Follow us on Twitter

Snapper ruining integrated ticketing – surprise, surprise

Wow another surprise, surprise this morning – Snapper are ruining integrated ticketing by being too useless to get their machines up to spec. Here’s the NZ Herald story:

A $98 million integrated ticketing system for Auckland is ready to go, but is being held up by Snapper and NZ Bus not installing the technology on more than 650 buses.

This has left Aucklanders – who have paid $42 million towards the system – waiting until November at the earliest to use a single card on buses, trains and ferries.

French technology giant Thales has completed a contract to install the new ticketing system and its New Zealand country director, Peter Beggs, has taken a swipe at Snapper, a sister company to NZ Bus, for delays.

On May 3, Mr Beggs told staff in an email – obtained by the Herald – that the “failure of Snapper to deliver a functional bus system that meets the ratified standard has caused delays to project go-live”.

The Thales contract was signed in late 2009 while the HOP card was officially launched more than a year ago now. If Snapper haven’t been able to get their act together in that time I have little hope that they’re doing anything more than running interference on the whole process and it seems unlikely they’ll be able to sort themselves out by November.

Auckland Transport are also running out of patience:

Within Auckland Transport, patience is running out with Snapper, NZ Bus and its investment company owners, Infratil, who together have been delaying Auckland’s integrated ticketing project from day one.

In March last year, the Snapper card was launched under the guise of being Auckland Transport’s Hop integrated ticket, but Snapper has failed to integrate its system to the Thales system on its 650 buses – and already missed one deadline to prove its system could link into the Thales system.

Last night, Auckland Transport chief executive David Warburton said that after sitting down with Snapper and making changes to the transition, he had no reason to doubt the Wellington company would be ready to go live with the integrated ticketing system on November 30.

“We have no intention of having multiple systems. There will be one system that will be the NZTA New Zealand standard,” Mr Warburton said.

So what happens if Snapper can’t meet the deadline? It would be pretty amusing – although annoying in a sense as it would delay the project – if all the Snapper machines had to be ripped out of NZ Bus buses and replaced with machines that can actually do the job properly.

104 comments to Snapper ruining integrated ticketing – surprise, surprise

  • Matt L

    Snapper is making the whole thing a joke but that could also be part of the plan. There was information that came out from Infratil where they said that they wouldn’t give up and would push ahead with their own plans anyway.

    AT need to grow some balls and give them an ultimatum, get it working by X date (and November is far to far away) or NZ bus will be stripped of all of it’s contracts.

  • Cam

    This should be last chance, they are holding the city to ransom and it’s not on. I’m sure there are plenty of companies who would be more than willing to take over their contracts.

  • Bryce

    But you can use your 2deg phone to pay :-D

    • Hoho, I pitched that question to 2 Degrees and Snapper yesterday:

      https://twitter.com/#!/TeamSnapper/status/199335886087925760

      It’s too soon to say, standards haven’t been locked down yet.

      I imagine that is why the Touch2Pay phones are only sold in Wellington 2 Degrees stores.

      • Harvey Specter

        The question is why haven’t specifications been locked down. Is it Thales fault or because Snapper is trying to get them changed to suit them?

        I’ve heard the machine manufacturer is refusing to build the machines for the other Bus Cos until the specs are finalised.

        Step up AT. Who is to blame.

  • I admire Dr Warbuton’s optimism, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

  • Harvey Specter

    AT just needs to grow some balls. With a tender round coming up, they have the power. They dont even need to take all their runs off them (I dont think the other bus companies could step in given they are the biggest operator), they just need to award runs to the other operator if someone contests NZBus.

    Plus, why does NZBus not being able to integrate hold up all the others. If they got the system up and running with the Trains, ferries and all the other Bus Companies that would be great for Auckland. Some people may have to carry two cards but that is the point where AT could start taking runs of NZBus to the extent that another operator offers to do it at a reasonable price.

  • Josh

    AT needs to apply some real pressure with enforced consequences. I say let’s get the media involved. Questions need to be asked to Snapper. It is time to really have a go at them and expose their tomfoolery. I know NZ Bus plays a huge role in Auckland’s transport network, but why not roll out the proper HOP to the other services: rail, ferry and non-NZ Bus (e.g. Ritchies, B’head Transport, Howick & Eastern) before that Nov 30 date? Waiting until the end of Nov is too far away and I honestly have no faith and do not see Snapper co-operating anytime soon. This delay will just go on forever. Something needs to be done before Hop gets its image damaged any further through no fault of its own. The public needs to have faith in Auckland’s future ticketing system and right now, it is tarnished before it’s even been rolled out.

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Yeah, I agree Bryce. Who cares about what the hell Thales is doing when you can already use Snapper on your mobile?

    • Bryce

      I was being sarcastic. The way NZ Bus have behaved since AT put the whole plan up for tender has been intended to slow the process down and has cost ratepayers a bucket load of extra cash. As an Auckland ratepayer, I am over it and would like to see AT take a very firm stand.

  • Dave

    I cannot escape the conclusion that electronic smart-cards are leading us all on a wild goose chase and are not prerequisites of a successful integrated fares system. From the passenger’s point of view, integrated fares could equally well (or more easily) be achieved by a paper ticket system. All that is needed is for one ticketing system to be honoured by all players in the market and this has been happening in many overseas cities for decades. Smartcards are an unnecessarily complex and expensive way of unifying a fares syetsm across different modes. They suit the business more than its customers, in that the business is able track each component of each journey and therefore charge each little bit accordingly and precisely divvy up the proceeds among the operators. However the user is not interested in this. The needs of the passenger are simple: a single, reasonably-priced, (paper) ticket which will allow multiple journeys on all available modes in a particular zone over a particular period. Adding a magnetic-strip and ticket-reading-machine will still allow the business to gather its all-important stats. Why are we wasting time with smart-card technology which effectively involves continual and significant payment in advance, which requires an annoying “tag-on, tag-off” procedure, and which may actually be less-generous with its continual debiting of each trip-component, than a one-time all-inclusive fare-payment which then allows unlimited travel at no further cost. Here in New Zealand, “Day-rover”, and weekly or monthly go-as-you-please passes have to a limited extent been available across different modes and different operators for many years. Why have we not just built on this simple concept and saved ourselves a lot of time and hassle, plus payment to a middle-man. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

    • Icebird

      I agree with a lot of your observations Dave – the whole process seems to have become needlessly complicated. And the irony is that even once November rolls around, we still won’t have “integrated fares”, only “integrated ticketing”. I do wonder if the efficiencies we supposedly get from having multiple private companies competing with each other to provide public transport services justify the extra layers of complication added when trying to get the companies to work together for the benefit of passengers.

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Oh sorry, Bryce. Blogs and electronic forums don’t do sarcasm so well. If you were being sarcastic, though, aren’t you in danger of being left behind in the past? Consistent with the principle Dave has kindly explained, consumers want operators to keep it simple, stupid. Who wants to muck around with a separate card when it’s so much simpler to put it on a mobile phone?

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Bryce

      Hi Mike. Thales have announced that NFC capable phones will be useable on the system. This will enable a much wider spectrum of useage rather than being stuck with a particular mobile operator. In 2 or so years I would expect most new smartphones will incorporate NFC.

      • The whole point of NZTA establishing a national standard system with Thales is to allow all sorts of stuff like this to happen in the future. Why would you want to be locked into just NZBus services with just a 2 Degrees phone, why not every public transport service an any phone?

  • Robin

    In infratil’s update they mention most routes being up for contract renegotiation this year. So it seems like it’s time for AT to write a contract that insists on full integrated ticketing compliance from day one or some serious financial penalties.

