For several months now there are ticket machines installed on Szybka Kolej Miejska (SKM, the suburban railway in Tricity, Poland) platforms. Recently, I had the opportunity to test the devices myself and here is my review.
The idea to install ticket machines is indeed praiseworthy. In most Western cities you can no longer find human operated ticket desks because they are more expensive than hardware. Surely the initial cost of the devices must be quite high, until the system is fully developed, but in the long term the machines save a lot of time and are very practical.
The SKM stops are equipped with German made ticket machines from Elgeba Gerätebau GmbH. They look pretty solid, have a touch screen, accept coins and notes, return change – all in all they do what's expected.
Now let's say a few bitter words about the machines' drawbacks. First of all, I was never able to pay with more than a 10 zloty note. When I tried a 20 zloty note in several machines it was always rejected due to lack of change. It seems quite unlikely for the machine to not have enough change – I rather suspect some strange limitation in the configuration.
The most important problems are related to usability and quality of the graphical interface. The GUI was clearly not designed by a usability expert. There are too many options visible at any given time, lots of buttons, bad choice of colours. It could have been done better, especially the destination station choice dialog.
According to European trends in Poland, the interface is available in two foreign languages – English and German. Pressing a flag does switch to the language of choice.
However, let's see what happens when we select Help? We see the help text in Polish! Absolutely stupid, all they would need is one hour of translator's work to translate the few screens of help text. Beneath we can see the translated Main Menu and Previous buttons; the middle part is however useless to foreigners.
Looking through the help screens I found a schematic map of SKM's network. Unfortunately it was hopeless. Stop names are almost unreadable. People from Tricity don't need the map cause they know it by heart, but for tourists it is invaluable help. Shame it was so messed up. The photo below is not of bad quality, the map really does look like that.
Summing up, the idea is great, the result not so much. Fortunately, the software can be surely easily fixed and the hardware seems quite solid. I hope SKM will fix the above problems.