A very important milestone was achieved last week, the Airbus Express buses went live on AT HOP. That means that every public bus, train or ferry service in Auckland can now be boarded and paid for using the same smart card. It’s a milestone that’s been dreamed about for decades and one that has a lot of false starts along the way. While the current implementation has certainly had some issues along the way since. Examples include fare evasion on trains, the removal of passes, money collected from penalty fares and of course the numerous issues with snapper but it does seem like the worst of the issues are now behind us.
On a positive note I’m also already hearing stories of how the change is benefiting people. For example people waiting along Gt North Rd have started realising that they no longer have to wait for a specific service or bus company to get to town but can get just the next one that comes along. Personally I’ve already found it much easier to catch different types of services including combining bus and train trips. After all these types of scenarios are really some of the key reasons for introducing integrated ticketing in the first place.
With the ticketing system in place it also means that Auckland Transport should now be able to focus some of their attention to the actual fare system and in their latest board report they say:
- Testing of a new AT HOP Day Pass is underway for targeted introduction by April 2014 across bus, rail and ferry. The pass will offer greater flexibility through three separate geographic zones compared with the existing and to be withdrawn paper Discovery Day Pass.
- Following direction from the December 2013 Board meeting, analysis and finalisation of the two preferred options for integrated fares is underway (5 concentric ring zonal model and 4 concentric ring zonal model + short trip fare), including product and pricing scenarios. The business case is targeted for presentation at the April 2014 Board meeting.
I don’t think either of these two developments can come fast enough (providing they are priced right). My understand is that integrated fares are planned to be introduced at roughly the same time as the new bus network next year however I would really like to see it much sooner and it would be great if it could happen later this year.
Following on from fares, to me the next stage also has to be a focus on getting HOP cards in the hands of more people. This will involve improving the marketing, price points, availability of the cards along with levels of discount they provide. In addition AT really needs to look at getting the cards introduced to the parking system so people can pay both their on and off street parking with it. Taxi’s and bike hire schemes (if they can be bothered setting a city wide one up) are other avenues they should look in to. At the end of the day the goal should be to have as many people as possible with a HOP card in their hand as that will help to reduce some of the barriers for people to try PT.
For today though, congratulations to AT for finally getting integrated ticketing rolled out.