1 Million HOP Cards

Late last week Auckland Transport announced that they sold their millionth HOP card.

Thanks a million Auckland – the millionth AT HOP card has just been sold.

AT HOP is the smart card which can be used for bus, rail and ferry travel throughout Auckland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=891uUQSa2gk

Group Manager AT HOP, Denise Verrall, says as of June 2016, surveys indicated that 42% of Auckland adults have a HOP card. “We’re very happy with the numbers using AT HOP, the same time last year 33% of Aucklanders surveyed said they had a card so that’s a great improvement.”

The AT HOP card was rolled out on trains in late 2012 and then extended to ferry and bus services.

Four out of five customers now choose to pay for their public transport trip with the card.  “The card gives a discount of at least 20% off single trip cash fares, excluding SkyBus and Waiheke ferry services. When you tag-on with your AT HOP card it is read in a 300th of a milli-second.

“Using public transport is now so much easier with the AT HOP card and Simpler Fares. Paying with an AT HOP card allows customers to pay just once for a single journey, that can involve up to five bus or train trips over four hours, with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip.”

Denise Verrall says the uptake of the card has been very strong in Auckland. “In 2013, Oyster the London travel smartcard, was used in over 85% of trips vs cash tickets, after 10 years in the market. In comparison, HOP has now reached 85.5% after 4 years in the market, so we are very pleased with the uptake of HOP by Aucklanders.”

One million cards and achieving an 85% use is a good result – although the latter is a little bit false as it turns out that it excludes trips made using operator products (i.e. the special passes on the ferries). They say that now 42% of adults in Auckland have a HOP card, up from 33% a year ago.

With the Simplified fares now rolled out and the new bus network coming I suspect it will only further encourage people to use HOP and one day hopefully it’s use will supplant the separate systems used on some ferry routes.

 

A few days before this announcement, AT sent out an email to HOP users stating that prizes could be won just for using your card.

This September, the millionth AT HOP card will be sold in Auckland.

We think that’s worth celebrating with you, so every time you use your registered AT HOP card during September, you’ll go in the draw to win $100 HOP Money on your AT HOP card*. We’ll draw 2 winners every Friday in September 2016 … 10 prizes in all!

Thanks for getting on board with one of a million AT HOP cards. Thanks a million!

HOP 1 million cards

My first thought on reading this was one I’ve had many times before, why isn’t this a regular and ongoing feature of HOP. It seems like the kind of simple thing that they could do encourage both PT and HOP use and one that doesn’t cost all that much in the grand scheme of things. In a similar vein, I also think AT should be looking include elements of gamification to the HOP system to encourage use.

Other than changing fares, what would you do to encourage more people to use HOP?

HOP in detail

As mentioned this morning, at Auckland Transport’s board meeting today there is an interesting paper giving an overview of the HOP system, which AT say is the third largest financial transaction system in the country. Here are some of the figures from the paper.

  • AT have sold just over 965k HOP cards while they had only anticipated selling 338k over the same period – a case of AT underestimating demand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that with a public transport initiative. They say they typically sell about 23.5k per month but that has increased to 26k per month due to the SuperGold card conversion that took place recently. I also wonder how many are due to people who have bought more than one due to cards being blacklisted.

HOP cards sold

  • AT say that as of July, 86% of trips are made using HOP and that compares favourably with systems overseas which have taken much longer to get a similar level of use. Trains still have the highest level of HOP use with 87% of trips being on HOP compared to 85% on bus (note: the graph below is to June, HOP usage has increased since then primarily due to the SuperGold card conversion.

HOP cards usage

  • AT now have 74 ticket machines at train and busway stations plus one in the Manukau Mall. There are also 73 retailers and 10 customer service centres.
  • All up the project has cost just under $100 million. That’s certainly a lot of money (and  time) but nowhere near what the two biggest cities across the ditch have paid.

HOP system costs

  • In the 2015-16 financial year (to end of June), the HOP system processed over $193 million in revenue. That was up 10% on the previous financial year and up 26% on two years prior. The charts below show where that revenue comes from (AT just stop with using pie charts will you).

HOP cards Revenue breakdown

  • There is currently $11.8 million in the HOP account, 85% of which is from stored value on cards and the remaining representing monthly passes. There is also a noticeable trend in January with the values dropping, presumably as people used up their remaining balance before going on leave over summer.

