Tomorrow the Auckland Transport board have their first public meeting of the year before and as I usually do, I’ve gone through the reports looking for what interesting information exists. The first thing that I noticed was even before getting into the reports and that was just how much was on the closed agenda vs what was on the open one. Other than the standard reports on there every meeting, the open agenda contains just a few additional papers. However on the closed session agenda there is a whole list of interesting looking topics. The items for approval/decision is
i) Half Year Report
ii) Update on draft 2014/15 AT Opex Budget
iii) Fleet purchase and funding roll forward
iv) Albany Highway
v) Mill Road
vi) Tamaki Ngapipi Intersection
viii) East West Link
ix) Northern Maintenance Contract Award
Strategy & Planning
x) Draft Parking Strategy Consultation
xi) CCTV Convergence Project
Probably the most interesting one would be the Mill Rd item which is something quite controversial to many of the locals and the last we heard of it, the design was looking like a mini motorway. In the open session business report it’s said the project is needed due to over 3,800 houses within special housing areas being along the corridor and I can only assume they are upcoming SHA’s as there hasn’t been any on that corridor so far.
On to the items that caught my attention in the business report.
Based on the report, the EMUs should now have finished the testing to ensure they will actually work on our network which is great news.
Official track testing is now well advanced and scheduled to conclude mid-February 2014. The testing of the on-board signalling system has been completed with the passenger information systems (PA announcements, and passenger information displays) remaining to conclude testing.
Four trains are now capable of mainline running and fleet kilometres during testing are in excess of 15,000. The trains continue to perform well under tests on the electrified main lines which now extend from Wiri to Newmarket and also on the Onehunga Branch Line.
Trains five, six and seven are at Wiri undergoing reassembly and tests. Trains eight and nine have left Spain and are due in New Zealand in early March.
Now we just need to wait for more to arrive and be put through their paces so that services can start on the Onehunga line. Later on the report also mentions that from Friday testing will be able to commence on the line between Newmarket and Britomart and I can’t wait to see these trains parked up in the station. It also confirms when we will see these trains on each of the lines across the network.
- Apr 2014: Onehunga Line services
- Sep 2014: Manukau via Eastern Line services
- Mar 2015: Southern Line services
- Jul 2015: Western Line services
And lastly on the date in April has been confirmed as the 28th and along with that AT will be giving many of the operations a bit of a refresh to improve the customer experience. There will also be an open day near the time of the first services starting so that the public can get a look at the trains.
As part of the improved customer experience with the new EMU services, enhanced station works will be started on the Onehunga Line stations from February 2014 in the lead-up to launch of the Onehunga EMU services on 28 April 2014. This includes improved pedestrian shelter between modes at Onehunga and Ellerslie Stations, improved customer information on station platforms, station rebranding and in line with the recommendations from the Customer Experience research undertaken in the latter half of 2013, improved wayfinding signage. Platform edge warning lighting will also be trialled. New Transdev staff uniforms are being selected for initial implementation prior to the launch of the new Onehunga Line EMU services.
City Centre Integration Group (CCIG)
There had previously been a cross council group that was intended to work together on projects along the waterfront containing Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties Limited. It appears that the various organisations have now agreed to expand the reach of that across the entire city centre. This should hopefully mean we get some more coherent development of projects happening rather than each organisation working in silos. Of interest:
Transport feasibility studies are due for completion in early 2014 for the Ferry Basin Masterplan, Fanshawe/Customs St Corridor, and Wynyard Bus Interchange
Integrated Ticketing and Fares
With integrated ticketing almost complete the focus is now going to really shift to integrated fares. In December the board agreed to investigate further two different options. They were a 5 concentric ring zonal model and 4 concentric ring zonal model + short trip fare. These are likely to be variations of these options. Analysis including pricing options and a business case are currently underway but it seems we won’t see anything implemented until the 2nd quarter of 2015, probably when the new network rolls out. I had been hoping we might see it rolled out by the end of this year. AT do say they are in the process of testing out a daily pass which will be rolled out in March based on geographic zones (most likely the same ones used for the monthly passes). The big question will end up being how they price the passes and I fear they will be priced so high that very few people would benefit from them.
