Auckland Transport have some work before them to make buying HOP cards and topping them up easier. It’s often a long way to a HOP card vendor or top up location, and you generally need to know where they are in advance because wayfinding is minimal. Vendors in key locations are often only open during standard working hours and shut on Sundays, public holidays, and overnight.

People who use automatic top ups may not have thought about the difficulties of finding somewhere to top up. For a variety of reasons, including no spare money to keep any more money on a card than is absolutely necessary, plenty of people don’t use the automatic top up function. And anyone can lose a HOP card and need a new one. The problem affects us all in other ways, too.

To reduce our carbon emissions, we need massive modeshift. Trying and using public transport should be made a comfortable experience. Not everyone has access to a computer so we need to provide the infrastructure to do things in person. And with online top ups taking up to 72 hours, being caught out without funds unexpectedly happens often enough to people who usually use the online system.

Since the no cash rule was introduced, that last resort has disappeared, so more people are getting stranded. I’ve had to rescue quite a few people being refused entry to a bus, by loading their fare onto my card.

I saw yet another person in a pickle on Boxing Day. Boarding my bus in Warkworth was a man wanting to make his way to the airport, in order to fly home after a family Christmas get together. His journey was going to involve at least four buses, but it wasn’t going smoothly.

His HOP card was empty, because the top up he’d made over 48 hours before, on the morning of Christmas Eve, hadn’t yet appeared. Warkworth has a service centre, but it was shut:

Because this man was able to display the transaction on his phone, explain the situation convincingly, and because he struck it lucky with the driver, he was let onto the bus for free in Warkworth.

At the new Hibiscus Coast Station (which was fenced off for months, apparently completed, and possibly awaiting a ribbon-cutting ceremony) there was also nowhere to top up. Again, he convinced the driver, and was waved on a second time. Hopefully he found a place to top up in the city centre and met no further difficulties.

This “customer experience” was poor and he was pretty disgruntled. It could’ve been far worse for someone with less persuasive diplomatic skills, or for a more vulnerable person at night, or without a functioning phone. From what I’ve observed, most people treat data or phone credit on their phones as a “sometime” thing for sunny times, not an “always” thing for emergency situations. (And getting assistance via public phone is a thing of the past, before our public phone network was allowed to run down.)

More HOP card vendors and top up locations would make using public transport easier for a lot of people.

But they are also an important part of keeping people safe.

The AT website lists 229 “HOP card vendors”

  • 76 in Central Auckland
  • 36 in North Auckland
  • 38 in West Auckland
  • 70 in South Auckland
  • 9 in East Auckland.

Some of these both sell cards and top them up, but some do only one or the other. According to an OIA response, there are 180 retailers, 10 service centres and 90 ticket top up machines. Presumably some of these machines are at retailers and service centres (so these numbers wouldn’t be additive).

How do we compare with other cities? I’ve used the number 229, being the number of places that the AT website directs the public towards. I’ve also used a population for Auckland of 1.6 million people.

Sydney

The Opal Card network in Sydney and surrounding areas serves a population of 6.7 million people (I summed the population for each of the listed areas). At Auckland’s per capita rate of vendors, we could expect them to have about 960 vendors. They hit 1000 retailers 7 years ago, and today:

How many thousands I can’t find but I noticed that every 7-11 store sells Opal cards, and also that the retailers are strung out along the public transport routes, which is where users need them:

Brisbane

The Go Card network in Brisbane and South East Queensland serves a population of 3.6 million people (population from wikipedia). At Auckland’s per capita ratio of locations where you can top up and/or buy a card, we could expect them to have about 515. Instead they have 1600 locations where you can top up, and 680 locations where you can buy a card.

Again, the map for Brisbane shows the retailers are located along the transport lines:

To illustrate what it’s like in Auckland, the distance between HOP retailers directly on the popular Outer Link route in the Pt Chevalier to city centre area is 7.8 km.

