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Is it time to kill off MAXX?

Getting on the train the other night I and many others were presented with a survey asking for my thoughts on a number of different aspects of the train service and PT in general. This isn’t the first time I have done one of these and the majority of questions were pretty straight forward covering a number of different topics with things like how clean I thought the train, the friendliness of staff, train performance etc. Most of these questions are ones most likely asked annually and help go towards building up a picture of whether services have improved over time but there was one section that really caught my eye. The questions in this section were wanting to know about my thoughts on the MAXX brand and it then proceeded to ask the same questions about Auckland Transport (sorry I can’t remember the exact questions and I forgot to take a photo). Now I can’t say what it was specifically but I got the distinct impression from the wording of it that they may be considering doing away with the MAXX name and perhaps looking to adopt Auckland Transport instead.

Personally I think it would be a great idea as the name MAXX has always sat uneasily with me and the page on Wikipedia gives a great description as to the problem with it.

At launch time, Auckland Regional Transport Authority deemphasised the question of whether or not the name was an acronym:

“MAXX does stand for something. MAXX stands for comfortable and attractive facilities for commuters; fast, frequent and more reliable transport services; and comprehensive transport information. MAXX is not another acronym, but a symbol of quality.”

The brand was originally intended to refer to Metropolitan Auckland XXpressways, a brand developed by Auckland-based Sanders Design / Stephenson & Turner. The brand featured dark blue livery and a ‘pesky cartoon pukeko called Maxx’

Aside from the name I think there are other issues, it seems that almost everyone can’t stand the MAXX website either with the biggest complaints seeming to be around the journey planner which will often come up with odd results.

There are probably lots of other little things that I don’t like about the brand that I don’t like and I would see a change away from it a good chance for AT to start fresh without the baggage that the current brand has picked up along the way. I would also like to see a single brand (what ever it is) used across all buses, to me it shouldn’t matter if the bus is run by NZ Bus, H&E, Ritchies or any other company and all buses should either have the same livery or even better a livery that defines the quality of the route (i.e. the high frequency network is differentiated from the lower frequency network). This is something that should hopefully be able to happen once AT start rolling out the new PTOM contracts.

The Pukeko seems to have gone, hopefully the name will go too

Back to MAXX, what do you think, should it stay or should it go?

39 comments to Is it time to kill off MAXX?

  • Andrew

    Personally I think the PT system (currently sort-of branded MAXX, ie trains and just one bus route) and the smartcard used to board it (currently intended to be HOP) should be swapped out for a new, same, brand covering both.

    My two reasons for that are (1) to show that the two go together and are part of the same system, and (2) to put some distance between the current haphazardly-integrated MAXX brand and the not-at-all-integrated HOP brand that has now been tarnished by Snapper.

    Then sub-brand the new name to differentiate services – I’m using MAXX in these examples because it’s familiar but this should be swapped for whatever the new brand name will be – something like “MAXX Rapid” for the RTN spines (currently rail and busway), “MAXX Metro” for QTN/FTN services, and “MAXX Connector” for LCN services, “MAXX Travelcard” or similar for the smartcard.

    If the brand image hadn’t been tarnished by Snapper’s implementation delays, sluggish-to-respond card readers, and complications in swapping out non-integrated HOP cards for new integrated ones which still hasn’t happened, HOP could well have been that replacement brand.

    • Matt

      Having a disconnect between the branding of the transport organisation and its smart-card system is not unusual. London Transport has Oyster, Hong Kong has Octopus (though that’s much broader than just public transport), Paris Metro has Navigo, etc.

  • bbc

    I’m fairly agnostic about the MAXX brand, I don’t think replacing it with Auckland Transport will result in a better journey planner, that under the hood work is completely unrelated to whether the website says MAXX or not, and is unlikely to be updated if they do do away with the brand. I do however think the dozens of brands and bus company logos need to all be removed and replaced with a single colour and brand, such that there is a consistent look and also to make clear that all buses can be used with the same PT pass. At present the dozens of NZBus brands are a complete waste of time (especially when they mix buses between routes), not to mention the fact that the different bus companies also brand their buses differently. We need to get rid of this. At the end of the day the brand of the bus company is irrelevant and consuming, the consumer isn’t getting to choose the company running a route so why should we be subjected to it?

  • Joshua

    I wouldn’t be changing any branding until we have all the operators on the same ticketing system, once HOP is fully implemented then we can focus on changing the MAXX branding to bring it all together.

  • Chris Randal

    It could be called “AITS”

    Auckland Integrated Transport System.

  • Once the integrated ticketing system is in place and working, change the MAXX brand to a single brand called LINK across all of the PT infrastructure. LINK can have a number of sub-brands…as it does currently. Trains can be branded urbanLINK, ferries shoreLINK for example.

  • Auckland Transport is fine for me. If they need to brand anything it should be service based stuff along the lines of the northern express and the b line.

    As for the journey planner, what a clunker that is. Put in Newmarket Station and it goes mental because you forgot to add in the word ‘train’. Enter Constellation Bus Station and it asks you which of the three platforms you want to go to, I mean who knows or cares exactly where the bus would stop.

