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Integrated ticketing moves forward (slowly)

Further detail on the painfully slow implementation of integrated ticketing in Auckland was outlined in the October business report to the board of Auckland Transport. With the project being somewhat distracted by the silly A-Pass over the past few months, hopefully with the World Cup out of the way we might start seeing some real progress in the next few months: There are two interesting things to note in the paragraph above, first is that in February next year we will start to see something of a further rollout – with what’s called the “Limited Functionality Pilot”. From what I know (mainly from information provided by Thales at a couple of Campaign for Better Transport meetings over the past year) this is likely to involve a pretty basic system across NZ Bus services and trains, allowing stored value use on both the bus and train. Effectively what we have now on the HOP card will be able to be used on the trains (though still no confirmation from Auckland Transport over whether we’ll need to swap our current HOP card for a new one).

The second interesting matter to note is that there’s no set ‘completion date’ noted in the business report, just that the core system rollout will be from mid-2012. That word ‘from’ is quite concerning, as I was under the impression that by the middle of next year we would have a smartcard able to be used on all buses, trains and ferries in Auckland, even if more complexity fare issues (like whether we have fare-capping, whether we shift to zone based ticketing and so forth) will occur at a later stage. Hopefully Auckland Transport provide some clarification on these dates in the relatively near future.

On the subject of the A-Pass, which seems to have been put in place largely for political reasons (the embarrassment of not having an integrated ticket during the World Cup), the Business Report has a bit more information on the popularity of this ticket:

At the time of writing 1228 special A-Passes had been sold to RWC visitors. Over half of those (57%) were purchased through the ticket office at Britomart. Initial expectations were that the pass would be utilised for ferry travel in particular. However, use has been highest on bus (70%), followed by ferry (23%) and rail (7%), indicating that visitors have been travelling outside of the inner CBD during their time in Auckland.

A-Pass sales are highest on match days, suggesting that people are sightseeing as part of the overall match-day experience. Other significant sales periods are one day either side of matches. 

A graph showing the sales volumes is also provided: I do hope the A-Pass was useful in helping test the systems for integrated ticketing, as opposed to just delaying the rollout of the HOP card onto trains, ferries and other bus companies.

8 comments to Integrated ticketing moves forward (slowly)

  • Matt L

    The thing is dragging on so badly that it is just ridiculous, someone needs to give them a big kick to get them moving as it now sounds like we won’t even get it on trains until the middle of next year when the tag posts have been sitting ready for use at stations for months.

    The other thing I remember the Thales team saying at one of the CBT meetings is that overseas cases of where these types of installations have failed is usually due to political interference around things like trying to maintain the current fare structures while introducing the system etc. Sadly it seems like AT are going down this path and are to scared to break a few eggs to get the right solution.

  • Ross Clark

    I was in Auckland in early September and actually bought an A-pass. I rather liked it:

    * A good price
    * Easy enough to use (you bought it only for the days you would need it)

    And it was, for me, a lot more convenient that buying the usual multi-operator day passes. The numbers for rail use are possibly under-reported – while you were asked to tag on and tag off at railway stations, you didn’t have to – and on-board the train, the regime was one of show-and-go.

  • The slowness (and expense) of the rollout is a direct function of getting a French defence company to do it. They are used to working with slow and bloated contracts.

    Was there an alternative? Well there is a non-profit solution out there.

    You could have done it all with a handful of graduates, evaluating Calypso compliant components, doing system integration and planning a rollout. Any missing hardware and software bits could have been done with existing NZ companies. And it’d be in every public transport system in the country by now.

    i.e. the standard way of thinking, of RFT and picking from the old school respondents, could have been ignored and a state enterprise could have been made from scratch, and then spun off.

    Another reason why engineers should run the country and not lawyers and accountants.

    • Matt

      I’m putting the blame on the Minister of Trucks and his meddling with the PTMA, actually. If he’d showed some spine and supported ARTA’s cracking-together-of-heads of the incumbent providers, things would’ve been a hell of a lot easier. Instead AT is wrestling with intransigent providers, with one hand tied behind its back and no ministerial support.

      The issues with roll-out have not been of Thales making, as best I can tell, they’ve been down to headaches with the providers not wanting to play ball and ARTA lacking the power to force the issue. Toss in Snapper – supported by said Minister – and their antics, and you’ve got a recipe for complete disaster.

  • George D

    The slowness (and expense) of the rollout is a direct function of getting a French defence company to do it. They are used to working with slow and bloated contracts.

    Oh, stop with the racism and cheap hacks. Thales are one of the biggest and best systems contractors in the world.

    I’m speculating that a large part of the problem is fare structures, and companies unwilling to lose their price-setting abilities. Any companies that are creating such problems should be shut out from integrated ticketing this time around, and told that their subsidy contracts will not be renewed.

    They exist to serve us. That’s why we pay them money. If they don’t want to do that, they should find another business, like retailing or cutting hair.

    Hopefully I’m wrong, and everyone is playing nicely and things are wonderful.

    • The keyword isn’t “French” it is “Defence contractor”.

      Thanks for calling me a f***king racist, and not even a week after I was cheering them on to win the final. Holy f***king Jeebus, Batman.

      Developing a proprietary system at great expense of time and money when there are extant, working, and whilst not quite Open Source, but non-profit to boot products avaliable off the shelf, seems daft to me.

      Biggest and best!! Woop-de-do. Small and innovative, would be better.

      • George D

        I’m sorry about the racism call. Totally unfair.

        (I’ve heard too many cheap attacks on companies simply because they’re based in particular countries, but it was wrong to simply assume that was what you’re doing).

        As for the rest, I stand by that. Thales has done this in over 100 cities. If they have problems, they’re known. I’d far rather off the shelf technology than developing something new and innovative (let’s start on that when the basics are all finished). Hell, I think we should switch to standard gauge in Auckland too (although it’s too late since the new rolling stock has been ordered).

  • Gian

    You’ve won the world cup, the French have gone
    back home to their wonderful wines and food, Thales is a world leading company and I’m sure if they had the power they would have finished the ontegrated ticketing two years ago.
    In the meanwhile I found that a lot of superettes refuse to charge Hop cards with trips, but only with money.

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