Yesterday afternoon I noticed a tweet from reader Tina Plunkett asking where she could top-up her HOP card on Ponsonby Rd.

While this isn’t something I ever look up, I knew I’d seen it on the AT website before and as I had some spare time I thought I’d try and be helpful by looking it up for her. I was out at the time so this meant doing so on my phone but I assumed it would easy enough.

I knew I’d seen a list and even a map of retailers in the AT HOP section of the website which was located under Bus Train Ferry on the AT Website so I started by navigating there. But here’s where I came unstuck, I couldn’t get to the AT HOP section as on the mobile version of AT’s website, it doesn’t exist. Here are a couple of screen shots showing the AT HOP section nowhere to be found.


So there’s an image I can click on to get a HOP card and there’s a whole heap of fine text that I assume is there for legal reasons but no links to the any details about HOP, like where they can be topped up. To do that you have to dig through the menu icon at the top right of the page (in the first image) but even then, it’s not intuitive or easy to find.

As a comparison, here is the desktop version showing the heading sitting just under the Real Time Board on the left hand menu. That isn’t to say the desktop version is great either, personally I find it a cluttered, junky mess and I get the impression that AT simply don’t care about the customer experience of those who may want to use it.


I think the issue here is broader than something seemingly important missing from the mobile version of their website but goes to the wider issue of how AT interact with customers. I tend to know my way around the AT site fairly well as I’m often looking around it as part of posts I’m writing – and is why I knew I’d seen the HOP section and map. But even for me, I find the website a mess and often completely unfriendly to users. I can imagine someone who’s a bit PT curious and sick of sitting in traffic every day going to the AT site, taking one look at it and deciding it’s simply all too hard.

I’m sure many of you have seen better implementations of equivalent websites for other cities. If you have some outstanding examples of getting it right then let us know in the comments and I’ll look at another post so we can give AT some ideas for improvement.

While on the topic of HOP retailers, looking at them for this post also highlighted once again just how few places there are to top-up a card – something I don’t think about as I normally top-up online. As you can see from the map there are some huge areas where there are not many places to do this. Outside of the rail network, locations to top-up are sparse.


And I won’t even go into the garbage fire that you’re presented with if you log in to your AT account.

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  1. Indeed. How your card doesn’t show as auto-topped up UNTIL YOU USE IT FOR THE FIRST TIME. Hey AT, a simple line of text that explained that on the auto top-up page would save hours of heartache…

      1. Auto topup is fine so long as you don’t have any issues and your card gets blocked. Until such time as this issue is fixed I’ll always do manual topups. I have a card sitting in my account reminding me of blocking issues that can’t be deleted.

        1. Exactly. The whole ordeal about blocking cards for failed top-up needs urgent addressing.
          The only thing so far that has gone wrong for me with Auto Top up is that it expires one year after it’s established and AT didn’t give me any reminders. Luckily noticed this when my topup after dropping below $10 didn’t work and had 10c remaining after my final journey one day.

  2. You can always bypass terrible user experiences like the AT website by using Google’s site specific searching facility. In this case ‘hop retailers’ will give you the result you want. And this works on mobile too.

    Very clunky though, hopefully those responsible for the site are working making it better.

    Had the experience of being locked out of my hop account last night for daring to top up my daughter’s card with a new credit card. Came back after an hour but just so frustrating. It just feels like a system that is bolted together from lots of pieces that don’t quite fit.

  3. I was so pleased when I got my Gold Card and no longer had to deal with AT on line. It is hard enough face to face. The whole organisation seems to be designed to make it as hard as possible for “ordinary” people to deal with it. Even professionals find it hard. I know Planners who just throw their hands up in horror when anyone mentions AT. I hope Phil Goff goes through the place like a dose of salts. Someone needs to.

  4. In Wellington basically every dairy/ mini mart has the ability to top up Snapper cards which is great so you never find yourself far from a top up location.
    I suppose though the majority of people would top up online? – Which isn’t a very good option for Snapper users. and it does cost 25c to top up at the dairy too.

    But still, seems to be quite a gap in AT’s service.

    1. online snapper top ups are a bit clunky for me, i had to buy a usb feeder stick for $25.

      none of my android devices are compatible either for some reason.

