The Victorian state government Transport Ticketing Authority (TTA), is introducing a contactless Smart Card for public transport later in 2007. It will operate on trains, trams and bus in Melbourne city and some transport outside the city. The system is (unfortunately) called "myki". There is a "discovery centre" demonstration set up in the Southern Cross Station where I tried out the cards and readers.
To put credit on the card, the traveler can use a ticket machine in a station. This looks much like other ticket machines, except you wave your card in front of the machine to add the credit, rather than inserting it in a slot. The machine has a large touch sensitive LCD screen for entering payment details. I had difficulty using the machine as the screen has a coating which make it hard to read at an angle (perhaps this is needed for the touch screen or is a privacy measure). The screen is placed at a suitable height for a person in a wheel chair, so I could not read the screen or type comfortably when standing upright. I had to bend over uncomfortably to use it. But then this will not need to be done often for regular commuters.
To check the balance on your card you can use a much smaller pole mounted reader. A similar size unit, with fewer buttons, is used to swipe your card when getting on and off buses and trams, to record the fare. For railway stations the same reader is attached to an automatic gate.
Curiously, while the large ticket machine was placed at wheelchair height, the pole mounted readers were placed very high, or of reach of people in wheelchairs. The gate mounted unit was at a suitable compromise height for both wheelchairs and pedestrians.
While I have not looked at the detail of the project, this system looks far more workable than the problematic Metcard system previously brought in for Melbourne trams. This required a large, complex ticket machine to be installed on the trams. As well as taking up valuable space, these were difficult to operate on a lurching tram.
Smartcard ticketing systems for transport have proved to be difficult ICT projects to implement. It will be interesting to see if the new Melbourne system does better than Sydney's Tcard, or Perth's SmartRider.