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Integrated Public Transport Ticket Ready to Go

4 July 2005

Integrated Public Transport Ticket Ready to Go

A single electronic smartcard for use on Auckland public transport could be up and running within two years says a joint venture company of Auckland public transport operators AITL. This follows criticism from North Shore City Council and some residents that not all tickets for North Shore bus operators Stagecoach, Birkenhead Transport and Ritchies are transferable.

Formerly Stagecoach, which operates its own monthly pass system, operated many North Shore routes, but since 3 July Ritchies have been granted contracts for significant areas of the Shore.

"The North Shore example highlights the need for an integrated ticket and all the transport operators are in favour of it," says spokesperson for AITL, Ian Turner.

"We have assessed the technology required, which is the key to the success of such a ticketing operation and have a preferred system and supplier. We also have agreement between the public transport operators as to how the system could work with multiple operators using a single ticketing system. It's do-able and we are keen to introduce it.

"An electronic fully integrated public transport ticket is not, however, a simple matter. Experience round the world shows that these systems have to be carefully specified in order to avoid prohibitive expense and operational failure. For example, San Francisco's system is still not operational after three years and won't be for another two at least. New systems in several Australian cities are also taking a long time to implement.

"We can't afford the loss of public confidence that would result from a failed or hugely expensive experiment. Accordingly we have intensively investigated what is offered around the world including several Australian cities, Hong Kong, Singapore, North America and the UK. We have picked the best from them," says Turner.

"The key to success and especially to having a system for a reasonable cost, is to build it around the transport system operators. Operators have the incentive to make it work. A system imposed on them by a local government authority usually comes at a very high price to the ratepayer and taxpayer.

The system envisaged by AITL would extend across the region from Waiwera to Pukekohe. It would involve one "piece of plastic" for all payments and could include buses, trains and ferries. It would be most effective where passengers are transferring between modes, for example bus to rail or bus to ferry, as well as between buses from different companies.

AITL envisage two years would be required to get the system in place. They are proposing that the system first be proven in Wellington based around the Stagecoach operation there.

"Wellington is a smaller community with an integrated transport infrastructure and a close interaction between bus and train. This would allow us to prove the system and iron out any teething problems. Auckland is a far more complex public transport proposition and while Aucklanders are impatient to get the system operating, I'm sure they would be prepared to wait a short while for a system that goes properly from day one, rather than one that causes everyone headaches." says Turner.

AITL has prepared a business plan around its proposal and this has been submitted to the new Auckland Regional Transport Authority for consideration.

"We are totally confident we could have a comprehensive and cost-effective integrated ticket system operating in Auckland by 2007 and we are looking for the support of ARTA and the Auckland Councils to press ahead with the implementation of this programme," says Turner.


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