A very interesting development for public transport in Auckland happened today, with the announcement that Infratil are going to roll-out their Snapper Card onto all NZ Bus bus services. Here’s the press release:
Snapper to enter Auckland market in 2010, targets Rugby World Cup for comprehensive integrated ticketing.
Snapper – New Zealand’s leading contactless ticketing and payment system – today announced it will be widely available in the Auckland market in 2010, offering its small value payments platform across the retail sector and for most public transport journeys.
From mid 2010 some Auckland buses will progressively begin accepting Snapper cards, and the technology can readily be extended to other public transport modes before the Rugby World Cup.
This means that more than half of all Auckland commuters will be able to pay for their journey by using a Snapper card, and the company will be working to extend its coverage further.
Snapper says it would be possible to have integrated ticketing on 90% of Auckland public transport in time for the Rugby World Cup, and is willing to work closely with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to help achieve this goal.
Snapper is extending its system that has been widely successful in the Wellington and Hutt Valley region where it is used to pay for every day items such as bus fares, train tickets (from the ticket booth), coffee, lunch, dry cleaning and movies.
Miki Szikszai, CEO of Snapper says, “Snapper is a proven world class smartcard solution that has been localised for the New Zealand market. We’ve brought together the best technology in the world and New Zealand’s electronic payments and public transport systems. Aucklanders are overdue the benefits of Snapper, something that Wellingtonians have been enjoying for over a year.”
World Class Technology.
The company has worked with its key partners, including Korean Smart Card Corporation (KSCC), ANZ National and EFTPOS NZ, to deliver an integrated ticketing and payments platform to suit New Zealanders.
“KSCC is our core technology provider. The same system processes 30 million transactions every day in Seoul, South Korea, across enormous public transport and retail networks. We know it can cope with whatever the New Zealand market requires.”
Snapper has also been integrated into New Zealand’s existing electronic payment system through EFTPOS NZ. The success to date from leveraging the EFTPOS infrastructure that retailers rely on every day, provides confidence that Snapper has combined KSCC’s international best practice in card and systems security with the surety and reliability of NZ’s EFTPOS system.
Peter McLeod, MD of EFTPOS NZ says “Snapper is an exciting step towards a full cashless payment suite for New Zealanders. EFTPOS NZ has worked closely with Snapper since early 2008 getting the system up and running in Wellington. It’s great to now be able to offer this to the Auckland region and the rest of New Zealand.”
Auckland Launch Details.
Snapper’s launch in Auckland will initially involve a range of bus services including NZ Bus’s extensive fleet. These services account for most buses in the Auckland region and more than half of all public transport trips. Snapper offers the ability to provide discounted and integrated fares which operators can then implement as they choose, and use the same smartcard for small value everyday retail purchases.
“The existing ticketing system in our fleet is nearing the end of its life,” says Bruce Emson, CEO NZ Bus. “We will be in a position to deliver an electronic ticketing solution in time for the World Cup 2011.
“The existing ticketing system is 17 years old. We can wait no longer. This is about business continuity – if we do nothing, we face the risk of our system failing.
“There are obvious benefits from introducing a product we have been working with in the Wellington market. We are assured by our supplier that our ticketing system will be able to comply with NZTA’s national standard for integrated ticketing when this standard is determined,” says Mr Emson.
Miki Szikszai says, “Snapper has been a great success in Wellington and we’re truly the only open contactless payments platform operating in the New Zealand market. Entering the Auckland market now is critical to having a well-established nationwide system in time for Rugby World Cup 2011.
“We are working to a plan that will make Snapper available to all New Zealanders and visitors to New Zealand well before Rugby World Cup 2011. Snapper is the quickest and most cost effective way for Aucklanders to get a world class integrated ticketing system across buses, taxis, ferries and trains without ratepayers and taxpayers needing to pay for any of the system that supports it.
“Snapper continues to work closely with regional and central government to make sure that this happens. We are committed to developing a nationwide specification for New Zealand, and we are heavily engaged with NZTA to deliver an open national standard for Integrated Ticketing. We have no doubt that the industry can achieve this.
“As a New Zealand company we’re proud to be delivering a world class product, quickly and efficiently across the country without involving substantial ratepayer or taxpayer funding or risk.”
Basically, this is Infratil/Snapper throwing a big spanner in the works of ARTA’s integrated ticketing project – which is currently being negotiated between ARTA and French company Thales. In some respects, this is really annoying, as it potentially puts the whole idea of a single integrated ticket at risk – after all it’s unlikely that we would rip out all the Snapper machines to replace them with Thales machines after just a couple of years. So, it’s likely that we’ll be stuck with Snapper in some shape or form forever now (at least the machines, it’s possible the cards could be phased out).
Unsurprisingly, ARTA are pretty hacked off:
The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) said today that Snapper’s announcement of an integrated ticketing system for Auckland was ‘premature’.
ARTA’s Chief Executive, Fergus Gammie, said, “ARTA is currently negotiating a contract for a full multi-modal integrated ticketing system for bus, rail and ferry services in Auckland”.
Mr Gammie said, “Snapper was an unsuccessful bidder in the public tender for the Auckland ticketing system. There will be opportunities for other suppliers to be involved in Auckland’s system, these will be developed in conjunction with NZTA and the industry.
Mr Gammie stated that “All Auckland public transport operators will be required to participate in ARTA’s ticketing system. ARTA is working with all of its operators, including NZ Bus, on this matter”.
Mr Gammie said more details of the timing for Auckland’s integrated ticket would be made available shortly.
On the other hand, NZTA’s commitment to a nationwide integrated ticketing system with common standards allowing different cards to be used with different machines (much the same as how EFTPOS operates) means that the Thales system should be able to work with the Snapper system – and each user will be able to use either card for all their needs – bus, train or ferry. In that respect, this step by Snapper could actually be a good thing – in that effectively it will get the ball rolling and save ARTA/NZTA quite a bit of money that would need to be spent on putting the machines onto NZ Bus buses – as they’ll already be on them.
I am still a bit suspicious though, in that Snapper are probably designing their system so that it’s basically just a form of “e-cash”, which isn’t necessarily the best public transport solution (though it might be, I quite like the simplicity of the idea in some respects) – whereas ARTA’s plan was to work out the best system for public transport and then anything on top of that would be a bonus.
So overall for now I’m going to sit on the fence. I do think this has been a pretty smart strategic move by Snapper/Infratil, and I also think that ARTA almost deserve to have their plans stuffed up – they’ve messed around on integrated ticketing for so long it kind of serves them right. However, my concern is that Auckland gets the best ticketing system for public transport possible – and I’m not sure whether today’s developments aid that in the long-term. However, I am looking forward to faster boarding times on my bus from next year onwards.