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Integrated Ticketing: more questions than answers

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?

There’s useful further analysis of this issue on AKT and the CBT blog.

8 comments to Integrated Ticketing: more questions than answers

  • George D

    The authorities need to use their power and deny NZ Bus contracts, and use creative ways to threaten them out of this madness.

  • Cam

    It kind of reads like AT putting a positive spin on NZ Bus rolling out Snapper, although reading the AKT blog it’s clear NZ bus have agreed to having one smartcard – the Hop or whatever it’s going to be called. That in itself is positive.

    However it seems strange to hold a press conference to make an announcment on integrated ticketing when:

    1/This is only being rolled out with one bus company the rest are unconfirmed.Sounds like there is a possibility that some of them could not end up accepting it if they choose which is ridiculous.

    2/ There is no zone fare structure confirmed which means this will just be stored value and not much different from using cash.

    3/ This will not be rolled out onto rail or ferries for nearly a year.

    So essentially in the short term at least this is just a replacement for go rider. So why the big announcement?

  • rtc

    Perhaps they had thought they’d have Ritches on board and that didn’t eventuate. But honestly, somethings broke when the Transport Authority in a city has no control over the companies that its paying to run its routes….Why isn’t AT using their rights under the PTMA to haul these companies in line?

  • I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, the bus companies that are not involved at this stage would be stupid to not be apart before the RWC, they will be missing out on alot of opportunity for revenue with these travel packages they alerted to, as a tourist you would see the benefit in getting a package that you will be able to use on Trains, Buses and ferries even if it means not traveling on a few different services.

    Remember this is only stage 1 of the roll out, and we are getting more than we thought in place before the RWC, the rest will come.

  • There is still the debacle in Wellington with Newlands/Mana smartcards and Snapper cards being incompatible and neither being good for the train. It definitely would be better to have a single system for the whole country with what works in Auckland working in Wellington, vice-versa, and everywhere else too. But if the GWRC can’t even get Greater Wellington working together, I won’t hold my breath.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    What I’m keen to know is if it is going to be a real integrated ticketing system like Perth and Adelaide where you can travel for a certain amount of time within one section for a single fare (say two bus trips but only pay the same as one trip as you stay in the section) or the same as Wellington’s snapper card where you must pay for two one section tickets if you take two bus trips in the same zone on a commute

  • Cam

    “we are getting more than we thought in place before the RWC, the rest will come. Actually we are not if Joyce had not cancelled the fuel tax and subsequently delayed and scaled down the project we would have this happening already.

  • Eric

    If Infratil Limited gives information to Thales, then Thales knows how to read the card content from Snapper. How long will Thales takes to make their devices to read Snapper?

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