HOP account balance

  • HOP costs $16.6 million to run every year which is well above the expected $9 million from the business case. The additional costs get a 57% subsidy from the NZTA. AT give the following list of reasons for why opex is higher than expected.
  • Additional bus services which increased the cost of system support
  • Increased AT HOP Operating Staff from the original budget of nine FTEs to 37, in order to support retailers, operators, and customers
  • BT test support to provide system testing of BAU changes and system enhancements (average of 40 route changes are made each month).
  • Additional finance support – providing reconciliations, settlement support and process development (recognition that the AT HOP System is a significant financial system).
  • Increased banking fees, secure cash collection and retail commission due to the high uptake of the AT HOP Card
  • Removal of the 25 cent transaction fee for Top-up transactions

Also included in the paper is one of the worst business diagrams you’ll see, I’m still not sure what ticking and clocks have to do with it. But still a lot better than this.

HOP horrible diagram

Now that integrated fares have finally been rolled out (and done so successfully), many will be interested to know what’s next for HOP. After all payment systems are undergoing rapid change right now. Here’s what AT say about it.

The development opportunity to improve customer service offerings is being actively pursued by the AT Metro, HOP and BT teams. This may include the ability to use credit cards or phone applications for payment and the potential to extend HOP to other services such as parking. Other options include online bus updates for balances, mobile top ups, use of the ATM network and account based systems. Whilst many of these are feasible to a degree, e.g. bus updates for balances is probably only available at 10-15 minute intervals, much of this technology is new, not only to Thales but other card systems as well. Generally, development is very slow and expensive which has limited the ability for AT to progress at pace these types of initiatives. Currently AT is investigating a solution to enable the HOP card to use Near Field Communications on a smart phone and the business is working with Thales on proposals for a real time top up ability via smart phone to the physical cards.

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait years for some of these features which should almost be a minimum standard these days.

The HOP Blacklist

Auckland Transport’s HOP card generally works pretty well for most people and is a vast improvement from what we had before with different ticketing systems for each mode/company. But almost 5 years on, it still has some amazingly annoying and very customer unfriendly bugs/features that they’ve never fixed. One of the chief among these what happens when an auto top-up fails due to a credit card expiring. The issue goes like this:

  1. Person sets up for their HOP card to be automatically topped up by a chosen amount from their credit card every time the HOP card drops below a pre-set balance. A great feature when it works.
  2. When the credit card expires – unlike most companies which a) stop attempting additional payments and b) contact the customer to get them to update the credit card details – AT keep on trying to charge the existing card. After failing a three times, AT then block the HOP card. The customer is blissfully unaware the payment has failed as the system will have already put money on the HOP card, until it is blocked.
  3. The customer then has to shell out $10 for a new card and in many cases loses whatever credit was left on their HOP card.

To make matters even worse, it appears that the original card and ‘stolen’ balance still show up when people log on.

Thanks to an OIA from one person affected, the herald have now revealed just how much this has happened.

More than 12,000 people have had their AT Hop cards blacklisted because their automatic top-ups failed.

And Auckland Transport is now reviewing its processes around how it notifies customers that their card is about to be blocked.

Yve Bourke was left stranded in July when her card was blacklisted and depended on the kindness of a stranger to pay her bus fare because Auckland Transport hadn’t told her that her card had been blocked.

“I went to get on the bus one morning and it declined and I thought, ‘That can’t be right’ so I tried a few more times and the bus driver told me I had to get off the bus.

“Luckily some lovely man paid for me who said to me, ‘You should check your credit card if you’ve got an auto top-up because mine expired mine last month and I got blacklisted.”

That turned out to be almost exactly what happened Bourke.

While I haven’t had it happen to me, I know it is incredibly annoying and embarrassing to find your card not working. I had it recently when an online top-up was delayed despite being before AT’s 10pm cutoff. This particular customer seems quite lucky that AT both transferred her balance and refunded her the cost of a new card. Most others I’ve heard this happened to aren’t so lucky.

So infuriated with the process, Bourke fired off an Official Information Act request to find out how many others had gone through the same ordeal.

Since their roll-out in June 2013, 12,124 people have had their cards blocked because of top-up failures totalling more than $330,000 in remaining value – however this figure includes the amount of the automatic top-ups even if the payment didn’t go through or whether the customer transferred the value to another Hop card.

Auckland Transport was not able to provide the actual amount of customers’ prepaid credit which it’s seized.

HOP actually first rolled out to trains at the end of 2012 but I’m guessing June 2013 is the date that AT pulled the data from. Based on that, it works out at AT blacklist an average of almost 11 cards every single day, that is huge. If it caused say 5% of those people to stop using public transport, that could equate to 300,000 trips a year.

Given the numbers this has happened to and the comments here and on social media we’ve regularly seen over the years, AT’s explanation that it they notify customers appears to be complete BS.