The graph below shows the percentage of customers using HOP for bus journeys (up until early this month so won’t include Howick & Eastern. It appears the Birkenhead customers are increasingly using HOP however its Bayes buses that get the most HOP card usage with over 70% of people using a HOP card. I’m surprised that NZ Bus and Urban Express don’t seem to be seeing any real change.
Tamaki Dr/Ngapipi Rd intersection
Late last year AT went out to consultation on this intersection which is the worst for cycle crashes in Auckland. AT wanted to put traffic lights in however the local board were pushing for a roundabout. The exact details about the intersection are in the closed session however it’s noted in the board report that they have chosen to implement the traffic light option (which was also supported by Cycle Action Auckland).
Lastly a couple of the additional papers for this board meeting. One is about the establishment of a board committee dedicated to focusing on the customer experience.
An increasing number of customer interface initiatives are being developed and implemented. Following the model of the Capital Review Committee, the establishment of the CFC will give the opportunity for Board members to have greater visibility, input and governance oversight of these initiatives.
This seems like a good idea and I’m sure the committee will have a lot to do.
The other paper gives is the forward programme for the board showing what is coming up for them to discuss/decide on. Naturally the next few meetings are more fleshed out than those 4-5 months out. Some projects that I picked up were.
- In March the closed session will see papers on AMETI, Mill Rd, Dominion Rd, integrated fares, replacing parking ticket machines, selling the diesel trains. At the capital review committee a few weeks before three is also a paper on AT’s rail strategy.
- In April there will be closed session discussion on the seawall in the city centre, SMART (rail to the airport), Mill Rd (again), AT’s rail strategy, Papakura – Pukekohe electrification,
I’ll post about the patronage results separately.
Almost all of the major bus operators are now on HOP with only the Waiheke Bus Company (4th March) and Airporter (unannounced) left to go. I have also heard that the Airbus will change over but there is no timeframe for that yet.
With that in mind a few days ago I casually asked Auckland Transport how many people were now using HOP. Today they announced
Aucklanders are now travelling on more than 200,000 AT HOP cards.
AT HOP is a smart-card which can be used for travel on trains and ferries and it is now rolling out to buses across the region.
Auckland Transport has been progressively introducing the system across different transport modes and a multitude of operators.
AT’s chief operations officer Greg Edmonds says the 200,000 card milestone comes with 95 per cent of the roll-out – due for the end of March – completed.
Mr Edmonds says that under the second phase of the integrated ticketing programme, a new Fares Policy will be developed. This will involve a review of fare structures (e.g. stage-based, zonal, distance-based), investigation of different fare products and passes, and pricing levels.
The system was introduced on Howick and Eastern Bus services last weekend (February 16), and will be followed by services on Waiheke.
For more information call Auckland Transport on 09-3664467 or go to: www.ATHOP.co.nz
- On an average weekday some 236,000 trips are taken on public transport in the region.
- More than 3 million trips each month are made using the AT HOP card.
- On an average weekday buses in Auckland travel some 164,000 km – the equivalent of flying from Auckland to London nine times.
It’s good to hear that so many cards are now out there in the wild and knowing that all PT services are using a single card is something that will hopefully lead to quite a few more people picking one up however it does account for less than 15% of the overall Auckland population so there’s still quite some way to go yet before it’s seen as a mainstream thing. As pointed out in the comments on the post yesterday about the HOP scam warning, there are probably a heap of people out there who probably want one and AT need to make it as easy as possible to be able to get cards.
In my view AT really need to be aiming to get the card in the hands of at least four times that number of people (or more). I suspect that people seeing the card in their wallet might be something that will remind them of the PT options that are available (assuming they are decent). One area I would love AT to progress on this front is to roll out HOP to carparks around the city. It would save people having to line up at ticket machines to pay and help get the card into more people’s hands.
Of course a big thing that does need to be sorted next is to get proper integrated fares sorted out. I understand AT are working on it so hopefully it’s something we will hear more about soon.
