Following on the recently raised issue of online HOP top ups disappearing if customers don’t tag on within 60 days, last week Mayor Phil Goff announced Auckland Transport were making changes.
Mayor Phil Goff has welcomed changes, made at his request, to the Auckland Transport (AT) HOP card refund system.
There will now be an upfront warning telling people they need to tag on within 60 days and passengers who have not tagged on for 60 days will now have their money automatically refunded.
AT have begun a process, expected to take 18 months, to implement a full open loop system which means mobile phones and credit cards can be used for payment of trips by casual public transport users.
“When the issue first came to light, I had a discussion with Auckland Transport around the genuine public concern that people who had made online payments to their cards, but not tagged-on, could lose that money,” said Phil Goff.
“I am pleased with the constructive response from AT which has agreed to make some significant changes.
“This is a good outcome for our public transport customers and I welcome the recognition of the problem and the positive response to customer needs,” Mayor Goff said.
There are a couple of points in here worth discussing and highlighting.
The top up issue
It’s good that AT are going to sort out the immediate issue that was raised of top up money being blocked if you don’t tag on within 60 days of processing it. This only affects a small number of users but it is definitely inconvenient for them. As I’ve said previously, there are valid reasons why AT would want to do this but it was silly that AT could have dealt with this better. After all, to top up online you have to have an account with AT in which you register an email address. Even a simple email to people to remind them to top up as they were approaching the 60 day cut off could have saved this issue from occurring. It may have even been a marketing opportunity for AT to get more people using PT i.e. “Hey you need to tag on so why not try making your next trip by PT”
HOP with Mobile Phones and Credit cards
Far more significantly though is the comment that AT now plan to eventually allow trips to be made using mobile phones and credit cards. This is a positive step and something that is likely to fundamentally change how a lot of people use HOP, both casual and regular riders alike. In London, where contactless credit cards have been able to be used for many years now, it is estimated that up to a third of all trips are now made using one.
Of course it will be interesting to see just how AT implement this. Presumably AT would need to implement it similarly to London where the system just reconciles your tag on and off activities at the end of each day and charges you the correct fare. As such, one of the downsides to using credit cards is that tag posts are not able to tell you individual trip costs, although I imagine many are like me and very rarely look at the figures that flash up and so it’s not a huge issue.
The use of mobile phones is equally positive. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time mobile phone based payments have been promised. AT first announced over five years ago that they were going to trial mobile phone based payments but nothing has been heard about it again.
While on the topic of giving money to AT, I’ve got another little issue I’ve recently discovered for them to add to the list.
Earlier this year, AT launched their parking app for phones. The app is excellent and far easier to use than any of apps they’ve developed for PT. Instead of having to use a parking meter to pay on-street parking and put a ticket in your window, the app allows you to do it all from your phone. Every time I’ve used it it’s worked wonderfully.
But recently I came across an issue worth highlighting that AT should do more to address.
Some months ago I changed the credit card I use. I updated the credit card linked to my AT account for HOP and it’s worked fine. However, last week I used the parking app for the first time since I changed credit cards and to my surprise, the payments went to my old credit card, which luckily I hadn’t cancelled yet as I was making sure I’d updated all my payments linked to it.
I had forgotten that AT HOP and AT Park, while both being services from AT and accessed from my AT account, are completely separate systems and not linked together at all. I raised this issue in the post when AT Park launched and it’s as silly now as it was back then. While it wasn’t a challenge to update, it was annoying. With most organisations you expect that if you’ve updated your credit card in one place, it’s updated in all places. It highlights that AT need to do a much better job of unifying the experience they provide to customers. At the very least updating a credit card on one AT service should prompt you to update it on the other.
This has also made me wonder if AT should be more open about its future plans and strategies for technology. While I appreciate they might not be able to give exact timeframes for changes, having some form of improvement road-map publicly available might help to give more confidence that AT are actually aware of some of the issues the public experience.