At yesterday’s Transport Committee meeting perhaps one of the most interesting things we learned was through a presentation by Fergus Gammie from Auckland Transport on what progress is being made on the integrated ticketing project. There have been a number of media releases to do with this project in the past that have told us next to nothing about the details of this project – so it was good to finally get a few answers to the questions I have. However, as seems to be the case with this project, each answer I get just raises a bunch more questions and I still have grave concerns about the way in which it’s being rolled out.

But anyway, the whole presentation can be viewed here.

As is generally known, integrated ticketing will bring together the myriad of fare and ticketing products around the Auckland Region into one transferable ticketing system. You will be able to use your bus pass on the train, you will be able to use your bus pass on any bus – no matter what company operates it. (Well, that’s the promise at least). The change that will make it shown in the diagram below (from the presentation). I have looked very closely at the ticket in the map on the right and I see no sign of the word “Hop“. That’s a good thing!

One thing that integrated ticketing will clearly do is simplify the huge current number of ticketing options and different fares. It remains to be seen at what point rail fares will be changed to match bus fares – but I assume that is an inevitability (and fair enough too). The simplification of fares into four basic fare options is shown below:

I must say I find myself a bit confused by some of the decisions that have been made to come up with these options. Why is there no day pass? Why is there no weekly pass? Why do we still need a multi-journey option? It would be nice to hear about the justification and reasoning behind some of the decisions that seem to have been made on the future form of our fare system. Personally, I actually think it’s pretty disgraceful that there’s been absolutely no public consultation and participation in this process.

The project also misses a huge opportunity by keeping the current stage fare system – at least in the short term. Surely the whole point of the integrated ticketing system is to enable a new fare system that makes it easier for people to transfer between services and does not penalise them for using two buses to make the same trip that might be possible on one bus – if only there were a direct service. It was interesting to note that Mr Gammie said they are working towards a zone based fare system – but why not as part of this process? It seems utterly mental to create a detailed new smart-card ticketing system based around a fare structure that you have no plans on keeping in the longer term.

Looking at the details of the fare options – there are some positives and negatives.

I like the fact that the stored value system will involve a daily cap. This may get around the annoyance of not offering day-passes – although I think for tourists the day/week pass is something that is still essential to provide. On the down-side, I still don’t see the point of retaining the “pre-paid trips” option. It just seems to add unnecessary complication to the system. If you have stored value with the same level of discount you get from the “PPT” option, why would you want to limit yourself to only being able to use your pass for trips of a particular length? The only reason I used multi-journey for many years is that I didn’t know stored value existed! The only reason many students use multi-journeys is because for some bizarre reason the 40% Tertiary discount is only available on multi-journey tickets. Give Tertiary Students the same discount for Stored Value instead, and they’d flock to that like crazy.

Turning to the technology that’s going to make this all happen, on the buses there will be equipment at the front and back doors for people to “tag on” and “tag off”. You will have to tag off to ensure you don’t get charged for the maximum length of that trip. As my local 004 bus doesn’t go any further than one stage – technically I’d be fine to never tag off. For most other people it will be something they have to do, and I can see this being problematic with a mass of people wanting to exit the bus all at the same time. More detail is below: It’s odd that only Newmarket and Britomart will have ticket gates. I had always thought New Lynn would get them as well – particularly as the station seemed to be designed with that in mind (unlike Britomart). I assume the fare gates and tag-posts will mean train tickets are no longer sold on board our trains, but instead we will have ticketing machines at all stations. After all, if we’re not selling tickets on the train we need to make sure people are able to buy them easily elsewhere!

One final part of the brief presentation raised a lot of eyebrows and questions amongst the councillors on the committee – as it relates to the timeframe for implementing the project: Stage one is basically the rollout of Snapper onto NZ Bus buses – as per last week’s announcement. As the ticket will only be able to be used on NZ Bus buses (hopefully all different brands of NZ Bus buses at the same time!) it really has nothing to do with the integrated part of this project. At least it should mean faster boarding times I suppose. The second part is for the Rugby World Cup, and visitors will be offered with cards (I assume daily and weekly passes) that can be used for unlimited travel on all transport modes. From December next year onwards we will finally see the “proper” rollout of integrated ticketing – although once again only on the existing fare network. It remains to be seen at what stage of this process we actually start trying to really improve things by instituting the zone based fare system that was talked about a bit during the presentation by Mr Gammie.

Transport Committee chairman Mike Lee asked the question that was on everyone’s lips – how would the new ‘integrated’ card work with the Snapper Card. Essentially the answer was that the future card (whether or not it’s called the “Hop” remains to be seen) will be the main card that gets marketed and promoted. Other card operators – such as Snapper – can get involved, but the brand for the system will always be “Hop” (or whatever other name Auckland Transport’s marketing gurus foist upon us). An analogy with London’s ticketing system was used, where the brand is clearly the “Oyster Card”, but other providers – such as a Barclay’s Bank card which can be used as a contactless smartcard – can also tap into the system. I will be curious to see how that works out here.

Overall, while it’s certainly good that we’re finally being drip-fed some information about progress on the integrated ticketing project, there are still so many fundamental flaws with the way things are happening I find myself unable to not be worried about it. I still think Auckland Transport is trying to solve the problem backwards: figuring out the technical details before figuring out how a simplified zone-based fare system will work. Integrated ticketing is set up to work with zone-based systems: enabling free transfers. Smart-card systems are simply not set up to work with the current mess our fares are.