From tomorrow we will finally move one step closer to the completion of integrated ticking with AT HOP going live on Ritchies buses and that includes the Northern Express.
That means finally the AT branded transport ticket can be used on the AT branded buses (you would have thought it would have been one of the first to change over). Here are the ticketing changes if you are a Ritchies bus user
In two weeks (16th Feb) we’ll also see it roll out to the Howick and Eastern buses.
That the Discovery Day pass will still be accepted until 1 March 2104 suggests we will see the two remaining bus companies – Waiheke Bus Company and the Airporter (different from the Airbus Express) – changed over before the end of the month.
It’s really is good that the integrated ticketing saga finally seems to be coming to an end as it seems to have been one of those projects where things have gone wrong at every turn (not all AT’s doing). After the remaining bus companies have switched over then AT can hopefully focus on getting integrated fares rolled out (hopefully this year). It would also be great if AT could then start looking at rolling out HOP to AT’s carparking buildings.
Over the next few days I’ll be doing a series of posts recapping the year before beginning the new year by looking at what we can expect in the year ahead. For me when it comes to transport, 2013 was always going to be a bit of an “in progress” year. By that I mean that a heap of projects (both PT and road) would be advanced throughout the year however there would be nothing major completed that would fundamentally change transport in Auckland – that will change in 2014. For this post, I’m just going to be recapping public transport.
Wires are now a familiar sight across much of the rail network with primarily just the Eastern Line and the inner parts of the Western Line still to be completed however this was originally meant to have been completed by September. Back in May we revealed that the project was running late and is unlikely to be fully completed till March/April with Kiwirail saying it will be all done by the time the first electric trains are running in April. Britomart and the Eastern line are the focus over the Christmas shutdown and as I was in town yesterday I popped into Britomart which was a hive of activity and flashing lights with crews and vehicles working on each track.
While the case for extending electrification to Pukekohe came out in 2012, the new development that is now expected to occur along the rail corridor thanks to the Unitary Plan is likely to help bring forward the need and justification for it. At the other extreme of the network Auckland Transport announced this year that the Waitakere station would close due to a combination of stubbornly low patronage and high costs to run a diesel shuttle service. The outcomes of two more stations – Westfield and Te Mahia – are still under review after it was suggested they would be closed too.
At Wiri the new state of the art depot to maintain our new electric trains was completed in time for the arrival of the first train.
The first of our new electric trains arrived at the end of August and staff have been busy testing it. Since then it has been joined by three others with more due to arrive soon. The trains are arriving at a rate of two every month till December when they increase to four per month. From my personal experiences of riding on them, I think they’re fantastic and people will be surprised when they first get to try the out next year.
City Rail Link
The City Rail Link perhaps provided the biggest surprise of the year when in June the government suddenly turned around and agreed that it was needed and said they would help fund half of it. This was quite a change from the position they had previously taken, especially their earlier responses including to the City Centre Future Access Study which even Ministry of Transport officials had been a part of. It is believed a large part of the reason the government had such a change of heart was that their polling was showing a lot of unhappiness amongst Aucklanders about the lack of support towards the regions preferred transport and housing solutions.
While the announcement saw the government finally support the project it doesn’t mean they agree with everything about it as the government don’t want to start the project till 2020, roughly the time the council want it finished. They have set some aggressive but potentially achievable targets for starting early. Regardless some parts of the project will actually start next year (or in 2015) following an agreement between the council and Precinct Properties (who now own the Downtown Mall) for part of the tunnel to be built when they redevelop their site. That removed potentially one of the biggest issues from the consenting process which has been proceeding fairly quietly in the background. We should hear the results of that in the new year.
We here at the blog had been getting pretty frustrated with the way the project was being sold by AT (and others). Finally in November we saw a decent effort by AT with this video.
Integrated Ticketing and Fares
Integrated ticketing has one of those projects where if something can go wrong it will, frequently stumbling from one issue to the next with deadlines frequently missed as a result. The project had already been delayed multiple times in the lead up to 2013 and this year showed no sign of that changing with more deadlines missed. This year we were told the roll-out of AT HOP to buses would be completed by the end of the year however issues with the change overs pushed that back again. Birkenhead, Urban express and NZ Bus buses have now all been converted to AT HOP and fingers crossed the rest will be complete within the first few months of 2014. It will mean that for the first time people will be able to get around the city on PT with a single ticket (which is different to a single fare).
