I’ve talked a lot about the need for the new Auckland Transport CCO to be open, transparent and accountable about what it does – and how this will be a dramatic change from the highly secretive agency that ARTA was. There were some very positive steps towards this last week, with Auckland Transport announcing at the first meeting of their board that all future meetings will be held in public. Further to that, I had a reassurance via email that all the agenda items and minutes of the meetings would be posted on Auckland Transport’s website (something that hasn’t happened quite yet).
One area that I’m particularly looking forward to seeing some more openness and transparency about is the progress that is being made on Auckland’s integrated ticketing project. While I received something of an update on progress from Thales a few months back, there are still so many unanswered questions:
- What are the details of the “pilot project” that we’re meant to have up and running by the Rugby World Cup next year?
- What train stations are going to have fare gates in order to ensure we don’t have lost revenue once we shift away from on-train ticket sales?
- Will there be any modernisation, simplification or improvement to the current fare system?
- Will there be free transfers? (If not, why are we even bothering?)
- How long will it take for the whole project to be completed?
Another question that’s worth wondering about is “what’s the card going to be called?” There’s something of a history of calling public transport smart-cards after aquatic lifeforms, such as Hong Kong’s Octopus Card and London’s Oyster Card, San Francisco’s Clipper Card (slightly different in that it’s a ship rather than a lifeform) and Seattle’s Orca Card. Of course there’s the Snapper Card as well.
On that topic, it’s interesting to see the open, transparent and publicly accessible way in which Vancouver is going about choosing the name of its upcoming smart-card. They strongly encouraged public participation in the process of choosing the name – and have received around 45,000 entries:
To sweeten the deal, the winner (as in the person who suggests the name they end up choosing) will receive a free iPad and a year’s worth of free public transport travel.
Personally I think Auckland should go with some variation of the nautical theme. The sea has played a critical role in Auckland’s history and development, and very much shapes Auckland into the city it is. Something like the Shark Card (or a more nicely worded type of shark perhaps) would be great – because sharks eat snapper!
More seriously though, this is just another example of the advantages of being open and transparent. By the time Vancouver’s smart-card launches there will be heaps of public interest because people were engaged in the process of choosing the name, they will be interested in finding out the final result (to see if they were the winner) and there will be a growing sense of anticipation leading up to the launch of that card. Meanwhile in Auckland, who really knows what’s happening. Perhaps a name had been chosen in secret by ARTA before they disappeared, perhaps we’re not that far into the process yet, perhaps we will get the chance to voice our ideas in terms of what it should be called. Unfortunately, we just don’t know.
Which is just another reason why I’m very much looking forward to a new era of openness from the Auckland Transport CCO.