Spokesman Mark Hannan said three attempts were made to complete Bourke’s automatic top-up and admitted a trigger email wasn’t sent because there were two email addresses attached to her account and there “was some confusion”.

Usually, a customer would be notified of the problem twice before the card is blocked.

The agency is working on an AT Hop website improvement project which includes reviewing the notification process to “improve both the content of the email notification, and the subject, to make it clearer for customers”.

 

As mentioned this is only one of the many annoying quirks of HOP that exist and which have never been fixed. Some others include, but not limited to:

  • If you top up online but don’t tag on within 60 days the money disappears into a void.
  • Tagging on, then topping up as your balance is low, then tagging off can charge a penalty fare.
  • They still advise it can take up to 3 days for an online top up to occur – even only updating daily was archaic four years ago.

HOP Top Up Delay

I was aware the upgrade to Simplified Fares (this Sunday) involves some significant software upgrades to the HOP system. As such and not long before the fares were announced I asked Auckland Transport if the upgrade would also address some of these frustrations. The only answer I got was that they wouldn’t comment on it.

If improvements aren’t coming as part of the changes this weekend, then AT need to get on with it and with some urgency.

SuperGold on HOP

In just over a month those over 65 will no longer be able to just wave their SuperGold card to get free public transport. Instead, following changes made by the government, they will be required to have an AT HOP card with a concession loaded. There are currently about 180,000 people in Auckland with a SuperGold card and that is growing by about 7,000 a year and AT say almost 42,000 already have a HOP card with the SuperGold concession loaded. That also means that potentially around 140,000 people won’t be able to travel unless they make the change over the next month.

Auckland Transport have launched a campaign to get those with SuperGold cards on to HOP including introducing a new SuperGold specific HOP card – although those with blue HOP cards can keep using those.

Gold AT HOP

Switching SuperGold public transport use to the AT HOP card will also reduce improper use of the SuperGold concession and permit improved planning of public transport services making the scheme more sustainable, reducing taxpayer and ratepayer costs.

Mr Lambert says seniors using public transport in Auckland who do not yet have an AT HOP card will need to purchase one by 30 June, at a cost of $15 (the AT HOP card costs $10 and it must have a minimum of $5 credit loaded onto it at the time of purchase) The $10 card purchase price is non-refundable.

“We’re working with the Ministry of Transport and directly with seniors’ advocacy groups to make the process as easy as possible for seniors,” he says.

Auckland Transport is making an information pack available to all SuperGold cardholders, advising seniors of the changes and explaining how to purchase an AT HOP card and load a SuperGold concession.

“We have worked directly with seniors in focus groups to ensure the information provided is clear and easy to understand,” Mr Lambert says.

SuperGold card users purchasing an AT HOP card from 9 May will be issued with a specially designed, distinctive gold AT HOP card. However, blue AT HOP cards loaded with a SuperGold concession will continue to be accepted after 1 July 2016. Auckland Transport will be in contact with individuals who have a blue AT HOP card loaded with a SuperGold concession regarding the process to swap out their blue AT HOP card for a gold AT HOP card free of charge after 1 July 2016.

Having a specific SuperGold card is a good idea but oddly though it’s not a replacement for the SuperGold card so those eligible will have to carry both cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Social Development appear to have refused to help AT in the change over. I understand this isn’t the first time the MSD has done this and it appears to me that they want to operate in a silo over the whole thing.

At the same time Grey Power is calling the requirement to buy a HOP card cruel. While I understand why they’re saying it, I personally thing that’s a bit rough given that Auckland Council/Transport go beyond the SuperGold benefits and also cover evening peak travel too. Paying $15 for essentially unlimited free travel is still a very good deal.

I would expect most people who read this blog are likely to already have a HOP card with the concession loaded but

With the discussion on SuperGold I thought I’d also take a quick look at some of the figures around SuperGold which can be found on this NZTA site. It has annual data up to the end of June last year

In total there were 12.6 million trips via SuperGold across NZ in the 2014/15 year and that was worth just over $26 million in fares.

SuperGold trips in Auckland accounted for about 56% of that national total although only 54% of value of fares. For 2015 the breakdown of trips by mode and the percentage of total trips by that mode were:

  • Bus – 5.9m (9.9%)
  • Train – 680k (4.9%)
  • Ferry – 445k (8.0%)
  • Total – 7.1m (8.9%)

Auckland SuperGold patronage

The costs are quite different though due to the high cost of ferries. In the brackets is the cost per trip

  • Bus – $9.8m ($1.66)
  • Train – $1.5m ($2.27)
  • Ferry – $2.8m ($6.24)
  • Total – $14.1m ($2.01)

Auckland SuperGold costs

AT December Board Meeting

Next week is the last AT board meeting for the year and comes only three weeks after the last meeting. As it’s a bit earlier in the month the PT numbers aren’t available yet however the board report is. The post below are the items from the reports that I personally find interesting. You may find there are other items within the reports of interest to you.