    With hindsight it seems we might have got integrated ticketing faster if AT hadn’t rolled out the stage 1 snapper/hop cards and just waited for the non-snapper proper hop cards. In fact i seem to remember most people on this blog saying that at the time so perhaps you don’t need hindsight.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Hey Robin,

      If you recall, AT faced political pressure to get something going before last year’s Rugby World Cup. The way they achieved that was to make HOP compatible with Snapper. Given Snapper helped them out of a whole, it’s fairly poor form that they’re now hassling the company, wouldn’t you agree?

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • If Infratil hadn’t stonewalled the whole process with court cases and reviews after losing the HOP tender, AT would have had the Thales system operational before the RWC.

        Snapper didn’t help them out, it fucked them over. Snappers nasty corporate citizernry is the very reason they had to ‘help them out’.

      • Pull the other one Mike. Hop was never made compatible with Snapper. AT allowed to Snapper to be branded as Hop, provided Snapper commited to making Snapper compatible with the Thales Hop system. They haven’t delivered.

        It strikes me that if Snapper do succeed in becoming Thales Hop compliant then their business model is effectively down the tubes (unless they are relying on retail micro payments to see them through). If they don’t succeed then Snapper’s business model is also down the tubes in Auckland, as the majority of their revenue is from NZ Bus users.

        I imagine the main driver behind getting some sort of compatibility going is coming from NZ Bus. They probably want to salvage their investment in the on-board bus validators that are only a couple of years old.

  • Mike Wilkinson

    I don’t reckon, Bryce. If not Snapper, who’s going to promote mobile on public transport? Surely it isn’t in Thales’ contract to do it. Do you really trust Auckland Transport to lead the drive for it? While government agencies might be ok for running systems the same way all the time, I reckon experience has shown we shouldn’t rely on them to be that innovative.

    I think New Zealanders have a lot to be grateful to Snapper for. While there may be issues with the present Hop/Snapper set up, I just don’t see any other organisation we can rely on to promote mobile NFC payments. For example, even if every smartphone has NFC on it in a few years, that functionality would be completely useless unless an operator has a system for accepting NFC payments. Can we really do without Snapper?

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Nil Einne

      I haven’t checked Thales contract but I would be surprised if the it prevents Thales from adding features at their own cost/risk provided they aren’t causing problems for what they’ve been paid to do. At most, it perhaps they will need permission. And this seems to be a key point, if Snapper can do it, why can’t Thales? They are here now with a contract, their most important goal may be the successful implementation of the contract but I can’t see any reason to think they won’t want to make more money if they can by adding features like mobile NFC, as the rest of the world does likewise (with their own integrated ticketing systems). To put it a different way, are you saying if Snapper had won the contract, they wouldn’t have implemented mobile NFC just because they won the contract?

      • Mike Wilkinson

        Sorry, Nil. Why would Thales incur the cost of creating a mobile NFC system if it isn’t being paid for it? Aren’t you confusing the ability to do something with the desire to do something? There’s no economics in it for Thales, is there?

        Cheers,
        Mike

        • AT has already commissioned Thales to include a NFC phone payment system for HOP (the real HOP that is). So yes, I do trust Auckland Transport to lead the driver for it, they seem to be pretty innovative so far.

          • Mike Wilkinson

            But Nick, introducing a new NFC system is one thing (when there are already examples in London and other places). Making that system usable on mobile phones is quite another.

            Of course, Thales has announced a “trial” of mobile payments with Westpac and Teleocm. Given Snapper’s system is basically already up and running, which of you are willing to wait for Thales to get those phones to market?

            Cheers,
            Mike

          • Well of course it’s a trial, at this stage the real HOP system isn’t functional yet due to Snapper dicking with the process.

            I don’t really care if Snapper is up and running, it’s a slow buggy system based on an outsourced back end operated by a profit focused company who charges it’s customers for the ‘privilege’ of paying a fare and reducing dwell time! I’m happy to wait for the national standard system to be operational.

        • Matt L

          Actually the press release the other day said that Thales wanted to test NFC here so they could eventually roll it out to all of the other cities that their equipment is installed in so there is a very good reason for them to try it here.

    • Harvey Specter

      Can we really do without Snapper?Yes.

      NO other bus comapny will agree to use Snapper since it effectively gives NZBus full access to their competitors passenger data. Therefore it is of limited use to the 50% (not sure of amount) of the Auckland bus network that does not use NZBus. It is also expense for passengers. A $1 admin fee for loading funds (not sure if AT will charge?) plus they get the interest on the float. They are also trying to build a payment system which will be replaced in a few years by the banks.

      Will AT/Thales provide advanced technology? Who knows but if they ever get this off the ground, they will provie a system that everyone can use, not limited to one bus company.

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Nick, I don’t believe anything’s preventing Telecom and Vodafone or their joint-venture with Paymark from signing up. The CEO of Snapper, Miki Szikszai has said as much: http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/snapper-2degrees-launch-first-mainstream-mobile-payment-system-ck-11799

  • Cam

    Mike could you declare what is your position with Snapper/infratil? obviously you work for them in some capacity.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Hey Cam,

      To confirm, I have no involvement with Snapper or Infratil – I do not work for them, I do not own shares in the latter, I’ve never been on the payroll of either. I’m merely a postgraduate student who recently studied what makes NZ’s EFTPOS so well used compared to countries overseas. The lessons I learnt from that make me think that Snapper alone has a remarkable ability to develop a mobile payment system that people actually want to use (there are plenty of systems around the world that people don’t wish to use). If Snapper succeeds in doing so, I believe NZ would be only the third country country in the whole world to see such a development (after Japan and South Korea).

      I think readers and commentors on this blog are remarkable in how much they hate Snapper. I can honestly warn you guys not to let your hate blind you to how much potential NZ has for mobile payments.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Harvey Specter

        Mike – this issue is that the HOP card is primarily a public transport card. Snapper fails completely at this as other Bus operators will refuse to use it. Snapper fails as I cant use it on Howick and E, B’Head Transport and the trains which are the options I need to get to and from work – I also use HOP on Link/wakapacific buses instead of H&E but I shouldn’t have to wait for a NZBus when a H&E/BTL bus is going to the same place.

        Mobile payment is a different issue. Off topic but how does Snappers system compare to the trial that Vodafone/Telecom/paymark are doing. Snapper requires special terminals which are unlikely to be widely rolled out whereas a Paymark terminal is likely to be the industry/required standard. Then you have the likes of Google wallet, iWallet (at some stage), and Mastercard and Visas tap and go technology which will no doubt end up on mobile phones. So whlie Snapper maybe leading the pack at the moment, it is likely to be surpassed very quickly with other technologies that are more widely accepted (regardless of whos is superior).

        • Mike Wilkinson

          A good question, Harvey. Although Snapper might have the jump on the others, timing wise, what makes it better than Google Wallet, Apple iWallet and whatever Mastercard and Visa are doing? Well, as I alluded to earlier, I argue that people are more likely to actually want to use Mobile Snapper than those other systems.

          If you think about the average person, they don’t want to know about the latest payment instrument, they just want to pay for their goods and get out of the shop as fast as they can. They’re firmly fixed in their habits of how they pay for stuff. What’s needed is a way to help them form the habit of using the new system.

          One of the few obvious ways to help them do that is have an application that at least some people use everyday, an application such as to public transport. Does Snapper have this application? Yes. Do any of those other systems? No (or at least it hasn’t been discussed so far). Snapper has so much more potential to get people to use mobile phones to pay than any of these other guys.

          Let me know if you’re not following any of that (I admit it gets a bit complicated).

          Cheers,
          Mike

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Sorry Cam, I should have confirmed, I meant only the third country with a successful NFC (or NFC-like) system. Kenya and other developing countries have successful text message based systems like M-PESA, although these aren’t NFC.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  • Robin

    I don’t think Snapper helped AT out of a hole. The implication that Snapper provided hop cards out of the goodness of their hearts is a bit rich. There was a commercial interest in getting their card into the hands of Aucklanders quickly after losing out to Thales with the theory being that once people had experienced the joys of micro payment they might not want to give it up. Since that is their only viable model in Auckland I can understand the pressure.

