Auckland's first step towards a single electronic smartcard for buses, trains and ferries has been mired in confusion.
Commuters are delighted the city has finally followed Wellington's lead in introducing a value-storing swipecard for buses, which will eventually be compatible with all of Auckland's trains, ferries, and some retail stores.
It is expected to drastically reduce boarding times, and provide cheaper, more streamlined journeys.
However, many people have been bamboozled by the dual identities of the smartcard, which has been marketed as both a Hop card and a Snapper card.
Auckland Transport, a council agency which is overseeing the introduction of the integrated ticketing, stress they are two brands represented in one card.
Spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said Hop is the larger scheme, run by contractor Thales, and Snapper is the first card on the market for public transport company NZ Buses.
She said she had been spending hours clarifying this issue in transport blogs and forums online.
French electronics company Thales won the tender in December 2009 to provide Auckland's new integrated ticketing system. It aimed to start its own Hop card later this year.
Private companies are able to "plug in" to Auckland's integrated ticketing scheme, as long as their smartcard fits in seamlessly.
Infratil, which runs the Snapper brand, lost the tender, but has been allowed to piggy-back the scheme. It has put its product - the Snapper card - on to the market first, contributing to some of the confusion.
Other third parties, such as banks, may also provide their version of a Hop card at a later stage.
Commuters have also asked why the new Hop/Snapper card has begun when a fully integrated scheme is not yet in place in Auckland.
One respondent on Snapper's website called it a PR disaster that had left everybody confused.
Snapper chief executive Miki Szikszai said the brands started early because people needed to be aware of the changes.
"Timing is important. If you go too early, people forget. If you go too late, people don't have time to adjust."
He also emphasised that public transport was only one facet of the Snapper card - it could also be used in 1000 taxis in Auckland, as well as more than 200 retail stores.
The ticketing equipment for Hop cards is being introduced on NZ Bus routes in the next few weeks, and limited train and ferry services by September. Full integration - one fare for multiple methods of transport - will be complete by the end of next year.
HOP, SNAPPER LAUNCH NEW ERA OF INTEGRATED TICKETING
What is the difference between a Snapper card and a Hop card?In short, they are the same thing - a public transport swipecard which can also be used for retail purchases. Hop, operated by Thales, is the name for the entire ticketing scheme for Auckland. Snapper, a Wellington-based card, will run under that scheme, and more smartcards may be on the way: Thales could launch its own and banks may also create a smartcard. But all cards fall under the Hop scheme.
When and where can I begin using the Hop/Snapper card?In the next few weeks it will be introduced on the North Star, followed by Go West, Metrolink and Link bus services. Further bus services and some train and ferry services will adopt smartcards for the Rugby World Cup. All buses, trains and ferries will have fully integrated ticketing by the end of 2012.
Can I still use my Go Rider card?The current Go Rider card will be gradually phased out. Any remaining balance can be exchanged for a Snapper/Hop card for free before May 31. But those services not yet in the Hop scheme will still use the Go Rider card.
Can Wellington Snapper cards be used in Auckland?
Yes, during the first phase of the scheme.
Source: nzherald.co.nz http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10718919&ref=rss