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Hop Saga Continues

The long running saga of Auckland’s Integrated Ticketing project continues, with this story in the Sunday Star Times today:

 Auckland Transport’s accounts indicate the city’s integrated ticketing system is $27 million over budget and behind schedule, but the council-owned agency refused to comment on or clarify its numbers last week.

The Sunday Star-Times has been requesting an update on the project for two weeks, but last week spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said no-one was available for an interview.

After saying the project was on schedule, Hunter said Auckland Transport would be holding a media briefing around the start of the AT HOP bus rollout programme “shortly”.

As well as the apparent budget blowout, the article also points out that the legal dispute with Snapper remains unresolved.

Earlier this week, Auckland Council approved only $2m of a $9m request for additional funding for the project from Auckland Transport. It isn’t clear what impact this will have on the rollout.

It is very hard to know how the AIFS project is tracking, with Auckland Transport being so circumspect about what the plan is for the bus rollout.  We certainly don’t seem to be any closer to a decision on what the final zone fare structure will be and how transfers will work, let alone family and other types of monthly passes.

The most recent official information we have is from the March Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting, with the following points highlighted for each mode.

Rail:

  • 49,000 plus users
  • Cash fares higher than forecast
  • System fully operational
  • On-line top-up behind forecast
  • VRD performance
  • Revenue management issues
  • Manukau gating

Ferry:

  • System fully operational
  • Very low number of users
  • Fare challenges to migrate to HOP
  • Downtown Ferry Terminal upgrade

Bus:

  • Thales programme of works on schedule
  • Bus cabling and installations commenced this month
  • Pilot for Northern Express scheduled to begin on 21 April
  • Bus rollout commences from June
  • Complex bus roll-out due to multiple fare products and individual operator cards

The low uptake for ferry users should not be surprising – using an AT Hop on the ferries is more expensive than a 10 trip ticket.

The obvious thing to do would be to make the fare for AT Hop card users the same as the 10 trip ticket price, and do away with 10 trip tickets altogether, but who knows what “Fare challenges to migrate to HOP” actually means.

As for the bus rollout, clearly we are running behind time with the Northern Express pilot still continuing. The chances of a June bus rollout seem remote.

Timeline

The Auckland Integrated Fares programme has been dragging on now since the end of 2009.  A brief summary:

December 2009

Auckland Regional Transport Authority signs a $47m contract with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries.  The initial contract was for the core system capable of being a nationwide clearing house, and the set up in Auckland of the rail and ferry hardware. Despite not being awarded the contract, Snapper announce they will be rolling out their ticketing solution on to Auckland NZ Bus services.

December 2010

Auckland Transport announce that “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program. Other bus operators were said to be at “different stages of understanding”.

The decision is somewhat surprising as, at the time of the announcement, the Snapper card is not compatible with the Thales Desfire technology.

It is later revealed in Parliament that Snapper met with Steven Joyce on 3rd March of 2010. Soon after the meeting Snapper confirmed in a letter to the NZTA that “NZBus should be free to proceed on its current plan to implement Snapper equipment … in Auckland.”  Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee responds saying that  “it is incorrect to say that the New Zealand Transport Agency was instructed by the Minister to include Snapper.”

In a presentation to the newly formed Auckland Transport Committee, Auckland Transport project the following timeline for the AIFS programme:

2010AIFSTimeline

May 2011

The “purple” Hop card is rolled out on the NZ Bus fleet, starting with North Star services.

June 2012

It is alleged that Snapper cannot make its card compatible with the Thales solution by November 2012, claims refuted by Snapper at the time. Earlier, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says that Snapper would be “off the run” if they fail to meet the deadline.

August 2012

Snapper vows “all necessary steps will be taken to recover losses arising from the wrongful termination”, warning that “Auckland ratepayers would be the casualties, saying the ultimate cost of the decision by the council transport organisation’s board … was likely to the significant”

September 2012

Auckland Transport announces that non-NZ Bus operators will install Thales hardware on their bus fleets.

Andrew Ritchie, Chief Executive of Ritchie’s, says, “The bus consortium previously chose Parkeon as its hardware supplier and they have proven themselves to be professional and responsive in their approach to the project. However, in the interests of a seamless approach we have now elected to move to the AT Thales solution which will also be used on trains and ferries”.

