Late last week Auckland Transport announced that they sold their millionth HOP card.

Thanks a million Auckland – the millionth AT HOP card has just been sold.

AT HOP is the smart card which can be used for bus, rail and ferry travel throughout Auckland.

Group Manager AT HOP, Denise Verrall, says as of June 2016, surveys indicated that 42% of Auckland adults have a HOP card. “We’re very happy with the numbers using AT HOP, the same time last year 33% of Aucklanders surveyed said they had a card so that’s a great improvement.”

The AT HOP card was rolled out on trains in late 2012 and then extended to ferry and bus services.

Four out of five customers now choose to pay for their public transport trip with the card.  “The card gives a discount of at least 20% off single trip cash fares, excluding SkyBus and Waiheke ferry services. When you tag-on with your AT HOP card it is read in a 300th of a milli-second.

“Using public transport is now so much easier with the AT HOP card and Simpler Fares. Paying with an AT HOP card allows customers to pay just once for a single journey, that can involve up to five bus or train trips over four hours, with a maximum transfer time of 30 minutes between each trip.”

Denise Verrall says the uptake of the card has been very strong in Auckland. “In 2013, Oyster the London travel smartcard, was used in over 85% of trips vs cash tickets, after 10 years in the market. In comparison, HOP has now reached 85.5% after 4 years in the market, so we are very pleased with the uptake of HOP by Aucklanders.”

One million cards and achieving an 85% use is a good result – although the latter is a little bit false as it turns out that it excludes trips made using operator products (i.e. the special passes on the ferries). They say that now 42% of adults in Auckland have a HOP card, up from 33% a year ago.

With the Simplified fares now rolled out and the new bus network coming I suspect it will only further encourage people to use HOP and one day hopefully it’s use will supplant the separate systems used on some ferry routes.

A few days before this announcement, AT sent out an email to HOP users stating that prizes could be won just for using your card.

This September, the millionth AT HOP card will be sold in Auckland.

We think that’s worth celebrating with you, so every time you use your registered AT HOP card during September, you’ll go in the draw to win $100 HOP Money on your AT HOP card*. We’ll draw 2 winners every Friday in September 2016 … 10 prizes in all!

Thanks for getting on board with one of a million AT HOP cards. Thanks a million!

HOP 1 million cards

My first thought on reading this was one I’ve had many times before, why isn’t this a regular and ongoing feature of HOP. It seems like the kind of simple thing that they could do encourage both PT and HOP use and one that doesn’t cost all that much in the grand scheme of things. In a similar vein, I also think AT should be looking include elements of gamification to the HOP system to encourage use.

Other than changing fares, what would you do to encourage more people to use HOP?

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  1. Integrating the system more with everyday use such as Parking, Bike Scheme, Toll Payment, Vendor Machine, Pay-Wave enabled payment.

    Also, making it available so that you can tag on and off using mobile phone would be nice.

    We need a much compact wallet. Not more cards that can only work at one place.

    1. See Andrew’s post at the bottom. What you’re suggesting is similar to what HK government achieved with Octopus a good 10 years ago. I think that in this day and age it’s best to leave these contactless infrastructure to the banks, including debt collection and all the risk associated with these payments, and for PT operators to concentrate on providing good PT. There’s still a place for prepaid AT Hop, but I feel that AT should’ve enabled the contactless Visa/Mastercard a long time ago – just like Transport for London did.

    1. That would be my guess. In our family of 4 we have purchased at least 8 cards due to to blocks and kids misplacing their cards. I currently have 2 working ones – one in my wallet and one in my phone case.

  2. Why is it so hard for rural seniors to obtain at super gold hop card?

    Requiring them to be purchased in person at central locations, go home and register online, then come back to the central location and present their ID again means that it is harder for residents who live in the rural areas to obtain a gold hop card than it is for them to obtain a platinum credit card.

    After explaining how complicated the system was, my parents answered “Sounds like way too much hassle”, and will keep driving and creating congestion.

    1. You don’t have to register the card at all. You take the risk of not being able to recover any $$ on it if it is lost, but you can just tell the person at the station to activate it and go on from there. My card is registered, but my partners is not. but as she has the $5 minimum on it, she is not bothered. If you don’t want to be checking it online etc, you dont need to register it.

  3. The myAT 2.0 app concept developed in HackAKL had gamification, among other things which would of made PT experience in Auckland better. But 2 years later nothing… just a garbage application which embeds the journey planner and real time board from the website – something you can just do by bookmarking both pages in chrome. Beyond a joke, I hope AT didn’t waste any ratepayers money developing that garbage “app”.

  4. What would I do to encourage more people to use HOP?

    I would introduce daily, weekly and monthly passes whereby a single deduction allows unlimited travel for the requested period, with NO TAGGING-OFF RQUIRED. Therefore NO penalties for inadvertent error and NO blocking through failure to recharge in time, etc. The price of this facility would be set to optimise revenue x market-uptake. It would probably require 3-4 price-graduations based on the number of zones requested for inclusion.

    If this succeeded as well as it does in other cities, eventually it should be possible to replace the current fraught and punitive offering, and get rid of tagging-off and miserly penalties once and for all.

