ACT takes cautious approach to MyWay roll out

Canberra's new ACTION bus smartcard - MyWay - is about to go into an on-board trial phase with the paying public using the card by the end of the year

ACT takes cautious approach to MyWay roll out
ACT takes cautious approach to MyWay roll out

By David Goeldner | July 16, 2010

Canberra’s commuters will see smartcard readers adorning parts of the ACTION bus fleet in coming weeks, but using the new technology won’t happen just yet.

The ACT Government aims to ‘get it right’ after studying the issues surrounding smartcard roll-out in other Australian capitals.

The new MyWay smartcard will replace the current magnetic stripe ticketing system used on the Action Bus fleet, and adapts Perth’s SmartRider technology – and

approach – with a gradual phase-in.

The magnetic tickets and plastic smartcards will both operate during the phase in process over the spring and summer period into 2011.

ACT Government’s Transport and Infrastructure Division Executive Director Tom Elliott says ACTION staff will be the first to use the system with ‘internal’ testing of readers and modules fitted on a selection of buses.

From late August some ACTION staff will board route services and start tagging on and off until there is confidence that MyWay will run smoothly.

Elliott says the next group to be tested will be school students.

"We are hoping to get about a dozen schools initially involved and use this as a pilot," he says.

"This step would have a card with student ID on one side and a smartcard on the other, and we are committed to having a similar card for seniors."

MyWay is similar to Perth’s SmartRider card, also developed by engineering firm Downer-Edi, and features a data chip.

He says the technology is essentially a chip that records credit amounts on the card.

As with most smartcards, MyWay is tapped on to a validator and the fare amount is deducted according to the business rules coded into the system, whether concession or full fare paying.

"The data is held on the bus for the duration of the day," Elliott says.

"If a bus heads out of the depot at 5am and gets put to sleep at about midnight, around 2am each morning passenger trip and fare details are downloaded.

"And at that time of day, any software changes or upgrades to the ticketing system are uploaded, all done by radio technology while the buses are ‘asleep’."

Elliott says this process will give ACTION a much richer understanding of passenger trips.

"At the moment using the magnetic stripe system we know that a passenger has validated a trip on a particular route," he says.

"They might get on a route that runs from the north of the city to the southern end, but don’t know where they get off."

He says route planners have no sense of passenger density at particular pick up and drop off points.

"MyWay will tell us how the bus system is being used, and that means we can re-deploy and redesign our routes to fit people’s patterns of travel a lot better than we can today."

Elliott says the roll-out should be much simpler than smartcard deployment in other major Australian cities due to Canberra’s single public transport mode.

"We only have one form of public transport in Canberra and that’s buses," he says.

"So we don’t have to design a system for multi-modes, such as ferries, trams or trains – just one mode of transport makes its utilisation very simple."

And having a flat fare structure without a zonal system also means a simpler roll-out process, he says.

Elliott expects bus boarding times will also improve.

"Loading and running times will be cut, particularly at our peaks when some passengers struggle with lost tickets, or are buying new ones."

The balance of equipment required for MyWay installation across Action’s fleet will be imported from the UK, with sign off on delivery just weeks away.

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