    However, my point is that AT don’t need to hassle Snapper. Their contract is with NZBus and they should be hassling them. It’s up to NZBus who they outsource fulfillment to (and if they want to use another infratil subsidiary that’s fine too – as long as that subsidiary fulfills it’s commitment).

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Careful, Robin, you’re letting your hate for Snapper blind you a little. Why is it a bit rich that Snapper would help HOP out? Surely, it would have been seen as entirely bad form if Snapper had refused to play ball and done it’s own thing.

    I can only encourage you to calm down a little and try looking at Snapper in a new way. Aren’t they’re just a (New Zealand) company that’s trying to get along with everyone? Why don’t you give them a break, try using Mobile Snapper when it comes out and see how it is? Surely it’s not that bad if their mobile system actually turns out to be quite useful.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Robin

      To clarify, I don’t hate Snapper. I don’t hate any payment system. I don’t have time to hate payment systems!

      But they are a company with a board and with shareholders (infratil) and a remit to maximise revenue. Their interest in ‘trying to get along with everybody’ extends as far as making money and not much further.

      Their interests conflict with a council controlled organisation since the council doesn’t have a remit to make money for shareholders. So it’s not a huge surprise that try don’t see eye to eye.

      Their mobile payment system is a great start but i don’t want to use 2degrees and I shouldn’t need to! It already sounds like a poor choice technically to use a sim applet.

      • Mike Wilkinson

        Ok, Robin, I might have gone a little far in accusing you of that, but even so, you definitely sound prejudiced against Snapper. Yes, they are a for-profit company, but so is Thales and so are many other organisations about the place: profit’s more or less what makes the world go ’round.

        Have you considered the idea that a profit motive might make a company more amenable to other companies, not less? Snapper’s desire to maximise revenue means it must keep its users happy. If those users get annoyed with the company’s behaviour, its managers are in trouble – its shareholders will likely replace them with someone who can run the company better. Conversely, the central concern of those who control AT, Auckland’s councillors, is to get re-elected: they’re not about to get concerned if AT isn’t prim and proper with everyone.

        In summary, I don’t think there’s a great case for mistrusting Snapper just because it’s privately owned. In fact, I’d be a little suspicious of the behaviour of AT because it isn’t privately owned!

        Finally, if you don’t want to use Mobile Snapper with 2degrees, I’m sure Snapper would love it if you got in touch with Telecom or Vodafone and told them they should sign up to the system, too.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        • Mike the only views, negative or positive, I have towards Infratil re Snapper is based on their actions. And they have been nothing but disruptive and delaying every step of the way with AK’s attempts to get a desperately need integrated fare system in place. You accuse anyone who now distrusts Infratil or who is disappointed with their actions as starting out with some attitude whereas it is in fact the other way around.

          Anyway a payment system or process is not the same as a fare system. For example have you considered how much of a disadvantage it is for parents who just want to be able to fund a safe and economical way for their kids to get to and from school and other city trips for that system to also be a means to buy food or other services? I don’t want a travel card or App that can also buy coke and chocolate. I want an integrated fare system not yet another way of paying for everything. Yes I would like that to be with my phone but it is more important that it works on every mode of Ak’s transport system and not held hostage by one player.

          And frankly your comments about the profit motive leading to nothing but sweetness and light is pure naïveté.

          • Mike Wilkinson

            Hey there Patrick,

            If Infratil/Snapper “have been nothing but disruptive and delaying every step of the way”, why did Snapper agree to make its systems compatible with Thales’? Surely, it would have been even more disruptive if it had told Thales to sod off! That Snapper didn’t tell them that suggests your views on the company are not in fact based on its actions, contrary to what you suggest. ;-)

            If you don’t want your kid to use their Snapper card to buy food or other services, why don’t you just check the online transaction records the company offers? That seems a much simpler thing than requiring that absolutely no one use their card for buying anything other than public transport.

            Finally, I didn’t suggest that private companies were all sweetness and light. Doing so would be idiotic. I merely meant to offer a reason for thinking that a profit motive would encourage better behaviour from organisations.

            Cheers,
            Mike

          • Why did Snapper agree to make its systems compatible with Thales’? Because it had too. The real question is why did NZTA delay the Thales rollout to let Snapper get their shit together so the card could work with the national standard.

            Snapper lost the tender it was banking on to get snappers in Auckland’s pockets, and it then lost the review of the tender that it demanded, then it lost the court battle it struck up to force the issue further… then Snapper went ahead with it’s rollout to try and achieve market dominance anyway. The whole integrated ticketing thing from Snapper is simply a loss leader to get the cards into peoples pockets, their real goal is to set up eftpos 2.0 for all manner of transactions. Mike the Snapper CEO is on the record saying that they would have to consider canning Snapper entirely if they couldn’t make it stick in Auckland, they numbers don’t stack up otherwise.
            That is why people round here have such little fondness for Snapper. We want an integrated ticketing system, the one we were supposed to have almost a year ago, and we certainly don’t appreciate Snapper screwing that all up and delaying the process just so they can develop a new cash card for Infratil.

          • Joshua

            Mike,

            Snapper tried to tell AK to sod off, but it lost out on the contract to a better technology, That’s when the disruption started.

  • Bob

    So then whey don’t AKT and Thales just go ahead and do their goddamn trial across Ferry, Rail & non-NZ buses. If they can do this and demonstrate it effectively then it will highlight that Snapper is outside of it.

    But its pathetic to see a large French multi-national company whingeing about a small NZ company that has actually delivered a world leading solution!!!! And that this blog buys into it.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Sweet as, Bob. Everyone’s allowed an opinion. People come at stuff from different perspectives and what I reckon is important is talking about systems and choosing whether or not to use them. Hopefully, nothing will deprive us of either of those.

      I quite agree, though, that Snapper is a cool bit of Kiwi-ana (very like NZ’s well-used EFTPOS cards). People might not see that yet, but hopefully they will in time.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Sorry, Nick. Patrick’s exact statement I was dealing with was that Infratil/Snapper “have been nothing but disruptive and delaying every step of the way”. If we agree that Snapper was helpful at least on that one occasion, isn’t Patrick being unfair, perhaps even malicious?

    Thanks for explaining a little more to me what people’s issue with Snapper is. However, I still don’t see why Snapper gets the blame. As discussed, HOP got operating last year because Snapper helped it out. There are currently a few problems that might (or might not) be due to Snapper: why does everyone get stuck into the company like it’s the devil incarnate?

    As for Snapper being EFTPOS 2.0, I seriously don’t think that that’s going to happen. Have you tried making Snapper payments for stuff? Because there’s no PIN, I reckon most people won’t like using it for anything over about $10 (I know I don’t). For stuff under that, though, it’s fast and easy, why wouldn’t we want to try that?

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Joshua

      Mate,

      Snapper did not go ahead to help AK, snapper went ahead to get into the market before anyone else so it could be disruptive. AK helped snapper out by letting them use the HOP brand which is now getting tarnished as a result. I can’t see how you could even be interpreted any other way with the news that the Snapper system installed doesn’t even meet the national standards that they knew they had to meet before rolling out their technology.

      At first I was a supporter for snapper as they were a NZ company, even though they technology was at the time not quite up to the standard of Thales. However after they started appealing decisions and causing disruption to our ratepayers chosen system ultimately delaying the project, they lost respect from the people who follow transport improvements in our city. Remember before snapper got involved the Thales system was to be operational before the RWC, now we still don’t have a operational system.