There is also little or no wayfinding to retailers near the route at the city end. And while this meant I once walked from Victoria Park to the Ponsonby retailer in the summer heat when I could have just gone to Fanshawe St, a family member struck it worse. He walked all the way home in the rain from Victoria Park, hoping to find a retailer along the route.

I asked Auckland Transport:

Does AT understand that the ability to buy HOP cards affects customer experience and ridership?

We understand that the ability to buy HOP cards affects customer experience and ridership which is why we carefully consider the location of HOP card vendors and sell prepaid HOP cards at retailers and online. This is balanced alongside operating in a financially responsible manner.

Does AT understand that the ability to buy HOP cards affects personal safety?

AT is aware that safety is a factor, we have over 250 locations to purchase AT HOP cards or top up, with online and auto top-up options.

Perhaps Sydney and Brisbane are not acting in a “financially responsible manner” when they provide their higher number of outlets per capita? Maybe they didn’t “carefully consider” the locations well enough? Or maybe it’s Auckland Transport who are out of step?

There’s certainly little cost or work involved in finding retailers willing to stock HOP cards and provide the top up service. Auckland Transport keep a waiting list, and must spend time and money declining applications. My local dairy has applied five times, but is declined each time.

Another dairy had their HOP services taken from them because the boardings nearby dropped relative to other places. AT justified it because there was another retailer 1.5 km away. The schools nearby say it would make things easier for them and their families. The dairy has re-applied many times, to no avail.

These dairies are applying because they have customer demand.

I asked Auckland Transport about their policy and financial analysis for making these decisions.

Could you please supply me with a copy of any analysis Auckland Transport has done to decide where HOP cards should be sold, how many vendors in Auckland there should be, or how to respond to a request to be a vendor for HOP cards.

… With Auckland’s growing population, it is important for Auckland Transport (AT) to ensure its retail network is optimised to meet customer demand. AT reviews retail locations on a 6-monthly basis or on demand.

To become an AT HOP retailer, the retailer completes an online application and submits this for consideration. Once the application is received, the application information is added to the applicant register.

This review includes:

  • suitability of operating hours
  • location to nearest existing AT HOP service
  • location to public transport service
  • previous applicant(s) expressions of interest.

In evaluating new applications, we consider:

  • the number of trips in areas – by using data from our Geographic Information System to assess any gaps
  • accessibility – commonly visited locations so customers can buy AT HOP cards at the same time as do their shopping
  • opening hours
  • device availability
  • Existing HOP facilities in the area

How many vendors in Auckland there should be

AT don’t have a specific requirement for the number of AT HOP retailers in Auckland. Majority of AT HOP transactions happen via online and self-service channels, with under 20% via AT HOP retailers. The number of retail sites are determined by customer demand.

Does AT have a policy on how to decide to accept or decline requests by retailers who wish to sell HOP cards?

We don’t have a policy on how to accept or decline requests made by retailers. When an application is submitted, we review the request and assess the area using the criteria mentioned above to see if there is a demand. If a new AT HOP retailer is required, we refer to our register which holds retailer information from previous applicants, and we contact the retailer directly.

What, exactly, are they optimising here to meet customer demand? It appears Auckland Transport limits retailers to a level that’s much lower than what other cities enjoy, yet can provide no analysis to confirm that this low number is appropriate.

The process of “rationing” the locations appears to be algorithm or spreadsheet-driven which lends undeserving “scientificity” to the process. How many outlets, and where they should be, are decisions that should be made based on evidence-based network design principles that

  • Improve customer experience and personal safety;
  • Maximise modeshift – for helping with our responses to the climate emergency, the safety crisis, transport poverty and to improve social and public health outcomes.

I’m a little confused, too, that Auckland Transport said that

AT don’t have a specific requirement for the number of AT HOP retailers in Auckland.

Auckland Transport have previously given advice that the HOP system limits how many retailers we have.

If the HOP system does limit the number, was the system chosen poorly? Was it a cheaper version, more suitable for a compact city where distances are smaller?

