It’s odd that one would find out this incredibly important piece of news from a Computer Magazine, but that has been the case here. As I had hoped for when posting on the subject a few days ago, Thales have been awarded the contract for Auckland’s integrated ticketing system. Unless things fall over completely, the prospect of having the bizarre situation of Infratil running the ticketing system and most of the buses (but not all of them, and not the trains either) has been averted. And that is good news. A few bits and pieces from the article:

A consortium led by French company Thales, long rumoured to have won a tender to supply Auckland’s integrated ticketing system, has finally been named by the Auckland Regional Transport Authority as its preferred provider.ARTA will now enter negotiations with the Thales group to deliver the project before going to the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA), which will help fund the project. The other companies that tendered for the deal are not entirely out of the picture, however, as final negotiations could still fail bringing an Infratil-led consortium and another led by Downer EDI back into the picture, warns ARTA’s CEO, Fergus Gammie.

One would hope that it’s very unlikely that the final negotiations fail. And now for the frustrating news:

ARTA is aiming to go to NZTA in September. That would mean the project, which has been in the planning and evaluation stages for three years at least, will be running nearly a year behind its original schedule.

Seriously, this project has taken utterly forever. But at least it’s finally happening I suppose.

NZTA’s approach to the national system is to have one central clearing house for regional systems such as Auckland’s. It wants to use open standards and interfaces and alternative funding and financing options to help make both the national and regional systems a reality.The Auckland tender process will be used to deliver that, it says in a statement released today.

“This approach will provide for a core centralised system that allows for multiple technologies and electronic ticket providers to connect to the central system provided they meet the technical standards defined by the NZTA,” the statement says.

“The approach will also provide the potential for individual public transport operators to decide which electronic ticketing or smart card system best meets their business needs. The focus will be on determining the standards while maintaining options, choice and competitive tensions to ensure value for money and improvements in the effectiveness of public transport services in New Zealand.”

This is most excellent news for Auckland’s transport future. Now we just need to get NZTA to stump up with the required money (which should hopefully just be a formality) and then we’ll finally be able to progress with this project. I wonder how long it’ll take to roll out? Fully operational by the 2011 Rugby World Cup I hope.

Some more information on NZTA’s review of the tendering process is here. And an article about Infratil accepting the decision here.

Update: The ARTA press release is here. Of interest:

“Boarding times will be faster for our customers because fares won’t have to be collected. The ticket will be a swipe on/ swipe off system. Faster boarding times will mean ARTA has the potential to put on more frequent services. Having a smartcard means ease of transfer for commuters between different bus operators, train and ferry services.

“An integrated ticketing system also has the potential to offer some very attractive fare reductions in comparison to cash purchase of tickets.

“The system will include automated gates, smartcard readers onboard buses and ferries, smartcard reload devices at selected rail and bus stations and ferry wharves, and the supply of all computer hardware, software, networks and communications”.

Mr Rabindran says the system will be similar to London’s Oyster system and Hong Kong’s Octopus system. Like Oyster, ARTA plans to initially implement core functions and progressively phase in additional functionality.

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22 comments

  1. I wonder if it would be cheaper and more efficient if there was a maximum cap of, say, $50 a week that your Orca Card would cost you in public transport. It would be attractive for new customers, easy to understand and cover all your public transport needs for that week (and it doesn’t lock you in for too long either). If we can have flat rate internet access, flat rate local calling, whh not flat rate public transport?
    ARTA could then become (similarly to Pharmac) the bulk purchaser of public transport, collecting the $50 card fares and distributing the loot to the bus/train/ferry companies that you swipe the card with.

  2. $50 cap would favour ferry riders (are they included in this?), good point about the rugby world cup Jarbury I hadn’t thought about, e-mail ARTA about making it a big part of their submission maybe..? Gotta get Rugby Cupitis working for us, so many stupid projects getting approved…

  3. I get the assumption that Auckland newspapers don’t want to talk about integrated ticketing. I found you last article on the ticketing issue on pg C6 of the Dompost (not a well read part of the newspaper). I wonder if the people of Auckland really understand the importance of the ticketing scheme to making public transport work?

  4. Nothing in the print version of the NZ Herald today about this important announcement that I can find. Pretty pathetic really.

  5. $50 cap would favour ferry riders (are they included in this?)
    Of course they should be. Integrated ticketing should cover all zones, all transport modes, all times and all passengers or you can’t call it integrated.

  6. Yes ferries would have to be included. Waiheke would end up in some zone or another. In the end I don’t think there’s any particularly justifiable reason why Waiheke shouldn’t be part of what’s covered by an All zones pass.