  5. I’ve been told by a retailer that there’s some financial disincentive and a lot of hoops to jump through to become an AT HOP retailer; whereas in Wellington, Snapper pretty much gives out the machines to retailers

  6. Good question. I’ve just spent an hour trying to get a simple map of the new bus stop layout at Otahuhu and a couple of timetables. I gave up. I’ll just ride my bike.

    1. hmmm good point, Otahuhu Station layout is in the new general southern guide, but not in the Mangere, Otahuhu, Papatoetoe timetable itself. Neither has the Otahuhu town itself I guess because it’s a work in progress there at the moment with temporary stops etc.

  7. AT’s approach seems to be that they do not want to deal with the public. Their website is awful and the app (which was ok initially) has had ridiculous changes and is now a nightmare.
    In addition, when you try and call them, you get put on hold for 20mns or more.

  8. Yeah the website sucks and the apps suck even worse – the Journey Planner doesn’t even work on the app most of the time and everything is just clunky as hell. Its like their developers cant even code properly and they don’t test things with users at ALL. Riddled with all sorts of bugs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t even test it themselves prior to releasing an update.

    Theres always this talk of opening the API to outside developers, and thats fine and all, but I find these apps always break, get outdated very quickly or miss vital functions and you have to swap between a dozen apps all the time, it would be better for end users if AT just developed a PROPER smartphone app that did everything.

    The timetables and maps on the website are often wrong, pointing you to the wrong location or giving misinformation (noticed wrong information on NiteRider brochure, express buses stop on Western Guide map is wrong, rail bus replacement information is often hidden away under disruptions, general changes to timetable in relation to an event are hidden on event page so anyone who isn’t attending the event doesn’t have a clue etc.) So many issues, and often when you report them they either never get back to your email, or give you a reference that you keep chasing to no avail or they end up cancelling for no reason etc.

    They don’t respond to most of the stuff posted to twitter anymore, not even the irritating “please fill a feedback form” garbage.

    The people at the call center are generally clueless about PT, most of them probably don’t even use it. Not to mention the call center hours are hopeless.

    Just overall impossible to communicate with AT 99% of the time to be honest. Yet with Council or NZTA dealing with them is usually quick and easy in comparison even though they both have a much larger scope.

    1. I complained to AT a few weeks ago that geolocation wasn’t working on the app – their response was that ‘they were working on it and it would be introduced soon’. Geolocation worked perfectly fine on the old version of the app, which begs the question ‘why upgrade to something which doesn’t work?’ Who rolls out a product which is not ready? Do any of the developers use PT?

    2. The last time I used the journey planner I ran into a quite baffling limitation:
      Say it’s 10:04am and you want to go somewhere. The app asks you at what time you want to leave. You can have 10:15, 10:30, 10:45, and so on. But you cannot have right now. So even if there’s a bus in 10 minutes, the app simply won’t tell you.

      Unsurprisingly I haven’t used that app in a long time. For most information (like arrivals at a given stop) the third-party Auckland Transit app works much better. For journeys Google Maps works well enough.

      1. The BusWise app is also useful in this situation- you can see how far along the route your bus is and time your departure to the stop to a tee. Doesn’t do trains though.

  9. I don’t bother trying to navigate websites anymore, I googled “where to top up at hop card” and found Ponsonby Superette in less than a minute. That said, I tried to have a whinge on the AT website when the bus into Devonport was late (on a quiet Sunday) and consequently we missed the ferry. After filling in the form i got an error and it wouldn’t submit. One way to reduce complaints I guess!

    1. Wouldn’t of done much good, they usually take weeks to get back to those forms anyway and give some generic response about them being sorry for the inconvenience.

      Would be nice if they elaborated on what exactly went wrong and what they are going to do about it to prevent it from happening again, but nope, that’s generally too much to ask apparently.

      The other thing is when you reply to their email responses they often ignore that response or take weeks to follow up again.

  10. When I emailed AT and asked why my HOP card was cancelled for no good reason the response I got was ‘because according to the terms and conditions you signed we can’. I refuse to deal with them now, I just uber instead.

  11. Ah, good old “switch to desktop version”, the solution to all issues with browsing mobile websites. I don’t understand why web designers even bother with those mobile versions. Sometimes they’re so poor they just end up locking mobile users out. A plain old desktop website, while clunky on a small screen, at least works.

