Yesterday the Auckland Transport board met again and here are some of the highlights from it.

Closed Agenda

One of the things that’s been notable in recent meetings is that far fewer items are being put in the closed session – and consequently the open sessions have far more interesting papers in them. This is great to see so well done AT.

The only thing of note in the closed agenda is the next few tranches of Property Rationalisation – which is noted as “Carpark Properties“. I wonder if this includes the proposal for the sale of the Downtown Carpark?

Business Report

Another recent change to board meetings has been a much leaner business report – previous versions tended to range from 30-60 pages in length, the new one is just over 2 pages. Some of the interesting comments from this report includes:

Customer Citizen Satisfaction

Only having 40% of the public satisfied with you feels like a really low bar.

AT Market Insights and Voice of the Customer September quarter: We have returned to our natural levels of satisfaction with two in five people satisfied with AT’s overall performance. Fewer people claim to be critical of AT and there has been a strong improvement in the number of Aucklanders claiming that AT listens and responds to Aucklanders’ needs.

Cycleway Wayfinding

In the absence of actually delivering lots of cycleways, AT have been installing wayfinding signs.

New wayfinding has been installed at over 150 locations across eight cycle paths across the city centre. This links the City Centre Cycle Loop with many other paths and routes customers use across Tāmaki Makaurau. Cycling options are now more visible than ever, and customers are supported with intuitive wayfinding throughout their journeys.

Don’t get me wrong, good wayfinding is critical but the concern is that AT think “that’s all we can do for active modes“.

An example of one of the new wayfinding signs that includes the error of having Westhaven and Wynyard as the same distance.

Eastern Path Stage 4

Some good news though is AT now have resource consent for the final stage of the Eastern Path – between Tamaki Dr and Orakei Train Station – however, it is unknown when construction will start.

Resource consent was granted for Section 4B (boardwalk around Orakei Basin) of the shared path by an Expert Consenting Panel under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020. Affordability within the capital programme is being assessed to progress.

HOP Expiry

In early October we highlighted that HOP cards were starting to expire and questioned why AT weren’t proactive about it. Since then AT have started sending out notifications and the board report gives some more detail about it.

AT HOP cards issued 10 years ago and still in circulation are starting to expire. 32,500 active cards (used in the last six months) will expire between now and the end of 2025 requiring replacement cards and transfer of any residual balance to the new card. As the expiry date is not printed on cards, there is a risk that customers may try to use their card unsuccessfully once expired. The next step will be to notify registered cardholders in advance of the expiry (91% of affected cardholders are registered) and AT servicing teams and public transport operators are ready to support should customers encounter any difficulties with an expired card.

Ferry Services

There’s an interesting set of papers on AT’s ferry services, including some of the issues around reliability and their future procurement plans. This is something that probably would have been discussed in a closed session in the past.

There’s quite a bit in the papers but one thing that stood out to me was this table which breaks down ferry routes by cost to operate (Annual Gross Payments – AGP) and ridership based on pre-COVID levels. One of the reasons I find this particularly interesting is that is that typically ferries have looked good on a cost-recovery basis due to the inclusion of Devonport and Waiheke but this shows most of our ferry routes have quite high costs for relatively low usage.

Wellesley St Bus Improvements

We covered this on Monday however it’s worth noting that the board did agree to fund the stage one works between Queen St and Albert St

National Ticketing Solution and Open Loop programme update

Lastly, there’s a paper on the National Ticketing System (NTS) and ATs plans to allow for Open Loop ticketing – which will allow for payments by non-HOP card sources like credit cards.

They say AT’s Open Loop solution is currently in a detailed design phase and is on track for a planned for implementation in mid-2024 which is in advance of the NTS roll-out. AT’s work is being designed to integrate with the NTS, however, they also say that the initial implementation will only allow a limited open loop roll-out to credit cards with a smart chip. So presumably that means no phone wallets till the full NTS solution is delivered.

