We are still yet to hear anything much from ARTA about the progress of integrated ticketing, aside from a rather bizarre press release from NZTA a few weeks back that some agreement had been reached on a technical standard. Big questions like whether we will have zoned based ticketing, whether we’ll have free transfers, whether we’ll have time-based ticketing and so forth remain unknown for now, although hopefully ARTA will decide at some point in the near future to share their grand plans for integrated ticketing with the rest of the world.
However, tonight at the monthly Campaign for Better Transport meeting, a couple of people from Thales, the contractor who is implementing the smartcard integrated ticketing system presented a progress report on what they’re doing, gave us a bit of an idea about what we can expect from the system and also gave us an idea about the timing of how the system will roll out. I can’t remember every detail of what they said, but here are a few key points that I do remember:
- The ticketing system, in terms of the actual card and how it works will be very similar to overseas cards like London’s Oyster Card and Hong Kong’s Octopus Card.
- There will be a range of different “products” that can be loaded onto a card – stored value, monthly passes, weekly passes and so forth. ARTA will determine the final range of products – Thales’s job is simply to implement it.
- There will be “tag-on” and “tag-off” at each railway station and ferry terminal and on each bus. The Thales equipment is being installed for train stations and ferry terminals, while on buses it could be different equipment but will obviously have to understand and recognise the Thales card.
- Britomart and Newmarket are to be the only train stations with ticket “gates”. The gates at Britomart will be at the top level (obviously there will be gates at the eastern end too).
- Other train stations will have “tag posts”. You will need to make sure you’re tagged on by the time you get on the train as there will be ticket checkers who can read your card and tell whether you’ve tagged on or not.
- Buses will have two tag points at the front entrance, so even if someone is holding up the bus by digging through their bag for change you’ll be able to bypass them on the right side of the bus entrance.
- Each reader will display how much money (or how many trips etc.) you have left on your card when you tag on/off.
- You will have the option to register your card, which means that you will be able to link it up with your bank account and if you choose, have your card be automatically topped up by a certain amount once it gets below $10 (or once your monthly pass runs out it will be automatically renewed etc.)
- By August next year there will be a ‘limited functionality pilot’ operating, which means that the system will be up and running in some form on some trains, buses and ferries. I think the goal is to have the rail system operable by the time of the Rugby World Cup.
- Full operation is likely by mid 2012.
Overall, it all sounds really great. Thales clearly know what they’re doing (as they have done this many times before) and are delivering a world-class quality product for Auckland. It is pretty exciting to think that in less than two years time we’re finally going to have our version of an Oyster Card.
There is still the issue of what fare products will be available, whether we’ll have free transfers, zone based ticketing, time based ticketing and so forth. Whatever fare options exist, the Thales system will be able to handle it. I just really hope that ARTA sorts out the fare policy in a good way that makes it far easier for people to transfer between services. We wouldn’t want all this great work in creating the integrated ticketing system to be somewhat wasted by not updating our fare system and bringing that into the 21st century too.