      • obi

        “by letting them use the HOP brand which is now getting tarnished as a result”

        Except HOP don’t have a brand. They have some Powerpoint slides and press releases and a promise to deliver something in the future. Snapper as a brand is established in Wellington. I don’t see how HOP were the ones doing Snapper a favour by letting them use some vapourware. It seems more likely to me that HOP were piggybacking on Snapper’s success to try and establish HOP’s brand. If Snapper hadn’t played ball (for reasons of goodwill or market disruption… take your pick) then HOP would still be invisible.

        Ultimately, Snapper had spent time and money building up a business. At some stage the government decided that there was some money to be made (control of the float?) and decides to take over the business. Not compete, but take over using $90million of public money. Why should Snapper close down its business, lay off its staff, and write off its own investment? I wouldn’t if I were them. I’d disrupt like crazy. I hope they succeed, and the only thing that pisses me off about the whole affair is that the Thales system is already behind schedule and will probably cost a lot more than $90million by the time they’ve finished. Snapper was the low risk option. Thales is the high risk alternative and high risk government IT projects often go spectacularly wrong. The Myki deployment in Melbourne ran to around $NZ650million, and it still isn’t rolled out everywhere.

  • Gerald

    It’s not Snapper that is the problem. As you might have noticed, their systems have been up and running for years.

    You’re having the wool pulled.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Maybe the wool is being pulled, Gerald, maybe. Or I might have seen a wee bit more of this blog’s impressions of Snapper than I’m letting on. ;-)

      Either way, I’m backing Mobile Snapper to succeed… and it will be for NZers’ benefit, including for the readers of this blog.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  • Peter M

    Always amusing to see the level of astroturfing that comes up whenever there’s a heated debate about Snapper.

    • Harry

      Quite right Peter.
      There are people on here who are quite obviously working for Infratil and pretending otherwise.
      The oh so reasonable replies are totally the work of a PR agency.

  • Bob

    Hi Mike, I might’ve got a bit carried away. I think the other thing worth noting is the timing. When the tender was let in 2009 Snapper was very small but have developed significantly since then and their latest Mobile solution is yet another example. Would be a real shame if they couldn’t work closely with AKT and Thales – for whatever reasons.

    Bob

  • Mike Wilkinson

    I quite agree it would be a shame, Bob. For the reasons I’ve described above, though, I’m not sure any problems will be with Snapper. As Gerald suggests, they’ve already had their system up and running for ages, now. We shall see what happens.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Joshua

      However they setup their system in Auckland after the standards were written up, they were actually actively involved with AT, NZTA and Thales in setting up the standards and still released a technology that is not compatible, how does the problem not go on them??

  • Greg N

    Mike,
    While Snapper may yet be EFTPOS 2.0, you may be too young to recall that when EFTPOS came out it was slow, expensive, overpriced and hard to use and required “pre-payment” (yeah hard to believe now right). As a result, EFTPOS in NZ nearly went broke in the late 80s. Thats right – our “world beating EFTPOS system didn’t work the first time round.

    The EFTPOS system we have now is already a 2.0 version, well before the term “2.0″ became fashionable, as has been for over 20 years.
    The changes made them to make EFTPOS work, are whats needed now.

    Ans as for Snapper, I don’t care what transport payment system I use, but if its not easier to use, or no better and faster than cash why would I bother with it at all – the EFTPOS folks found tnat out 20+ years ago, and I think NZBus have to learn that lesson too.

    Meanwhile, AT, get on with the rollout of HOP now, don’t f**k around faffing for Snapper to get their sh*t together as they can’t/won’t – Snapper have no interest in co-operating with HOP as they want their system to rule.

    Also do not forget the AT HOP system as mandated to ARTA (as it was then) by NZTA is specified as a NZ Wide standard “payment” system for not just buses trains and ferries, but also in the future for your tolled roads, and congestion charges which we all know are comming.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Hey there Greg,

      Although I admit to being rather young when the events took place, I did find out a wee bit about the early days of our EFTPOS for my thesis. If you like, please have a read of this guest post I wrote on the subject over at Kiwiblog: http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2011/08/guest_post_payments_and_public_policy_the_case_of_nzs_eftpos.html You may see that the development of eftpos was more complicated than you think: it actually involved EFTPOS v 1.0, 2.0, 3.1 and 3.2.

      I quite agree with you that people won’t use a system unless it’s easier than the one they’re used to. As discussed, I believe a system with a public transport application is more likely to be this system than any other. Of the systems around right now, of course Snapper Mobile fits the bill.

      Finally, might I ask you, as I did Patrick, if Snapper had no interest in cooperating with Hop, why did it agree to be compatible last year?

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Greg N

        Mike,
        Your post on KB misses some very germaine points about EFTPOS and how/why it came into being and its not as simple as you make out.
        The reasons for its success or widespread uptake are not so obvious either.

        But I think your post (presumably from your thesis) has missed more than a few critical factors that drove the uptake of EFTPOS over a decade or more.

        In the ’80s the Trading Banks introduced punitive cash handling fees to their banking customers.
        This fee was quite high and was intended to discourage businesses who took lots of cash from their customers from depositing it with the banks.

        The reason for them imposing this fee was that the banks were in turn being charged by the Reserve Bank for the “use” of this cash which was held in the banks own vaults over night – the rules introduced said they could not use this “float” and put it on the overnight wholesale market and so was effectively not earning interest for the bank. And these rules were imposed by the Reserve Bank as they wanted/needed to control the size of the money supply.

        These fees weren’t a few cents a deposit/withdrawl, they could be quite large %ages of the value of the cash being banked/withdrawn.
        [Cheques and the like e.g. Credit card vouchers weren't included in these fee calculation as they were not cash in the normal sense, more of a promise to pay/IOU which had to be cleared to be usable].

        All the Trading banks would have notices on their counters saying that customers who needed to bank or withdraw large amounts of cash (say $500 to $1000 in cash in those days), would have to make advance arrangement or the bank would refuse to accept the deposit/withdrawl request.

        How perverse – who has ever heard of a trading bank refusing to let customers bank pots of money – well it was very common in the ’80s

        As a result, many of those businesses were given good active financial incentives to reduce the amount of cash they took, this was managed initially in two ways:

        1. They encouraged people to use Cheques for payment (which earned money for the Government via Cheque duty at 5 cents a cheque so the Govt/Reserve Bank was ok with that), and clearance fees for the bank for the use of Databank clearing systems – ever wonder why the cheque business in NZ took so long to die? – well you could use them to buy just about anything at one stage, more useful to oyu as a customer was a chequebook than cash, even more ubiqituous were cheques than anything else including EFTPOS at one point.

        2. Credit Card transactions were the other option – especially since the stores couldn’t charge customers more for paying with them (by law if I recall), yet banks got a cut via (hidden from customers) merchant fees, so credit cards and cheques were the de-riguer payment methods of the 80s/early 90s.
        The can’t oncharge rules for credit card fees to customers is a restriction now relaxed.

        And lastly, since the banks wanted to protect their investment in their own expensive ATM networks to bind their customers to them:

        3. The banks also created “Debit” payment systems, tied to cheque accounts to let you pay “in store” using your ATM/Debit card, they’d take the money from your account immediately – but the bank then got to hang onto the money for the day, and pass it over to the merchant over night, (or sometimes longer, so as not to compete too much with lucrative cheque business which took even longer to clear) – thus earning a nice wedge of “float” they could get interest on.

        The sell to the consumer was that you don’t have to carry cash around, just use your card to pay.

        The sell to the retailer was, less cash to handle and bank = less fees – of course, these debit transaction carried some hefty fees, at least in the early days until EFTPOS nearly died.

        EFTPOS today is the great great great grand child of this. But it took about 4 rounds of mergers over many years to come up with what we have today.

