Promised upgrades and improvements to ATs HOP card due to roll out this year have been dropped due to a new national ticketing system that may take six to eight years to introduce.

Of all the improvements to public transport in the last few decades, one of the most important and successful was the introduction of HOP. Important because it finally allowed users to board any bus, train or ferry without needing a wallet full of cards specific to each operator. Successful because now over 86% of all trips across the network are made with using a HOP card and May set a monthly record with 89.7% usage (93.4% Bus, 87.4% train and 48.2% ferry). More people use HOP in Auckland than board a bus, train or ferry in the rest of New Zealand combined.

This isn’t to say that HOP is perfect. It’s had (and still has) a few features and policies that are customer unfriendly and probably make it one the most complained about aspects of PT. It also had an incredibly tortured introduction with the debacle surrounding Snapper. There now appears to be a risk of that being repeated.

A national ticketing saga

As a result of the debacle mentioned above, HOP was intended as the Auckland implementation of a national ticketing system. As part of this, the NZTA not only funded just over half of HOPs development costs but also fully owned a $30 million central hub through a subsidiary company. At the time, they said other regions wanting integrated ticketing would need to join the national system if they wanted funding support.

Wellington too has long wanted integrated ticketing, but they don’t want HOP and in late 2015 were resisting the NZTA who wanted HOP adopted. The system was meant to be introduced this year. A few months later and the NZTA backed down, eventually deciding to create a new national ticketing system. That could leave NZ with two national ticketing systems, HOP in Auckland and whatever new system was developed everywhere else. That would be farcical and so in the NZTA want AT to be part of the scheme too.

A previously confidential paper to ATs board in December last year, gives a bit of background to this new system, with the project at the time known as GRETS, although it now seems to be called Project NEXT. They say:

  1. Recently, the Transport Agency Board has queried why the GRETS system is not being treated as the forerunner for a national system. A teleconference was held on 15 November between the Transport Agency (Fergus Gammie, their head of IT and their national ticketing lead), AT (Mark lambert, Roger Jones, Richard Morris and Denise Verrall) and GRETS with a view to Auckland re-engaging over the development of the GRETS solution. The intent is to ensure a single system is developed which will meet all needs.
  2.  AT is strongly supportive of this initiative. GRETS has some concern that this will delay their current project. In reality there should not be delays but AT will need to reengage with the GRETS procurement project to ensure, for example, that MRT is included in user requirements.
  3. It will be necessary for any new system to be operationally stable before Auckland is integrated. Aside from Auckland representing around half of all public transport journeys in New Zealand, simpler fares means a big-bang integration will be required. This means it is likely to be 2024 before Auckland joins the new system.
  4. The Thales contract will need to be extended from 2021

However they also say:

  1. It is fair to say that Greater Wellington Regional Council has been strongly independent. We have not seen the business case or RFP for the GRETS system.

Because of how long it’s going to take for a proper integrated ticketing solution for Wellington, Snapper is being rolled out on all buses.

HOP with a credit card or phone

Being able to pay for PT directly with credit cards and mobile payments is one of the missing features of HOP that some similar systems overseas have had for a while now. Last year in response to the issue of top-ups disappearing, it was announced that feature was coming to HOP too.

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.

And in the December paper they said

The upgrade path laid out in the Board “Future of HOP” strategy will still see Open Loop rolled out next year

The new national system

Work on the new system has only just started with a Registration of Interest currently out in the market. A recent article highlighted the key change the system is designed to provide.

A long-awaited nationwide programme to introduce a universal non-cash payment method is set to be rolled out in Wellington in 2021, with the rest of the country jumping on board by 2026.

The new technology will allow commuters across New Zealand to use either mobile devices, credit or debit cards, or a national “transit” card to access all forms of public transport in most places up and down the country.

….

Under the new accounts-based system, money will be charged from a bank account rather than through a provider.

The physical transit card will not store money, but can be linked to a bank account and used to swipe on and off public transport.

As mentioned, that’s been the plan for HOP too. So I asked AT what it meant for their implementation.

AT looked at implementation of Open Loop last year however have decided not to progress, pending the implementation of the National Ticketing System.

This is disappointing and I get the impression AT have been told not to introduce open loop as it would remove the one key feature the new system would have over HOP. Otherwise the public might rightfully question why they’re bothering to reinvent the wheel. It means that instead of having improved payment options this year, Aucklanders will now be waiting 6-8 years for these improvements, quite possibly.

So, HOP was meant to be the national system but because Wellington refused it, the NZTA have done a 180° and now Auckland has had to stop improvements and now has to wait years for a new system. Another bizarre chapter in PT ticketing.

Changes to paper tickets

While the Open Loop technology has now been put off for some time in the future, AT did say they’re planning on making changes to paper tickets this year, saying:

AT will still look at replacing paper tickets with Bar codes, both paper and device enabled this year.

It will be interesting to see just how this barcode system works and if it means people will be able to transfer services on a cash ticket. I guess it also means AT will need to upgrade station gates to be able to read them, which makes me wonder why AT don’t go for the paper smartcard, like these from Vancouver.

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118 comments

      1. They’ve also managed to implement a system with one of the slowest card read times anywhere. Snapper was bad enough, this is way worse.

    1. I’ve no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t parochialism in the end.

      This debacle needs to be picked up by MediaWorks and serious questions asked.

    2. They still have a strong union down there who would object to the losses of jobs from ticket checkers. Also it just seems that Wellington is stuck in the past on most issues.