As expected, it seems this is being done ahead of the NTS with the aim of “reducing complexity and providing a seamless customer experience during the NTS transition“. In other words, they will likely push for as many people as possible to shift to these sources of payment so that there is less need for wholesale change when the NTS system is rolled out.

That roll-out isn’t likely until 2026

  1. The target end-state of AT’s ticketing transformation journey is to transition to the NTS. Waka Kotahi plans to implement the NTS programme in phases, with Environment Canterbury (ECan) as Phase 1 and a planned go-live in August 2024 (the bus solution). The AT NTS team continues to actively contribute to development of this solution.
  2. Auckland is currently planned for Phase 3 implementation during 2026, starting with bus, followed by rail and ferry implementations. Detailed programme sequencing planning during October 2023 aims to confirm the phased implementation for all Public Transport Authorities (PTAs).

If you’ve looked at the papers, was there anything else that stood out to you?

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  1. Seems like there should be able to be a software fix for the hop expiry date problem, and avoid the expense of sending out thousands of new cards just before they are no longer needed due to national ticketing.

      1. It’s definitely just some rows in a database.

        The problem is the database design and its support was outsourced, and variations to the contract will cost megabucks.

          Problem solved for another 10 years. Unfortunately I am not a contractor so I can’t charge AT $10 mil for that.

  2. AT no longer offers customers the option to purchase a fob instead of a card. I find the Fob is way more convenient as I add it to my key ring and it’s always with me. I use payWave on my phone and don’t carry cards. So having to carry a card just for AT is not a customer friendly experience. Looks like I I will have to go back to using a card when my fob expires.

  3. The lack of phone wallets appears to be a reduction in scope,

    In June they specifically mentioned Apple and Google Pay

    Also its actual take up will actually be quite limited, as it only applies to full fare single trips, so no daily fare capping or Concessions,

    “full fare paying adults. Those wanting to access concession discounts such as Tertiary and SuperGold will still need to use their HOP card as normal.”

    Does anyone know how many trips are full fares adults, as opposed to some form of concession/monthly pass??

      1. At worst you’d think they could provide an option make a HOP card “own” a given credit card and give it the same concessions.

        Might have privacy/data security concerns about keeping a credit card number on file, but you could probably get around that with hashing?

        1. I thought later (I’m no expert on the matter) that perhaps being a “smart” card the data is actually stored on the cards, extracted again just for the transaction so nothing in terms of the card is stored on the PT system itself.

    1. IMO Matt has misinterpreted the paper. Personally I would interpret “payment cards with a smart chip” as pointing out that the system won’t work with EFTPOS, which isn’t EMV compliant.

      An EMV Contactless card is just that… an EMV card. (EMV stands for ‘Europay, Mastercard, Visa’ and was created to make sure credit card terminals only have to support one technical standard).

      Apple Pay and Google Pay are just ways to emulate a valid EMV card, and there shouldn’t be too much of a technical reason why a valid EMV implementation shouldn’t work for mobile wallets.

      Additionally, Thales (the AT HOP vendor) has demonstrated Google/Apple pay on their systems overseas.

  4. I could do a national ticketing system at a fraction of the cost. Just mint some metal flat round tokens and people could pay with those on any bus or train. They could have both $1 and $2 tokens and maybe some paper chitties for $5, $10 and $20 to save on weight. These tokens and chitties could be used in shops as well and be traded in banks. They could be a store of value, a unit of account and even a medium of exchange.

    1. The point of Electronic payments is two fold, first handling tokens on a vehicle is a pain in the but for operators, and yobs have a habit of occasionally demanding drivers hand them all over..

      The second reason operators embrace tag on tag off is that it gives them boatloads of data on what routes and stops are busy , so its very useful for network planning,

      1. Apparently there are thousands of people who ride the bus in Christchurch who then visit Auckland to ride a bus and they simply don’t have space in their pocket for a second card. This is such a problem that taxpayers need to spend millions of dollars to fix it for them. Maybe it would be cheaper to subsidise additional pockets.