        There were quite a few such debit payment systems around, many were unique to a single retailer (bit like store loyalty cards really), some were multi-retailer, but not many. Some where even basically EFTPOS card in drag.

        The upshot of this lot of malarky was that businesses and customers in the 80s and 90s got to, in effect, pay for the expensive build out of EFTPOS, as it was encouraged as it was cheaper to use these payments than the alternative of being charged cash handling fees by the banks.

        In fact, once small businesses learned that they would not pay cash handling fees for these debit transactions, and that by allowing cash out at the till in the form of “cash out” EFTPOS transactions – businesses could rid themselves of even more of that expensive to store, reconcille and transport – cash – is when EFTPOS finally took off with the masses of retailers. Until then EFTPOS was a quirky payment option that some retailers had, nothing more or less.

        EFTPOS nearly died a long slow death as a result of this mismanagement. It came pretty close to being turned off by the banks (presumably in favour of cheques).

        So, back to Snapper.
        Since Infratil is not – last I checked – the Reserve Bank and NZ Bus is not a trading bank – why should we as consumers want to prop up these guys attempt to build their own “proprietary” payment system using our PT transport systems and in doing so holding up the rollout of the agreed by everyone else but NZ Bus, payment system in the meantime?

        And when such Snapper system is inferior to the alternatives in just about every way you can name, except that it is better for NZ Bus/Infratil on the basis that with Snapper they control and earn interest on all the unspent balances (and gather PT travel data they can only dream of), it certainly does rub salt into a very raw wound, especially round here.

        And further to that, when you look back and see that its really basically all a lot of repeat behaviour of exactly what the banks did in the 80s with the cheque and debit card transactions. you can see why there so many angry, doubting Thomases.

        So, if Snapper et al want to build a proprietary payment system, well and good, but just don’t expect me or anyone else who use PT in Auckland to pay for that build. If the folks in Wellington chose to, thats well and good for them.

        Payment systems will come and go. Cheques were king, then credit cards, now EFTPOS, Snapper may be in that mix too – for a while – for some cities.

        But in essence Snapper has always been and still is a proprietary payment system from a single retailer (NZ Bus), which is looking for someone elses parade to get in front of. Its no different than all those various payment products around in the 80s, except its gussied up with the gilt edging and colours of “contactless payments” and “more convenience”.

        But to argue – as you do – that “Snapper is the future” – is to take the same position as someone who argued that “QuickSmart” or “Cashline” is the future did in the mid 80s.

        History shows that neither was the future, and the path from them to the current EFTPOS system was a very long and tortuous one.
        Likewise history will show that Snapper will I am sure be a still born outside Wellington.

        Maybe once Snapper becomes as easy to use and convenient as cash, and when the fees charged and ease/cost of topping it back up are improved, and when all the places that take Snapper are, to steal a phrase from Visa – “everywhere I want to be” – then and only then – will I consider “coming aboard” with Snapper. Unless of course, there are even better options around by that time.

        Personally, I don’t want yet another “wallet” in my phone or elsewhere to store my money in, I already have that – its called my bank account, and my EFTPOS card is the current token that gets me access to it.

        So the next question needs to be asked – why do I need a Snapper or HOP card to act as intermediary for my PT payments – what value do either add? And what does having a phone based NFC app actually give me – other than as a convenient way to transfer money from my bank account into someone elses control in the guise of payment convenience masquerading as a PT payment card?

        The answer to those question are: you don’t, they don’t add value and phone based NFC systems only allow you to cede your money to someone elses control nothing else. I will admit that HOP can act as “proof of payment” when you don’t have paper receipts. But thats the only advantage I see over paper tickets.

        Who knows once phone based NFC payment applications come of age, that technology may well replace your EFTPOS card for the small transactions – that is if hand waving your hand with embedded microchip past the reader hasn’t caught on as the new alternative by then, or worse, depositing with the driver round metal objects that represent the value of the fare comes back in as the preferred way due to excessive payment system fragmentation so that cash is the only “gold standard” accepted everywhere.

        Meanwhile, regardless, Snapper need to get with the program in Auckland and HOP aboard with the Thales system now – not in November – that will be too late.
        I can assure you that from my view, and which I am sure is also shared with many folks around here, that NZ Bus’ future as a PT operator in Auckland depends on them doing so “QuickSmart”.

  • Matt L

    Mike a little history and background info for you as neutral as possible.

    There has been a desire for an integrated ticket of some form for decades but the current push started in 2006 when ARTA identified it as a key requirement in their public transport network plan. They went out to tender to deliver this in 2007 from memory and got offers from quite a number of companies. The bids were reviewed and a shortlist created which Snapper was not on. Infratil weren’t happy with this so went to court over it and ARTA eventually agreed to add them to the shortlist with the other two companies.

    Thales still won the bid and by now it was ~2009 but before the contract was signed Infratil complained to the newly appointed government who agreed to review the decision. They passed that job onto the NZTA as a neural party. The NZTA not only agreed with the decision but thought that the best outcome was to use the technology of Thales as the basis for a national system as they could see that eventually other regions would want something similar.

    At this point it is probably worth pointing out some of the key differences that I an aware of between the bids, the technology and why the decisions were made the way they were. Snapper is effectively just a stored value card that deducts balance when used and it has to be topped up directly to the card. The while system was actually offered for free by Infratil as they would control the float and the business model was also tied into having a large stake micro payments. The Thales System while similar isn’t exactly the same and allows for other features not present in snapper like the ability to top up your card online (without having to fork out for a special device) and it tops up the card the next time you tag it. Thales install and run the technology but they don’t actually control the system and AT/NZTA can effectively do whatever they want with it. The system would cost ~$90m as mentioned in the Herald but because AT would own the float it actually works out a better deal over the long term. Also there was an issue with Snapper in that its sister company, NZ Bus, is one of the largest players in the market so there was a potential issue in getting other companies to agree to letting a competitor have access to all of their commercial information.

    Back to the history, following the rejection by the NZTA Infratil were obviously not happy and it later emerged that the board had vowed to carry on and roll out Snapper in Auckland regardless. It is also from here that it emerged that without getting into Auckland that the business model wouldn’t work.

    Thales contract was for the back end system as well as the train and ferry parts of the project and each bus company was free to choose their own hardware provider as long as it met the right spec. NZ Bus was desperate to replace their existing system as it was well past it’s use by date so Infratil decided just to start rolling out Snapper anyway. AT were concerned with this as they weren’t ready yet and didn’t want a whole heap of problems later on so agreed to bring forward the rollout of HOP to keep things under one brand. As part of this Snapper promised that their machines would work with the Thales system but as it turns out it doesn’t and despite a lot of effort they haven’t been able to make it do so which is why we are in this situation.

    As a side note, the Thales system is perfectly able to do micro payments and it does so in other places around the world but it is managed by the organisation that owns the card system, not Thales so there is nothing stopping AT from adding in those features which they appear to be doing with the NFC announcement

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Thanks for the history, Matt. My natural question is, if HOP does micro-payments, as well, do any merchants accept these just from HOP? I had thought these transactions were completed using the Snapper system, which the HOP card piggy backs on. Is that not right?

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Joshua

        At the moment HOP hasn’t been released, snapper is the only system that has started roll out. So another words no HOP merchants as of yet. Snapper has been investing a lot of time trying to get merchants, although many are just small convienant stores, some don’t even know that their snapper machines can pay for services, not just for top-ups.

        The HOP cards that are currently in use in Auckland are just rebranded snapper cards, AT let snapper use the brand out of good faith. That faith has yet to be returned.

        Don’t be mistaken, these Cards are not the real HOP cards, just snapper cards!!

