$1m budget to help publicise Hop Card

By Mathew Dearnaley

Electronic ticket for seamless travel due to debut in March.

The Hop Card will be good for travel on ferries, buses and trains. Photo / Paul Estcourt
The Hop Card will be good for travel on ferries, buses and trains. Photo / Paul Estcourt

London has its Oyster public transport card, Hong Kong an Octopus and Wellingtonians their Snapper, but Aucklanders will be hopping on to dry land with their new ticket to ride.

Auckland Transport is calling a new electronic ticket for seamless travel on buses, trains and ferries the Hop Card, and has approved a $1 million budget to publicise it.

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.

Individual transport operators would have to accept a lower profile.

Earlier information about the name leaked to the Campaign for Better Transport's website drew comments such as "underwhelming and lame" and "bit naff, really". One wag said it may be "for one-legged folks".

Bus passengers at Britomart were more complimentary, with 11 endorsing the name and only one saying it should have more of a Kiwi flavour.

Richard Benson said it had "a good beat to it" and Rick Schultz agreed it was catchy, although his main concern was that the card would make it easier to use public transport.

University of Auckland senior marketing lecturer Rick Starr said people needed to understand what a brand name meant "and Hop takes you generally in the right direction - importantly it doesn't miscommunicate".

The website comments prompted Auckland Transport official Rob Pitney to post advice that Hop was "a work in progress and the brand is still to be fully developed".

"When that happens you will be amongst the first to know," he wrote.

Campaign for Better Transport convener Cameron Pitches was under the impression yesterday that a decision had yet to be made when he invited website visitors to suggest names. The most popular by last night was Mako, which is Maori for shark.

But the Herald understands Auckland Transport's board approved the Hop Card in confidential business at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, as well as an extensive advertising and marketing campaign costing $1 million.

Communications manager Wally Thomas acknowledged that the board had approved a name, but he would not confirm what it was, saying that "co-branding opportunities with other partners" had yet to be agreedon.

His organisation was satisfied that focus groups of about 100 current and potential users of public transport "across a broad spectrum of Auckland" had aided robust decision-making.

The first cards will be rolled out on Auckland's 660-strong NZ Bus fleet from March after being supplied by Snapper Services, its sister Infratil subsidiary, as a plug-in to a system being developed by French electronics giant Thales under an $87 million supply and operating contract.

Although all railway stations and the Downtown and Devonport ferry terminals are expected to be equipped with reading machines before the Rugby World Cup, it will be the end of 2011 before commuters can use a single card across trains, buses and ferries.

The Transport Agency, which hopes to develop the system into a platform for schemes elsewhere, is contributing $56 million - leaving Auckland ratepayers to cover the remaining $31 million plus $11 million for extra civil work for cable connections to stations and ferry terminals.

- NZ Herald

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