Closed Session Agenda

As always there is a packed closed session agenda full with interesting looking topics, parts in italics are my comments

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Corporate Accommodation – Long Term Strategy – AT are currently spread across a number of buildings around the region. They will have a desire to have more of their operations in the same location
  • Value for money review – As I understand it the Board have had a review undertaken to see what value the organisation is delivering for the money spent.
  • East West
  • Penlink – confirmation of Notice of Requirement
  • Execution of Deed by Directors – Lease of Land and lease approval
  • Approval of Agreement to lease premises
  • Annual Fare Price Review – Given the strong patronage growth that is seeing farebox recovery rise faster than expected it hopefully means no fare increases are needed.
  • CFS Review – pre-consultation
  • CRL Update
Business Report

AT HOP

One of the frequent ongoing complaints we see about HOP is that AT say it will take 72 hours for an online top-up to reach the card. This has always been an arse covering exercise that has only served to make the system look stupid. AT say that their investigations have shown that if updated before 10pm that in 99% of the cases it will be loaded by 5am the next day. They say work will be undertaken in coming months to improve the communication to customers about this. I’m not quite sure why it will take a few months to fix.

Rapid Transit Network

AT have let a contract to undertake a Rapid Transit Study for the North Shore. It is due to be completed in April and will be used to inform the NZTA who are looking to protect the route for an Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing. They say the study will:

provide an updated view on transport requirements for achieving strategic growth outcomes for northern Auckland, the life expectancy of the northern busway and the most appropriate transport options that could meet the needs of the North Shore.

Project Updates

Albany Highway – Work on the section between Bush Rd and Rosedale Rd is expected to be finished in January with the remaining section finished in late 2016 ahead of schedule.

Eden Terrace Paid Parking – AT are consulting on extending paid parking to some of the streets on the southern side on Newton Rd.

Newmarket Crossing (replacing Sarawia St level Crossing) – AT received 15 submissions, 7 in support, 2 neutral and 6 in opposition to the Notice of Requirement (NoR) for the project. They say those in opposition were all from Cowie St where the proposed bridge will join. The hearing for the NoR will be in February/March next year.

Parnell Station – The platforms are now complete and the next stage for the project is Kiwirail’s responsibility to move the old Newmarket Station building to the site which is expected to occur next year. They say they are still in discussions with the owner of the former Mainline Steam site about who want to amend how the station is accessed.

Urban Cycleway Fund (UCF) Update – AT have provided an update as to which stages the projects being funded from the governments UCF are at. In total they say 64km of cycleways will be built over the three-year period. The report notes that cycling trips are expected to increase by 30% by 2019.

UCF Project Delivery Update Dec 15

Traffic Counting – AT are looking at installing permanent traffic count loops in around the CBD so they can monitor the impact of all of the construction happening in the next few years – of which the CRL is only one part.

Public Transport Update

While the patronage stats aren’t yet available the rail performance stats are and they say November was the best month on record. In total 98.9% of trains turned up at their final destination while 95.1% of those that turned up did so within 5 minutes of their scheduled time. Punctuality has seen a remarkable improvement since AT started running electric trains on all lines.

2015-11 - Rail punctuality - board report

Integrated fares are still being worked on and is due in July.

New Network:

  • Hibiscus Coast – Patronage has grown by 15% since implementation in October.
  • South Auckland – Tenders are still being evaluated and expected to be announced early 2016. The go-live for the network is now not till October 16.
  • West Auckland – Tenders will go out in early 2016
  • North Shore – The analysis and any recommended changes from the consultation held earlier this year is also expected early next year.
  • Central and East Auckland – They say they’re undertaking a parking/ prefeasibility study at Meadowbank and Orakei stations to investigate the potential demand for a feeder bus to Meadowbank station.

Puhinui Station upgrade was completed in November. That would put just Takanini and Te Mahia as stations that haven’t been upgraded (I’ve excluded Westfield as that is due to close).

Bus priority – AT say they’re working on a review to bus lane operating times which will go to the board’s Customer Focus Committee in February. They want to develop a more consistent region wide approach. Hopefully this will mean an end to the stupidly short times along roads like Mt Eden Rd – which was done because retailers complained about losing parking. They also have this table indicating they’re looking at bus priority in a number of new locations – most of which are in South Auckland so will likely be to support the new network.