      • Matt L

        As Joshua says, it doesn’t do micro payments yet but is capable of doing so just like Snapper does should AT wish to develop that side of things. I don’t think they will as I guess that sits outside of their remit as a transport organisation. With other contactless technologies coming along very quickly now from banks, credit card companies along with NFC functionality which enables mobile wallet type applications I think it would be quite a risky proposition to develop that side of things as it could be quite costly if it went wrong. I think it is probably a much better strategy to do what they are doing in developing as a mobile application or working with banks to integrate it into existing cards.

      • Stu Donovan

        No, you are not right.

  • Crusader

    Oh my word, thanks Matt L for providing such an accurate account. Everything you say is spot on. The issue appears lost in the thread above that Snapper lost the tender, moaned about it, leveraged their sister company to get in, promised they would comply with the agreed national standard then sat on their hands for a year and refused to develop their equipment against it. It’s hard to be sympathetic to Snapper when they clearly aren’t in it for anyone but themselves

  • AC

    Yea, some “normal members of the public” named bob and mike appear out of the ether after a damning newspaper article, trying to shut the debate down and spread bullsh*t misinformation. Sweet as Mike, you douchebag.

    • Joshua

      AC let’s not bag on Mike, he seems new to the snapper Thales saga, probably speared on by the announcement in the paper about them rolling out mobile payments. Also Snapper presents itself well as a nz company, and is really playing to the public on these points. They got what they wanted by hitting the market early, we all knew this was going to happen.

      Coming onto this blog I can truly see how they would interprete us as being biased against snapper, the fact is we all are guilty of this, but there is reason and that’s what we need to get through to mike. I wouldn’t call Mike a douchebag, he’s just misinformed, and not up to date with the history. This is not the end of the saga, snapper is still trying to get its system in the door, AT need to be strong and start laying down authority.

      First step is to rollout the real HOP system on train, ferry and incourage the other bus operators to get there systems up and running.
      Second step is to give priority to the bus companies for routes of choice acordingly to them meeting the national standards. If they don’t meet the national standards for ticketing they won’t get the most profitable routes, or will lose routes while other companies start expanding.

      The key is to give them real world consequences.

      • Mike Wilkinson

        Thanks for cautioning AC about calling me a Duchebag, Joshua. I’m reckon I’m tough enough to handle it, though! After all, I’m brave (or stupid) enough to reveal my full name on here. You might as well let him sock it to me. :-)

        I’m not new to the Snapper/Thales debate, it’s just on this occasion I decided to have you jokers on about it. You see, I reckon it’s you lot who are misinformed, not me. I reckon your unfortunate dislike of Snapper means you can’t see it’s the only one with any real chance of developing a mobile payment system.

        You guys are all obsessed with standards and having one system that smells of roses that everyone just loves. Since Snapper isn’t that, you dislike it. You fail to see that Hop isn’t it, either.

        Developing a mobile NFC system is a tricky business – it’s hard to create a system that people actually want to try using. Many organisations have tried and are still trying overseas. In only two countries have they succeeded, Japan and South Korea. Mobile Snapper offers a system similar to theirs that I argue might just succeed where so many others have failed.

        When you guys see Mobile Snapper in operation, I only hope you approach it with an open mind – maybe you could give it a go on your friend’s phone or something. I hardly expect to convince any of you of my arguments now. I do, however, hope that you give it a go when you get the chance and see what it’s really like.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        • Swan

          AIFS is not about a mobile NFC system Mike. It’s about creating a fares system appropriate for a public transport network, as opposed to individual services. Being able to pay with your mobile or being able to buy a coffee with a particular piece of plastic is a side issue.

        • Matt L

          I guess the problem as pointed out by Swan is that the aim of the project is to have an integrated ticketing and fares system for the entire region and that is first and foremost the primary objective. Its all very well having a micropayment card like Snapper to pay for that but having true integrated fares are more than just charging for a trip for point to point travel. Being able to easily set up something like a zonal system or any some other kind of fare structure is key to that. Most people don’t care about whether there you can do other micro payments with your PT card when that card can’t even be used on half of the PT services that exist. HOP is not and has never been about creating some sort of magical new payment method.

          In the end we actually have different objectives from each organisation, Snapper is trying to roll out a payment system to effectively take on the banks and is using the PT side of things as a loss leader to get a ready made customer base while AT (and the public) want to be able to catch any bus or train and pay the same price with the same ticket.

  • Bob

    With regards the solution that Snapper and 2degrees are using, they gave a technology presentation to the Geekzone community in WN last Thursday evening after the public launch. Here’s a couple of things I took away – as best I recall them:

    - The solution is based on the SIM card model which will be adopted by all mobile operators globally and this is going to be one of the most common types of mobile NFC solutions alongside Google Wallet & whatever Apple comes up with

    - This SIM solution is open standards-based and the main benefit is that it will be portable, i.e. you just take out your SIM and put that in another NFC phone and all your services will work

    - This launch solution is currently ‘certified’ on certain 2degrees handsets because the standards have not been finalised and they had to make some calls on how to implement it. Other NFC handsets might work but they can’t guarantee this due to how that handset is configured.

    - When the standards are finalised then they should be adopted by all the NZ mobile operators as per their Press Release a few weeks back

    - When this happens then either the new version of the service will be backwards compatible or there will be a software (& maybe SIM?) upgrade for existing users.

    So at least on the mobile side they seem to be taking the most open approach they can given how new this technology is. There was also a guy there from LG and he said to me afterwards that compared to the Snapper/2degrees solution the existing Japanese & Korean systems are all highly proprietary and do not work with each other.

  • People, this torrid little discussion needs to end now. There is a 30 Nov line in the sand date set by AT. We should all wait until then to see what pans out.

    Having lived in Japan for many years, i can attest to the benefits of the Mobile SUICA train ticket and sundry goods purchase micropayment system. A system that allows one’s mobile phone to tap and go for all commuter rail journeys as well as purchases in restaurants, fast food chains, convenience stores, bookshops etc is ‘a beautiful thing’ and something that even kiwis would quickly get into in a big way…when it finally gets put in place ‘properly’ in Wellington and Auckland.

    Obviously AT/Thales and Snapper/Infratil are having a Mexican standoff and I surmise that this standoff is going to drag on for quite some time..maybe even another 12 months before the endgame appears.

    Until then, holster your firearms people. Dont waste your bullets. Save your ammo for when its really needed – 2014 when the EMUs are in place and people are riding trains in real numbers. If a kiwi version of the mobile SUICA system ain’t in place by then, thats the time to let fly.

    • Matt L

      We have already had numerous lines in the sand and they have all been washed away by the sea (filled with Snapper :-).

    • Greg N

      Except that by the time EMUs and 2014 rolls round, the time to let fly, will have come and gone and the PT using public with it.

      We need to take a stand “in this place, in this time”, if we do not, then NZ Bus will be able to get its service renewals in place, then what tools will AT have to force compliance with then – a knuckle scrape with a bunch of HOP cards?

      Really, this Snapper debacle is basically like NZ Bus arguing that their new rail gauge of 5 foot 10 is superior to the 3 foot 6 we have now so we should use it.
      - except that it ignores the fact that that decision for 3 foot 6 rails was made a long time ago and is not open for renegotiation.

      And neither should the already agreed system for common PT payments be renegotiated.

  • Matt L

    Another aspect that hasn’t been mentioned on here yet is that the GWRC wants to roll out integrated ticketing and fares down that way as well. The NZTA have already stated that unless there is a really really impressive business case as to why the NZTA should help fund an alternative system then the regions will be required to use the Thales back end system which means that they will have to comply with the national standard that has been created. As much as this news is about Auckland, what ends up happening up here will also have consequences for Wellington. Personally I think that what we might see is Infratil try to exit the Snapper business (it might be starting already) and extract as much capital as possible from it. One possible outcome is that the Snapper branding is sold to the GRWC and once their system is live that the Snapper system as such is shut for good.