Image from Our Auckland

Meanwhile, Auckland Transport could stock HOP cards in the vending machines at stations, like they’ve done for face masks. Similarly, it would only take a negotiation with the supermarkets to ensure every supermarket stocks HOP cards. These two changes would make a big difference to reducing the chance of being completely stranded.

There are many low-hanging customer experience improvements that would help people to shift from driving to using public transport. Auckland Transport needs to embrace them as a key part of decarbonising transport, and one that’s fully within their sphere of influence.

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95 comments

  1. The other thing about Sydney is the ability to use a credit/debit card with contactless turned on with Opal card readers. It’s not ideal, but someone with no other option would at least be able to use public transport.

    1. I think this is one of the most important things that you can do. I think this is the ideal way of doing this, as the technology is the same – you have to tap and hold. The only exception is Japan, where the SUICA/PASMO cards are different – where you can walk at a fast rate and simply touch the card and it isntantly gets read

  2. When we visited London a couple of years ago, the dairy around the corner (quite literally) from where we were staying not only did top ups but, as I recall, also gave us free card wallet things to protect the Oyster cards. Meanwhile here in Auckland, I’d resorted to buying a new HOP card entirely to get a protective plastic casing.

    Of course, I use the trains and, what’s more, mainly use stations with customer service centres so I’m spared most of the hassles, but even as insulated from these acquisition and topping up problems as I am, it’s been apparent to me that HOP’s got problems for ages. I can’t remember what made me realise the validity of all the complaints I’d see (mostly in the comments here) but I’m pretty sure it was something practical. You know, because my original reaction was very much “just use the top up machines at the station”. Maybe it was as simple as using busses a bit more?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if whoever’s been in charge of this is either like me and insulated from the problem because trains or just straight up doesn’t use Public Transport.

      1. My experience of trying to top up Snapper in central Wellington has been pretty poor. Most shops I went into would only accept cash for a topup, and I wasn’t carrying cash. Using an ATM wasn’t ideal, as I’d have to pay international fees which suddenly make for an expensive bus trip. This experience suggested to me that Snapper doesn’t make enough effort to ensure its retailers offer a good experience either… Not only that, but looking up retailers online wasn’t great – the first two I went to told me they no longer supported Snapper. Maybe I was incredibly unlucky, but I found it a very unsatisfactory experience…

        1. Odd, I’ve never had a problem using EFTPOS or credit. It’d be years since I’ve done a cash topup. Struck the no longer existing retailer issue once (a dairy that had recently gone out of business), annoying when it happens (missed bus). These days usually use machines to topup (electronic payments only), several locations along or near Golden Mile.

      2. We also have Snapper top up locations at all 3 campuses in Victoria University – nice and easy for students. Snapper card sales are fairly easy to find a retailer for down here.

    1. As a visitor to Wellington on a Saturday found I couldn’t top up on line with a computer, the app only worked for very new mobile phones, snapper kiosk on Lambton quay not operating as the building where it was was being extensively renovated and not possible to top up at Petone railway station as it’s shut on weekends! Other than that it was good. Easy to buy card and top up (when you find a working kiosk)

  3. > loading their fare onto my card.

    How does this work? I’ve seen it done but never tried it myself.
    I have tagged someone on when I happened to have a second card on me. If I knew how to use my own card I would do this more often.

    1. It’s the cash fare that can be loaded, not the HOP fare. The driver needs to do it, and it involves not the usual tag on machine, but a scanner beside the driver.

      1. Do you know why AT charges cash fares for addition passengers traveling on a single HOP card? Snapper allows multiple people to be tagged on with the same card & all at the discounted smart card fare. Assume its deliberate policy decision by AT.

        1. I’m curious, how does that Snapper multiple-people system work if you have to transfer bus? Or if one of your ‘plus ones’ gets off at a different stop/zone to you? It starts to get complicated for the ticketing system to store multiple concurrent fares on a single card. Having a simple one-off deduction of a fare from the card’s credit is much more straightforward.