    3. I have heard some comments about Thales (HOP use their tech) being difficult to work with and charging exorbitant fees to make any changes to the system. But not sure that’s enough to justify a new system from scratch

      1. Few things,

        1) Did NZTA not look at ongoing change costs when first selecting Thales as a vendor? What has changed since then?

        2) I would love to see how ‘exorbitant’ these fees look when compared to the cost of rebuilding the whole thing from scratch. Apparently it cost $100 million the first time around. Is adding contactless payments to the existing system going to cost $100M?

        3) Surely NZTA/GWRC are not building a new bespoke ticketing system in house from scratch, but rather they will be picking an established ticketing vendor to build the new system based on an existing proven platform. Therefore we are just swapping one load of exorbitant vendor consultancy fees for another.

        4) If they are really developing inhouse from scratch, my prediction right here is Auckland will be waiting allot longer than six to eight years for rollout.

        1. Surely it must be cheaper to buy an existing system, than to develop another one from scratch? All that experience, millions of lines of code – what’s the point in re-inventing it all? Just purchase product A, plug into city B, away you go. Tried and tested. Try to invent your own? Disastrous level of risk, every time.

    4. It’s not just welly against HOP, chch has our own system and it works better than HOP does, also the thought of having the card take directly from a bank account when you use public transit is a huge red flag, I want it to stay separate on a card.

      Christchurch metro cars can be topped up online and the balance is there within an hour unlike HOP where it takes days, last time I went to Auckland I made sure I topped up the HOP card a week before going and it still wasn’t there so I had to top up with cash at the airport.

      1. It doesn’t take days. They have the 48 hour (if that’s what it still is) because it could take banks that long to make the transfer but the reality is NZ banks now use hourly transfers. Once you tag on, it’s there.

      2. So what you’re saying is that when NZTA threatens to pull PT funding from CHC unless they adopt the national ticketing system, CHC will did in it’s heals and we’ll develop a brand new system around CHC needs, and then WLG and AKL will be forced at great pain and expense to migrate to the new system?

    5. Snapper was the first cab of the rank and was used by NZ Bus on their Go Wellington, Valley flyer and Airport Flyer bus services. Also Snapper could be used to buy suburban and regional tickets at Wellington Railway Station, used to buy tickets for harbour ferry services, could be used with Combined Taxis for taxi hires, buy coffee and food at cafes and dairy’s accepting Snapper, etc and could be use at parking meters, That is why GWRC is keen to use Snapper.

      1. Snapper was not first cab off the rank, the Metrocard in Christchurch predates Snapper.

        Also not sure what the relevance of all the things you could purchase with a Snapper card is, all of them can be purchased with a contactless bank card, can’t see why GWRC should be sticking their nose into contactless payments.

      2. If I recall correctly NZ Bus held up progress with the Hop card. They were once in a position of leverage having most of Aucklands routes and were insistent on using their Snapper card system, much to the ARC’s and AT’s displeasure.
        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2012/05/08/snapper-ruining-integrated-ticketing-surprise-surprise/

        One cannot help but see it as more than coincidental that Infratils aggressive and boof headed approach to Auckland’s councils over the years has cost them severely in lost bus services over the last few years.

        1. oh the irony, you will not be able to use snapper on the 91 airport flyer from the 14th as its a commercial service.

      3. Rail tickets – was just another micropayment, no incentive over cash/credit/EFTPOS
        Rather pointless IMO.

        Micropayments – withdrawn years ago.

        Parking meters – being withdrawn currently and replaced with contactless credit card readers (after ANZ’s new card jammed/broke every single credit card reader (500+ meters)).

        I suggest all these past uses had little to do with GW’s choice of Snapper …

    6. The Snapper card in Wellington can be used to buy coffee and refreshments etc. The AT Hop card can’t do that.

      1. So what, I want a card I can use on all forms of PT and be charged a single fare if the journey involves different modes, not to buy coffee.

        1. Strangely enough, Wellington too has this thing called EFTPOS. Its existence may have something to do with Snapper exiting micropayments years ago…

  1. I’ve long worried about business influences from established ticketing companies in Wellington. If GWRC want’s to be considered “working towards the betterment of their rate payer”s” I believe they have to be transparent on their opposition to the current Hop system.

  2. I don’t really know anything about the ticketing space, but maybe someone here could answer what seems to be a simple question: AT Hop is obviously effective, it’s technically sound with fast read times and low error rates, it apparently has the means to be expanded for credit card payments etc, and it’s already established in half the national market… so the question is, why not simply adopt the Hop system as the nationwide standard.

    Is that too naive, for some technical or operational reason? Please tell me its not just parochial politicking?!

    1. Yes I hope someone will chip in with some more information. A year or so ago I had a conversation with a tech guy whose company had been involved with various contracts to improve HOP. The position of his team was that HOP had some inherent limitations which wouldn’t ever be fixed but only managed, but the (then) latest set of requirements from AT was going to lead to more problems and unreliability rather than fixing anything. He was hoping their company didn’t get the contract.

  3. The proposed system sounds terrible:
    “Under the new accounts-based system, money will be charged from a bank account rather than through a provider.
    The physical transit card will not store money, but can be linked to a bank account and used to swipe on and off public transport.”
    This seems stupid in a number of ways:
    1) Linking a public transit system to bank accounts seems like a security risk. In the event of a security breach, who will be liable?
    2) Where kids or dependents are involved, particularly where people are living pay cheque to pay cheque, this could cause either people to be stranded or families unable to purchase necessities.
    3) I doubt that tourists will be able to link to overseas accounts. This will make the system less friendly for people looking to visit for a month or two, or regularly visiting NZ.