Bus priority - AT Board - Nov 15

The Christmas/New Year rail shutdown has been confirmed and timetables are now available on the AT website. There are reduced services and with the exception of the Western Line and inner Southern Line services are replaced by buses. One thing I find odd is that on the western line the last service on New Years Eve is just before midnight. Surely there should be one just after midnight

From July 2016 all Supergold customers will be required to buy a HOP card and have the Supergold concession loaded if they want to get the free travel the card provides. AT say they will have a major communications programme early next year about this.

From next Thursday the price of HOP doubles to $10. AT say that in the two weeks after announcing it on 9-Nov they’ve sold 14,500 cards which is twice the number of cards sold in the two weeks prior to then.

Forward Planner

This is a list of interesting sounding items due to go to one of the board committees before the next full meeting.

Customer Focus Committee

  • ATAP Update
  • RMA Reform
  • Park n Ride
  • Bus & Special Vehicle Lane Operating Times
  • Station Gating
  • Transdev Overview of Rail Service and Customer Performance
  • Northshore Consultation
  • Drone Management Guidelines
  • AT Customer Complaint Handling

Capital Review Committee

  • Northern Busway Station Preferred Option
  • Transport Network Greenfield Growth Areas
  • Franklin Road
  • Subterranean Property Acquisitions
  • Enabling Works Contracts 1 & 2 | Award
  • CRL | Cost Estimate

HOP in Wellington

Wellington has been making some noises about moving towards integrated ticketing and fares for some time and doing so is formally listed Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP). In the RPTP they say “Improving the fares and ticketing system is the next significant element in the modernisation of Wellington’s public transport system”.

As Auckland learnt changing a ticketing system can be very difficult, especi byally when you have some operators wanting to force their own system on the public. Now it seems that Wellington could be set to have a repeat of some of Auckland’s ticketing issues.

Hop Card

The days of Wellingtonians swiping their Snapper cards on the capital’s buses could be numbered.

The Government is pushing to have Auckland’s Hop card system in the capital instead and Wellington’s political leaders are worried about the potential impact of that on ratepayers, as well as the future of Snapper.

In 2018, the entire Wellington region will shift to having one electronic smartcard that people can use to pay for all bus, train and ferry travel, in much the same way Aucklanders use their Hop card.

Snapper, which is already on more than 300 Wellington and Hutt Valley buses, is expected to be among those bidding to provide the smartcard technology when Greater Wellington Regional Council opens the contract up to tender.

But their chances of success look slim after the New Zealand Transport Agency wrote to the regional council stating its preference that Auckland’s system be extended to the capital.

The agency also proposed that its wholly-owned subsidiary company, New Zealand Transport Ticketing Limited, be directly appointed to provide the $50 million Wellington network, as it does in Auckland.

The door was left open for the regional council to chose a different technology provider, but the agency said that company would have to represent better value and less risk than simply bringing the Auckland system south.

It is expected Wellingtonians will be able to use their new cards in Auckland, and vice versa.

Paul Swain, the regional council’s transport portfolio leader, said while the agency was leaving the decision in council’s hands, the message was that it should be buying into the Government’s system rather than Snapper.

But for a project as costly and as complicated as this, he believed a tender process was needed to make sure Wellington was getting the best technology on offer.

“We want the best deal possible for the ratepayer, for the taxpayer and for the passenger,” Swain said.

“But our concern here is that the bar is going to be set so high that it will be difficult for us to get funding for any system we get a tender for.”

The Transport Agency and regional council are planning to split the $50m cost of the new system between them. But the agency can opt to contribute less if it is unhappy with the technology provider.

I’ve seen some comments concerned by the stance by the NZTA over this but it is actually nothing new and harks back to decisions made many years ago.

  1. At the time Auckland had held a tender for an integrated ticketing solution which Thales won. Infratil – the owner of Snapper – didn’t like the outcome and pushed the then mister to review the decision.
  2. The minister asked the NZTA to review the tender process and when they did so they found the system to have been the best on offer. However they also recognised that integrated ticketing was something that was going to be pushed by many councils over the coming years for which the NZTA would be asked to help cover the costs of installing them all.
  3. To manage what could be a lot of expensive system requests the NZTA took over buying of the system with the intention of it being used nationally. They said at the time other regions would need a good business case for not using it.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Snapper is much more entrenched in Wellington than it was in Auckland and so I imagine there will be a lot of strong views down there.

