Hop card passes first road test

By Mathew Dearnaley

Go West and Waka Pacific buses will start using Hop cards from May 22. Photo / Greg Bowker
Go West and Waka Pacific buses will start using Hop cards from May 22. Photo / Greg Bowker

North Shore commuters gave tentative support yesterday to an early version of what will become a seamless integrated ticket for public transport throughout Auckland.

But although Auckland Transport last night hailed the introduction of its Hop card in a joint venture with Infratil subsidiary Snapper as "a roaring success", there were plenty of teething challenges to be sorted out.

Some passengers were upset at not being able to use their old Go Rider cards to get to work yesterday on the NZ Bus company's North Star fleet.

Others had difficulty finding where to take up an offer by NZ Bus, also an Infratil subsidiary, to swap Go Rider cards for Hop cards free until mid-June.

Offices have been set up at Britomart and several other sites such as the Takapuna bus station for that purpose, and "Hop helpers" have been giving out cards on peak-hour buses.

Meanwhile, various retail outlets with machines for topping up cards had difficulty knowing how to complete transactions and a computer glitch caused delays in showing passenger credit balances on a dedicated website.

Snapper, which will plug into a wider electronic network once trains, ferries and buses from other companies join the system next year, said the glitch should be ironed out by tonight.

But passengers registering their cards online will always have to wait for 24 hours for their transactions to be recorded, even though tag machines will recognised top-ups instantly.

Despite the logistical problems, machines on the buses appeared to work satisfactorily, with passengers finding them easy to use once they were told what they had to do.

The card passed a road test by the Herald on a return bus trip to Takapuna from Albert St.

A quiet beep from a machine on the right-hand side of the bus entry door verified that the card was active, and a second machine at the rear door showed how much would be debited as the passenger tagged off the bus at the end of each leg of the trip.

It showed a debit of $3 for each two-stage leg, representing a 12 per cent discount from the cash fare. The discounts are the same as for the Go Rider cards, and range from 10 per cent to 17 per cent, depending on the trip lengths.

A 25c transaction fee is also added at each top-up.

Some passengers complained at not knowing what their balance was when they boarded buses. But Auckland Transport spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said the machines would warn them verbally to check their balances once their credit ran below $12.

She said passengers with insufficient credit would be allowed on board and have fares debited against their cards the next time these were topped up.

HOPPING ON BOARD

Timetable for the new cards:
May 8 - North Star buses.
May 22 - Go West and Waka Pacific buses.
June 6 - Link and Metrolink buses.
Late 2011 - trains and Devonport ferries.
2012 - all other Auckland buses and ferries.

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