          I would say they set the price to the cash fare for the same reasons that the cash fare is more expensive to begin with: it’s a disincentive, because it takes more time dealing with the bus driver, adding to dwell times.

        2. @Timmy,
          Never tried a transfer. With a single bus journey it assumes everyone on the single card is going to the same stop. Occasionally useful when friends/family unexpectedly run out & saves stuffing round with cash (assume this is why its discounted).

  4. Isn’t the better option just to make the system compatible with contactless debit/credit cards so having a HOP card is a luxury?

    1. +1 They have it in London and works great as a backup. Not allowing cash transactions is a great time saver too. I feel like this should be procured on a national government level.

      1. Yeah I’m currently in London, the Oyster is actually redundant now. You link your credit card to your Oyster account to get the daily caps etc

        It’s one thing banning cash when you can use a contactless card but if you have an inaccessible system like HOP its a bit silly

        1. Interesting – but so does this mean that the credit card company gets a cut of every trip you make? So, like 3-4% of every transport transaction goes to Mr Visa ?

        2. No I think the transaction fees are heavily regulated by the EU. I use my Amex on the tube and buses

    2. No one under 18 can get a contactless card and any of us don’t want them. Contactless bank cards don’t solve the problem.

    3. Agreed. Opal works with Apple Pay too (so provided you have a card linked to your phone), you just wave your phone at the reader. That’s got to be where things are going for most people – phone with a digital wallet built-in.

  5. The other issue is the price of the cards. $10 is a very expensive piece of plastic. $2 would be more acceptable.
    Both of these issues would be solved if you could use a credit/debit card!

    1. The problem there is that many trips could take your hop card to a negative balance below -2 dollars, at which point it would make financial sense to chuck the card and buy a new one.

      Maybe they could address that with a system where you are reimbursed the $10 fee when you register the card.

      1. Yes. And when the card deteriorates. With a family of heavy PT users, I’ve kept a few of the old cards that have stopped working. They’ve all failed in the same way. But even if they hadn’t, plastic wears out. The reason for the cost is leaving negative fares on the card, so there’s no reason not to reimburse.

        Except mindset.

  6. An example of the complete lack of service in providing AT Hop card retailers is the Sunnynook bus station. Although the station has a top-up machine there is nowhere in the surrounding suburbs of Sunnynook, Totara Vale, Forrest Hill or Wairau Valley to purchase an AT Hop card. Potential travellers regularly turn up at the station and ask where to get an AT Hop card. To save them going home to get their car or an Uber I have told them to find a friendly bus driver prepared to take them to Smales Farm station for free to get one at the customer service centre there if it is open, or I have put their fare on my card. Pathetic lack of customer service from Auckland Transport. Despite this Sunnynook is one of the busiest stations on the network.

  7. If they moved to having the balance stored on a central DB and the buses using the mobile phone network to process tag on/off then slow topups would be a thing of the past (where they should be). The current system is a remnant of a time when the internet wasn’t portable.

  8. Back when Hop was introduced in 2012 there was supposedly an app in Beta – what happened to that? Given that it was “coming soon” was part of the defence in not going with Snapper that had that functionality (close to a decade ago)

    1. There have been posts around why there haven’t been any upgrades, mainly centred around GWRC refusing to use HOP as the nationwide system, resulting in all upgrades being canned pending a new system which Wellington also can’t agree on.

    1. I asked New World about it. The reply:

      As these stores are all individually owned and operated, the stores are able to decide which products they stock depending on the size of the store and the range they feel will appeal most to their customers. This means we do not have a list of the specific products sold through any one store.

      We recommend you contact the buyer at your local store regarding whether or not they can stock this product or visit the service desk and make a product suggestion to be passed on to the Grocery Buyer.

      Also, please note that not every product in store is listed online.

