For a number of months earlier this year the Auckland Transport Board Reports included the following lines.

March Meeting

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 The pass will offer greater flexibility through three separate geographic zones compared with the existing and to be withdrawn paper Discovery Day Pass

April Meeting

Testing of a new AT HOP Day Pass is underway for targeted introduction by May 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 The pass will offer greater flexibility through three separate geographic zones compared with the existing and to be withdrawn paper Discovery Day Pass. Existing Discovery Day Pass will remain in market until at least 31st May, to ensure customers still have access to multi-modal travel product

April and May came and went with no sign of a daily pass and in the May meeting the references to it disappeared completely. Reader Nigel Jones decided to try and find out what had happened with the day pass so lodged an LGOIMA request with AT to find out. He’s now had the results back and has written about it here. This post will be largely based on his post.

As part of their response to Nigel, Auckland Transport have confirmed the primary issue has been related to technical issues

Daily Pass delay

However going through the responses Nigel found more detailed information on the issues AT were having. These include:

  1. Machines having taking up to 10 seconds to read the cards.
  2. Issues with apportioning revenue to operators – a great example of why we need to get the new PTOM contracts rolled out so AT don’t have to worry about this stuff.
  3. Inconsistent treatment of how the passes are sold depending on the channel
  4. Trouble with purchasing different zone products on the same card- i.e. if you have a monthly pass for one zone but want a daily pass for travel to another zone it won’t work on the same card

Some potential mitigation options for the issues were listed as

  • Delay the daily pass implementation – something that had had already been done twice
  • Reduce the number of pass options from 6 originally proposed.
  • Setting up different processes to account for the apportionment issue.
  • Accept the limitations and try to explain them in the comms process.

All up it seems like a pretty messy affair although one not all uncommon with technology development. However I can’t help but think the whole thing is something that they should have been on to much much sooner. I’m also concerned that are implementing a daily pass option which is something you have to know you want to purchase at the start of the day rather than developing a more customer friendly daily cap which effectively allows for free travel after you’ve spent a certain amount.

AT’s most recent board report states that the pass will be available in July/August and I understand the official roll out date will be 1st July with RadioNZ reporting passes will cost between $16 and $22

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  1. Being unable to handle different zone products on the same card sounds like an inexcusable failure of the requirements specification phase by the commissioning agency. Amateur hour.

  2. The apparent lack of anticipating this is a problem, but let’s look at this positively. I trust this means AT are thinking through HOP ticketing options properly now, and we should expect not to see a mess like this again. I would hate to find that ‘integrated ticketing’ gets delayed and undercut on functionality.

    1. I would have thought daily caps would have been an initial requirement of the system and have been fully tested prior to signing off KPIs.
      Isn’t this a product that they have bought that has been used in many other countries? Do none of them have daily caps?

      1. Daily capping is best practice internationally so very strange it hasn’t been implemented here. With silly ‘no-brainers’ like this AT Hop is starting to look similar to myki in Melbourne. A whole lot of little planning oversights which can only get fixed as part of a new operator contract using already proven OTS products.

  3. That’s an extremely expensive day pass. Presumably it’s for the entire Auckland network which for most people is unnecessarily large.

  4. $22 for a full pass seems a bit high considering the paper Discovery Pass offered travel along the full network for $16. I was hoping the price would come down, not go up. These things shouldn’t be priced as luxury items.

    1. We don’t need any passes at all – just day caps, week caps and maybe month caps (I’m not sure if you need month caps if you have week caps). Make it as simple as possible for the user, just get on, swipe your hop card, and you will pay the lowest possible fare without having to work out the best deal in advance.

      1. Exactly this, AT seem to have the bad habit of trying to reinvent the wheel on every endeavour they undertake. I assume part of the current resistance to fare caps is because AT think they’ll lose revenue.

      2. +2.

        Daily and weekly caps are all you need.

        Don’t understand why AT are even bothering with a pre-purchased daily pass; most systems have removed them.

        1. I assumed the pre-purchase system was chosen so they can still offer the pass to non-Hop customers. Either print the ticket at a machine or load it onto your card. Archaic, but then how much of AT’s service isn’t?

          This seems like an interim compromise until the establishment of the “New Network” and integrated fares.

      3. If AT temporarily pulled their heads out of their collective arses, they would see a very good capped fare system working in Christchurch. No need to study it overseas.

        If you tag on (no tag off in Chch – flat, time based rate) twice in a day, the rest of the day is free. If you tag on more than 10 times in a week, the rest of the week is free.