While getting integrated ticketing is a good step, integrating fares will be one of the keys to unlocking the system and making it more usable. While it has always been mentioned that integrated fares would come sometime after integrated ticketing, many at AT had previously given off the impression that it was more of a nice to have and there had been no real push. From what I have heard there has be finally been a shift and realisation within AT that integrated fares are desperately needed, especially to support the new bus network and as such work has been going on behind the scenes on this so it should become a reality.
New Bus Network
Early in the year we saw that there was a hugely positive response to the Regional Public Transport Plan of which one of the key features was the new bus network. This enabled AT to go out to the first detailed consultation which was in South Auckland. Once again there was a overwhelmingly positive response to the proposed changes. Auckland Transport deserve a lot of credit for this result as wasn’t just that the new network was good but that AT took their time to explain the reasoning behind it. Despite consultation now being complete in the South, we won’t actually see the changes made till 2015 as AT still need to work though significant issues like contracting with the bus companies. The video below is one AT put together to help accompany the consultation and explained excellently much of what is happening.
Patronage growth was fairly stubborn throughout 2013 after a poor few years partially exaggerated by the Rugby World Cup. However there have finally been signs of improvement in the last few months, especially on the rail network. I suspect we will start to see some decent growth occurring once again in 2014.
Along with some of the big projects mentioned above, below are some of the other important things that have happened over the year:
Anything major PT wise I’ve missed? Upcoming posts will look at and recap what’s happened with road network, walking/cycling, development/planning and finally the blog itself.
By the end of this weekend we will finally be clear of one of the biggest frustrations – two different hop cards. On Saturday the Go West buses will be converted to AT HOP followed by Waka Pacific on Sunday.
Can I continue to use my purple HOP card on Go West buses?
Your purple HOP card will be replaced by the AT HOP card on 7 December 2013. You will not be able to use your purple HOP card on Go West buses from that date.
Hold onto your purple HOP Card.
As AT HOP is being progressively rolled out, some buses on your route may only accept the purple HOP card and some buses may only accept the AT HOP card for travel. For this reason, we recommend that you maintain a balance on both your purple HOP and AT HOP cards, and continue to carry them with you until Waka Pacific launches AT HOP on 8 December 2013.
The change-over of the NZ Bus buses to AT HOP was always going to be difficult but I think it was made even more so due the poor communications from Auckland Transport. With the Snapper Hop out of the picture and people no longer needing to carry two cards I think much of the confusion and frustration will be resolved.
Usually when you get yourself into a hole the best thing to do is to stop digging, and that is how I often feel I think about the rollout of AT HOP which among plenty of other things has been plagued by poor communication. The latest comes in an interview with the Greg Edmonds who is the Chief Operating Officer of AT and was part of a Radio NZ piece that I also talked on.
Or listen here.
First up I do agree that from a technical level the rollout so far to Metrolink has probably been smooth in that the machines have worked. It’s the customer side of things that has been left wanting due to poor information including not even giving an indication as to while routes are most likely to be using which card. But it was the next part that caught my attention (and others). Here is the transcript about that part of the interview.
I think in anything with this level of complexity there will be some people that read the information thoroughly, there are others that glance over it and sometimes when they glance over it they may miss things and so the ambassadors are there reinforce and I think overall yep there’s been some genuine concerns about the information but overall we’ve done a pretty good job of it.
So the confusion is caused by people glancing over the information. Well it’s no surprise when it looks like this.
How many people are really going to read all of this?
At least it isn’t as bad as this comment from AT last week
Asked how long the freebies would continue, she said: “I can’t say, but it is very brief – that’s about to disappear, so get with the programme.”
Yesterday we also had this piece from the Herald on Sunday
Commuters who have less than $10 left on their cards will be unable to transfer the money to the new Auckland Transport Hop cards without jumping through complicated hoops – meaning Snapper will be able to quietly pocket their money.