      1. I know that New World Southmall, opposite Manurewa Station and Pak’n Save Papakura both sell and top up.

        I guess that staffing ticket offices would be too expensive

  9. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Auckland was how absurdly difficult it was to get a fare card (and how insanely expensive the card was). If you want to get new people riding PT you need to reduce the friction of trying it as much as possible. Having to travel a couple km to a store with limited hours to pay $10 just to get a card that you can then add money to is quite a lot of friction.
    Handling money is a major expense for PT operations but it really is essential to allow cash payments on board buses and at train stations. Not only does it reduce that friction but, as pointed out, not having that option harms the most vulnerable users the most.

    1. The time for cash is over, the PT system shouldnt be burdened with it, what they need it to keep pace with technology so you can use contactless bank cards or NFC phone apps

      1. The system needs to function for all users, and be based on actual evidence about what each demographic in Auckland requires, remembering that in addition to all its other functions, PT fills a niche spot of affordable travel for unexpected and emergency situations.

        The AT Customer Experience team don’t seem to have done this work; if they had they would know that there are many people who don’t have functioning phones – something they rely on for wayfinding – nor credit cards.

        For public transport fares, wayfinding, information, we need a belt and braces approach. There could be a cashless system for this, but it’ll need to be designed from an equity perspective, not by people who are comfortable in modern technology and well off enough to always have their phones functioning.

        1. Yep, why can’t they have contactless credit/debit card/NFC phone app for the mobile crew and then have prepaid HOP cards for kids, elderly etc (for instance $20 card with $20 value on it). There would no restrictions on which outlets could sell them, they’d be everywhere like prepaid phone sim cards. And yes, a top up facility at every station….

  10. This point is important,

    “There are many low-hanging customer experience improvements that would help people to shift from driving to using public transport. Auckland Transport needs to embrace them as a key part of decarbonising transport, and one that’s fully within their sphere of influence.”

    This is a fail on AT’s part. But it’s part of the wider fail – their entire strategy ignores that people’s mode decisions come down to experience and attractiveness.

  11. Fascinating, thanks for investigating this Heidi. I had always assumed that the complete lack of Hop retailers was that there was no money in it so the retailers themselves weren’t interested in providing Hop services. I would never have guessed that the fault lies in AT developing such a painfully stupid, anti-customer system.

    1. IKR.

      This post should be sent to the AT Board with the question,

      “When you asked why there were so few hop vendors, what rot did AT tell you?”

      But I know the answer – the Board probably never asked. Because they clearly never think about what it’s like for users.

  12. “AT justified it because there was another retailer 1.5 km away. The schools nearby say it would make things easier for them and their families. The dairy has re-applied many times, to no avail.”

    What the actual fuck, AT?

  13. Why is that stuff do they limit the retailers that want to apply? I can only think they’re trying to save on restocking, or holding costs. Ridiculous situation. Their Emails make a big song and dance about one or two extra new retailers that sell them every so often. Talk about barriers to using our PT system.

  14. Oyster, Octopus, and many other card systems were better back in 2005 than HOP is now 16 years later!
    Every train/bus/ferry station should have at least one ticket/top up machine – simply pop your card on pay and instant credit on your HOP card (Opal in Sydney does this too) – and purchase HOP cards through it too.
    Vending machines with HOP cards would be great, as should pre-credited HOP cards (with say $10 loaded) for sale on buses and other shops etc for $20.
    Better yet, go with live top ups rather than this 48 hour nonsense… that’s been an option since about 2002 – nearly 20 years ago!

    The new nationwide system can’t come soon enough of HOP can’t be improved (and if it can then it should be nationwide!). Using you debit/credit card linked to your HOP account should be an option too.

    1. Every train station does have a ticket machine where you can get an immediate top up unlike Wellington where such advanced technology is non existent.

  15. “Auckland Transport have previously given advice that the HOP system limits how many retailers we have.”
    Is this the real reason for abandoning HOP as the national ticketing system? A national deployment would need hundreds more retail locations …
    Did NZTA & AT buy a lemon?

    1. Wouldn’t it be a budget issue? They have to pay commission to the shops selling their product and a limit has been set on the amount per year. Obviously it’s financially advantageous to AT if the card are purchased directly from them.

