Snapper the New Brand for Auckland’s Integrated Ticket?

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Despite the press conference before Christmas where it was claimed that the new integrated ticket in Auckland wouldn’t be called Snapper,   and the Herald revealing a $1m publicity budget for the Hop Card, Snapper branding appears to be rolling out in Auckland anyway:

Snapper Car on Khyber Pass

The latest Infratil monthly report states that

Preparation is well advanced on bus fleets of North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West and Metrolink and Snapper is engaged with Auckland Transport to ensure coordination between both party’s customer service teams. Snapper will be available in April 2011, with installation completed by July 2011.

In Auckland over 80 shops now signed to accept Snapper for payment and to provide reload services. The objective of having Snapper available for use on major national branded outlets is also progressing.

So it looks like the cars are being used to roll out to the retailers. Still no word on when Auckland Transport’s Hop branding exercise will commence.

For those not quite up to speed on how integrated ticketing is progressing in Auckland, here is the timeline so far:

2 December 2009: On the eve of the confirmation of an integrated ticketing system for Auckland public transport, unsuccessful tenderer Snapper announces the rollout of Snapper on NZ Bus services, to be completed by the end of 2010. A spokeswoman for ARTA said there would be no public funding for Snapper. Authority chief executive Fergus Gammie called Snapper’s announcement “premature”.

7 December 2009: Auckland Regional Transport Authority sign an $47m contract with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries.

14 December 2009: Brian Rudman cites a confidential paper from Infratil director Paul Ridley-Smith, which states “if Snapper can’t expand into Auckland then its business will be permanently sub-economic and it may have to withdraw from Wellington, where it was introduced 12 months ago.”

16 December 2010: Auckland Transport announce that “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program.

“Interoperable equipment will be deployed onto services run by NZ Bus early next year. Customers of North Star, Waka Pacific, Go West, Metrolink and LINK will use a contactless smartcard which will launch Auckland Transport’s Integrated Ticketing brand.”

“We will be following the deployment of equipment on NZ Bus services with the expansion of Integrated Ticketing on rail and ferry services. We expect the timing for this to be in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup.

“This will be linked to the launch of a travel product specifically for visitors to Auckland which will make public transport an attractive option during the period of the Rugby World Cup. We will be announcing further details of this and other initiatives over the coming months.

“Supporting this participation agreement for bus equipment and ticket deployment, Auckland Transport’s ticketing system partner, Thales is progressing the development of the rail and ferry solutions and the central system.

Bruce Emson, NZ Bus CEO, announces the roll out of the card will commence in March 2011. Programme Director Greg Ellis maintains that the key objective is still to have one card across all modes, and that the new card won’t be called Snapper.

17 December 2010: Ritchies and Howick and Eastern Buses say they are still investigating options, and are unlikely to sign up in time for the Rugby World Cup.

24 December 2010: The Herald runs a story that there is a budget of $1m to publicise the “Hop Card”, which is a “a new electronic ticket for seamless travel on buses, trains and ferries. It refuses to confirm the name until launching an awareness campaign late next month for the $98 million card, although chief operating officer Fergus Gammie has assured Auckland Council’s transport committee that the region’s public transport brand would be prominent on it.”

25 Jan 2011: Work on installation of Thales installed ticket validator machines commences at Mt Albert, Morningside and Mt Eden stations.

Northern Toll Road an Economic Disaster

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The really interesting thing about the editorial in the NZ Herald about toll dodgers is that it tells us that ” the tolls paid off more than $11.3m of a 35-year $159m loan it took to complete the $356m project ” in the last two years. The article claims that this is “more or less on target”.

I cranked up Excel to find out what the return on capital is. It works out that if you pay off a 35 year loan at $5.65m per year, then the effective interest rate is just 1.5%! That’s less than the cost of inflation. What a disaster!

Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the toll road to Warkworth can be justified. Assuming that half the cost ($450m) is financed through the toll, then the annual income needs to be $16.2m at a 1.5% interest rate. That’s about three times the revenue than from the Northern Gateway, suggesting a toll of $6 and $12 each way for cars and trucks respectively. (OK there will be economies of scale here as the costs of tolling will be reduced, but roughly…)

Hopefully we get this sort of interest rate for public transport projects as well!