    Perhaps they should just scrap it and use the Google version instead.

  • Chris Randal

    The TransLink version in BNE works well.

  • RK

    The biggest thing for me is the different bus brandings like “go west”, “wake pacific” etc, which to me is a bit silly. I would like to see one brand across all routes and maybe this will happen with the re design of the bus network. As far as the Maxx thing goes I have never liked the name but I think it’s more important to have one name like Auckland Transport or whatever across all modes instead of the hotchpotch we have now.

    I agree with the previous post regarding south east Queensland, theirs seems to work well and is tied in with their Go card.

  • Icebird

    My only interaction with the “Maxx” brand is the website… and a customer service team that can’t actually do anything about late running buses, because that’s the bus companies problem. At the moment “Maxx” just seems pointless and confusing. “Auckland Transport” is fine for me as a brand. And I’m fully in favour of doing away with the individual bus liveries and replacing them with a uniform look and feel. I’d make exceptions for different branding based on specific services (eg the colour coded Link buses which work well).

    One of the things that drives me nuts about the current Maxx website is how difficult it is to get to the timetables. The site prods you into using the journey planner when maybe all you really want to know is when buses leave a particular stop. How hard it would it be to have a search box where you just enter the name or number of your route, and it comes up with the timetable for that route?

  • Christopher T

    Always hated the MAXX brand because it didn’t mean anything although I do rather like the interwoven kete logo and the blue bus livery, as used on the Northern Express is rather handsome. I also agree with the comments that the Hop brand has been tainted by its association with the NZ Bus/Snapper fiasco. And I also wholeheartedly agree that all buses in Auckland operated for and on behalf of AT should have a single livery, as is done in all cities with readily comprehendible PT services around the world notwithstanding the operators; the hodge podge we have it the moment is both confusing and only goes to demonstrate the provincial nature of our PT operations. The pointless, confusing and annoying NZ Bus brands were, as I understand it, developed in a fit of hubris when the possibility emerged that ARTA (as it then was) might require standard liveries; one could appeal to a sympathetic minister (looking at you Steven) and accuse ARTA of acting against the interests of the private sector. It might also have been quite useful if NZ Bus decided to sell off part of its bus operations.

  • LucyJH

    ONe of the interesting little wrinkles I discovered in the Maxx journey planner is that sometimes it tells you to get off at a stop that is NOT the closest to your destination.

    so, for example, I wanted to go 106 Great South Road in Manurewa. I put it into the journey planner and it told me to get off at Te Mahia station and walk 676 meters.

    But then it turned out when I actually arrived at Te Mahia station that actually 106 Great South Road was 2 kms away. When I turned up at my destination (late and sweaty, incidentally) they gave me a very odd look and told me that I should have got off at Manurewa Train Station, which really was only 900 meters away.

    I thought this was just a fascinating example of the kind of weird shit Maxx does. I also agree that it’s bizzare having a branding that has nothing to do with what Maxx actually is. REcently I was in Wellington and wanted to plan a trip by public transport. It took me sometime to find their trip planner because it is called Metlink, not, for example, “Wellington public transport trip planner”

    I’d prefer a name like that which is less snappy but comes up at the absolute top of the google search.

    • Do yourself a favor and just use Google Maps, select get directions and transit. It’s much quicker, it can handle leaving from ‘current location’, and most importantly (for me at least) it can handle connections properly. Maxx never gives me the option of taking the NEX plus a busway feeder to get home, even though that’s ususally the fastest option.

    • Owen Thompson

      I entered in the same destination and the Maxx map actually shows 8 Great South Rd., Takanini. Extremely helpful.

      The address you wanted is listed as Hill Park, which as a local I can tell you it certainly is not. But besides that Hill Park is an area, not a suburb.

      I use Google Maps for PT directions, so easy. Maxx is only useful to find out the cost of travel.

  • Cam

    Looks like NZ bus are moving towards a single livery for all of their buses the new North star buses are entering service like this they still have North Star written on them but are painted in the silver and blue Metrolink livery . So perhaps AT looks to roll this out over all of the bus fleet. A single branding would help with cementing the perception of an integrated network. Just Auckland Transport would work fine.

  • Charles

    That’s a bug in the journey planner database. Everything on Great South Road Manurewa below about 150 points at the same bogus location. The real 106 Great South Road Manurewa it calls 106 Great South Road Hill Park.

    Funny because all the other map services have this correct.

    The maxx brand has always been a dumb one and it should be killed off, but not if someone is going to spend megabucks on a rebranding exercise.

  • Jeremy

    the journey planner is full of bugs. For example, if you select “Manukau Institute of Technology North Campus” as your destination, and then amend your journey, it changes MIT to AUT’s Akoranga Campus (on the North Shore!). Also, it is built on a belief that it is easy and convenient to transfer between bus services – on several occasions, it suggested that I get off a bus, catch the Link 200m down the road, and catch another service. Putting aside the ticketing issues that this would cause, can you imagine Auckland’s bus services being finely tuned enough for such transfers to actually work?