        1. A decent number of people travel between the Waikato and Auckland. The reality is these costs will be borne whether we have one system or four systems as we currently do, we might as well get the benefits of having one system.

        2. These systems only last about ten years before replacement is required anyway. There’s no reason not to do the renewals to the same system standard.

          It’s not so much about Christchurch and Auckland, although having a different card, account and credit balance for each city is annoying. It’s more for smaller cities benefiting from the back end and installed user base, rather than making each town run their own different ticketing system for a few thousand users.

          miffy always has a whinge about different rail gauges between light rail and heavy rail, on lines that never even touch… so why now a whinge about standardising parts of a system that can?

    2. Gets very tiring sitting on a northern express with 100 other people while a queue of 5 people buy each buy tickets off the driver with $20 notes.

    3. Sweet lord, imagine how much it would cost in driver time, bus idle time, and just plain handling to require a physical item for payment.

      1. “Sweet lord, imagine how much it would cost in driver time, bus idle time, and just plain handling to require a physical item for payment.”

        Yeah, we’d have to invent some form of cash-less payment to speed up all those delays if those metal “token” things caught on!

      2. Tokens and chitties wouldn’t need to be compulsory, it would just be available for the one or two people visiting from Christchurch who have a different card.

        1. How about we also allow for the tokens and chitties for the one or two people arriving from South Korea, and those from Argentina? I think they should also be allowed to use their ones. After all, we should make it easy for customers!

  5. Well no wonder the ferries are like that. Birkenhead timetable is absurd now for a morning commute

    7.15 or 8.30 – what kind of frequency or timing is that?

    I get that it has got very poor catchment but they are not helping things.

    And commuters being regularly treated last in order to cater for cruise ships, etc

  6. ‘and customers are supported with intuitive wayfinding throughout their journeys’

    This sentence is everything that is wrong with Auckland cycling. Firstly people aren’t customers, there is no product on offer for sale here

    Secondly, people don’t want to have to be intuative to have to figure out how to cycle somewhere. Just a connected cycleway to get to where you need to go would do the trick.

  7. The HOP card expiry thing happened to me! I was so confused. Went on the website, found nothing to explain it. Then 2 months after it expired I got a letter letting me know it had expired. Really good stuff!

  8. Really interesting – for Bayswater ferry. As a passenger for 20+ years, relatively low cost structure and high patronage (pre-COVID). But the current data does not adequately show that patronage has been decimated (seat of the pants view – down by two thirds) over the last year due to unreliability, uncertainty that service would continue. For the last month, the new operator has been great especially with new ferry (room for bikes). And lower staffing structure is interesting. The great unknown is wharf infrastructure. In a period of budgetary restraint, a business case for a much promised (and very expensive) build seems to be a case of climbing Mt Improbable. And it seems equally likely that the ferry berth will stay where it is for a long time. In turn, this calls into question the previous dialogue from AT about EV ferry. Even beyond term of current contract with Explore in 2025. Keep up the great work – I have found your posts very informative.

  9. “there is a risk that customers may try to use their card unsuccessfully once expired”

    If I heard that, I think I would face palm.

    Like, doh, yes. And that is a bad thing.

    Sending out emails and communicating with people is hard and gets expensive, but surely the option is to.. not expire them for now?

    As others have point out, it is probably a line of code, that ‘if Today – RegisteredDate > 3650 days, then set expired to true.

    Which may have been a business rule applied 10 years ago as thought was that national ticketing would have been in place 3 years ago.

    As a programmer; typical bad assumptions embedded as business rules in the software. If I was a councillor hearing this from AT, I would ask ‘ why’?

    Just roll it over so that expiry doesn’t happen for another 10 years or until some change in technology (like old cards being insecure) forces old cards to become invalid.

  10. Is it good news about the Eastern Path Stage 4 though? $40-50m to duplicate 2km of an existing off-road cycleway. I mean it will be great, but the opportunity cost… while there’s essentially no safe cycle facilities on any street in the Eastern Suburbs.