    1. I think it’s a little bit more than that. NZTA wasn’t to be the central hub for all things transport and also appear to want to use the system to pay for other transport thinks too so this is part of their MaaS play. In other works they want to use it to pay for rideshare or tolls etc.

      They’ve already got an app in Queenstown that gives people a variety of transport options and I think they want this to be a part of it but Nationwide

    2. In London, whilst you can use an overseas bank card in lieu of an Oyster card, expensive bank transaction charges on overseas transactions makes this an extremely poor option. Tourists will definitely need another lower charge option, the option currently available in the stored value HOP card. It will be interesting to see what the designers envisage and at at what cost. In the meantime Auckland should be in no hurry to retire HOP.

      1. It’s not poor at all – my credit card gets charged for the ourchase just like any other, with no transaction fees.

          1. You would also pay these fees if you topped up your Oyster Card or bought a paper ticket though, that’s the nature of travel.

          2. Better to bulk-convert an amount of currency for the country you are visiting by one of various low-cost methods available, and then pay for your PT-use in that currency. If you use your overseas credit card for each trip, chances are you will end up paying higher fees and higher conversion rates (Unless things have changed since last year).

    3. If you wanted PT charges to go straight to your bank account, why would you use a 3rd card that is ‘linked’ to your account? In this use-case it makes much more sense to just use your bank card, like they do in many cities overseas. In London they have been doing this since 2012. Yes lets reinvent the wheel, great idea.

      1. This would be fine if you always travel point to point on a single service, but gives up the advantage of free transfers that we have now.

        Also Oyster works by tying just about any source that can be read by a card reader to the account you set up. It doesn’t actually directly deduct money from that source (if it happens to be a bank card of some sort) when you tap on and off. It’s not a paywave type system.

        1. Contactless cards work fine with multi leg trips. Why would we restrict them to here to only single point to point trips? Just tag on and tag off like you do with a hop card.

          In London transfers between lines have always been free even if you use contactless payment. They don’t have free transfers between bus and tube, but instead they have daily and weekly price caps, and you still get these when travelling by contactless bank card.

          TfL do directly deduct the cost of travel from the bank card you use. You do not need to link your bank card to a tfl account, just turn up in the country, touch your paywave card on the reader, touch again on the way out. Repeat for any subsequent trips. Tfl then charge the card you used at the end of the day according to the trips you made. If you have already hit the weekly price cap, then no charge!

          “Consequently, TfL is now one of Europe’s largest contactless merchants, with around 1 in 10 contactless transactions in the UK taking place on the TfL network”[1]

          Registering your bank card to create an online account with tfl is an optional feature that allows you to view your travel history and other such stuff.

          [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_card#Contactless_payment

          See also: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/contactless

  4. Thales Group is a French company whose Oceania operations are largely based in Australia.

    Snapper is owned by Infratil, a Wellington headquartered investment firm who also own NZ Bus and Fullers. Infratil in turn is owned by H. R. L. Morrison & Co, a Wellington based asset management business with deep ties to the local establishment (the Lloyd Morrison Foundation funds the Wellington free ambulance service).

    So the nature of power being what it is, Wellington’s transport decision makers are certainly elbow deep in their relationship with a local firm that employs a lot of people and hasn’t shifted its HQ to Satan’s seat in the North.

    I would bet a lot that the business is very influential in local government and, in all probability by dint of proximity, with political leadership at a national level as well.

    1. Infratil is listed on the stockmarket. It’s not owned by Morrison & Co, but rather Infratil contracts out it’s management and administration to Morrison & Co.

      However that really change much of what else you say.

    2. Can’t the Minister of Transport cut through the parochial cronyism in Wellington and tell them to use Hop? Let’s see a business case for this new system, if it doesn’t exist or doesn’t stack up, which I strongly suspect is the case, instruct them to use HOP. Auckland PT users shouldn’t have to wait 6-8+ years to get open loop compatibility because of the endless schemozzle in Wellington.

      1. But Zippo – why the hell should Wellington be forced to give up a perfectly good system, just to adopt Hop ? Wellington had Snapper first – you guys up north should have adopted our system. We gave you the chance. You refused. Screw you, we’re fine with what we have got.

        1. Snapper was only adopted by Wellington a couple of weeks ago, up until then it was just the ticketing system used on one of the private operator’s bus fleets. Even today it is still not a regional ticketing system as it is not in use on the trains.

          1. Say what? So Wellington is concurrently rolling out snapper to more operators/mode while at the same time developing a new system to replace it? Or is GWRC/NZTAs second single nationwide system going to be snapper?

          2. Jezza,
            Minor point – Snapper was also on WCC owned Cable Car. Roll out to other bus operators started with Tranzit’s Wairarapa services in April. But yeah largely an NZ Bus thing.

            Dan,
            Nationwide system will replace current card based Snapper system with some account based system.

          1. Yeah its a bit clunky (both the current tech & the earlier political shenanigans).

            It is a measure of GWRC’s uselessness on ticketing that Snapper was actually a massive improvement in Wellington (replacing cardboard 10-trips in the City & old mag-stripe card in the Hutt).

