How not to roll out an integrated ticketing bus system

Thought Hop was going to be the saviour of Auckland’s abysmal public transport? Yeah, I’d hoped so too. But it has proved in my experience an undeniable failure.

First, Snapper came to Auckland. (I’m still not quite sure what the point of it is. I get that it powers the Hop bus card system, but as for using Snapper at shops? Don’t we already have eftpos and credit cards?) Then right on its heels, there came murmurs of something called Hop. Nobody knew what on earth it was. As posters went up,a vague YouTube video emerged and an almost equally vague news story was printed, we came to learn that it was the start of an integrated public transport system.

Pity about the communication. What we really needed were some short, clear FAQs, not teasers. I believe their Comms person was quoted as saying there had been plenty of confusion on “message boards” and the team needed to clear it up. No shit. Pity, again, that it took them weeks to get on social media and rectify the damage that had already been done.

Okay, so the launch was a disaster. What about the execution?

Last weekend I went down to Britomart on my lunch break to do three things. A) Get my Hop card. B) Transfer my balance from my Go Rider card onto it. C) Top up my new Hop card at the same time.

(Hint – I did not accomplish all of the above.)

As soon as I reached the front of the line, their systems went down. Okay, I can kind of sympathise; I know what it’s like to work with slow, unreliable and outdated technology on a daily basis. But they have no idea when it’s going to be back? And there is NOWHERE ELSE in the CBD where we can get a balance transfer?

Okay, fine. I only have one ride left to transfer anyway; I’ll eat the $1.50 cost. Just put my 10 new rides on and let me be done with it.

What’s that? You don’t take Visa? What is this, 1911? I have always used my credit card to top up my bus card- this better not be a sign of things to come (suppose I’ll find out when I next top up my card). Off I trot to the ATM, where I have to withdraw $20 as I can’t take out $15.

I march back up to the front of the line approximately three minutes later. She doesn’t give me my change. Turns out she put on $20 credit, instead of 10 rides at $15. Cue more delays as she sorts out the mess.

I get back to the office and decide to check online where my nearest Hop retailer is so I can top up the following week. I am even more enraged, if possible, to read this:

Note: Britomart, Newmarket and New Lynn Transport Centres now accept credit card payments.

No, it effing well did not. DON’T LIE TO ME.

And I’m pretty close to full on meltdown to find there is only one Hop agent anywhere near my house and it’s the opposite direction from my bus stop/new office.

Later on it turns out it’s fine; there are plenty of Snapper retailers around that just aren’t listed on the Hop site yet.

But that’s not the end of it. I went back to Britomart this weekend to top up. I did so using my Visa. But by today, that balance was still “pending”, leaving me with no choice but to pay cash to get to work. Also, when I attempted to put more rides on my card at St Lukes Lotto, I was told that rides can no longer be purchased at all, only e-money. Obviously Hop is not only failing to communicate with customers, but with retailers – but when you’re a monopoly, who cares about either? I’ve tried to communicate with Hop a few times on Twitter to clarify certain issues but have not found them particularly helpful or forthcoming. (As for why I’m sticking with rides, not e-money, it’s because all factors being equal, why would I use the method which charges me 25c for every topup?)

What a clusterf***. Typical Auckland.

UPDATE: Apparently only a certain booth at Britomart accepts CC payments. Oh, and you can’t have more than 20 rides on your Hop card at the time. More WTF-ery.

5 thoughts on “How not to roll out an integrated ticketing bus system

  • Reply Insomniac Lab Rat June 14, 2011 at 12:40

    Ugh. I complain a lot about the public transportation where I live, because the busses are never on schedule, but at least the fare paying/loading system works well. I can load my card online (although it takes 24 hours to become available), which is really convenient. I’ve heard that the customer service isn’t great, but I find the website to be quite informative, and haven’t ever needed to deal with a real person, other than purchasing my first card.

    Hopefully once they get the system in place it will work better…

  • Reply Amanda June 14, 2011 at 13:39

    Sounds a bit like our Melbourne myki debacle. Apparently now they’re thinking of scrapping the whole project…what a great use of hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Reply Maggie June 14, 2011 at 13:58

    Oh no that sounds horrible. I had a seamless card transfer at St Lukes. One of my friends also had a few bad experience using Hop on the buses with being penalized for not tagging off… these are the first two bad experiences I have heard with Hop..

  • Reply Sense June 14, 2011 at 23:17

    Sadly, this is what I feel like every time I do something in NZ that should be really easy (and is, in other parts of the world. Ahem.). Hope things get better with Hop. I don’t understand Snapper, either…

    I also miss the ads on the back of the bus tickets! Bring back my Revive discounts!

    Grumble grumble. I am so old! I hate change.

  • Reply unknowntheartist June 16, 2011 at 01:46

    I feel your pain. QLD’s Go card system is just as useless. The website says you can even top up your card on the bus with your driver before you swipe your card and all the drivers say they cannot do it, you can only top up your cards at certain newsagents and if you run out of credit, you gotta pay almost $5 for a one way ticket between two bus stops!

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