What do you think will out should happen?

Auckland Transport December Board Meeting

The Auckland Transport Board meet tomorrow and while it might be earlier in the month than usual due to Christmas, there’s no shortage of information. As usual here are the things that caught my attention.

The closed session is once again packed with reports, some are listed as being due to commercial sensitivity and others to allow free and frank discussion with the information released later.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • Diesel Rolling Stock Sale
  • Managing 2014/15 Programme
  • AMETI
  • CCFAS2
  • Dominion Road
  • Bus Service Commercial & South Auckland Tender
  • PT Fare Annual Review
  • Street Lighting Acquisition
  • Te Mahia /Westfield
  • Southern Station Review

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – Service Provision Options
  • CRL Update
  • Heavy Rail Strategy update
  • Service Extension Options
  • Te Atatu
  • EW Connections
  • Draft Statement of Intent 2015-16

There are a number of quite specific items there and one I’m surprised about is the annual fare review seeing as we just had fare changes implemented in July that resulted in fares for bus and train trips using HOP reducing. The Te Mahia / Westfield stations will be about whether AT close them as proposed in the new Bus Network. They are the two least used stations on the network with each having less than 100 people use them per day.

Onto the board report

Funding was approved for property purchase and construction for the $26 million Te Atatu Corridor project which will widen and upgrade parts of Te Atatu Rd and Edmonton Rd. Included in the project are some walking and cycling improvements however they are inconsistent. In some places cycle lanes will be on the street while in other places they will just be shared paths. I guess there wasn’t enough room for proper cycling facilities after the addition of a 2.5-3m median.

Funding was also approved for the design and construction of the Upper Harbour Cycleway. As someone who rides along this road weekly the improvements are welcome although I suspect they will ignore the biggest issue along the route being the Upper Harbour Dr/Albany Hwy intersection which is possibly the most dangerous in Auckland. Fixing that is likely dependant on a future 30m+ of an upgrade to that section Albany Highway.

Later on in the report an additional mention is made about the awarding of a number of service contracts. Two are singled out as providing much better value than anticipated with a combined saving of almost $5m compared to what had been budgeted.

  • Security Guard Services and Patrols – Contract awarded to Armourguard. The successful tender resulted in a saving of $2.1m compared with the two year budget forecast
  • Public Transport Facilities Cleaning – Contract awarded to City Cleaning Services. The successful tender resulted in a saving of $2.7m compared with the two year budget forecast

For specific projects AT are working on the ones that caught my attention are:

Penlink 

Auckland Transport is progressing a planning strategy to ensure ongoing security of the Penlink corridor. This involves lodgement of an alteration to the existing Penlink designation and a suite of consent applications to allow up to four lanes on the Penlink alignment to reflect the updated design, and to extend the lapse date by another 15-20 years to align with the current draft ITP. Some changes to the existing designation boundary are proposed, however, the majority of the proposal will fit within the existing designation footprint. Notification is proposed in early 2015 due to the Christmas and New Year period. Key Stakeholder engagement is continuing and two open days are also proposed to provide the general public with an opportunity to discuss the project and planning process in more detail.

Discussions on alternate procurement methods continues with interested parties. These will be brought to the Board if they progress to any substantial proposal.

I can understand the need to retain the designation but quite where AT will find the over $350m needed for Penlink is unclear.

Devonport Wharf Transport Interchange

AT say the project completion will be delayed by two months to May 2015 after the contractor encountered construction difficulties below the Wharf Boardwalk.

Otahuhu Bus-Train Interchange

Enabling works are underway and AT say the project is still on track for completion at the end of next year which they say is “to align with the expected roll-out date for PTOM (South) in February 2016“. This suggests that the roll out of the new network has once again been delayed as it had been due to roll out in the middle of next year.

City Centre Integration

City Centre bus infrastructure planning is focussing on the Fanshawe St Busway, Wynyard Interchange and Downtown Interchange. A series of workshops will commence in December with the University and AUT to progress issues and options for the Learning Quarter Interchange and east-west bus corridor.

A City Centre Transport Framework is being developed with NZTA to collate and map out transport initiatives and issues across the city centre, as context for future development. Completion due mid-2015.

 

It’s good to see the Fanshawe St busway progressing as that will help further improve the PT experience for bus users from the North Shore. It is particularly important as at peak times 60-70% of all people using Fanshawe St are on a bus despite buses only having 22% of the space in the corridor. While the amount of space buses have won’t change, what should improve are the bus stops which should become more station like.