 October 2012

AT Hop is rolled out on trains. The introduction of the AT Hop card causes confusion over branding that continues to exist, with “purple hop” continuing to be used on NZ Bus services, while AT Hop is used on ferries and trains.

November 2012

AT Hop rolled out to ferry users. Greg Edmonds quoted as saying “AT HOP for ferries will begin with single ticket fares with at least a 10% discount off the equivalent single cash fare. Auckland Transport and ferry operators are working closely together to enable products such as ferry monthly and other passes, to be available on the AT HOP card in the near future”.

34 comments to Hop Saga Continues

  • A friend of mine bought a SnapperHOP car for his daughter to get to uni with. She turns up on the first day and, what do you know, a Ritchies Bus. He hates HOP already and will not listen to reason. It’s the small things. The whole rollout needs to happen yesterday.

    • Molly Woppy

      I did this same thing with the Snapper card a few years ago. It never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be able to be used on the NEX and I was peeved when I found out it as going to be next to useless. Yes I should have checked more closely but from the messages in the media at the time I had got the impression that it worked on all the North Shore buses. Lesson learned…. I am now much better informed thanks to this blog :)

  • Taylor

    That was kinda silly of your friend – it is pretty clear on maxx, AT website etc that some buses use hop and others dont – so to have expected that to have worked off the bat on every bus was a tad naive. I agree that it does need to get rolled out, but the fact is it isn’t so far so until then you have to work the system as it currently stands.

    • Bryce P

      Missed the point. No, he’s not silly, he just doesn’t have time to read ATB etc. There has been so much media about HOP over the past 3 years that he believed it was operational. This person isn’t a PT guru and was just trying to help his daughter. We who read this blog are not where the problems lay for AT and the future of HOP. The timeframe for the bus rollout has slipped by quite a bit and has been very poorly advertised.

      • George D

        Exactly. The “kinda silly” attitude is an unfortunate one.

        It’s something that you sometimes hear from people on the technical side of a solution (software engineers, doctors, anyone with specialised knowledge). For users however, something either ‘just works’, or it doesn’t. It’s no use telling someone to read the manual if they’d rather use a system in which they don’t need to read the manual, and it’s even worse to set up a system in which they don’t expect to have to do so and then present them with such a challenge.

        Ideally, we would have had this system rolled out in a comprehensive and simple manner. Because of the interference of Stephen Joyce, that hasn’t happened. Public transport has been damaged, inconvenience caused for many, and large costs incurred to the people of Auckland through our agencies.

        Blame Joyce.

  • Greg N

    Auckland Transport may be a CCO (Council Controlled Organisation), in name, but the reality is that AT is council owned, but not controlled.
    AC doesn’t put the majority of the directors on the AT board, the majority are all Government appointments.

    The culture of secrecy and lack of communication or corporate responsibility starts from the top and pervades **everything** they do and doesn’t help make the SuperCity run any better or make us feel they’re up to the task.

    Basically, AT they can do what the hell they like and answer to no-one for it.

  • JeffT

    What’s that about manukau gating? Are they getting some serious evasion there? I didn’t think we are getting the passenger numbers there. Wouldn’t further up the list be New Lynn and Papakura?

    • Manukau is getting a proper bus station and interchange and it’s relatively easy to gate so it’s a good choice. Just a shame that the ticketing and fares don’t look like they’ll be on time to facilitate the connections….

      • Also I imagine Manukau was the first station designed with gating in mind, so it’s an easy one to do.

        Passenger numbers will grow once(if) the university campus is open, and especially once the bus interchange is complete.

        • jonno1

          Newmarket was probably the first station designed for gating.

          • Sailor Boy

            Wasn’t Britomart designed for gating in 03? I think what was meant is that it is the only ungated station that was designed for gating.

          • jonno1

            I did wonder about Britomart but wasn’t sure if the designers had planned that far ahead. I know that Newmarket went through quite a few design iterations before the current layout was locked in. But if Nick meant that Manukau was designed for gating that is not yet installed then fair enough.