        How hard is that? It really encourages transfers and off peak travel.

    2. Daily cap, weekly cap, monthly cap…. wouldn’t that be easier.

      Also the bi-level rate is presumably so as not to subsidise Pukekohe travellers, well why not? Aren’t those long PT journeys the most valuable for road users and all other externalities. Also there are not so many of them. Wouldn’t that be a good win for simplicity, efficiency, and elegance?

      1. no need for monthlies …

        I agree though, I don’t understand why AT are so worried with subsidising rail trips from Pukekohe. Strategically, we want to electrify and build new stations out that way in the long run so a little fare subsidy jam now might help justify those medium to long term improvements.

        Personally I wouldn’t mind if every train leaving Pukekohe was like the Bombay Express with people hanging off the sides.

  5. Why bother, at $16 who would buy it? Is it for tourists?
    The daily cap should be about the same price as a return journey, allowing people to use off peak for free. ‘Free’ off peak travel makes using PT much more attractive than driving. From memory the daily cap in London was not much more than a single journey. And it was automatic, you didn’t have to pre buy it.
    Has anyone in AT ever travelled? Where do they come up with these ideas?

    1. $16 was the cost of the old Discovery Pass. It was cheaper than a return journey using the highest number of stages possible.

      $22 is $1.40 (cash)/ $2.46 (HOP) more than that same return journey.

      I’m guessing this is how pricing was approached

  6. I agree. why waste time implementing something so expensive that no one will ever use it? You have to hand it to AT, their incompetence knows no bounds…

  7. What’s wrong with using the Brisbane Go Card system. From a consumers point of view it works very well. The same applies to the Washington Metro card. Did they invent a new system for Auckland.

    1. go card system is OK but uses very dated technology that has its own technological limitations. AT’s system is better technology, just very “young” so we’re still taking a while to work out the most efficient way to code up more complex fare products.

      go card has implemented daily and weekly caps based on the number of journeys. The only change I’d suggest in Auckland is:
      – Daily cap is based on a $ amount, e.g. pay for first $15-$20, thereafter travel free (perhaps excluding rail from Puke); and
      – Weekly cap is based on a journey amount, e.g. pay for first 10 journeys, thereafter travel free.

      The distinction is important because a journey based daily cap opens you up to a lot of peak period revenue leakage, whereas a dollar based cap is more absolute and reflects fixed costs of daily parking, for example. In contrast, for the weekly cap you want a more relative measure so that people who make a lot of short trips can also qualify for the weekly pass.

      I believe Thales ticketing system can handle both $ and journey caps, so we’re all good.

    2. P.s. Auckland’s technology is not “new”; it’s been used before in Amsterdam and elsewhere. But every system implementation is different/unique so it takes a while to implement fare products. This is especially true in Auckland where we have chosen to implement the existing highly complex fare structure on top of a very complex/opaque net cost contracting arrangement.

      I suspect much of the issues are related to those two policy issues. Perhaps the best strategy then is to park the daily pass until we have implemented integrated fares and PTOM contracts?

      1. “Perhaps the best strategy then is to park the daily pass until we have implemented integrated fares and PTOM contracts”

        Definitely Stu. Get Integrated Fares and PTOM in first, then look at how best to offer these fixed time period , fixed monetary amount ticket products.

  8. Hi guys, thanks for writing about it.

    The post on RNZ refers to the $16 and $22 options, just to be clear, these two options appear to be AB Daily “closely match the existing Discovery Pass” $16, and ABC Daily “All Region” $22.

    As I’ve pointed out to Todd Niall (after he pointed out to be that the B/C border is now Westgate) for instance:

    AB Day Pass – Nor West border: Westgate – $16
    ABC Day Pass – No border – $22
    Discovery Pass – Nor West border: Waimauku – $16

    That is a 37.5% price hike for a very thin slice of PT property. I’m not overly impressed, It also seems to show that AT appear to be rushing into the implementation after the LGOIMA response to try and get the product out there, rather than the original 6-product option which the delay was for. The software/on-board devices have supported this 2-option solution for the last one and half months per their response.

    1. Additionally, something else, the lack of the 6-zone-options system means that it is certainly no replacement for semi-integrated options that had existed such as Northern Pass ($9.40 (or was it $9.60) off-peak) etc.

  9. $22 dollars? Who has $22 to spend on a day’s travel? Who even has $16? AT deserve all the scorn and criticism they get.