  5. It will take years longer than expected, cost billions and be obsolete. Just because wellington Doesnt like Auckland.

    Stuff like this makes me want to vote ACT and remove government entirely from wasting my taxes on stupid, unnecessary projects and end so much corporate welfare.

    1. Stuff like this makes me wonder about the accumulated cost of charging for public transport. Gates, turnstiles, ticket inspectors, ticket sales, co-ordination with retail outlets, customer service costs, HOP and other systems… it all adds up and could be being spent directly on carbon footprint reduction measures.

  6. I am hoping that whatever system we wind up with can accomodate a zone-less charging system – i.e. rather than having large step-changes in the fare at zone boundaries, why not have a system that charges according to distance travelled. I have raised this concept numerous times but AT does not seem interested.

    This would avoid the unfairness of some people having to pay two whole zones because their journey happens to cross a zone boundary despite the fact that they may only be travelling a few stops. My proposal is that each fare charged would have two components: a fixed charge of say $1 or so to cover overheads for the transaction plus a variable charge that relates to actual distance travelled. Passengers do not need to worry about the maths as the fare will be seamlessly calculated and deducted. The other anomaly that this would assist with is all-day commuters “gaming the system” by choosing to get on their bus one stop past a zone boundary – at present the neighbourhood around such stops tends to get parked out by “park and hide” commuters, but if the step changes in fares was removed this kind of behaviour would no longer by incentivised.

    1. ‘Passengers do not need to worry about the maths as the fare will be seamlessly calculated and deducted’.

      Most people like to know how much they are paying for something before they commit to it.

      Do you know of any cities in the world that use distance based charging?

        1. And Seoul has a sort of bracketed distance based charge.

          “Fares are currently 1,250 won for a trip up to 10 km, with 100 won added for each subsequent 5 km.[30] Once 50 km has been passed, 100 won will be added every 8 km.”

          1250 won is $1.64.

      1. Tokyo. Walk into a train station there and the map on the wall will have every other station labelled with the cost of getting there from where you are. In principle, every origin-destination pair could have a different fare, although in practice relatively few different fares are used. Try Googling “Tokyo train fare map” to see some examples.

        1. I’ve seen it in rail systems, but having it on a bus system as well where there are an order of magnitude more stops is quite different.

          1. Amsterdam fares (includes busses):
            “you pay € 0,154 per kilometer plus a base fee of €0,89. If you transfer within 35 minutes the base fee is not charged again.
            Additional travel products — such as day or multiple-day tickets and nightbus tickets — can be added to this card”

            There’s also a bunch of unlimited travel passes targeted at tourists

          2. Thanks Dan, looks like there are a couple of cities that do it, the Seoul example is interesting as it looks effectively like a moving zone.

            There are obvious benefits, however I’m still not sure it is the best way to get the marginal user using PT. While you are right about taxis they are a rarity. most things we know the cost before committing to purchase.

          3. I think the marginal PT user will expect that the fare will somehow reflect the distance, and will be more put off by an anomaly due to zones.

          4. The bus systems in Japan are distance based – they use a numbered ticket system and an electronic board that updates, depending on the distance travelled (but as people pay in cash, it’s only updated at reasonable increases of 50 yen or so).

            It’s an awful system. If it’s a new journey I’m taking, I worry about holding up the bus driver if I don’t have exact change, but I can’t get it ready in advance because the amount keeps changing!

    2. But distance is only a small factor in how much you should be charged. What about duration, congestion, capital expenditure, etc.

      1. Let alone what incentives should be there as we strive for mode-shift, improved urban form and carbon emission reduction. Distance-based systems are more equitable, I believe, than zone-based systems. But they’re hardly going to solve all the issues.

        The problem Graeme has described is real: too high fares over a zone boundary. And the fares over any short distance is too high, also. Far better for someone who usually walks to take an affordable bus trip of two stops when it’s raining than to take the car. But currently the cost is prohibitive.

        1. Yes although there are plenty of very successful PT cities that have zone systems. Maybe they could add a minimum trip distance before being charged two zones.

        2. There definitely needs to be an overlap between the zones. This was the case in Melbourne, it was typically two train stations, so I guess about 3km. One thing I like about the zone system is it allows for some really good crosstown trips, all while staying in the same zone, this is exactly the sort of trip we want to encourage.

      2. An example, if you were to catch the train from Fruitvale to Mt Eden – a 22min trip – you’d pay the same fare as someone travelling from Henderson to Britomart, which is a 45min trip, over twice the distance. Doesn’t sound like a particularly even handed way of charging to me…

  7. They should probably start again. Is there any need for a payment card if you can use the CC payment system? Potentially banks could issue debit cards that can only be used for PT transactions for kids.

  8. The issue is knowing what to charge. Given we have a zone based system with transfers there’s no simple way to calculate costs in a way that can be debited accurately without going back to penalising transfers.

  9. But it is still early days for integrated ticketing. People have only been working on it in Auckland for 20 years.

  10. The Hop card issues kind of sums up the frailty of PT, the imperfect system whose administrators live off a take it leave it attitude and where no one takes ownership of it. It also makes the effort to sell PT as an alternative that much less convincing.

    Given the amount of money being siphoned off road users, especially with the new fuel tax the poor attitude needs a rapid turnaround or somebody/s will take the free for all away again! Maybe that’s the objective?