    • Interesting, so it gives you bogus connections where they would be useless… but it fails to give me bus connections on the northern busway, the one place where they are actually useful!

      • Jeremy

        In my experience, the system seems to be reluctant to refer to the Northern Busway or Trains. I seem to remember trying to get to Newmarket from Kingsland once and it insisted that the quickest way there was a bus to St Lukes, followed by the Outer Link, or some such journey, when in reality, a train will get you there in no time.

        It also seems to assume that you’re not willing to walk anywhere (which, for many Aucklanders is actually true). However, Opus did some research on this (which I’ve seen in my former day-job capacity) which showed that people who are engaged with PT will walk something like 500m to a busstop or 800m to a train station – you can generally double both of those for students (I worked for a tertiary education organisation, so that was relevant). Google Maps seems to understand that, but the Journey Planner insists on finding you the absolute closest busstop, and making you wait for a bus, instead of walking around the corner to a much busier busstop.

        On top of all that, the Google Maps app on my Android is much more stable than either the MAXX mobile website or the app.

  • Sam F

    I’m not in the slightest bit emotionally attached to the MAXX brand, but given that any rebranding process will (probably) come up with something just as inane or more likely incredibly boring and (just as probably) cost a huge amount of money, let’s stick with it for now and focus on more tangible improvements. We can wait to give Auckland PT an all-singing and dancing rebrand once we’ve really got something to celebrate.

    • rtc

      While I tend to agree a rebranding exercise to produce yet another ‘brand’ is pointless, I must admit the roll out of the PTOM contracts should provide a good opportunity to require the bus operators to slowly repaint all their vehicles in a consistent Auckland wide brand. In that sense, consolidating all the existing brands is a good idea, whether that’s MAXX or Auckland Transport is fine IMO (the latter is probably simpler and has an existing brand/logo).

  • Stacy Chandler

    Can we put KR locos on all the SA sets now? lol.

  • Publius

    MAXX has got to go. If it has to be spelled out on radio advertising then it’s a stupid name/word.
    Whoever thought it up should be asked for a refund. Basic marketing 101.

    Also thoughts on “Auckland Transport” vs “Transport for Auckland” anyone?

  • DanC

    I wish the Maxx website would have a “via” section. Example. Meadowlands to CBD show’s the bus via Great South road. What if I want to take the ferry from Half Moon Bay? I have to do two searches and try and work out the connecting times.

  • Geoff

    MAXX doesn’t really exist as a brand anyway. Most buses are in non-MAXX liveries.

    If they can’t have a single livery and name on all trains, ferries and buses, then there’s no point in having a brand at all.

  • LucyJH

    Auckland Trip Planner? Not exactly as snappy but at least you would know what it did…. Or “Get Around”?

  • Jeremy

    There was a problem on the Western Line this morning, but the speaker system is so bad at Morningside, I couldn’t hear the announcements, so I went to the Maxx website on my phone. It’s a nice, light mobile website, that was also light on information. The Services Update section told me that there were going to be rail-replacement buses over Queens Birthday weekend, and that there was an All Black game at Eden Park the weekend after that. No ‘live’ service updates, which is what I was expecting.

    When I finally got to work (30 minutes late), I went to the desktop website to see if there were any further details there – nothing. So I tried to sign up to Maxx train text alerts – evidently, having a 2Degrees number is invalid.

    Compare and contrast with this: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/livetravelnews/realtime/tube/default.html

  • don

    My experiences of MAXX journey planner leave me with the impression that it is written by a non user or, at best, by a user of PT that knows which services serve the area they want to travel to.
    If I want to travel to a location I have not been to I have found that one way is to find the services that serve a particular bus stop by using the live departure board and search for the location I wish to travel to. From the live departure board I can get an idea of the route names that serve this stop. From there to timetables etc and work out the best option for me to travel and compare this to that provided by Journey Planner.
    It would be more useful if a map were displayed with the routes shown and then the user could select the route required rather than be presented with the options for travel as at present. What this site tries to do is assume that users are incapable of reading timetables and maps to work out their travel for themselves.
    One problem that exists is that the live departure boards at bus stops are not at all stops. This is obviously due to the cost of installing the current type of displays at all stops. Surely there could be a simpler system developed using ,say, a small solar powered smartphone / tablet pc (inside a suitable ruggedised housing) positioned at head height that displayed the required information for that stop. This would enable the traveller to work out for themselves if it would be advantageous to stay at the current stop or go to another stop, maybe around the corner on a different route.
    As for name the thing I think of when I think of MAXX is a computer generated TV host that suffered from software glitches (MAX Headroom 1984) The obvious choice of name would be Auckland Transport but this name has been taken for the CCO. Maybe rename the CCO Transport for Auckland. Works well in another major city overseas.

  • Isn’t AT the obvious brand? Where it’s AT. Auckland Transport. It’s brief, accurate, meaningful, and a nice strong pair of forms for a good clean Helvetica based typeface logo, like the NY Metro system.

    Now that’s an identity I could market.

    Sorted.

  • Shaun

    Maxx looks like it’s being rebranded now, have a look

    http://www.maxx.co.nz/

    (most of the site still seems to work the same)

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