    • Not going any where fast and is now officially late. I think we can owe that and the bus interchange delay to the MIT/Mainzeal collapse (the crane still does not operate some 5 months later and the place looks like a ghost town). and AT playing Secret Squirrel no matter how many times AT’s COO Greg Edmond gets asked the question on Manukau (in saying that que Sharon Hunter or Wally Thomas here about……now) by the Transport Committee. Might get the Committee to ask AT again this month.

      And here is a picture to show things at Manukau not going far http://voakl.net/2013/04/28/auckland-transport-still-waiting/#jp-carousel-4351
      Might trundle down again today and see what has progressed and post more pictures

  • The reason ferry fares aren’t as good the 10 trips is down to the ferry operators. As the main runs (Devonport and Waiheke) are fully commercial, AT doesn’t get much/any say in how the fares are set. Basically they are reliant on the ferry companies playing ball with them.

  • David O

    AT Hop has been farcical from the start. I have one… no make that two. The reason I have two cards – and I’m not talking about the Hop Snapper card I also have to carry because I am out west and the bused only take the Snapper cards – is typical of the crappy service associated with AT Hop. My auto top up was set up on my credit card, which expired. Rather than send me an email when the top up payment was declined, AT Hop blocked my card. They then insisted that I get a new card, because re-enabling my blocked card is apparently something that requires the manual intervention of the finance department.

    Now… this may sound like a small thing, but it’s very much all of a piece with how poorly the Hop cards are handled. There really is no good reason why (i) they couldn’t have emailed me about the refused payment (there is still $28 on the card FFS), which would have given me a chance to fix it, and (ii) simply allowed the person at the Britomart service desk to unblock the card once I supplied new CC details – or for that matter bank details. Meanwhile I’m $10 down (for the new card) and they are wasting time and money thinking about whether to credit me with $28 of my own money.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea… but the implementation has been half-arsed. And that’s before we even get into the Snapper fiasco, or the huge pain that is involved in putting more than one card on a single account so that your kids’ card can be auto-topped up. None of this is rocket science, but you’d never guess that from how hard AT Hop makes even simple things.

    [While we're on the subject of AT don't get me started on the fact that the Symonds St bus stops still have the OLD bus timetables posted on them... how long? 6 months? after the new routes started... that's very poor by any standards]

    • Bryce P

      You cannot put more than one card on an account? That’s nuts. With the much maligned Microsoft, my Micro Soft ‘Store’ account is on 3 PC’s and any purchases made go through the same account. My bank card has 2 entirely different accounts on the same card (although tricky at times as you have to remember to use the right account :-)).

      • David O

        You can put more than one card on account, but it’s non-trivial, or at least it was some months ago when we set it up, involving phoning up the support line and a lot of waiting around. I just don’t understand why it has to be so hard.

    • Similar thing happened to a colleague. He set up his AT Hop with an auto top up and accidentally used an expired card. That killed his AT Hop. After some messing about they told him to get another but he catches ferries so didn’t see the point. He’s back on paper tickets. It does make you wonder if this happens every time a credit card expires?

      • Steve D

        That’s really not how credit cards are supposed to work. You provide your details once, and then AT should have an authorisation to charge your account, as long as the card is renewed. If the auto top-up stops working because the card expires (as long as it was renewed), it suggests that possibly they are storing your credit card details, including the expiry date and CSC, and re-using them every time. This is a big no-no.

        Well, I’ll find out myself soon enough, since my credit card is about to expire…

  • David O

    I am sure they’ll get there eventually… but that’s so reminiscent of the painful bad old days of British Rail, when the best slogan they could come up with for their commercials was “We’re getting there”. It really shouldn’t be this hard to succesfully roll out a product that is without doubt a benefit to the customer.

  • Ray

    When HOP (the purple one) was introduced in May 2011 on buses I was rather excited at two benefits: 1) No need to have the issue with correct change, speeding up boarding times and more importantly 2) Some discounts on fares. However these benefits were quickly undermined by 2 two things: 1) A $0.25 top up fee and more significantly 2) How the HOP card was at one point in time charging me a penalty for every journey I made.

