[LINK] Vic transport smartcard to cost $1bn
russell.ashdown at ashdown.net.au
Wed Feb 6 11:58:55 EST 2008
Tom Worthington wrote:
> The Victorian system seemed to be workable when I tried it
> But transport smartcard projects frequently have problems, where the
> transport companies fail to rationalize their fee structure before
> implementation. We should not be surprised that the Sydney one has
> failed, or that the Victorian one appears to be about to, but that
> some, such as Perth, seemed to have worked
This trivialises the problem with implementing a system-wide integrated
ticketing system over multi modes of transportation. The problems stem
from the many permutations of trips that may be taken by commuters and
the need for each commuter to "touch-on" and "touch-off". It's a fact
that such a system as that implemented in Sydney and Melbourne was
always doomed to failure, not only because the system itself was flawed,
but because it was set-up in such a fashion so as to facilitate
intending fare evaders a free ride. In fact, the implementation was so
poor that even passengers with every intention of paying often received
a free ride due to the system's inability to register their trips. The
problems with such a system increase exponentially as the geographic
area serviced by the public transportation system (and hence buses,
trams, ferries, number of routes and number of trips) increases.
Add to that the requirement for each bus, tram or ferry to have on-board
a complete and up-to-date version of the same database (fares, hot
cards, run changes, driver changes, conductor changes, etc.) and the
larger the fleet the bigger the problem is. Not to mention the network
congestion at each depot as the fleet is started for the day and so must
simultaneously download that day's database. Oh, and I almost forgot,
at the end of the day, the reverse must occur: The data from each
bus,tram, ferry, etc. must be uploaded, causing even more congestion and
network time-outs, not to mention the number crunching that must occur
overnight (often with crucial elements of data missing as buses,trams,
ferries, etc. fail to upload that days data.) All this over a WiFi
network installed as a single access point in each depot!
Brisbane is currently attempting to implement a "Go-Card" for use on
trains buses and ferries. It suffers not only from the aforementioned
problems but also hardware and software failures and also has
geographical issues with the integrated GPS when calculating "on-stop"
and "off-stop" fares.
Translink, the Queensland Government organisation which was created to
oversee the introduction of "integrated ticketing" and the "Go-Card" in
Queensland has been given notice it (Translink) will be shut down. A
new organisation will be created to take its place. Translink
bureaucrats commissioned the "Go-Card" system and have overseen the many
delays and false-starts in its implementation. The Minister of
Transport has been embarrassed by statements he has made regarding the
roll-out dates of "Go-Card" and (as a result?) Translink have started to
roll-out a live system test of the product on a small section of
Brisbane's Northern perimeter.
Here is why Perth is "seeming to work." Geographically smaller with
only a small rail system (79 train sets) servicing only five lines, a
relatively small bus fleet when compared to Australia's larger cities.
Basically, the system is able to "cope" due to the smaller number of
permutations of trips and fares.
It is the size of the network and the logistics of computing the
(hundreds of) thousands of permutations of trips and fares each day, the
servicing of the many hundreds of terminals installed in buses, trams,
ferries and railway stations (remember: other than railway stations, the
vast majority of these devices are off-line and stand-alone terminals
for most of the day and must be downloaded or uploaded or sometimes both
within a relatively small window before leaving their home depot), is it
any wonder that the "system" works in Perth and not in Sydney and
The small test to be conducted in Brisbane's Northern suburbs will prove
to the satisfaction of the press that "Go-Card" 'works', thus removing
the immediate pressure from the political masters of Translink.
However, only a full system-wide stress test will prove the "Go-Card"
system actually works or fails in "the real world." I know where my
money will be!
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