    And it is concerning that a road and motorwaycentric organisation like NZTA has anything to do with administering anything to do with PT. Like its set up to fail.

  11. Good post. Not sure what I think of this actually. Just keep using the current HOP system for a number of years is perhaps not too bad, just not brilliant. HOP system seems pretty robust now. I can see any change on this is going to be fought with problems/costs & drag out.

  12. But according to NZTA HOP is already a “cost-effective, nationally-integrated system” that took a “standards approach [to] enable us to establish a long-term integrated national system that regions throughout New Zealand can cost-effectively link into”[1].

    Futhermroe NZTA are “confident that this is a well designed system for the city that can be easily modified and adapted for use in other centres”[3]

    As we know from the original tender, HOP is “is technically mature both in respect of customer use as well as an operator business system.”

    More importantly the Thales system is “flexible, that is able to adapt to changes and developments in ARTA’s public transport offering. It is also extensible in respect of its ability to move into small payments most particularly with the BNZ as banking partner, e.g. parking meter charges and small retail payments. “[2]

    It is fortunate for us taxpayers that NZTA forced itself into the whole matter. After final deployment NZTA have made it clear that delays to Aucklands integrated ticketing system are a small price for Auckland commuters to pay when NZTAs involvement saw ” several benefits for public transport users all across the country. The central processing system developed for Auckland can be re-used by other regional councils as part of a national framework. As regions upgrade their ticketing systems, they will be able to purchase equipment which complies with the national standards and plug into the central processing system, ensuring that they will enjoy the benefits of a shared national systems approach, rather than having to pay a premium to develop separate ticketing systems.” It certainly sounds like developing a national system in the first place has saved us much cost down the road.

    Or, are you telling me that was all BS?

    [1]https://www.nzta.govt.nz/media-releases/new-milestone-for-public-transport-integrated-ticketing/
    [2]http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK0907/S00335.htm
    [3]http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/AK1305/S00362/aucklands-hop-card-extension-good-news-for-nz-says-nzta.htm

    1. I’d argue that much of HOP is irrelevant now that most people have a bank issued international contactless payment card sitting in their wallets. I’m guessing the parts that are useful are more complex than they need to be.

      1. With contactless cards, all you are doing is replacing one physical card with another. You still need card readers in all stations and on busses, and you still need the backend system to work out what fares apply and the apply those charges. You still need an ability to load montly passes onto a card, and to load concession rates. You do get rid of the need to for a prepay balance on your card, as now that is your regular bank balance. So i don’t think you avoid the need for a system like HOP when you go with bank cards.

        Even then you still need a card for those that don’t have a contactless bank card. They have no where near the penetration in debit cards that you see in the UK, and in NZ they have annual charges that people may wish to avoid. Also not everyone wants/needs/can be trusted with a credit card. You also have visitors that don’t want international transaction fees on every trip, children to deal with, and those that want to exercise their civil liberties to travel anonymously.

        1. To me there is a big difference between the two modes of operation. Trying to support both modes going forwards will probably cost a lot and restrict usability and features.
          Better to cut our losses now and move to debit cards. AT could probably provide a prepay debt card via one of the banks if required, and hopefully it can be restricted to PT purchases only.
          Yes we still need readers regardless. I’m guessing they need to be upgraded for credit cards regardless.
          Get rid of monthly passes. Keeping a database of concessions is hardly difficult. Working out the fare is easy – just need to know the zone at tag on and at tag off and any concessions.
          Technology moves quickly, hanging on to old dinosaurs is often more expensive and limiting than moving with the times.

          1. I see very little difference between the modes of operation. For instance, how are AT/NZTA going to track journeys, how many journeys, how many transfers, where are people transferring to from each route, without a backend like HOP handling it all? How are they going to do the revenue sharing with operators without a HOP-like system handling all journeys?
            How will you load oldies and youngies concessions against a card without logging into a HOP-like PT self service portal?
            How do you view your journey history without the HOP portal?

            Building a new system from scratch to support contactless cards only, seems to me that you are rebuilding from scratch an entire system when 95% of what the new system does is exactly the same, and it’s only 5% to do with managing the float that you could retire. And again I don’t think you would want to retire that.

            The prepay debit card that works only on PT – how are you going to load money onto that? How is it any different to how a prepay HOP card works? Why not just keep the prepay HOP card, and not spend all the money redeveloping a new system that is functionally equivalent only it has the VISA logo on it?

            The card readers shouldn’t need upgrading, they already read contactless bank cards. It’s why you can’t just touch your wallet to the reader and instead have to take your card out and touch only that. I keep meaning to put a piece of tin foil in mine. I keep the credit card on one side and HOP on the other, so I only have to open my wallet and touch the relevant side against the reader. With the tinfoil i wouldn’t even need to open my wallet (and it’s why i refuse a VISA debit card, that and the annual fees).

    2. Its all true – because Stephen Joyce and then Gerry Brownlee after him, said it was.

      So who are we to judge?

  13. Clearly while HOP is [currently] good enough, its not perfect. Never has been, and likely never will.

    NZTA also has a need to sort out their tolling system used for the Northern Gateway, and soon Transmission Gully and other toll roads that will be coming. Relying on people having their own account with NZTA just for tolls, or assuming they’ll stop and pre/post pay at the roadside or a postshop or where-ever they can pay them now is a bit “early last decade” thinking really. It was fine for then, when we had one toll road, its not fit for purpose now.