      1. If this is the reason, then this is a fundamental problem that the management needs to address.

        AT’s job is not to seek profit from the sale of HOP cards but to deliver a transport system that resolves our challenges. That means understanding what will create modeshift, and what constitutes a service to the public.

  16. Sadly – i have to drive for half an hour before i can get a hop card to complain about. PTOM says fairbox should recover half the cost of the PT journey. If the journey(s) saved us $B in new roads and future carbon credits – maybe we should zero out the HOP, and maybe require it for carbon-fuel purchases… I would like to see the AA complaining that drivers are having difficulty purchasing petrol, and topping up their car-parking and congestion fee card.
    Nice article Heidi you rock star.

      1. Hey thats cool. No i didnt know it existed. No PT anywhere near where i live, so haven’t investigated HOP. Last used my old one 4 years ago. I love PT but car is cheaper, and choose to live no where near our PT. Thanks Zippo.

  17. I was visiting Auckland in 2019, used to live there and still have family living there, and it was obvious that access to buying or topping up cards was far too limited. Yes I could have ordered online but I didn’t have the lead in time for the trip to be confident that it would arrive before I left for the airport. At that stage I had to get a bus to Papatoetoe train station to be able to buy a card. So even though I agree with many of the comments on here about how much more work they have to do to increases accessibility I would like to acknowledge that you can at least buy a card at both the domestic and international airports.

    On that first trip by myself I purchased two cards as I had a booked trip that was only a few weeks latter. I made sure that both cards had enough money on them before I flew home for the two of us travelling together on the next trip to make it to our first destination as at that stage there was no services available at the airport and it was less stressful than trying to do it online.

    I do think that $10 per card is excessive. For a family of five such as ours that is an outlay of $50 just so that we can use public transport. Do they not want people visiting the city to use public transport?

  18. This is a joke if it is true. But it really doesn’t surprise me.
    There should be at the very least a hop card machine to both purchase & top-up at every major station on the train lines and all the stops on the northern busway.
    A machine for the stations at Papakura, Manukau, Puhinui, Otahuhu, Onehunga, Ellerslie, Panmure, Kingland, Mt Albert, New Lynn and Henderson should be par for the course. And probably also at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Glen Innes and Orakei. It should be easy for people to purchase and top-up their cards on the fly. The machines cost a lot of money and are open to vandalism on stations without gated entry, but the added convenience for passengers is a major drawcard.

    1. I think there is a top-up and cash fare machine at every station, the problem is more that you can’t get a hop card from these machines.

      1. Its also not ideal for bus users to head into the train station to get a top-up. I’ve missed a 22 before having to go into Mt Albert station to get a top-up from the machine – which can be about a 5 minute round trip from the bus stop. If the dairy on the other side of New North Rd that sells pre-loaded cards also did top-ups, I would have caught that bus.

        Similarly, Kingsland & New Lynn stations are the only places on any of the 24s where you can top-up your card.

      2. Yes so at least more nearby retailers of just a $10 card even with no credit loaded or no Topup ability would be a good start. Buy the card and Topup at the station.

      1. Gated access for stations costs a lot of money, as does after-hours security (which is also not always reliable).

    1. Yeah, transport should work well for all. Making it free, on the surface sounds like it would make it work well for more people, but I dont think it would. Loading the transport system up with society’s other issues (homeless etc) will decrease use and availability to more vulnerable people.

  19. What is the technical reason behind that 48 hour delay? Is it distributing the new transactions to all buses? If so is it at least be possible to distribute it faster to the main stations? It would strike me as odd that you can buy a top up at a station, but you can’t apply a top up you’ve already bought.

    1. I’ve always assumed the 72 hours thing was an ass covering by AT Hop, as my credit card is charged before I receive the AT email advising it’s going to attempt it.

      The credit and debit card transactions are routed via the Visa and MasterCard networks, so aren’t affected by weekend and stat days where the banks don’t interchange the normal bank “files”.

      It may suggest the transaction has been attempted and received a “not sufficient funds” response, and will retry the next day. However, I thought the AT system emailed the customer in these circumstances.