The minimum transfer on to an AT Hop card is $10. So if the Snapper card balance is below $10, users must either top up the purple card to more than $10 and transfer that to the AT Hop card, spend the balance at one of the 150 Snapper-affiliated businesses in Auckland – or let Snapper keep their money.
Snapper chief executive Miki Szikszai blamed the problem on Auckland Transport. “The $10 limit is AT policy, not Snapper.”
There was no time limit on when the Snapper Hop cardholders could use any leftover balance, Szikszai said. They would not be giving cardholders their money back.
When pressed on why not, he said: “We’re actually not able to, due to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.” He would not elaborate.
Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said the $10 policy was created by the former Auckland Regional Transport Authority, which was in charge of transport in Auckland before the Super City amalgamation.
“It was in the original terms and conditions of the purple Hop card.” She said it was easy to transfer the money.
Now I am aware that there were some bad decisions made about the HOP system from ARTA days that are still causing AT headaches today but to suggest that they can’t change the $10 minimum top-up policy seems absurd, especially considering that ARTA haven’t existed for three years.
In the end I think the real problem with all of the HOP change over comes down to a few key messages that often contradict each other. They are:
- Run down your balance because there are no refunds (page 2 of the brochure)
- But hold on to your card and keep it topped up as some buses will still use it – and we won’t tell you exactly which ones.
- It’s easy to transfer the money off the card – but we won’t make it easy by telling you the best way to do that
If it is easy to transfer balances like AT claim then it would have been so much easier for everyone if AT had just said “We know it’s a challenging time so keep your old card topped up and once the changeover is complete you can easily transfer your balance by doing …..”
At the end of the day I think the Herald on Sunday editorial sums up the real loser in all of this which is the perception of public transport when they ask:
Who would dare hop on an Auckland bus?
My biggest fear is that this has the potential to set back the use of PT in a big way and if that happens, it will take a while for people to have confidence in the system once again. It’s time for AT to stop digging and start building that trust.
Without exception, everyone who I have spoken to about the rollout of the AT Hop card on buses over the past few months has said it has been managed disastrously. Perhaps most damning of all is the rollout onto Metrolink services which isn’t being done in one single go – but rather split messily into two stages: the first being today and the second being on November 24th in two weeks time.
From today it seems that all Link services (City Link, Inner Link and Outer Link) buses switch over to AT Hop. In addition to those services some other Metrolink buses will switch too. This is outlined below:
As Auckland Transport have made it nearly impossible to get refunds on balance from the current “Purple Hop” card, knowing when your service is going to switch over from one card to another is pretty important – hence our frustration over the past week that Auckland Transport has consistently refused to provide any further clarification around which Metrolink services will actually be switching over today and which won’t switch over until November 24th. For many people, keeping a balance on both cards and not knowing whether the money you keep on your Purple Card will be used or not (or whether it will effectively be gifted to Infratil who own Snapper whose technology sits behind the Purple Card) is a completely unacceptable situation.
To step into the gap and cover Auckland Transport’s complete uselessness on this issue, helpfully quite a few people seem to have done their own investigative work to provide a bit of further clarification about which Metrolink services do change today and which don’t change for another two weeks:
Routes changing over to ATHOP on November 10:
All LINK routes, 005 020 030 (Western Bays), 010 (Wynyard-Onehunga crosstown), 011 (St Lukes shopper), 283 (Hospitals), 703 (Hobson Bay), 767-769, 770-771 (*some* of the Tamaki Drive services, and St Heliers to Newmarket)
Routes remaining 100% Snapper-HOP between November 10 and November 24:
258-267 (Dominion Rd), 274-277 (Mt Eden Rd), 299 (Waikowhai), 233-249 (Sandringham Rd) (looks like Roskill Depot does no changeovers)
All other routes may operate with a mixture of Snapper-HOP and AT-HOP on a bus-by-bus basis.
It makes sense that many of the routes likely to be used by those who also use the Link services (e.g. 030 and 005 buses) will be switching over today. It seems as though the changeover is being done on a “depot by depot” basis.