    Unfortunately more and more websites serve a mobile version even with “use desktop version” enabled, in which case you’re SOL until you get to an actual desktop.

    At least the AT website actually works on a phone, and all information actually appears to be there. On that page above you have to ignore all that stuff and open the menu in the top right corner. Not that it makes sense, but it follows the current fads in web design. (another one is to make finding links a guessing game. death to those ugly underlines)

    1. I don’t, the PT info on google is usually extremely out of date and misleading, hell it even references to “”.

      I would much rather use journey planner, even though its clunky and full of bugs, at least its generally accurate for the most part, though still far off from 100% like it should be.

  12. The web design company that developed this web site or if it was created internally in AT/AC by Web IT professionals then those concerned should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The site is user unfriendly, difficult to navigate to the information you want and looks like something a 3rd former has rushed together as a term project (and he/she would fail)
    And yet it would be so easy to make a simplified informative web site.

  13. Website definitely needs improvement.
    Take a look at Transport for London to see a good example of an informative and user-friendly transport website.

  14. Their website is so unfriendly. I’m a librarian, so I’m used to navigating complex databases and websites to get the information I want.
    I also hate how few places you can top up.

    I live in Torbay, so I have to either go to Browns Bay or Albany to get topped up. Or remember to do it in town. All of those options mean going out of my way. And you can’t pay by credit card at a retail shop (unless at a busway station top-up).

    I appreciate that they are trying to encourage you to pay via internet – but you can’t pay for your monthly pass with money already in your Hop account when you are online. You can only do this using at AT kiosk. Online, you have to buy the monthly pass using your credit/debit card (rather than available AT credit). Don’t know why. I’d like to set up an AP in line with my pay weeks, so I can do this myself monthly. I don’t want AT taking money from my account to do this which is their answer.

    If you have a cancelled AT Hop card, you can’t delete it out of your account. It stays there forever.

    1. Yeah the lack of options on the online portal are very annoying and lack of retail locations also.

      I also raised the issue of the cancelled cards still appearing, I have tons, and for some reason it defaults to your oldest card. They told me they were working on fixing this, this was like 1-2 years ago now…

  15. I used to use AT’s Track my Bus app, which was brilliant. Then it stopped working for some reason. First it stopped remembering “saved stops”, then it stopped working at all.

    I now use a much superior “Kiwi Transit” app, which is also able to log in to your AT Hop Card account. The only improvement I’d ask for is to know what route a particular bus takes, as I travel all over Auckland by public transport.

    1. The thing I hate about track my bus is you have to add the stop and route numbers all the time, pretty useless if you are going around Auckland. Also there are quite a few annoying bugs.

      Prefer Buswise for that as it shows all buses in Auckland and you can just tap on one that’s on the route in question and it will show you the position of all buses on that route etc. Much easier and more friendly to use.

      Only annoying thing is the delay in tracking in both apps, which seems to vary from 10 seconds to 90 seconds at certain times of day. Also on occasions services fail to show at all.

      1. Track my bus used to remember the stops you saved. You didn’t use to have to keep re-adding them. Annoying it changed – took me ages to find the Kiwi Transit app, its pretty good – I must try out the one you suggest to compare.

    2. Thanks for the Kiwi Transit app tip – what a great logo too. I do however enjoy watching the Buswise App buses moving around, crossing over each other, turning around and occasionally turning completely around! And love watching the inner link buses getting together for a 3some.

      1. Yes that Bus Wise app is cute for just watching, only complaint with that is if you are out on the road and need reading glasses, the bus numbers won’t get bigger if you zoom in on the map.

    3. Things are looking up then folks. I attended otahuhu station opening and got told that the developers they are working with now for the app anyway are the ones behind kiwi transit app. They will slowly transition features etc to the current app rather than a big wham. No journey planner it seems yet but thats the hard bit. I would think. I use google maps app mainly, seems fine except walking and cycling tracks can be way out of date. Timetable seems fine and interface so much better with history and favourite places etc. u can plan on your PC and send to your phone a journey even. Just need to be logged in on the app and PC version I think.

