Change is afoot for Auckland Transport’s HOP card with them increasing the price of it but also looking to expand the use of the card.
On the first point, they will increase the cost of buying a card from $5 back to $10 on December 17. This seems like a backwards step given AT need to be encouraging as many people to use HOP as possible. While the vast majority of current PT users are already using HOP a large number of people are still using cash and on buses in particular that can really slow trips down. Figures from AT’s board report show that around 74% of all trips use HOP. There is a bit of variation in HOP use by mode, it is used for around 80% of rail trips, 76% of bus trips but only 27% of ferry trips. There is also likely some variation in use of HOP between weekdays and on weekends and AT have said HOP use on weekdays is more than 80%.
AT also say they think that at $10 the card represents “excellent value” and that a regular customer will pay off the $10 cost in just over a week. This is based on research they’ve done suggesting most customers take about 6 trips per week and travels just two stages per trip. In such a scenario they would save $9 per week and more frequent users or those travelling further would obviously save more.
They also say they think $10 is about right based on the cost of similar cars overseas. As examples they point to Snapper card in Wellington which costs $10, Octopus in Hong Kong at ~NZ$10 (deposit). Outside of transport they cite the example a lost EFTPOS card being around $15, lost credit card around $10.
Another and reason for the change in price is the cost of making the cards. AT say every single card costs them $8.54 to produce and that they have been making up the difference for some time. All up 20,000 new cards are sold each month and in total they’ve sold 680,000. They say the cost of the card covers
- the card cost and distribution of the cards
- the cost of sales, including retail agents commission, and the cost of ticketing offices selling the cards
- back office costs
In response to a few other questions of mine they said:
- They are investigating the idea of having the purchase price loaded on the card if you register it
- It is not legally possible under the conditions of carriage to give a HOP card as change for cash payers i.e. if someone hands a driver a $20 note that he gives them a HOP car with $10 loaded and tells them to tag on.
- They are still investigating the idea of having an NFC option for HOP cards so people can use their phones. This is a shame as they first said they were trialling it over 3 years ago.
The other HOP news is that AT are thinking about extending the use of HOP to access other council services such as the libraries, swimming pools and the zoo. We’ve also known for some time they want to extend it to enable people to pay for parking and I’m aware the NZTA would like to link it in to the toll system – both of which need to happen.
Auckland Transport is considering extending the reach of its $100 million Hop ticketing system to council services such as libraries and swimming pools.
It is also sounding out Aucklanders over whether they would be prepared for information the system collects about them to be shared among council organisations.
Those ideas have been raised with a research panel of Auckland residents, offering them chances to be in the draw for Christmas gift cards for participating in a survey.
A panel member told the Herald the questionnaire had asked “if we’d be happy to use our Hop card to access other Auckland Council services like pools, libraries, rec centres.”
She said panellists were also asked if they would agree to their data being shared across council organisations.
“As a person who refuses to register my Hop card because I hate sharing data, I wasn’t wildly positive about this,” she said.
An Auckland Transport spokesman said the survey, which was supposed to be confidential, was part of “a very high-level, early investigation into the possible use of the Hop card for other council services”.
“This is just at a conceptual level at the moment and may not go anywhere,” he said.
He promised if the proposal were to go further, a full investigation would cover matters including the privacy of Hop card holders, and “opt out” provisions for those not wanting to use it other than for public transport trips.
The spokesman said it was no secret that Auckland Transport was also considering extending Hop card coverage to parking services, although no decisions had been made about that.
I personally think it would be great if AT decided to go ahead with these ideas as it would turn the HOP card from just being a PT card into a ticket to the city. Other than just the convenience of having easier access to places, it would also encourage a lot more people to get HOP cards and thereby reduce one of the barriers to entry for PT.
Of course I’m not holding my breath for any major changes like those suggested to happen soon. Especially given how long it’s taking AT to get integrated fares sorted. Still at least they’re thinking of these options.