If zone based fares will cost a bit more, due to ‘revenue leakage’, then I’m sure we can find that money somewhere within the $300 million to be spent on new roads (excluding state highways) to be built over the next 8 months – most of them seemingly to support urban sprawl in places like Flat Bush.

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  1. It is not “mental” to keep the fares relatively unchanged in the short term. It is far lower risk, which is what we really want in a short timeframe delivery that we’re so keen on. Why don’t we let them get the tech in place first, then the fare structure can be tinkered/consulted-on to ours and their hearts content without major disruption to operators and passengers.

    Its called “de-coupling” unnecessarily risky parts of the project – perhaps you’ve heard of it?

    1. The problem is that you then have to design the technology to handle all the current fare products which costs more in development and testing. You then have to do it all again in a few years time for the new structure and have to deal with issues that may arise as a result i.e. what if a card or reader doesn’t get the update and doesn’t work etc.

    2. As Matt says, failing to simplify the ticketing system before embarking on the “technical side” is a recipe for disaster as you make life incredibly difficult for yourself. This is the problem that prevented integrated ticketing from working in Sydney – the commitment to retain all current fare options just made the whole process technically impossible and it fell over after spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

      We wouldn’t want the same mistakes to be made in Auckland, but it appears that we are doing just that.

  2. They are effectively rolling out a zonal system as part of the monthly pass, presumably with only 3 zones as that’s how many NZ bus has (old Auckland City, the remainder of Auckland and all zones), so I don’t see any reason why they can’t massively simplify the fare system by just using those zones as the basis for single trip, daily and weekly passes.

  3. I happened to be speaking to a Australian supply chain expert who is currently very high up in the AUD40 million fibre cable roll out and his view is that this kind of project, integrated ticketing, will have to be done twice. The first time well placed vested interests will sabotage it and it won’t work. It will then take time for the real authorities to see that the heads of their pets do have to be banged together before it gets done properly. Five years he said. Cynical but probably accurate.

  4. The more I read this, the more it seems like there is no intention of making the ferries part of the integrated fares system. Why? If Fullers are being difficult, AT should be difficult and not allow them to be part of the smart card system, and stop subsidising them.

  5. The ferry services do seem to be largely left out of it. All the while we already have an “integrated” ticket for Fullers Waiheke ferry / NZ Bus / H&E Bus / Waiheke Bus Co. It should be simple to expand this to Ritchies and trains. Preferably at a lower capped price of $250 a month than current. Any exclusion of services, routes and Auckland Council areas means it won’t be integrated!

    The Supergold card is already a fully integrated PT ticket (albeit only after 9am). Why can’t we all have one like that?

  6. They need more ticketing gates than that! Moneys no problem: the cost of a set of gates would pay itself off by preventing fare evaders!

  7. Yes you would have thought the CBD ferry terminal would be a good spot for gates, as (almost?) every trip has it as an origin or destination.

  8. It seems that AT are working backwards towards any “solution” that does not increase their subsidies to bus and ferry providers. These half-baked measures make more sense when one considers that these very operators scream that any change to the the current fare system will drive them all into penury – and that AT (and ARTA before them) have neither the stomach nor the research to counter these claims. If there is a way to make a profitable system of competing, private operators work within a model of regional transport provision that actually encourages greater patronage instead of profits, AT are still light years away from seeing it. This whole process is like watching a 3 Stooges pie fight.

    1. If the Minister of Trucks were to indicate his support for AT exercising their powers under the PTMA things might be different. The power to regulate is there, and when even Rodders is a fan of those powers they’re there to be used.

  9. Call my cynical but they seem to have designed this to be as awkward and expensive as possible with a little benefits as possible.
    Why can’t they just do it properly, rather than a dogs breakfast?

  10. It looks like they’re setting themselves up for the same problems as Melbourne’s Myki. Why can’t they learn?

    Patrick, if your scenario is right, it will be at least ten, probably a generation before it is done properly again. Getting things wrong seems to make it _less_ likely that the problems are fixed.

  11. “An analogy with London’s ticketing system was used, where the brand is clearly the “Oyster Card”, but other providers – such as a Barclay’s Bank card which can be used as a contactless smartcard – can also tap into the system’

    What a load of nonsense. Barclays onepulse card does not ‘tap into the system’. It’s simply a credit card with the oyster card RF card embedded, so you can carry one less piece of plastic in you wallet.

    They operate completely independently, there is no tie in between your credit card account and your oyster account. You can keep using it as an oyster card long after the credit card has expired and you if you use pre-pay auto-top-up you can link the oyster card to any account you like using the usual oyster website.

    I fail to see why NZ Bus would do anything remotely analogous with snapper, are there going to be public transport options where snapper works that ‘hop’ doesn’t, and thus it would be convenient to have one card that does both? Or perhaps it’s more the cashless contactless payment card aspect? If nz bus roll that out in lots of shops it would be convenient to have their stored value cash card and a hop card all in one… but it makes far more sense to combine the cash card with your bank card as barclaycard have done.

    TFL shelved there plans to allow oyster to be used as a stored value cash card, and barclays came out with this card instead which debits the credit card and not the oystercard.

  12. Regarding consultation: I remember answering a survey (put out under From Go to Whoa, I think?) which did actually ask a fair few questions about types of tickets, including day and week passes, and which ones the respondent would most likely use and why.

    Of course From Go to Whoa is pretty much a self-selecting sample of people like myself who bothered to register, but it’s something.

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