    1. It’s not that much when you consider that parking in the city centre costs $10-20 per day and return rail trip from Pukekohe is $12. Basically, daily pass = same as parking and beyond that you travel for free.

      Never forget: If you push down the costs of long distance travel and/or regular travellers then you push up the cost of short distance travel and/or less frequent travellers. The latter is typically more elastic/price sensitive, so fare structures that leave them disaffected (i.e. paying more) can reduce overall patronage.

      1. This is why we need cap or periodical passes based on geographic zones. $22 is an irrelevancy to the vast majority of users, even those that make several PT trips a day.

  10. Its an absolute joke! I was recently in Berlin; 28 euro for a 7 day unlimited pass (thats about $43 NZ) a one day pass was 6euro ( good till 3am next day) which is about $9.40nz. $22 p day for an unreliable, unconnected service is beyond a joke. How much more incompetence do we have to tolerate.. Its a farce!

    1. Easy tiger. AT are not incompetent and it’s not a farce. They’re simply working within a number of tricky constraints, often imposed by central government and/or historical decisions. For example, NZTA’s farebox recovery policy requires 50% cost recovery. Hence, if we subsidise daily passes a lot then we’ll have to make up the revenue from other users. That may or may not be a good idea – it all depends on price sensitivity.

      1. Opal in Sydney has a $15 a day cap on a much larger transport network, and $2.50 cap on Sundays. I take advantage of the free travel after 8 paid trips

        1. I believe Sydney also has lower cost recovery? Like I said, when you take away the cost recovery constraint imposed on AT by central government you can justify all sorts of large discounts. But in the “real world” those constraints remain and must be observed.

          I.e. the question AT must try and answer is: How can we maximise patronage for a given operating subsidy while maintaining cost recovery at 50%?

      2. Actually, it is a farce.

        Melbourne has what is effectively a daily cap of AU$12 on weekdays (two 2hr unlimited passes) and AU$6 on weekends.

        This is one of the reasons Melbourne is regularly voted among the best places to live in the world. In other words, better than Auckland.

      3. This farebox recovery requirement is a total joke. PT is like 2degrees, it has potential but is in a mature market against very successful competition. There’s no point in having high margins on unsustainably low market share, growing the share has to be first priority. This can only be achieved by making the product comparatively attractive, and the only quickly accessible lever I can see is price.

        1. And, cheaper. And, better.

          To answer your primary concern high fares do not encourage cost recovery unless your system is largely saturated.

      1. Here in NZ, PT day passes are quite cheap too. It’s really only Auckland that has a high PT fare structure.

        Even Wellington has some excellent offers. The regional bus pass is only $9.50. On the trains you can even get a network-wide 3-day weekend pass for only $21.00 – that’s $7.00 a day for unlimited use of the trains over the entire network, Fri to Sun.

        Where’s Auckland’s super low great offers, really encouraging people to get out of their cars? Non-existent, just a narrow range of pricing options with HOP ranging from expensive to super expensive.

          1. What is the average distance travelled on the Wellington busabout pass, and the Auckland busabout pass? That’s all that is relevant, and I would suggest the answer is likely around the same for both.

          2. It isn’t relevant at all seeing as you’re trying to compare two completely different products from two different cities.

            Since the previous passes were paper only, I don’t think there’s any way to measure the average distance travelled with each one.

        1. Just seen this, and a couple of corrections about Wellington day passes – unlike Auckland there are no passes covering the whole region, since they all exclude the Wairarapa.

          There isn’t a bus-only regional pass – the $9.50 pass is an NZ Bus product, covering just Go Wellington and Valley Flyer, so it doesn’t cover the Airport Flyer, northern Wellington, Porirua or Kapiti. The pass covering all buses also includes trains, and costs $21.

          The three-day train pass doesn’t cover the entire network, since it excludes the Wairarapa Line.

  11. How about a capped system where you pay for the two most expensive trips of the day, or the 10 most expensive trips of the week. No complicated borders, etc.

  12. Interested to hear what you class as incompetence then???..we have a poorly maintained unreliable unconnected network that is prohibitively expensive. We have a collection of new and expensive electric trains which are by all accounts slower than those that they replace. We have ticket machines that are allergic to sunlight (that is they don’t work). We have a timetabling gps system that still doesn’t work despite millions ($40??) being spent on it. We have monthly passes that are uneconomical for the vast majority of regular commuters. And now we have a daily pass ticket price which is so expensive that they may as well not exist…

  13. How much have we paid for the various ticketing systems, and support costs and licensing fees etc? Surely based on the number of bad decisions being shown up it would have been more cost effective to just make the whole PT network free for the user. No more worrying about daily/weekly caps, no more having to check users to make sure they are on the right fare, no more inspectors needed to run around the trains checking who’s paid. No more worrying about fare leekage.