    I remembered that they had promised that by now AT HOP would be in place. AT’s twitter seems to only know how to speak verbatim: “we’ll be announcing the roll out timetable shortly”. I’m really disappointed in what seems to be a lack of progress. If AT can’t give us an integrated ticketing solution, at least fix the current system!

  • Stu Donovan

    I look forward to it all being over.

  • obi

    They’re $27 million over budget and the budget was only $47 million to start with? That’s bad, but not as bad as Myki or Novopay. Still, I thought these ticketing systems were proven mature technology. How difficult can it be to roll it out in a city that is relatively small by world standards?

    • Nick R

      Auckland has an incredibly complex route system and fare structure. Over 300 individual routes, over 200 individual fare products, nine operators, and fare stages that can vary between routes on the same street, or even within the same route depending on the time of day!

      Auckland may be a fairly small city but it has an incredibly complex network and fare structure.

      They really should have implemented an integrated fare structure first using paper tickets, then released the smart card. Instead they’ve had to make the card work with literally hundreds of operator specific fare products, only to (hopefully) replace them with an integrated zone system shortly after.

      • obi

        “They really should have implemented an integrated fare structure first using paper tickets, then released the smart card. Instead they’ve had to make the card work with literally hundreds of operator specific fare products, only to (hopefully) replace them with an integrated zone system shortly after.”

        In which case, why didn’t they? That seems to point to either a fundamental problem with the ability of the people in charge to devise a sensible strategy for implementing improvements, or some external factors that forced the project to be sequenced in such a way. Neither is good. Either the people in charge are unable to plan for the future, or they knew that the rollout was going to be necessarily difficult but were unable to budget accurately.

        It’s fundamentally an IT project and I’m professionally embarrassed to see just how often government IT projects go wrong. Keep an eye on IRD which is about to embark on a multi-billion dollar technology project that has almost no chance of success.

        • When the project started they were still very much at the mercy of the operators when it came to fares (and a lot of other things). That is only now changing as a result of contracts which have rolled off and the introduction of PTOM which gives AT more power.

  • ejtma

    Auckland transport are a shambles, it has been obvious for some time that the Hop implementation has been in trouble, as @obi said it should have been a simple job for a city fo Auckland’s size.

    Somebody needs to take AT by the scruff and shake it very hard, their communications are poor, their accountability non existent and they don’t care about the people who pay their wages.

    In recent weeks I have complained to them twice, once about a bus that failed to give way at a roundabout and nearly hit our car and secondly about the shambles they have caused in Elstree Avenue, in both cases no response other than one initial contact.

    AT need a dose of commercial reality which will hopefully mean they start being accountable for the $$$$$ they spend of our money.

    • Tamaki

      +1 on Elstree Ave. no signs in GI indicating that there was works ahead. No sign on the site indicating what they were doing. No sign saying who the contractor is. I’m scared to go there now cause still not sure if it’s finished. Has been going for weeks. Next to a high school and swimming pool you would expect a lot better.

      • Newnewt

        +2 on Elstree Ave. As of yesterday it was still one way, with the other side of the road looking like it will be weeks before it will be open again, at which time they will presumably start to work on the side currently carrying traffic.

  • Seems we have a long way to go folks (and yes I did just state the obvious)
    Cue this? http://www.allaboutauckland.com/video/2120/exclusive-interview-with-new-chair-of-auckland-transport-dr-lester-levy And yes you need to register but the video is free to watch

  • Harvey Specter

    Hopefully by the end of the year we will all be using AT Hop and life will be great #optimist

  • TimE

    I’m just waiting for the refund for the years without access to monthly tickets on NZ Bus services for timeframes I need them for. What a cockup that was – the only monthly tickets available are sold for calendar month only. Whose life fits neatly into a calendar month???!!!

    Absolutely pathetic. And nevermind that the cost has skyrocketed over the past ten years. If monthly passes had only been increased at the rate of transport sector inflation, they’d still be below $100. So we’re now paying 40 per cent more for a less convenient ticket and… sorry, what improvement in services?

    As usual Auckland – useless. I know most posters on here try to be positive and patient and encouraging of what progress is being made, but I’m sorry, Auckland is roaring joke of a city for public transport and I’ve given up on the place. It really has that much of an impact on your quality of life.

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