    • Greg N

      As long as AT don’t cave in the meantime and we end up with a half baked HOP/Snapper system up here, then I don’t care what Infratil do with their Snapper system in Wellington – unless NZTA are asked to fund it. Then I care as a tax payer having my tax money spent on it.

      The only guys who should pay for Snapper not succeeding is the Infratil shareholders IMHO. Thats called “business risk”.

  • Greg N

    I agree 100% with Patrick.

    Mike realise now that few people here hate Snapper or Infratil/NZ bus.

    What we hate and complain about is the deliberate poor performance and general bad corporate behaviour of these companies, since even before Thales won the open tender some years ago.

    It been nothing but carp, delay, carp, complain, block, lawyer, delay, lawyer again, delay and and now, yet more delay – for no real reason that is apparent except an inability for Infratil/NZ Bus to accept that ARTA first, and AT second have chosen a competitors system over Snapper.

    Snapper may be in a last ditch battle for its very survival, but that is no excuse for giving Auckland PT users the outcome it has so far.

    AT have done nothing except bend over backwards, again and again, to accommodate Snapper.

    Yet Snapper still can’t deliver and now, when every other PT operator in Auckland is ready, little old NZ Bus is crying foul again.

    Your championing of the Snapper payment system in the face of these facts is to be commended, but it is still as blind, one eyed and bigoted as those who post here that you accuse of the same offence.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Few people hate Snapper on here, huh Greg? Hahaha! You’re having me on, right? ;-D

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Ari

        It isn’t the product that people hate as much as the silly delay tactics used by the company providing the product.

        • Mike Wilkinson

          Oh, so you’re agreeing with me, huh Ari? It is Snapper the company that people hate. What about Infratil/NZ Bus? Do you guys hate them, too?

          You know, you guys sure seem an ungrateful lot. If it weren’t for piggy-backing on Snapper, Hop wouldn’t have gotten up and running when it did. Someone’s done a wonderful job of convincing you that somehow the delays are all Snapper’s fault. That’s in spite of many other Auckland Transport projects facing delays even though they don’t have anything to do with Snapper (http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/02/10/the-mythical-projects-of-auckland-transport/).

          Whoever the person is that’s convinced you that it’s all Snapper’s fault, they’ve done a wonderful sell job. It’s a pity more of you aren’t willing to question the lines you’re being fed.

          Cheers,
          Mike

      • Bryce

        I was actually all for the Snapper system to become the accepted ticketing system in Auckland but then AT (or whoever it was back then) decided that the Thales system was their preferred way forward. I accepted that decision but Infratill haven’t. Obviously, I don’t have a business model developed around it though.

        Fact: Thales is the nominated supplier for integrated ticketing in Auckland. End of story.

        • Greg N

          Same here Bryce,
          I was *pro* Snapper originally, but when ARTA/AT/NZTA chose Thales – that was the Auckland/NZ Transport folks decision make and its a fact that they didn’t choose Snapper. Should have been End of Story, except…
          Snapper could not/would not accept they’d lost out hence the endless delays and going their own way ever since then.

          In fact, even before Thales was chosen Snapper was complaining it wasn’t on the short list of tenderers.

  • David

    What I take from all of this is that I’d prefer if we’re going with stored value cards (or phones or whatever) and someone else is getting their hands on my money before I’ve actually had the benefit of it, then I want that someone to be AT who might conceivably use the benefit of my money up-front to offset costs and invest in transport. I don’t want it going to some third party outfit that wants to piggy back off PT to build an alternative banking system.

    Meanwhile, how long before the payment mechanism is bank card based anyway? That way my money stays in my bank account until I use it.

    I agree with the poster who said something about not really wanting a transport card to be able to pay for anything else. I have EFTPOS or cash for that. I’d prefer to be able to use my EFTPOS card to pay for transport, to be honest.

    I’m currently in Japan. SUICA is great, although it doesn’t do integrated fares, which is not so great (unlike London’s Oyster card it doesn’t figure out the cheapest cost of the trips you’ve made, it just keeps racking up the charges). Also, I can’t help wondering if the fact the for the most part Japan is heavily cash-based is something to do with SUICA/PASMO.

  • AC

    ”I’m sure Snapper would love it if you got in touch with Telecom or Vodafone and told them they should sign up to the system, too.

    Cheers,
    Mike”

    Um, are you kidding?????!?
    You’re a plant from Snapper……
    You’ve got balls coming on to this blog to defend the indefensible and muddy the waters of the debate. People have been waiting years for a proper integrated system.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      I actually thought it was a good one, AC. You must have had at least a bit of a grin, yourself. Moreover, I’m sure it’s quite true: Snapper would love it if people did that.

      As stated above, though, I’m merely someone who thinks NZ is pretty cool and realises that Mobile Snapper us great potential to keep us so. Might you show yourself to be a bigger person and actually stoop to give the system a try when you get the chance?

      Cheers,
      Mike

  • Bob

    So please can we see AT’s and Thales trial get underway with all operators outside of NZ bus. Time to put up instead of planting whinging stories in the media.

  • Robin

    Bob,
    The trial is getting underway on June 25. It’s a shame an integrated ticketing trial won’t include buses!

    Auckland has ‘put up’ for far too long with Snapper’s protestations but the NZHerald article wasn’t ‘leaked’ and in fact the CEO is, even now, quite positive in his comments about Snapper.

    Can you disclose who you work for?

  • Stu Donovan

    One thing Mike misses (in all his exuberance) is that Snapper is old technology. This in turn means that its about 300ms slower per swipe. So the Thales system will save about 600ms (0.6 seconds) per passenger compared to Snapper. And when you have 100-200 people getting on/off buses like the NEX that equates to a travel-time saving of 1-2 minutes. That may not sound like much, but 1-2 minutes on every bus trip would be a significant operational cost that would ultimately be borne by AT. Plus, everyone on the bus is held up, so there’s a wider economic cost as well.

    I should also say that in the beginning I was initially mildly supportive of the Snapper proposal, mainly because of its relative cost-effectiveness. But after reviewing the technology and business case (plus experiencing Thales in Amsterdam versus Snapper in Wellington) I had to conclude that Thales was hands-down the superior system. As for micro-payments, Mike would seem to miss the potential synergies between HOP and other aspects of the transport system, e.g. parking. And opportunities for AT to set parking charges and PT fares that were at least somewhat coordinated to minimise congestion and maximise welfare.

    HOP has the potential to be much more than just a PT card in ways that would be much more difficult for Snapper. Ultimately, you would expect that HOP would be used to pay for parking (including park and ride), and possibly other public services as well (why not library books?). Mike would do well to realise that HOP is not just about micro-payments, it may help usher in a brave new world of more efficient delivery of public services in Auckland, much like in Nottingham.

  • Ben

    I went for a dig round my blog this morning and found this link http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/02/20/snapper-snaps-integrated-ticketing-once-again/

    Hmmm shall I put the articles side by side and see if they match up word for word? Remember Matt’s post was done in February and here we are now having the same problem again in May. We are having bets at work that November is going to be missed… Please prove me wrong on that however experience with HOP and Snapper is showing otherwise.

    I am tapping my fingers here – just waiting…

  • Robin

    Since there might be a few snapper experts here, can someone tell me why when I swipe my wallet on an NZBus snapper terminal it tells me multiple cards detected and can’t differentiate between my NFC work keycard and my snapper card? Conversely when i get to work the door system lets me in without complaining that it can detect my hop card? The door technology is significantly older than the snapper stuff I imagine judging by the state of the building I work in.

    It’s a significant annoyance to me that I have to remove my Hop card from my wallet each time I want to swipe it.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Hey there Robin,

      I regret that I’m no expert on the technology, but I did experience similar problems to you. Even though I had no door cards, my Snapper card refused to work when inside my wallet following the company’s launch in Wellington.