  7. Especially since Waiheke Islander will be expected to foot the Auckland Council rates bill (including ARTA levies), as tehy are already doing now.
    The boundaries for the integrated ticketing system should be the new Auckland City limit when the supercity thing goes through. That would sharpen the minds of people (such as in Franklin, Papakura and Rodney) who want to stay out of the supercity, but would want to benefit from the transport subsidies.

  8. Of course. Unless you guys want to become a fully independent unitary authority – like apparently a few disgruntled Waiheke residents were going on about at the super-city hearings.

  9. Yes, that would be a preferred option for many Waihekeans but since we don’t reach the 10,000 residents threshold for a unitary independent authority it is not an option in the short term. Be most welcome to up the numbers by moving here.

  10. I have some experience of the Oyster card system and acknowledge there are significant benefits from having such a system but I think there is also a down-side. It’s expensive for passengers. Operators (the one’s who set prices) are able to quietly increase fares or have a fare structure that has expensive singles for occasional users. In London the paper tickets are now stupidly expensive, effectively a penalty for not having an Oyster card, and a single trip using an Oyster card is not that cheap either.

  11. 90p for a bus trip anywhere in London is pretty good I reckon. 1.50 for a zone 1 underground trip is a little on the high side, but seriously everything in London is damn expensive from my recollection! It’s a good question to ask why the London Underground is so expensive – perhaps all those staff standing on the platforms shouting instructions at peak time. Are they all really necessary?

  12. Zone 1 is now 1.60… and you didn’t even notice… see what I mean about fare creep! Bus is now 1.00… still good value but damned if I can figure out how to get around London by bus. Zone 1 paper ticket 4.00!! (zone 1-6 paper is also 4.00) I could be wrong about this but I seem to remember that when Oyster was introduced the Oyster fares were a significant discount on existing paper fares (1.00 for zone 1 I think). Since then both the paper ticket and the Oyster fare have increased significantly.

  13. I didn’t notice because I haven’t been in London since June last year 😀

    Yes the paper fare cost of the Underground is horrific. Do you think the fares are deliberately high to act as a kind of demand suppressor? To avoid even more overcrowding…

  14. Yes, I think they call it demand management. Peak vs. off-peak fares are very different. Differences in prices at different times of the day are even more pronounced on trains around the UK. Also the availability of discounted advance purchased tickets on trains varies (has reduced over time I suspect).

    However, I sometimes think demand management is used as an excuse to put up prices. The real motivation is to maximize the amount of money collected (whether to cover costs or maximize profit). I would argue that this is the real motive for private operators (as with the train franchises in the UK) and publicly owned operators to a certain extent.

    I would have thought that overcrowding acts as it’s own demand suppressor without needing to put up prices (as with motorways).

  15. I remember reading quite an interesting book on the London Underground, and it said that a real problem over the past few decades has been the increasing proportion of the workforce in “white collar” office jobs. These jobs generally have a much more standardised working hours than factory jobs, which is more often shift work. This had meant that the peak hour demand on the Underground was comparatively higher than in the past, but off-peak it was quieter – not a very good trend if you’re trying to operate an efficient system.

    In the last 10 or so years though tourists and other travelers have used the Underground more during off-peak hours though, so that has counterbalanced that trend quite well. In an ideal world it would be nice to have a steady level of demand throughout the day, rather than the peaks and troughs where you either need to provide far more capacity than you’ll need 85% of the time (very very expensive) or you end up with chronic overcrowding during peak hour.

  16. Can’t include Waiheke in a $50 dollar a week cap, it would cause Fullers to immeaditely dis-continue the service or explode subsidies…

    As an aside can anyone explain why the ferry to Waiheke takes 35 mins and cost $28 Adult return and the ferry to Half Moon Bay takes 35 mins and costs $13 odd Adult return..? Could it be because Waiheke Islanders have no other options..?

  17. @Jezza: the Half Moon Bay return fare is $13.40, the return to Waiheke $32. The “difference” (if you can call it that because the Waiheke route is not a market fare but a monopoly fare) is due to ARC subsidies to Fullers for the run (reduced last year because Fuller’s bluff was called by ARTA and had to settle for a lower subsidy).
    Fuller refuses a subsidy for the Waiheke run (while claiming poverty) because it would come with strings attached such as standard service delivery, fare ceilings and sharing wharf space to any competitor, handing in the route as a private run and open it up to competition.
    The $50 cap would work well for Waiheke too, currently a monthly pass is $315 but that also includes an all zones Stagecoach bus pass on the mainland and the bus service on Waiheke. The cap would attract far more custom for Fullers too!

    Feel free to check out Fullerswatch website for more details: http://fullerswatch.blogspot.com

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