A Bigger Bus for the 005

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Katie from NZ Bus has responded to my complaint about overloading on the 005 in the morning:

RE CASE 2011/01820

Thank you for your feedback regarding the recent heavy loading issues experienced by the 7.57am 005 service.

The Metrolink team have now addressed this issue by assigning a larger 3 axle bus to this duty and will continue to monitor the passenger loading on this service.

Please accept our apologies for an inconvenience and thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Nice one, NZ Bus… hopefully Auckland Transport will be able to come up with a plan to have at least one additional service between 7:57 and 8:37

Progress on the 005

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I’m not sure if having a blog helps or not, but I got a response to my request for improvements to the 005 this after noon from “Feedback Co-ordinator” at the Maxx Contact Centre.  He / she writes:

Thank you for your feedback regarding the 005 Metrolink service.

With regards to having a larger vehicle for the 7:57am 005 Metrolink service, I have processed your feedback as a formal suggestion to NZ Bus on your behalf, as they are responsible for the vehicles used to operate the 005 service and will respond to you directly.

Their email address is

The reference number for your suggestion to NZ Bus is 2011/01820.

With regards to having an additional 005 service between 7:57am and 8:37am from Westmere, I have processed your feedback as a separate suggestion to the Public Transport Operations unit at Auckland Transport, as they are responsible for bus network planning in the Auckland region and will respond to you directly.

The reference number for your suggestion to Auckland Transport is 2011/01956.

If you have any feedback or enquiries in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us again.

You can also speak to a Maxx Customer Service Representative, 6am-9pm Monday to Friday, 7am-8pm Saturday and 8am-6:30pm on Sundays and public holidays; phone (09) 366 6400 or call free on 0800 10 30 80 from Franklin and Rodney District. Alternatively, you can email us at .


Feedback Co-ordinator

Maxx Contact Centre

So far so good. I’ll keep you posted on the responses from NZ Bus and Auckland Transport respectively.

Someone Will Be Back To You In Ten Days

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I’m a big fan of continuous improvement. Any business looking for opportunities to lift their game, should be soliciting feedback from customers - it’s an important part of business. Customers need to be actively incentivised to provide feedback, and the feedback mechanism should be straightforward and rewarding.

This morning the 024 8:00am service didn’t show. I phoned Max (09 3666 400) and gave them the details. I also let them know that the service was also late yesterday.  The pleasant call centre rep on the line took all the details to “pass on to the operator”. She asked if I would like feedback on my complaint. I said yes (Well, of course! I don’t want the bus to be late tomorrow and I want to know that the operator is aware of the problem and is doing something about it.). So I gave my number and just before I hung up the call centre rep told me someone will be back to me in ten days.  I thought I had misheard, but yes, the turnaround time for responses is ten days. I’m guessing that is ten working days as well.

In my view this is nowhere near enough to incentivise customers to provide feedback. It’s pathetic in fact. Professionally I’ve worked for a number of different businesses.  Turnaound times are typically around four hours at most. Why shouldn’t the Maxx complaints system be any different?

I’m not suggesting that a complete solution be developed in four hours, just that an acknowledgement (and ideally a reference number) be given in a timely manner.

A Plea for the 005

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I’ve submitted the following via the feedback page of the maxx website.

Could we please have a bigger bus for the 005 7:57 service on weekday mornings.  Tuesdays service was a full standing load (only an 1800 series bus was provided) and the St Marys and Ponsonby Intermediate school kids aren’t even back until tomorrow (Thursday).

There also needs to be an additional 005 service from Westmere in the mornings.  Current services depart 7:57 and 8:37 – this gap is too large. Perhaps extending the current 8:10 or 8:25 004 services to originate from Westmere instead of the Herne Bay terminus would help here.

It took a week for the last feedback I gave via the website to be acknowledged, lets hope we get some faster feedback this time. Incidentally, even though I haven’t had it confirmed at all via the feedback process, I rode on bus 1801 yesterday and it looks to be producing far less emissions than shown in this video here.

Josh Arbury also has a request in to reroute the 005 in the evenings to go via the Albert St bus lanes rather than Hobson St. Let’s hope we see some progress on that one too.

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