    User-friendliness – bring it on!

      1. Agreed, and I see value in it too. But one missing tag-off sometimes could mean that all the AT Hop discount for the week is gone in smoke. AT should have a penalty but a bit more reasonable, or perhaps a more sophisticated fraud detection methods. I’ve missed tagging off a number of times, usually because I have a child on me that I need to take care of, and it can be a logistical nightmare to get everything on time, only to realise I forgot to tag off after the bus is gone. These high penalty fares for forgetting to tag off seem to be over the top for a regular, honest user.

        1. I think it is a little more sophisticated than we realise. I failed to tag off at Ellerslie a couple of times and both times when I returned the next morning it just charged me the usual 2-stage from Britomart, which left me thinking it must look at my continuous pattern of repeating that trip and assumed that is what I meant to do. They wouldn’t want to advertise this of course as it is open to abuse.

          1. Curious! What does that look like on your MyAT HOP Card Transactions page? If you would be so kind as to post an anonymised screencap I’d be interested to see

          2. Before the simple zones system, when you tag on with a prepaid balance AT Hop, the AT Hop reader does the following:

            1. Checks the list of pending top-ups, auto-topup details and blocked cards, and acts accordingly
            2. into a memory register on the AT Hop card, it saves:
            a) current vehicle location;
            b) route number;
            b) date and time;
            c) maximum fare for the remaining journey on this particular vehicle;
            3. takes minimum fare from the card instantly (that’s why you need minimum balance to be just that)
            4. if card goes below pre-set auto-topup limit, and the auto-topup flag is active, it tops-up your card right there and then.
            4. records the transaction on the vehicles PC for book keeping and updating your balance online later.

            When you tag off, the AT Hop reader:
            1. reads the original vehicle location and compares to decide if this is the same route/journey and if yes:
            a) reads the original location
            b) takes balance of what the total fare (minus what you already paid)

            2. if it’s not the same route/journey then (ie. you forgot to tag off on the last vehicle):
            b) charges the balance of maximum fare from last journey PLUS penalty charge as determined by AT
            c) goes back to the beginning of tag-on process

            Things are slightly different now with the simple zones – there’s more information that remains on the card in regards to the last tag off time and which zones you’ve travelled in so far. But the processing is similar.

            The “virtual money” is actually stored on the card itself, and the pending top-ups and blocked card lists get uploaded overnight, and the book keeping record gets downloaded off the vehicles. This usually happens when a bus returns to the depot over local WiFi connection. Rail stations and ferry terminals might have either a wired 24/7 connection, or mobile connection that updates that list at least once per day or more often, depending on settings/business requirements of AT.

            So in terms of them doing some fancy stuff with your previous activity, it cannot be done with the current prepaid system. However, it could and actually gets done in London with Contactless – the system there tries to fill in missing tag-off information based on your past usage.

          3. T – sorry, I have an unregistered card so I don’t have the My ATHOP transactions but this is a synopsis of what happened both times:

            Tagged on at Britomart (~5pm) forgot to tag off at Ellerslie. Tagged on at Ellerslie (~8am next day) and it showed it was deducting $3.10 (presumably for the previous afternoons trip), tagged off at Britomart (~8:20am) and it deducted a further $3.10 for that mornings trip. Stranded – I’m not sure how it got to that calculation, but basically I didn’t get charged anymore than if I had remembered to tag off.

          4. It might’ve been an Onehunga train – thus $3.10 max fare. I think they currently don’t add any “penalty”, but if you were on Papakura train, then it would’ve probably charged you more.

          5. Yes, it might have been an Onehunga train, but I’m not sure it matters as the tag-on/tag-off is related to the station not the train (unlike buses), as far as I’m aware HOP doesn’t know which train I caught. Also it was a while ago when Onehunga was an extra stage from Ellerslie.

            Very intriguing given it sounds like you have a reasonable understanding of how the back-end works, which I certainly don’t.

          6. As you don’t tag individual trains how would it know if you were on an Onehunga, Papakura or for that matter gone the long way via Panmure and changed train. My daughter got multiple penalties when she first got her hop card for not tagging off her school bus that only went to her school so there couldn’t be a charge to the end of the line scenario.

      2. It shouldn’t be the passenger’s responsibility to carry out an action (omission punishable by penalty) mainly to facilitate the operator in gaining its “vital data”. No ‘tagging-off’ is required by motorists but somehow the transport authorities manage to collect data on where they are going.

        A big NO to anything which makes PT-use more onerous for passengers and mandatory tagging-off is definitely in this category. No way does it “encourage more people to use HOP”, the question Matt L asked for commenters’ views on.

        1. I don’t agree that it makes PT more onerous or discourages anyone from using PT or HOP. Far more onerous (and expensive) to pay with cash.

          Agencies also don’t have much in the way of trip data for cars. Mostly it is counts at a single point location and time. The census also plays a role in the transport models but they are models and not actual trip data

          1. Don’t compare HOP+tagging-off with paying cash fares. Instead try comparing HOP+tagging-off with, say, Los Angeles’ TAP+no-tagging-off. Much easier for the passenger. Simply no argument.