I still struggle to understand why it has been so difficult for Auckland Transport to provide this level of clarification over the past week. They could have even noted that it was just a rough guide and there may be random other buses – any further information would have been useful. Sadly their disdain for the customer throughout the whole HOP changeover and the messiness of the transition has probably been a significant contributor to the downturn in bus patronage over the past few months and is likely to continue to impact on patronage through till March next year – which sounds like the date when integrated ticketing will finally be completed.
I have also heard unofficially that the remaining bus migrations to HOP are:
Go West – 7th December
Waka Pacific – 8th December
Ritchies – 2nd February
Howick and Eastern – 16 February
Waiheke Buses – 2nd March
The changeover of NZ Bus buses to HOP has long been expected to be an issue – primarily due to the confusion of having two different cards both called HOP – and it hasn’t taken long for issues to start to emerge.
Central Auckland bus passengers are having to carry two smartcards – both confusingly called Hop – to guarantee cash-free travel for the next few weeks.
Auckland Transport says that passengers travelling on central routes should keep carrying the purple Snapper Hop card introduced in 2011 by NZ Bus, as well as its own new dark-blue AT Hop card, during a transition between separate ticketing systems.
That is because some North Star buses, which are operated by NZ Bus from North Shore and were switched from Snapper to Auckland Transport’s new $100 million AT Hop system last week, are also being used at odd hours to make up numbers on central city runs – causing confusion and inconvenience to passengers not armed with both cards.
Westmere resident Richard Dale is unhappy at being kicked off a bus after heading to the city on a Snapper Hop card but being asked to produce an AT Hop for a return trip three hours later on the same 020 route via Richmond Rd.
“The driver refused to let me on with my Snapper card and, because I didn’t have any cash, kicked me off,” he said.
From memory we had exactly the same problem when the current Snapper system was rolled out and only gets more confusing as the system is rolled out to locations where there are some buses on some routes with the old system and some on the new system. This is primarily on routes where some of the buses are of one brand (e.g. waka pacific) that need to travel through an area that is served by other buses (e.g. metrolink buses.)
The good news is that at the AT Board meeting the other day it was mentioned that AT had come to an agreement with NZ Bus to minimise the use of buses branded from one area on routes usually run with different brands i.e. running a Northstar bus on an isthmus route.
The next NZ Bus brands to change will be Link and Metrolink buses. AT have just announced the dates those buses will change being the 10th and 24th of November. However this time far from reducing it, AT are taking things to a whole other level of confusion as only some of the Metrolink buses will swap over in the next change with the rest happening two weeks later.
At least at the moment if you are standing on the side of the road and you can see a Northstar bus you are able to tell if you need a Snapper HOP or an AT HOP card. However in the two weeks in between the swap-overs for Metrolink there will be little to highlight just what you will need until the bus doors open. As such AT is now saying that people should hold on to their old snapper cards until the changeover has been completed. That means potentially needing to have two separate cards each with money stored on them just in case the bus that turns up doesn’t have the right system. It makes you wonder if anyone at any point in time sat down and thought what customers would think of such a process. I also wonder if they have thought through what happens at the other end of the process from telling everyone they now need to keep two cards topped up because they also say this:
So let me get this clear, because AT aren’t swapping all of the Metrolink buses over at the same time they tell now need to tell people that they should keep their old Snapper HOP card topped up just in case the bus that turns up doesn’t have the right equipment. After the changeover, if you have extra money on the old snapper card – because AT told you to do so – it can’t be refunded and can instead you have to go to one of the few retailers scattered around the region that can transfer the balance. I can see a lot of complaints coming from this process in about a month.
It is also a bit odd that Metrolink has been split up as back in 2011 when the link and Metrolink fleets were rolled on to snapper they were done over a single weekend. Another point worth noting is that NZ Bus/Snapper managed to get the current system rolled out to all buses en the NZ Bus fleet over roughly a one month period. They rolled out to Northstar in late May, two weeks later they converted the Go West and Waka Pacific fleets and then two weeks after that the Link and Metrolink buses. I understand AT want to get the Go West and Waka Pacific fleets changed before Christmas so by comparison it is probably taking about two months for AT to do the same thing. Based on what we have seen so far it would seem that despite the other issues we had with the company around the whole HOP debacle, that Snapper at least managed get some their system rolled out to buses with fairly minimal overall hassle.