    So we have disparate payment methods/systems/readers and other tech, no overarching architecture or design and a bunch of random “wannabe” systems from the likes of GWRC, Dunedin, Queenstown and Christchurch councils to name a few.

    Its going to need to wisdom of Solomon to weld all this lot into a coherent whole.

    But that should be NZTAs job to make it so.

    After all it is the successor to the old “National Roads Board” from decades back.

    In the old days we had local roads boards that built the roads around each populated area and that just resulted in a very disjointed system of roads with completely different coverage and consistency.
    National Roads Board pulled those together to get a proper road network built, thats pretty much the same thoughout NZ.

    We now have the old “roads boards” situation now with PT payment systems.

    We do need someone to look at the bigger picture and ensure that the system is fit for purpose for both large and small councils and that its not just a one size fits all.

    But to hold up any improvements to HOP “just in case” NZTA can get its act together quickly is something else again. On the surface.

    But I do wonder though if Thales (and thus HOPs) back end has had its day, and the concept of a central stored “pre paid” value system is actually part of the problem not the solution now.

    10 years which is basically how old the Thales system is, is a long time in Tech.
    [just look at smartphones from 10 years ago compared to now].

    And while contactless payment methods using a smartphone are the rage now, they may well [read: very likely to] be supplanted with something else in 10 years or even sooner.

    We don’t actually have a very good payment system right now for frequent small [low] value transactions such as some PT fares.

    The likes of TfL get around that by once a day billing and daily/weekly caps to try and bulk up the value.
    Thats an interim way to shoehorn their system into a credit card based payment platform like PayWave intended for more higher value purchases.

    But I think we can and should be aiming to get something much better than HOP, and sooner than later.
    Patching up the current system may just delay that eventual replacement for longer than we need.

    I also think that NZTA needs to avoid the thinking that if a new system works for Auckland it will work for everyone else. Clearly the majority of PT journeys are paid for using Aucklanders. But they are not the only PT users in the country, so the eventual system must work for all the smaller councils to get on board with, then grow with. To ignore that need will doom the rest anf other half of the PT paying country to a different future from Aucklands.

    But I can’t believe we are the only country on the planet with this particular issue.
    So I don’t see the need to do another home grown system [yet anyway].
    Nor do I see it will take years to find, decide and source an alternative.
    Our needs simply cannot be that unique.
    And if they are, maybe we need to take a serious look at why that is.
    And make the change in our PT fare structure before we change the PT payment systems.

    1. I disagree that HOP is on the road to becoming antiquated.

      Smartphones are an example of a market that saw rapid change as part of the market maturing. This is evident by how smartphone evolution has slowed substantially over the last 3-5 years: No rush for faster processors or more RAM, minor tweaks to the OS, feature sets pretty much the same (exceptions for some manufacturers hyping existing concepts as new).

      General purpose computing has been largely stagnant for close to a decade now, too. Most of the recent developments have been in relation to power consumption or the GPU market maturing.

      Back on track, I’d be incredibly surprised if contactless payments are not common in another 15 years. Contactless payments was (according to wikip) a thing for Mobil way back in 1997!
      Smartphones won’t disappear either, though their capabilities will evolve. Will they be used for contactless payment? I doubt it. In fact I’d be amazed if they’re still used for that in 3 years – It’s currently a novelty, but how convenient is it really compared to the alternatives?

      As for pre-paid vs direct debit – Why not allow a float balance with topups occurring as required? Still connected to a bank account or debit/credit/stored value card, but without dealing with the minutiae of managing your finances on a day to day basis.

      Whatever system is adopted or adapted, the goal should be to have an easy to use system. For some, that means direct debit from a live account whilst for others that would mean a float that can be managed (for dependents or those on limited income). From a technical viewpoint, neither should be difficult. The only difficulty is explaining the options in “user speak”.

      1. “As for pre-paid vs direct debit – Why not allow a float balance with topups occurring as required? Still connected to a bank account or debit/credit/stored value card, but without dealing with the minutiae of managing your finances on a day to day basis.”

        That sounds exactly how most PT smartcards work around the world, including things like Londons Oyster and this one they use in an obscure city at the bottom of the world called HOP.

    2. “10 years which is basically how old the Thales system is, is a long time in Tech.”

      Have a guess at how old this internet thing we are communicating on is.

      How about the operating system running your smartphone> If it’s an iPhone then 1971 was it’s first release. For android its a 1990s clone of that 1971 piece of software.

      Technology evolves, the internet has and so has HOP. Only now NZTA have told AT to stop evolving it for the next 6-8 years.

  14. What’s wrong with the current toll system? It already supports 3 toll roads. I’m not sure what you are suggesting as an alternative. What’s wrong with having NZTA seamlessly charge my account everytime i drive past and then automatically topping up my account from my credit card when the balance drops below $5? I set it up once when i arrived in the country, it didn’t take long, and I only had to touch it again when i bought a new car and again it was easy to change the registration plate.

    Sure the charge-an-online-account and then auto-topup setup sounds a lot like HOP and their could be efficiencies to be gained sharing one ‘nz travel account’ between the systems. But their needs are quite different, I suspect the extra complexity would make a combined system far more expensive to develop than two separate systems.

    1. Whats right with the current system is the better question?

      Short answer, not a lot.

      The present situation with tolling and many other payment systems is like the old days of “cash” cards in the ’80s – when you had as many different cards as you had banks, none of them worked together or in another banks machines and you had to manage them all yourself, make sure each had enough money in it when you needed to use and and then you had to pick the “right” card for the ATM or retailers equipment to transact on.

