Well I wasn’t quite right with my guess about what today’s integrated ticketing announcement was going to be – in that it’s not an announcement over the name of the card. Instead, it’s actually a useful bit of information that we’re heading towards resolving some of the difficulties associated with implementing the project.
In particular, it would appear that a lot of discussion has been going on around how to deal with Snapper’s “spanner in the works” move last year to announce that even though they lost the integrated ticketing contract, they would still roll out on NZ Bus owned buses. Here’s Auckland Transport’s media release:
Auckland Transport announces key development for Integrated Ticketing
Auckland Transport today announced a key development in the region’s Integrated Ticketing system will be introduced early next year which will allow people to use a single “smart-card” on public transport in Auckland.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Executive, David Warburton said, “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program.
“Interoperable equipment will be deployed onto services run by NZ Bus early next year. Customers of North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West, Metrolink and LINK will use a contactless smartcard which will launch Auckland Transport’s Integrated Ticketing brand.”
Dr Warburton said, “We will be following the deployment of equipment on NZ Bus services with the expansion of Integrated Ticketing on rail and ferry services. We expect the timing for this to be in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup.
“This will be linked to the launch of a travel product specifically for visitors to Auckland which will make public transport an attractive option during the period of the Rugby World Cup. We will be announcing further details of this and other initiatives over the coming months.
“Supporting this participation agreement for bus equipment and ticket deployment, Auckland Transport’s ticketing system partner, Thales is progressing the development of the rail and ferry solutions and the central system”.
While it’s good to know that Snapper, Auckland Transport and Thales are all co-operating reasonably nicely in making progress on this project, there are still a few unanswered questions that I have:
- How is the introduction of a ‘single smartcard’ for use on all NZ Bus services any step forwards to integrated ticketing beyond what we already have with Go Rider?
- Will this ‘single smartcard’ for use on all NZ Bus services be Auckland Transport’s official ‘Hop Card’ (or whatever better name they eventually come up with), or will it simply be the Snapper Card?
- Will all the fare products available for Snapper Card be exactly the same as those available on the Hop Card?
The media release then runs through each of the involved parties – probably just to prove that they’re all working together as we don’t learn particularly much more:
Peter Beggs, Country Director, Thales New Zealand said, “As the core ticketing system provider (central system, rail and ferry), Thales welcomes the participation of other suppliers in providing the bus solution for the system.”
“From the outset, the Thales system, which is based on open architecture in use in Dubai and Netherlands, is designed to be open, enabling third parties to connect to Auckland Transport’s central system. “
“This collaborative approach is a positive development in the delivery of a high-quality and easy-to-use ticketing system for Auckland.”
NZ Bus CEO Bruce Emson said “Integrated Ticketing is an important initiative in the Auckland transport market. We’re pleased to be involved in the implementation of the Integrated Ticketing system for our customers and visitors to Auckland, which will see increased reliability of our services through improved boarding times. We believe that our customers will rapidly embrace the benefits of Integrated Ticketing and it will become an important part of the Auckland Public Transport landscape.”
Snapper CEO Miki Szikszai said “We are pleased to be supporting Auckland Transport’s Integrated Ticketing initiative. We are also working with our existing industry partners to bring a range of services for contactless payments in retail and other categories to the Auckland market. We think Aucklanders will love the simplicity and convenience of Snapper’s proven contactless payment system when paying for everyday items.”
Dr Warburton said, “Auckland Transport anticipates these agreements and the open architecture of the core Thales system will encourage participation by other suppliers and providers, such as car parking, widening the scope of the project and ensuring Auckland commuters will receive a ‘transport card with benefits’”.
Customers will be able to register their interest for future updates regarding the integrated ticketing project on the Maxx website from Friday morning.
I don’t have a problem with this ‘open architecture’ approach to the ticketing systems. As long as every smart-card can be used on every public transport option and as long as the fare system is identical, then really it shouldn’t matter much whether you have a red card in your pocket or a blue card (or whatever colour Auckland Transport’s card is).
I am a little concerned about some of the remaining details though. I would hate to see a situation where, for example, Snapper/NZ Bus starts to undercut everyone else by offering some sort of “special deal if you use your Snapper Card instead of the Hop Card”. That would completely undermine the purpose of the integrated ticketing program, which is meant to make is completely irrelevant who runs your service. I also worry about whether people will be misled into thinking that the Snapper Card (if it is the first one to roll out) is a proper integrated ticket – when for all I know there’s absolutely no indication trains, ferries or any other bus operator will ever accept Snapper on their services (and justifiably so if you ask me).
Auckland Transport need to ensure there’s a clear distinction being made between what is essentially a standalone smart-card that can only be used on some buses (as is my understanding of what Snapper will be) and the true integrated smart-card that will be accepted on all services – which is what the Hop Card will be. (Seriously, they really need to change that name). I can imagine a lot of bad press along the lines of “hey this is meant to be an integrated ticket, but it is NOT!” when Snapper is first implemented in Auckland, if care is not taken to point out its limitations.
In the end, there are still so many questions that remain unanswered it’s difficult to know whether this is a step forwards or a step backwards. How many cards will we have in Auckland? Will all operators be forced to use Snapper? Will all operators be forced to use the “Hop Card” (or whatever it’s called)? Will fares be identical no matter what card you use? How will Snapper be rolled out? How will the Hop Card be rolled out?