      When they became available, I went and bought a Snapper Sprat: http://www.snapper.co.nz/snapper-sprat/. It attaches to my key ring and works without any trouble at all. It’s so much simpler getting out my keys as I get on the bus than trying to wave my wallet. You should give one of those a go.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  • Chris Randal

    Yet again I am forced to despair for the quality and intelligence of university graduates!

    I always thought that university taught their students to question everything, to not take things at face value and to question everything.

    Seems that Mike is not able to do this.

    • David

      Chris, I’d say something here about economics graduates, but I shouldn’t. Just keep in mind who has been running Treasury (and hence, in effect, most of the rest of NZ government) for the last 25 years. Not to mention international banking and finace… well, you get the picture.

      Better yet, see the first two panels, last row, of this cartoon: http://xkcd.com/1052/

      • Mike Wilkinson

        Haha David, I enjoyed that cartoon. I quite agree, it’s not at all clear whether econ’s an art or a science. I prefer it to be an art. That means it’s more ok for me to be provocative and have you lot on about how come you all hate Snapper so much. :-)

        Cheers,
        Mike

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Hey Chris, yep, I do actually quite enjoy questioning stuff. In fact, I’ve been particularly enjoying questioning why you guys hate Snapper so much, even though it helped Hop out of a whole.

      I guess it’s unfortunate that you’re not able to question that yourself, now and again.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Matt L

        Mike – Snapper has never once helped AT out of a hole, they were going ahead with their launch and the only reason it was rolled out as HOP was that AT were rightfully concerned about the public perception of forcing people to change cards in quick succession. Snapper promised that they could make their readers and cards work with the national standard and actually managed to get it working in very controlled situations (the A Pass) but when it came to the real thing the system was found to be woefully inadequate. Next they promised that a DESFire emulator would solve the problems but that obviously didn’t work either.

        Snapper has let AT and it’s predecessor down time and time again when it comes to integration. Remember this is what the Snapper chairman said publicily in 2009
        “We’re not going to plug into Thales. We have a perfectly functional, 100 per cent effective, totally integrated ticketing system, so why would you build another one?”
        And this from the Infratil board:
        “If Snapper can’t expand into Auckland then its business will be permanently sub-economic and it might have to withdraw from Wellington.”

  • Cam

    Thanks for clarifying your position Mike. Can we just address the revisitonist history here though. The reason AT had to brand Snapper cards as HOP is because Snapper decided to forge on and introduce snapper cards regardless of the outcome of the tender process and the subsequent protest they lodged At had to cut a deal with them to brand the cards HOP so that there would not be mass confusion when the real thing was launched. AT did need to launch and integrated product for RWC and they did this was the A Pass which they did.

    It’s true many of us here are not fond of Snapper but we have good reasons as you say this may colour our opinions with regards to all things Snapper. However by that same token i think your enthusiasim for the potential of Snapper’s mobile technology may be blinding you to some of the companies more dubious behaviour with regards to the integrated tickeing project in Auckland.

    • Mike Wilkinson

      Happy to clarify why I believe what I do, Cam. You know, we’re actually all roughly talking about the same thing. I think the reason many of you guys have a different perspective to me is that you want Hop to be like London’s Oyster card. Since Snapper lost the original tender, but is still offering its card, it’s less likely Hop will ever be ubiquitous like Oyster so you naturally dislike Snapper (a lot).

      I come along and I’m not an all hung up on Oyster for Auckland. I look at Snapper and, while they might not be the perfect company (who is?), I still think what they’re doing looks jolly cool and exciting.

      Why am I not hung up on Oyster for Auckland? Well, for starters Auckland might be pretty cool, but it ain’t London. Hop is not about to give it an awesome tube system. Auckland will still have its dodgy old buses that not that many use. Moreover, Oyster is ubiquitous because London’s tube is ubiquitous: creating a ubiquitous tickettiing system will actually be very difficult for AT/Thales. There is some chance that they won’t be able to do (Thales will try to blame it on Snapper too, which many of you will find infuriating).

      I think you guys have just got to get over it and focus on what you do have (2 systems that show some promise), not on what you don’t.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      • Matt L

        Why won’t we have an ‘Oyster’. Many many cities around the world have the same or very similar ticketing systems and I see no reason why we shouldn’t strive to improve how we do things. Despite what you say, most people here don’t agree with AT on a number aspects, things like we don’t think that integrated fares have to wait till after the ticketing part.

        As for some of your other comments, they probably reflect a lack of understanding of how things have changed or are currently changing. Most of the bus fleets in the city are undergoing massive improvements and will continue to do so as new or near new buses will be required as part of the new contracts about to be let by AT, those contracts were made longer than had initially been planned to give the companies involved certainty to invest in new equipment (these contracts will be the first in the country under the new PTOM system). Those contracts will not be for the bus system we have now by a new bus system designed from scratch to provide better services. See this post for an indication of what we can expect http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/04/05/the-redesigned-bus-network/ There are a lot of improvements in the pipeline that will dramatically change the way PT is used and perceived in Auckland so while we might not have a rail network the size of London’s, there is nothing to say we can’t have a ‘cool’ PT system in the future.

        • Mike Wilkinson

          Matt, like I said, I think we should focus on what you do have, not on what we don’t.

          Cheers,
          Mike

          • Genius Mike, now we’re getting somewhere; the whole point of this blog is to change what we’ve got, because it is suboptimal. This is at the heart of what you clearly don’t get.

  • Louis

    Mike that’s rubbish about Kiwi-ana. The technology is run by T- Money in South Korea.

    The problem is that seem completely unaware about what people are talking about. We’re not talking about payment systems or EFTPOS or anything like that. We are talking about a new INTEGRATED FARES STRUCTURE for Auckland. This project has been talked about by the previous Auckland Regional Transport Authority in 2003. Now ARTA has been replaced by AT and we still have haven’t got it, 9 years later. It has been delayed many times, partially due to poor performance of AT / ARTA. Partially due to Steven Joyce for mucking around with PTMA. Partially due to difficulties negoiating with the operators (not the least of which being NZ Bus). But also partially due to some company Snapper for messing about and trying to sell an inferior product. AT / ARTA actually made a good decision to go with Thales. Snapper were really annoyed about this so start a tedious process of appeals,etc. Snapper had promised that it would be rolled out in Auckland by 2009, it wasn’t until May 2011 that it went live.

    Mike you fail to understand that under the Snapper system currently in place in Auckland there is absolutely no gain for customers over the previous GO RIDER. Until recently, the fare discount was the same. There was no change to the actual fare structure and if you forget to tag off you get fined. You can’t even top up the card via internet because their system is so pathetic. Auckland has nothing to thank Snapper for. By a real integrated fares structure, I’m talking something like this http://transportblog.co.nz/2011/12/06/guest-post-integrated-ticketing-an-idea/

  • Mike Wilkinson

    Ah yes, improvements are something to aim for, Patrick. However, it seems to me that incremental improvements are what really count. Isn’t it wishful thinking to worry about fancy ubiquitous ticketing systems that are different to everything we have right now?

    It seems to me that, while developments like Britomart have been great, you guys have forgotten that life’s generally just about small steps. I don’t think we should rely on getting the perfect ubiquitous system overnight: we should be patient and watch it expand gradually, out of systems like Snapper and Hop and whatever else..

    The problem with always focusing on the big stuff is that you lose sight of what you’ve got right now. As I’ve explained, I think a few of you could do with stopping and appreciating how cool things like Snapper are, even now. If you’re not keen to do that, I fear you’ll all turn into grouchy old men and women. Who wants to live life like that, eh?

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • Peter M

    OK I have done a bit more digging behind the scenes and convinced more than ever that Mike is astroturfing for Snapper. Comments thread being locked.