    1. Yeah mine remembers them, but adding them is painful, not everyone gets the same buses from the same bus stop every day. Buswise implementation a lot better, where you can see the entire network of buses.

    2. I deleted and downloaded the app several times, to see if the app had got corrupted. Still refused to remember saved stops. It was a real pain adding them too.
      I tried again when I updated my iPhone. No luck, so gave up.
      Then I discovered the Kiwi Transit app in the App Store.

    3. I’ve had the Track My Bus app for a while now on my iPhone and can confirm that it has from time to time wiped all the saved bus routes & stops a handful of times. Hasn’t for a while so here’s hoping. Annoying when so many hand picked ones setup properly. I suspect it’s when it’s had some updates, but not every update.

  16. “…goes to the wider issue of how AT interact with customers.”

    Fundamentally this is rooted in more than just how AT interacts with customers – it’s about how AT’s overall attitude to customers. From train dwell times to bus advertising wraps to near-useless realtime screens, there are a lot of things that could be transformed. It’s a legacy of lazy, patronising, monopolistic business behaviour, which I don’t think is where AT is continuing with.

    IMHO the AT Statement of Intent needs “designing our services around our customers” as a central focus.

    Where AT have done this – the quality of new train interiors, the new bus network, the quality of key stations – they get a great response.

    Getting these successes replicated needs a systematic change driven from the top. Go Phil.

  17. I have worked with AT website people before and here is my observation and suggestions:

    Issue: Some decision makers are not expert in usability design but they dictate the specification
    Solution: The UI Design Specification should be involved by UI Experts who follow industry best practice and consistency

    Issue: Some decision makers do not get feed backs from users
    Solution: The should have a regular feedback process (A regular customer feedback survey would help), and a set budget on improving common issues based on the feedback received.

  18. I am heartened by everyone’s kindly approach to AT, only talking about the website when so many things are substandard. As an example there are roadworks on Esmonde Road that affect a vehicle lane. Has the vehicle lane been closed? No, it’s the bus lane. I constantly feel that improvements for users of public transport are only made under duress.

    If I can be bothered I will talk later about recent issues with my Hop card although I feel it is hardly worth the effort as nothing will be done.

    1. I think it will be years till AT bring their website and HOP system out of the stone age. As for problems with the HOP Card, I am still on a fairly regular basis being overcharged for journeys. Reasons for that are usually put down to GPS errors they reckon. When I go and check my transaction history, I would see the stop I got on at, then the stop I supposedly got off at is not even a location on that bus route. Sometimes it would be vice versa. Other times it would state that I never tagged on, but tagged off. Or when I board the bus, it would say I tagged off even though I’ve only just got on and the actual tag off goes unrecorded. This would happen vice versa as well. It’s absolutely disgraceful. Just imagine how much money the system is basically stealing from people, and how many of them just take no notice of it.

  19. AT is a bureaucratic organisation that receives the same budget regardless of their performance.

    Why do they care about customer experience? They just want to do the least amount work.

    Quick fix is media coverage writing negative critics and forcing politicians to apply pressure.

    Proper fix is to privatised part of the operation into multiple competiting business so they have to run as efficient as possible as well as competing for customers.

    Example would be partner with apple pay, visa paywave and google wallet to link the touchless payment technology into hop card account.

  20. The site was made by Propellerhead, an Auckland company which, according to people I know who worked there, is far better at sales than development or testing.
    (They list Auckland Transport on their website as an ongoing project.)

    1. just repeating myself… they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves and the AT IT manager who accepted their sub-standard web site should have his/her employment position reviewed..

  21. “And I won’t even go into the garbage fire that you’re presented with if you log in to your AT account.” Couldn’t have said it better! This is the same organisation that failed to spend their whole bus lane budget last financial year.

  22. “And I won’t even go into the garbage fire that you’re presented with if you log in to your AT account.” Couldn’t have said it better! This is the same organisation that failed to spend their whole bus lane budget last financial year.

  23. Why can’t I get rid of blacklisted (lost) cards on my kids accounts. The AT HOP customer service team is so unfriendly it’s not funny. Try asking to speak to a supervisor “there’s no one available”.

    AT HOP cards are still a complete shambles. Come on Jacinda – please get it sorted lol

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