      Sounds clunky and low tech? Yeah it was. Its why it never really caught on. EFTPOS changed all that, one machine for all banks cards, cheap enough that every retailer had one. Low fees to use and just plain convenient.

      But that low tech situation is exactly where we are today with NZTAs and other regional council payment “systems”.

      I have a NZTA toll account, hardly use it, they have a bunch of my money on hand I can’t use in the meantime. when and if my credit card expires I have to remember to update it on their system so they know how to top it back up should my balance drop below minimum. Same with my HOP card, my snapper card, my CHC Metrocard.

      All have a bunch of money sitting on them I can’t use most of the time.

      Multiply that all around the country and thats a lot of tied up money we collectively can’t use but its there just in case.

      Better to have a single system like EFTPOS is – any card, any system, one pool of cash to maintain and draw down on.

      Simple. Effective, Widely available.

      1. Hmm yes, have them charge your eftpos card directly rather than maintain a seperate float. Would have thought such things would be possible with online-EFPTOS, shame all the banks seem to be going their own way with online payments, still only ASB and the Co-Op who have implemented online EFPTOS.

        They could also do it by charging your credit card or VISA/Mastercard debit card directly and not maintain the float, but the transaction fees for merchants in NZ are horrendous, they would probably have to put the toll prices up.

  15. So, if we’ll be able to use contactless credit cards instead of dedicated transport cards, what does that mean for the ticket inspectors on trains?

    Will they become obsolete, or will we have to give them our credit cards?

    That feels like a massive security risk to me. I could imagine a con coming on board a packed train, armed with a yellow fluro vest and a contactless credit card cloner.

    1. yes you would have to show your bank card, as that is your ticket.

      I imagine the penalties for impersonating a warranted officer of the crown are reasonably severe, and you would be all over CCTV.

      You can’t clone a chip card the way you can the magnetic strip on the old EFTPOS cards.

  16. Several commenters are asking why Wellington doesn’t want Auckland’s AT Hop card. The answer is probably that, unlike the Hop card, Wellington’s existing Snapper card can be used to pay for taxis, coffee, and other refreshments. Consequently, Wellington probably sees the Hop card as a backward step. Who could blame them?

    1. Because of the ongoing snafu in Wellington, and the consequent pushing of this new ticketing system, AT have decided not to implement the open loop compatibility for the HOP card which would have allowed users to pay with their bank cards. The same bank cards you use to pay for “taxis, coffee and other refreshments”.

    2. Wellington is removing Snapper. They’ve just pulled the ability to pay for parking with it, and widing it back of the airport bus. Dairies are next.

        1. The fun of a commercial (or should that be comical) service, unfortunately. Even sillier as NZ Bus & Snapper have the same owner …

          I see one of the Wellington local MPs wants to introduce legislation forcing airports to allow access to council bus services nationwide. If that happens maybe GW/Metlink will have a crack.

      1. The decision to remove Snapper from parking meters was a commercial decision by Snapper not Wellington City or Regional Council

        1. And therein lies part of the problem with Snapper that AKL managed to avoid by going to HOP. Snapper is a privately-run system and it is used at the whim of that company. At least in Auckland AT is in control.

        2. Snapper function is being removed as all the card readers are being replaced (thanks to ANZ’s new cards stuffing them). New ones will have paywave, and WCC don’t want to pay for Snapper functionality on top of that.

    3. All of the additional that Snapper can do was great, in 2008, but now with contactless being standard there is little if any need for a card that you have to top up to do the same. This is further amplified when you consider a 25c top up fee unless you have an Android phone, are close on to one the 10 or so top up kiosks or spend $25 on a USB dongle in order to top-up at home.

      Contrast to AT HOP where I load with my credit card on the website the night before flying to Auckland and the credit is collected the next day when I tag on. It really sucks that because of Project Next that AT HOP upgrades aren’t going ahead (one less card in the wallet would be nice), especially seeing as GWRC have been talking about integrated ticketing and fares for the entire 9 years I’ve lived here and it is only this weekend that they will go live, but only on one mode..

      With a bit of luck sanity will prevail and Cubic will win the national contract and we’ll get something akin to what Transport for London has but recognising that monthly passes belong to a region unlike stored value that can be used anywhere. Also logical would be that as much as possible that authorities do not have to manage cash/payments (bugger all cash payments and use Visa/Mastercard networks for payments as much as possible), again taking a leaf out of where TfL are heading.

    4. Micropayment function – removed years ago.

      Taxis – only because Snapper have the current contract for electronic total mobility “voucher” system.

      I think what Wellingtonians want is intergrated ticketing and fares ASAP and an end to the decades long farce …

  17. Ex-Aucklander who has lived in Wellington for going on two years here.

    In Auckland I kept my Snapper Hop when they switched over to AT HOP, mostly just because I could.

    Living in Wellington I chuckle each time I use my Snapper Hop on the bus as I’m reminded of the sheer debacle that Auckland’s two versions of HOP was. I laugh less when I look at Snapper’s top up model contrasted with AT HOP though, Snapper is damn uninspiring and if I didn’t transit through Welly station everyday (with its self-service Snapper top-up machine) I’d be pissed at having to buy a ridiculous $25 ‘Feeder’ attachment to top-up online. And yes I know there are other physical top-up points, but my preference is still on-line, which Snapper is pretty miserable for.