    1. Or just a flat time based rate like in Christchurch or Prague that allows unlimited travel and transfers within that time period. Very simple to administer.

      I think that would be fair as travellers from far out (who would pay less) dont get as dense a PT network and so havent got the chnace to make the same travel savings as people in close.

      People in close (who would pay more) get a much denser network that is more likely to allow them to become car lite or car free – saving mega bucks.

  14. Oh and one more example; I hear today that AT are setting up a private shuttle between their city and Henderson offices, despite trains being within walking distance of both (at a cost of approx $1000 p/ working day).

  15. Yes I kinda agree Brodie. Or a $10 anywhere anytime max daily fare across all bus/ train services with the exception if Pukekohe.

    Keep in mind though, this may result in a massive increase in public transport use in Auckland.

        1. I’ld much rather have all-mode passes as I often use both trains and buses to complete my trips. This is why I was a very frequent user of the non-operator-or-mode-specific Discovery Day passes prior to the introduction of HOP. The old prices you quote was neither mode/operator-neutral nor zone-based.

          However for a very brief period of time NZ Bus had a $7.50~ day operator-specific pass for use only in Zone A. I found that useful (as 90%+ of my travel at the time was wholly within Zone A) as it was cheap enough for me to justify taking the bus even when the train was more convenient. It didn’t last very long before they phased it out in favour of a all-zone $10.50 pass and I quickly switched back to the Discovery to take advantage of the trains (even though it was $5.50 more expensive per day).

          Don’t get me wrong, I think the prices are still fairly expensive but it contains value that the passes you mention ever had. We are quickly moving torward a mixed-mode system where many trips require 2 modes of transport and the cost of doing that pre-HOP was always pretty expensive so I’m not going to advocate for a return to the old operator/mode-specific pass system.

          1. Sales of the $10.50 bus pass far outstripped sales of the $16.00 Discovery Pass though, for an obvious reason. People should be able to choose their mode. If integrated fares are more expensive than single mode fares, then I question the wisdom of forcing them on everybody. Let travellers choose their pricing/mode option, not force everyone to buy a Discovery Pass equivalent when they’ll likely only be using one mode anyway.

          1. So? They still cover the whole region. I could go anywhere in Auckland on the $10.50 pass. Under the new system, on the same buses with the same operator the price will be $16.00 to $22.00, potentially more than a 100% increase for the exact same service. Although admittedly that will actually be a price reduction compared to the present, where fares are even more expensive without the pass.

    1. Geoff, you are getting extremely confused with yourself here I think and comparing apples with oranges.

      The only ‘bus pass’ I can think of that was $10.50 was the NZ Bus daily pass. That is *NOT* region wide as it cuts out several operators.

      Ditto for $12 Train Pass, Single operator. Ditto for whatever Ritchies had (they had something too iirc).

      The only multi-modal, multi-operator passes that I recall prior to HOP were: Discovery Pass & Northern Pass

      1. It doesn’t matter if they were single operator. The fact is the same journey under a HOP pass will be much more expensive. Additional cost for no change to the service.

  16. I want Northern Pass back…Anybody noticed that regular commuters will waste much money during Dec, Jan and Apr holidays by using monthly pass. Why not get back weekly pass, that really useful for regular commuters.

    1. john, I second your call for the return of the Northern Pass. It was the only integrated pass we’ve had that was affordable and it should be no problem to reintroduce it (just replace the previous paper passes with a modern plastic HOP card, easy).

  17. Keep the Discovery pass and from what I have been looking at on the AT website. You can only get it on selected railway stations. Make sure it is sold on buses and at the airport. Lots of tourists would find it easier that way insted of them having to go to the Railway Station to buy it. Some of them would be NO way near a railway station at all.

  18. What’s the point of the day pass if you can only load it from a Top up machine, ticket office or AT HOP retailer? Who has a ticket machine at their local bus stop? So you’d need to pay for a single journey to the nearest ticket machine in order to load your day pass.
    I’m sure the old discovery pass could be bought on board the bus. Purchasing a day pass needs to available online.
    Of course a daily cap would also solve this issue.

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