      1. I have no idea why it’s sometimes overnight, and sometimes up to 72 hours. I’ve had it not be ready the following day a few times, and there was no credit card reason for it. Anyone know?

        1. I think train stations are pretty much instant. Issue is allowing for buses to return to their depots where their individual machines are updated. Some buses are on the run so much they take a long time before they are updated. Eg waiheke I think at least used to be an issue and link buses etc I guess. I think there is an AT page that did have more details on this somewhere. Could be other bank weekend and overnight batch or lots of transaction processing issues as well – I’m guessing also involved. I remember something about looking into a mobile data based updating system but that wood have issues as well out in the areas of no coverage. Disclaimer: some info is from previous blog or Twitter conversations IIRC.

    2. It’s not just AT and HOP. If you book a flight on an airline site and select POLi form of payment, and if there is an issue with the booking and it doesn’t go through but the funds are deducted from your account, the airline will not see the funds in their account until the next business day.

      Now if it’s a Friday or weekend day that you attempt your booking, then the funds are like HOP, not visible to the airline until Monday or Tuesday, and like a HOP user the customer will have to wait until that time for their ticket to be issued. So I rather think part of it is a bank transaction system issue.

  20. Thanks for the article Heidi. I’ve been working up the energy to send an email to AT about precisely this. The current system seems to privilege 9-5 city centre commuters and train users (like the rest of the Metro system). Even then it isn’t easy.

    Wellington is another city which is worth comparing to. Pretty much every dairy sells Snapper top-ups and they have the wonderful instant mobile top-ups

    I was also disappointed to see that proximity to HOP retailers was not an Accessibility consideration in the most recent RPTP. Children, elderly, and people with limited mobility are not going to be enticed to PT if the nearest top-up location is a 20min walk away.

    1. Is this the same Wellington which uses cardboard tickets for trains? Where integrated ticketing has been only 2 years away for the last 20 years? I’ve used both systems and Auckland’s ticketing is vastly superior for 98% of users. Some people need to get their head around the fact that AT is transport agency with a limited budget, not a welfare provider.

      1. With a limited budget?

        AT’s budget is both poorly allocated and poorly implemented.

        But it isn’t a budget issue anyway. That’s the point. AT have no analysis behind limiting the number of HOP vendors and top up locations. For all they know, there could be more revenue from enabling more people to get hop cards and top them up more.

        I’ve seen too many people call ubers because the driver wasn’t able to advise them where the closest top up location was to be under the misapprehension that this was about revenue.

        It’s about mindset. Nothing else.

        AT is a welfare provider every day it provides free and cheap parking and driving amenity.

      2. Just because some aspects of Wellington public transport could (much) better doesn’t mean there aren’t things done well (or at least better than in Auckland). Sadly you often seem to prefer taking cheap shots rather addressing the actual point raised.

        1. I would think that for the most part; Wellington does it better. All very efficient and with the peak staggered services from Taita and Porirua.

      3. What is wrong with cardboard? It is sustainable. London Transport used cardboard tickets for years. You bought a cardboard ticket and could use it for unlimited travel in the zones you had paid for for 365 days and the cardboard ticket with a magnetic strip still worked. On buses you just showed the driver and had no need to tag off or any of that inconvenience. Cardboard like that would be an improvement over the current Hop card.

        1. The public transport in Paris still uses the “t+” paper/thin card tickets and it remains one of the best systems in the world.
          At least it’s biodegradable, unlike a plastic card.

      4. I don’t remember there being any push for integrated ticketing for the buses, ferry’s and trains in Wellington prior to 2018. There was never any big call for it. A big chunk of the bus users are residents of Wellington city who never use the train that serves its satellites. The train guard’s have enough on their belt without adding a card reader.

  21. Biggest problem with HOP for a visitor from outside Auckland is that HOP cards are almost impossible to find at the airport. I think last time I looked there was one at the International terminal but not the Domestic terminal. And you had to really search to find it. Hopefully that situation has changed now? But I doubt it… (Great article by the way Heidi – kicks AT right where they need to be kicked – into action).