    Don’t even get me started on the fact that it’s being removed as a payment option on the parking meters.

  18. Wellington’s a dump and I hate it and its meddling in Auckland. However, I was shocked a couple of years back when we went to catch the train from Lower Hutt to whatever their Britomart is called and discovered (a) a wholly paper system, (b) on-train ticket purchasing and (c) a refusal to accept non-expired IDs for my brother’s concession. I spin these features particularly negatively because Wellington’s a dump and I hate it. But the point is that we really shouldn’t be paying attention to it, its jumped up faux-innocent entitlement t and using this as an excuse to not deliver improvements to HOP.

    As to Oyster cards… they’re… over-rated. Fundamentally, Oyster and HOP cards are the same; sure you can pay with more alternatives but if you’ve got the transport cards your experience is pretty much the same. However, HOP is much better for the budget traveller in the sense that it’s one system in all situations (multi-modal zonal fares) and you can always see your balance when you tag on or off. On the other hand, HOP’s absence of fare caps is much worse but budgeted travelling, and the 30min transfer lee-way is inappropriate on an infrequent network with poor toilet provision.

    1. Wow, Whirlsler – sounds like you seriously got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. Wellington’s actually great ! So sad that you can’t see that.

    2. Bigotry like that is what gives Auckland a bad name …

      Pity, because the point about rubbish ticketing is entirely valid.

  19. Just give me a paper ticket with a magnetic strip, which grants me pre-paid access to the transport system or a chosen part of it for a chosen period of time, and I will be happy. That ticket could be a 2-ride ticket usable within an hour of first-validation, or a day-ticket, or weekly, monthly, annual. . . . I get to choose at the time I buy it. I know exactly what it will cost me and I know that it will remain valid until the expiry date printed on it. No deductions, no topping-up, no penalties, no card-fee. I simply need to buy another one before it runs out, just like the milk in my fridge. No surprises or embarrassments, no robotic voice telling me to “Please check your balance”, no being declined, no getting blocked. So unbelievably simple and user-friendly. What’s not to like?

    1. Whats not to like?
      1) Having to buy in advance
      2) Having to choose a part of the transport system in advance
      3) Having to choose a period of time in advance
      4) Having to buy another one whenever it runs out

      If you are happy to do that level of preplanning and buy tickets in advance, why can’t you do that with your Snapper?

      Maybe you can’t do this with Snapper, but my HOP has an auto top up that is immediately triggered whenever the balance runs out. I have not had to add credit or use a ticket machine, or been caught out without a ticket or credit, in over two years of daily use. I’ve also never had to pe purchase anything or decide where I might be going in the next week, or when I might use it again. I always automatically get the lowest fare for whatever trip I make.

      What’s not to like!

      1. That sounds like a much better deal than Snapper offers. If you can set up auto-top-up with Snapper, I certainly am not aware of it. The beauty of what I described above is that you can ‘pay and forget’. You can’t do that with Snapper. I’m not even sure if there is a daily cap on fare-deductions with Snapper (there may be?). If you don’t act every time your balance gets low you run the risk of being declined. And many users appear to operate in a low-balance condition, as evidenced by the endless cackling of the card-reader to “please check your balance” on most bus journeys. And then of course if you forget to tag-off it’s penalty-time, so you grimly clutch your card in your hand for the entire journey as a reminder. This is not a peace-of-mind regime. It feels more like a mean-spirited and nit-picking one.

        A once-every-so-often, up-front payment for unlimited travel and no further worries in my view has a lot going for it in comparison to this.

        1. No auto top up or caps with Snapper unfortunately.

          Dave, though about buying a 30-day bus pass? That’s usually what I do, but I’m waiting to start a new one next week (under the new fares). New Metlink pass covers all zone 1 to 3 buses (rather than being operator based like previous one).

  20. Maybe this is a dumb question, but why do we need a national ticket system? I suppose it’s useful for a minority of people who bounce between cities often, but for most of us we use one region’s system 98% of the time and are happy to fit into another system (or *gasp* purchase tickets) when we travel elsewhere. HOP seems fine here in Auckland, but why should Wellington have to use it? Why should Christchurch?

    I’m not keen on a move from a stored value card to bank cards’ contactless systems (I don’t use paywave now – why give Visa more money when EFTPOS works well? Is the tiny time savings worth feeding the finance beast?). Also, like others who have commented I prefer not to have every single thing integrated in my life.

    1. I’m also not keen on “integrated”. I don’t like the idea one bit of having to tag on with my bank card (aka EFTPOS) whenever I take PT journeys. Huge security risk. On some frequent trips, I board four times: local North Shore bus to Akoranga, NEX to city, train to Panmure, bus to Pakuranga or Botany. Eight tag ons/offs, and another eight coming home, a huge amount of handling of the card.

      If I were to drop and lose that bank card, I’m up for thousands of dollars loss before I could get withdrawals blocked. My AT Hop card, $50-70 max, and the finder probably couldn’t use all that up in one day, so I could get it blocked before they used it all.

    2. The only reason I can think of would be if there are cost savings from procuring one system rather than each regional council getting their own.

      I’m not an IT expert, however I would have thought these would basically be off the shelf products so there is no reason different councils couldn’t just choose what works best for them.

      I’d prefer to be able to use my bank card to pay as it would mean one less contactless card in my pocket. However, I there should also be a stored value card as an option.

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