        2. > It shouldn’t be the passenger’s responsibility to carry out an action
          Let’s then remove the back doors, and drivers will now need to check and ensure that not only you tag-on, but you also tag-off. That’s really going to fly well with majority in regards to the dwell times on each bus stop…

    1. Monthly passes have perverse outcomes. White collar customers that can afford the up front cost of a pass end up getting the cheapest fares while people on low incomes that drip feed money one trip at a time pay the most. Better to go for a system of capping that rewards usage. The more you travel the more you save. Similar to Chch with its daily and weekly caps that reward the highest users with the lowest costs per trip without any need to invest large amounts up front.

      1. monthly/ weekly/day passes shouldn’t require upfront costs. It should be a pay-as-you-go system and once you reach the monthly/ weekly/day fare cap figure, your journey’s cost $0 for the rest of the month/ week/ day etc.

        1. That is technically possible on both prepaid AT Hop right now as well as PayWave credit card (ie. contactless TfL payments). I’m not sure we should be celebrating selling million AT Hop cards, but whatever, anything for good PR for PT.

    2. Here in Sydney, they’ve just changed from weekly cap of 8 journeys and free travel to 8 journeys and half priced travel.

      I’m waiting with interest to see what happens to weekend traffic, which anecdotally is worse than weekday peak traffic in Auckland.

  5. Incorporate ALL Auckland transport fares into hop and remove the parallel systems by ‘exempt’ operators. This includes the ferries.

    One city one card – NO exceptions.

    Don’t care about the politics, find a way AND JUST DO IT. Ak first then all main NZ centres.

  6. HOP cards for visitors? Have a couple from Melbourne which were a quick and easy thing to get.

    Noticed at Auckland airport there was no advertising I saw recommending visitors pick up a HOP card, though would make more sense if there was rail or integrated bus to town.

    You think cruise liner passangers could be offered a HOP card with say one day travel loaded and ability to return it when leaving town. Have helped tourists off the liner’s coming back from Devoport trying to use the fullers paper pases at Ferry building HOP card gates.

    1. Not sure the last time you were at the airport but I was there this very morning – and there was a sign by the bus stops at the domestic terminal directing people where to buy the AT HOP card at the airport (i-site I think it referred people to). Albeit it was a very hasty looking sign – bit of A4 laminated card attached to a lampost or something.

      1. And while the eye-wateringly expensive Skybus does take HOP, it doesn’t make sense to use it unless you’re only travelling one-way. The return cash ticket is cheaper than two HOP journeys (although still stupid $).

        1. I wrote to Skybus asking them to reconsider their AT Hop pricing. Their response was clear that they have no vision in truly integrating into Auckland’s PT infrastructure. They wrote to me about free Wifi, online website, a ticketing app they have, and about children being free with paying adults, as well as a whole lot of other gimmicks, but completely ignored my suggestion for AT Hop fares should match their online and app discounts. Nah. Skybus thumbs down.

          1. I don’t have a problem with an express bus to and from the airport basically being run at a commercial rate. The problem is the poor service from AT buses, which makes the integrated option so unappealing. What we need is what was suggested in Patrick’s post last week a frequent service with bus lanes and good connections at Puhinui to put some real heat on Skybus.

          2. My problem with Skybus isn’t that they’re running a commercial rate, it’s that they don’t offer AT Hop users the same discount as they offer to someone who (wasted their time and data and) downloaded their mobile app. Unnecessary hassle in my opinion. Their prices are: cash $18, cash return: $16 x2, AT HOP: $18, online/app: $16, online/app return: $14 x2. So my point is that at least they could’ve put their AT Hop price @ $16 or even better, match their discounted return fare of $14.

          3. They pay something between 1.5-3.0% on credit card fees for the credit card payments. I am not sure what the AT Hop commission is.

        2. Yeah and what’s more, you have to pay on the bus. In theory it is possible to buy a ticket online before you leave, but in practice there’s a good chance you’ve wasted your money on that because no bus shows up for the next hour or so.

  7. Integrate it with everything like the Hong Kong Octopus Card. This includes convenience stores, fast food shops, supermarkets, cake shops, vending machines and more. Have it work for the Zoo, Museum, Sky Path (please!), Kelly Tarltons, Sky Tower etc. Make it a “must have” for all tourists and that way they will also use the public transport system.

    1. Hmmm, perhaps not the junk food though. Think of parents wanting their kids to have mobility; the freedom to always get around [and not be driven everywhere!] keeping their HOP cards topped up is a way to do this. It’s what we did for our school age kids, but that wouldn’t work if they could also use the cards for food + movies…

      1. I liked the Octopus in HK, and the fact you could use it as a contactless payment almost everywhere in HK, but that was before PayWave/PassPay and NFC being so widespread. I think that in this day and age it’s best to leave these contactless infrastructure to the banks, including debt collection and all the risk associated with these payments, and for PT operators to concentrate on providing good PT. A contactless Visa/Mastercard solution is today’s solution to all that, and becomes so much more accessible to more public.

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