Still at least we’re finally getting the system rolled out to some more buses, even if it is months late. I so can’t wait for the project to be finished and we have all buses on a single system.
Ferry users may have noticed that HOP gates have started going in at the Downtown Ferry terminal and once in place will be used instead of the the HOP tag posts. My understanding is the plan was always was to install HOP gates as part of the rollout so this isn’t anything new or surprising. What I did find interesting though was that the gates are a different style to those found at Britomart and Newmarket with the gates swinging out of the way other than folding up.
Before anyone asks about what is happening with other stations. My understanding is that gates are also planned for Manukau once the MIT campus has been completed and that AT are already investigating what other stations they might be needed at with New Lynn probably the next station on the list. I’m not sure when we will find out any more detail although AT have been saying in past board reports that it might not be too far away.
We mentioned this briefly the other day but Auckland Transport has finally announced that the roll out of AT HOP to buses will begin again this Sunday. The disappointing news is that the roll out to all buses now won’t be completed until March next year.
Auckland Transport said today that the roll-out of AT HOP onto bus services will recommence on 13 October with North Star. The roll-out was briefly delayed due to an intermittent technical issue on tag off devices found on Birkenhead Transport buses and issues with Wi-Fi connections in the Birkenhead area.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Edmonds says the organisation’s technology provider, Thales, has identified the problem and tested the solution. “We are now ready to recommence the roll-out”.
The North Star roll-out is planned to be followed by Metrolink, the LINK services, Go West and Waka Pacific from October through until December. The rollout post-Christmas is targeted at Bayes Coachlines early in the New Year followed by Ritchies, Northern Express, Waiheke buses, AT Airporter and Howick & Eastern buses over February and March. Auckland Transport will confirm timings to customers nearer the time for each bus operator.
“The phased approach Auckland Transport has chosen for the roll-out of AT HOP is international best practice in terms of the technological magnitude and scale of integrated ticketing projects. Phasing at this last stage of implementation of the project is a prudent approach and ensures no changes for customers over the busy Christmas period,” says Mr Edmonds.
Mr Edmonds also says that following discussions with customers and key stakeholders on the North Shore, the Northern Pass (including the Northern Pass tertiary products) and the Bayswater/Devonport Pass will be retained until the last bus operator on the North Shore goes live with AT HOP. On bus North Star sales of the Northern Pass will cease on 13 October. Passes can be purchased at retail outlets and at Northern Busway stations.
“This provides a longer transition period to AT HOP for customers of these products, particularly tertiary students. This means the transition period for tertiary students on the North Shore is now beyond this academic year. We are targeting these passes to be phased out in February 2014”, says Mr Edmonds.
The strategic and customer focus for AT HOP provides for simpler fare payment for public transport through the one card across all public transport services. It is one card for all travel across bus, rail and ferry services. As part of the AT HOP rollout, Auckland Transport is looking to align fare prices and discounts across all users across the region, removing historic price anomalies creating one price for all and achieving equity of fare prices for everyone.
Mr Edmonds says, “Currently the region has more than 100 existing fare types and prices, the majority of which can only be used on one operator. Some ticket types that are exclusive to individual operators or geographic locality will be replaced with AT HOP. AT HOP will offer all users at least ten per cent discount off single trip cash fares. AT HOP also offers consistent further discounts for child, student, tertiary, accessible and Super Gold users. AT HOP lays the technology platform across all operators for regional improvements to the public transport fare and ticketing system in Auckland”.
How many delays and slippages is the tally up to now? It is certainly up there. The original contract with Thales was signed back in December 2009 and at one stage I remember reading that the project was due to be “substantially completed” by the time of the Rugby World Cup which was two years ago.
Somehow I have a feeling that this won’t be the last problem we encounter with HOP but I sure hope I’m wrong.