      1. Lol it’s duplicated along its entire length. The cycle lanes aren’t ideal but they’re better than anything we have on any other street for miles around.

        1. Rubbish, far as I know. It’s not finished with the road side stuff done bar the bridge with nothing in the gap. They did the other bits while waiting for ages on resource consent.

    1. Which is the duplicated bit? It’s bridging the gap between two existing cycle-ways, which generally delivers the best bang for buck.

      1. The on-road stuff is horrible, and has major gaps, especially on the section between the Kepa Road roundabout and the end of Stage III on the Orakei Peninsula. That existing bridge has narrow lanes and a narrow footpath only.

        Plus the upgrades to get the quality of a 3-4m wide shared path alongside Ngapipi Road would likely involve major works and retaining too.

        1. I love the Eastern Path, I use it frequently but if it’s going to cost 40m – 50m to replace what we presently have going over Ngapipi road and round to Orate Railway station then I don’t want it.

          I admin that It’d be a glorious piece of infrastructure but that money could deliver so much more benefit to the cycling network in other locations.

        2. “I admin that It’d be a glorious piece of infrastructure but that money could deliver so much more benefit to the cycling network in other locations.”

          You mean all the other places we never build cycleways because nobody is willing to remove car parks?

          Or those roads where for $40m we can get 1-2km of road because everyone insists on fully upgrading everything from utilities to stormwater to landscaping, while keeping all car parks, all from the cycle budget, until one of our newspapers or Councillors calls for it to be cancelled for “gold plating”?

          I’ve got no idea how to break that deadlock, but until our decisionmakers actually think cycling is important, the only cycleways we seem to get are those that spend huge amounts of money to appease car drivers.

  11. *”typically ferries have looked good on a cost-recovery basis due to the inclusion of Devonport and Waiheke but this shows most of our ferry routes have quite high costs for relatively low usage”*

    Devonport _is_ in the table (and makes a profit).

    But does anyone have figures for Waiheke? I thought they were commercially sensitive?

  12. of course AT is pissing away money installing wayfinding in expensive suburbs rather than installing new infrastructure where it’s needed. I’m getting really fed up with all the nice stuff happening on the Isthmus. Example: West Lynn shops gets a HUGE upgrade, Swanson and Ranui shops get 4 raised zebra crossings. Where’s the equity?

  13. Kinda disappointing to see cycle wayfinding mapping destinations by distance, seems like a time measurement would be far more useful (perhaps a normal cycle and ebike time)…

    1. I think distance (and grade) would give people more useful information than some kind of average time estimate, though. Given differences in ability, bike type and riding style, time estimates are pretty random.

  14. Speaking about cycleways. I recently had took the NW cycleway from Newton to Hobsonville Point and I was surprised how good that cycleway is and how underutilized it is. I literally met just a few other cyclists.

    1. The issue is that outside of that main cycleway, there’s little safe environment to feed it. If you are not already confident about riding in heavy traffic between aggressive SUV drivers in the suburbs, what help is a cycleway to get you long distance?

      And the main reason that cycleway was ever built was that the cost was a rounding error on the billions of dollars of motorways spent there, and because people embarrassed decisionmakers about doing that enough to at least do SOMETHING that wasn’t about cars.

    2. Guess it depends on when you rode, the NW consistently has good numbers, at least between Henderson Creek and city. Plus no infrastructure from Westgate to Hobsonville Pt yet.

  15. Why would anybody want a HOP card ??

    Since the election, everytime I use the Inner bus now, it looks like a rubbish man lost a bit of rubbish from his rubbish bag while using the bus, Very stranage just after the election, there was a questionair passengers were asked to fill out, one of the questions was “how clean do you think the buses are” and silly me I gave it the highest points

  16. Thank you for picking up that the wayfinding sign had an error in it. The distance to Westhaven has now been amended (2.3km).

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