CEWT Fanshawe St

Swanson Park and Ride

AT say the tender should be awarded by now with construction starting soon. They are expecting the project to be complete by April next year. It will see 136 new car parks added to Swanson station for a cost of $2.5m. It will include improved lighting, signage, CCTV, additional platform shelters, walkway canopies to the footbridge and stairs, and new platform surfacing and marking.

Other PT improvements:

AT say they are continuing to do shadow running of test trains on the Southern and Western lines. Electric trains will be introduced to the Southern Line in early 2015 with a fully electric timetable by April which I assume means the Western Line too.

The Manukau interchange is being targeted for completion by early 2016.

HOP

The usage of HOP dropped slightly to 70% in November which has attributed to less university and secondary school students using services due to exam breaks.

HOP ticketing usage Nov 2014

AT have a special day pass for use during the NRL 9s in late January which includes discounts to some tourist attractions. They can only be purchased from Ticketek, are $25 and as yet don’t say how discount from the attractions purchasers will actually get.

HOP NRL 9s HOP daypass

Guest Post: Dear AT HOP

This is a guest post by reader Frith Stalker

Dear AT Hop

I have used Auckland buses for 30 years

I am very smart, very pedantic, very polite and very Rule Abiding

I am your perfect customer.

I always thank the driver.

In days of old – I always had the correct change, now I always have my card.

I am always ready when my stop arrives, and I get off quickly and efficiently.

I give up my seat for the old, the very young, pregnant women and those with disabilities.

I ‘be the bad guy’ when no one will move down the bus, so we can all get on with the journey.

I pick up rubbish and I teach my kids bus etiquette.

I report the dangerous bus drivers, but yes I also commend the good ones.

I study your crazy maps, persist with your: series of bus cards, totally random electronic “real time” (ha ha) boards, user-unfriendly-websites – and log in repeatedly to your user accounts until I get to where I need to go, one way or another.

I have no choice.

I have no car.

Lately I got a Smart Phone. I got your App. I use it – every day – despite the times it monumentally lets me down.

But, you know, when a bus is finally in front of me, and I can’t get on it – despite my monthly pass – that’s when I finally say: ENOUGH.

You want to know why buses have a bad rap? You want to know why lower income users don’t use your AT Hop cards?

I’ve estimated my usage. A monthly pass is worth my while, just, as I spend near that (gulp) but importantly it allows me: jump-on-jump-off without calculating every single fare.

I’ve budgeted. I talked to the hotline to check my facts. I’ve loaded up $140 monthly pass on my card.

It was scary shelling out for that. It’s scary spending that anywhere. (I don’t spend that in one go on groceries for my family of four) It was not easy to put that money aside and spend it in one hit. I waited weeks to have it ready. Now I am off: Unlimited trips within Zone A for 30 days. Right?

  • Day One: Today seems okay. I Tag On/Tag Off and it’s working. It’s a good feeling.
  • Day Two: The morning is fine. The afternoon… I get on an Inner Link and Tag On (Ponsonby Rd). All good. At K’Rd, as I Tag Off, I catch something other than the green light out of the corner of my eye. But it’s too late to read the message – I heard the beep and now I am off the bus. Shrug. Run for the next bus.
  • Next bus, out of breath, I jump on (I am racing to take over childcare). I try to Tag On, but it reads “insufficient funds, please pay the driver”. WTF? $140.00 and now I can’t get on a bus. [In fact I refuse to get off. A lovely (or resigned) man offers to tag me on. The driver gives up, declines his offer and drives off. I’m humiliated. Angry. But at least I am on the way home.]
  • I phone the AT Hop number, they tell me my card has to be in credit (cash credit, over and above my $140 monthly pass) for my pass to function. I am disbelieving. I am also indignant: I did have credit. A few dollars. Otherwise how did my card work on Day One. Right? How can I fix it? Go to Britomart (ok, using my bus card? With my 2 year old? Shall I take time off work to go somewhere not on my way to fix a problem I didn’t create?)

This saga dragged on and my card was useless to me for the next two days. Something had gone wrong on that second tag off – and it wasn’t me. Credit had been removed from my card, and my monthly pass was non-functional until I could top up with more cash. There are two major problems with this, and a third catch:

  • I was not informed, upon purchase of my pass – nor on the Hotline when researching the pass – that a cash balance would be required on top of my $140 top up. Surely this constitutes a breach of good faith between customers and AT Hop?
  • There was cash on my card – entirely coincidentally. It was removed due to an error with AT Hop which they refuse to acknowledge.
  • I’m not due to go past a Top Up point until the day after next – no car, childcare drop off en-route to work. I have to plan my top ups with care…

So how to remedy it overall? Surely, AT Hop say ‘sorry! We messed up’ ‘please accept this credit on your card for the costs when you couldn’t use your card.’ Right?