    Every major city knows that the need to get any visitor to their city onto Public Transport right away. And the best way to do that is to make their tickets/cards as simply available as possible. That means grabbing tourists at every entry point and at every opportunity. HOP fails woefully at that.

    1. Thanks. I don’t know if it will, though. They seem to be digging their heels in on many issues and ignoring calls for progress.

      1. In my most humble opinion, overall AT’s customer service leaves a lot to be desired. The organisation needs a shake up.

      1. Well for one it took a lot longer than 15 secs for the map to load for me on a laptop and that doesn’t deal with the fact that both terminals are are the size of a mall and you still have to find the store to buy what you want. I walked the length of the domestic terminal four times recently trying to find a courtesy phone that had been removed. It took two visits to the information booth to find that out which was at the opposite end of the building from where the phone had been. At least I had enough wits not to drag the rest of the family backwards and forwards looking for it.

  22. The one place each at the international and domestic terminals is an actual improvement on none at all less than two years ago. Had to pay cash to get the bus to Papatoetoe train station where there was a shop where I could actually buy a card. Pre covid so thankfully cash was still being accepted back then.

  23. On a slightly related note, I have found several HOP machines often have regular problems with paying by Eftpos. I don’t have, nor do I want to have, a contactless paywave card.

  24. Not sure why this comments section is focused on comparing systems in Auckland and Wellington.

    “How many outlets, and where they should be, are decisions that should be made based on evidence-based network design principles”

    Yes. Though AT will take the same “less-customer-aware” path whether they use “common sense” or use the silly business case system.

    Until better network design principles guide decisions, should AT just copy the best from overseas cities and monitor how it improves ridership?

  25. Sydney has little paywave top up posts all over the place. No big screens or buttons, basically it’s wave your eftpos card then wave your opal card to top up $20.
    Simple machine, just needs power and data. I assume it runs over the mobile network so really just needs power.

    Why can’t we have those on the post of major bus stops and street corners?

    And shit, sounds like 99% of issues could be solved by stocking hop cards in vending machines. It’s proper crazy that you can by a coke a packet of chips at a train station but you can’t buy a transit card.

  26. The number of outlets may well be restricted by the cost of purchasing new top-up machines from the supplier. Was that one of the questions that you asked Heidi? Maybe I missed it. If that was part of the issue, it would perhaps explain the total number of outlets being lower per capita than other locations.

    1. Well I asked this question:

      “Could you please supply me with a copy of any analysis Auckland Transport has done to decide … how many vendors in Auckland there should be…?”

      It seems to me that the cost of the machines would feed into an analysis of whether it’s worth paying the cost. But it appears there is no such analysis.

  27. Online Top-up is horrible as well, aside from the 72-hour delay, if you register your credit card to your hop card you still need to use it to verify the card. Every single online serivice takes a token $1 and refunds it back to make sure your card works.

    We really should look at a modern system, and see what the costs of breaking the contract with HOP are, because I’m sure they are costing us much more than any fee.

  28. Where to begin?
    Buying a HOP card – affordability.
    Many of the people I work with can’t afford to buy a HOP card. $10 + fares is money they often don’t have, do they walk, miles and miles OR used to pay cash but can’t now so depend on the kindness of strangers or bus drivers to help them ride OR they sneak their way on and risk a $150 fine. But what’s the point of the fine when they would use a card if they could.

    Buying a HOP card – where?
    AT seem to think nothing of massive walks to top up or buy a card. We applied to be a vendor and were told there was another one 500m away and people should walk there. No regard or respect for the time and effort involved. These should be convenient, painless transactions.

    1. Thanks, Margaret. Absolutely.

      Has the organisation you work for ever been approached (by AT, WK / NZTA or Ministry of Transport) to give input to transport decisions?

      If there’s some aspect of equitable access to transport that you’d like to write a guest post on – or provide some input to – please get in touch.

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