Well it seems the roll-out of the Hop Card is finally actually underway, with it being accepted on North Star buses from May 8th (not this coming Sunday, but the Sunday after that). Here’s what Auckland’s transport said today in a media release:
On 8 May HOP cards with a Snapper logo will replace Go Rider cards on North Star buses. The rollout will continue in the following weeks on Go West and Waka Pacific buses then Metrolink and LINK buses. HOP cards will be available from retail outlets from next Monday, 2 May.
GoWest and Waka Pacific will switch over on May 22, MetroLink and Link buses will then switch over on June 5.
It seems that Auckland Transport have learned a bit from the confusion that surrounded the launch of HOP, as CEO David Warburton goes into quite a bit of detail to explain exactly what roles Snapper, Thales, NZTA and Auckland Transport play in the project:
Dr Warburton says, “This first phase of Auckland’s smartcard gives cardholders the convenience of using the same card for everyday purchases with Snapper. NZ Bus has chosen to use Snapper’s equipment to join the HOP scheme, which will be adapted at the end of the year to interoperate with the Thales system when the next phase of the rollout with rail, some ferry and bus, comes into play.
“Thales is Auckland Transport’s long term provider for Auckland’s smartcard system, chosen out of a strong list of contenders. Thales is supplying design, technology and a system that allows for interoperability. Thales has been involved in ticketing programs for over 40 years with electronic ticketing solutions in operation in more than 100 cities around the world including involvement with Hong Kong’s highly successful Octopus card.
“It is the co-operation between Thales, Auckland Transport and Snapper which will enable Snapper’s equipment, NZ Bus, other transport operators and third parties to connect to Auckland Transport’s central system which is provided by Thales. We are also very appreciative of the ongoing support from the New Zealand Transport Agency”.
I’ve underlined four key words in the above quote, which indicate that the Snapper machines will ‘switch’ at some point towards the end of the year from connecting with the Snapper system to connecting with the Thales system. There’s still no final word on whether we’ll need to change cards, I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that front.
Dr Warburton also provides some clarity on the ‘rollout process’ for the card over the next year and a half:
Dr. Warburton says, “Following the roll out of HOP on all NZ Bus services, the next phase of the rollout, Phase Two, will be near the end of the year using the Thales system. This phase will include the addition of rail and the Devonport ferry service. The third and final phase will roll out in 2012 which will see all rail, ferry services and bus services integrated onto a single card”.
One interesting thing that will need to be considered over the next few weeks is what happens on routes that are run my multiple operators. The vast majority of 004/005 buses are operated by Metrolink, but a small number (mainly interpeak, but also the 5.05pm bus) are operated by Northstar. I have also seen Northstar buses in the past on Sandringham Road routes. Whilst I already have a HOP card (and I should probably get around to topping it up) I suspect that most bus riders don’t yet have the card – there could be havoc when the first 5.05pm 005 North star bus turns up the week after next – with nobody being able to get on with their regular Go Rider pass.
All up, it’s good to see something finally happening with the HOP rollout, and it’s good to see someone from Auckland Transport finally speak with some clarity about how the whole Snapper/Thales thing will work out. As I noted above (and have noted in previous blog posts) I still have concerns about having to ‘swap out’ cards every time the system changes, but hopefully Auckland Transport and their partners will find a solution over the next few months that makes such a swap-out unnecessary.