't be available, but will come out of suspension to be available 24 hours later.
The Transport Ticketing Authority acknowledged that this means that online top-ups may not be suitable for infrequent transport users, who will likely find it easier to top-up via a ticket machine or retail outlet.
The Public Transport Ticketing Authority responsible for Myki is aware of the issue, but doesn't believe that it needs changing. Even if the authority wanted to change the system, though, Dobbs said that changing business rules on the system's back end would be easier said than done.
"Tweaking software is a dangerous thing to do on a project like this at this stage," Dobbs warned.
Other glitches are still prevalent in the system, as one caller attested to.
The caller sought to recharge his Myki card, and wound up almost charging over $400,000 to his card due to a faulty machine. The customer was told that it was not an isolated incident. Dobbs said that this was an example of errors that can occur when the software behind Myki is tweaked incorrectly.
"There will be glitches," Dobbs warned.
PTV will inherit control of the Myki system later in the year as part of the Metcard-replacement project, and Dobbs said that he wants to have the system running as smoothly as possible before then. The CEO added that he thinks the system is far more stable than it was at inception.
The Baillieu government announced in this week's state budget that the Myki system will benefit from an additional $54.7 million in funding this year, followed by an additional $9 million in the following year.
The PTV is also struggling with user backlash after upgrading its official app in the Apple App Store. Dobbs said that pressure from users has forced PTV to roll back the app to the old version for users.
Dobbs defended the new app, saying that it isn't a bad piece of software; it's just radically different to the old app, and it frustrated some users.
"We've listened to the feedback we've got ... and what we're going to do is put the old app back in the iTunes Store. It will be rebranded as a Public Transport Victoria app, but the thing we really did wrong here wasn't the new app — it's got great features — but rather [that we] put a new app in the store [instead of releasing it] in tandem with the new app."
Customers had felt disenfranchised because of the loss of choice, he said.
Dobbs added that PTV has learned its lesson about app development, saying that in future, the organisation will focus on simpler user interfaces and better user experiences.
Updated at 12.29pm, 4 March 2013: changed the article to state that online top-ups are suspended after three months, rather than the cards expiring after three months.