Wrong. Email exchange with AT Hop: they refuse to refund my fares.  No cash fares refunds – not even with receipts. I suggest they credit me one extra day on my monthly pass. No. What if I spend $16 on my card (once my pass is expired) and they can refund that? No.

Can they explain what happened? No response. How can I be sure it won’t happen again? No response.

The final insult to injury is when the journey becomes visible (or not) on my online account. The story does not add up. At All. My trip from Ponsonby to K’Rd doesn’t even show. There’s one totally bizarre entry for that afternoon: a Tag Off on Customs St (missing Tag On). Now – I was nowhere near Customs St that day – and my email records prove that I was still at work over an hour later. 

My Tag On the Inner Link (around 5.00pm) was just fine – but it wasn’t even on the record. A more paranoid person might think At Hop had altered my record (I had told them in no uncertain terms how far I was willing to go to ensure the issue was not simply brushed under the carpet. It makes you wonder…)

AT Hop Monthly pass fail 700pix

So, I think this sort of issue is a fairly stern deterrent: I fork out 25% of my Gross Weekly earnings for a monthly pass, and five days later I cannot board a bus? Not good enough.

The existence of failures of this sort (technical) are not ideal, but I can understand and accept that they happen. Given they do happen, however, there must be something in place to protect the customer (I suggested pass holders present the receipt for their pass – with valid dates – to the driver for travel if their pass failed… No answer).

If issues like this continue to be swept under the carpet you will not get a culture of faith in the everyday workings of our transport network. When you don’t have a car – and therefore have no other means of transport – this is not just an inconvenience it’s a massive stressor and potentially a barrier to reliably participating in the workforce. Not good enough.

AT’s Get on Board with Jerome Campaign

Auckland Transport recently launched a new campaign featuring Jerome Kaino encouraging people to use PT and HOP. It seems to be primarily an online campaign focused on the videos below however I’ve also seen a few ads on the backs of buses too. Overall I think the campaign is pretty well done and Jerome seems like a good choice to front it.

I’m not sure I agree that the journey planner is as great as Jerome suggests. I find it often ignores the most logical or sometimes even the fastest options. For example to get from Takapuna to New Lynn on a Monday afternoon it only suggests catching the horrid 130 bus for almost two hours but ignores the much faster option of catching a bus to town and then transferring to either another bus or a train.

It’s good to see AT talking about what’s coming up and importantly highlight that the changes are helping to give Auckland a system like found in many other cities around the world.

Overall I think AT have done a decent job with this

Although it doesn’t have quite as many cool points as this 1980’s style video that L.A. Metro has just released.

Rail Station HOP usage

Last week I looked at station boarding data which had been provided to me by Auckland Transport. The way it was provided showed the number of people that tagged on with HOP as well as the number that brought paper tickets. This allows us to work out how many people are using HOP both across the entire rail network as well as at an individual station level. The results paint a very different picture of the rail network than what the boarding data did.

The table below sets out the percentage of trips that used HOP and just to recap from last time, the data excludes fare evasion along with travel made on legacy tickets & passes, special events, group travel, incomplete HOP transactions or transfers. I’ve ranked the data by the top performing station.

HOP usage by train station

Some of the things that stand out for me in this data are:

  • The numbers bounce around a little which I suspect is due to differences in the make up of each month e.g. I suspect that commuters are probably stronger users of HOP than those who take one off weekend trips. If that’s the case then months with a higher number of weekend days would impact on the numbers.
  • There’s probably not enough data yet to be sure but there does seem to be a slight increase in the percentage of people using HOP. That’s the trend I would expect to see as the system becomes more mature and accepted amongst customers.
  • Grafton is way out at the top of the list and been there constantly. This really surprised me but then I wonder if this is the result of a lot of school kids simply not tagging on or buying a ticket at all. That might help explain why the number of people using Grafton seemed quite low compared to the numbers of people that seem to use it every day.
  • Related to the point about Grafton. December saw the percentage of people using HOP spike upwards for most stations. I wonder if there is any relation to fewer school kids using the trains then.
  • Most of the bottom 5 stations for HOP card use are all stations that had less than 10,000 boardings per month, the exception being Henderson (which had 28k in March). In many ways Henderson isn’t a surprise as it’s not uncommon to see queues of people lining up for a ticket machine.

All up the numbers show some positive signs of increases but the question is, what can be done to really get those currently without hop on to it.