A transfer ticket, valid on all modes of public transport, does not sound too much to ask. Yet Aucklanders have been waiting for an eternity.
Early last year it seemed very close. The Hop card, as it is called, was introduced by Snapper Services, a subsidiary of Infratil which also operates most of Auckland's bus services under the name NZ Bus. But the card was not - and still is not - usable on all buses, ferries and trains.
It was strange that Snapper was able to introduce the card, and market it with its own logo prominent on the publicity, because Snapper had been unsuccessful in the tender to supply the integrated ticketing system that Auckland has been promised for so long. That tender went to a French supplier, Thales, three years ago.
Snapper was aggrieved at that decision, arguing it had an electronic charge card system already operating in Wellington and Auckland could have it immediately rather than wait the two-to-three years it would take the French "technology giant" to produce one.
But the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, now Auckland Transport, was adamant the Thales' proposal better met its needs.
The authority had hoped the system would be installed in time for the Rugby World Cup. When that hope faded, Snapper Services was permitted to introduce its own card on the understanding that it would be made compatible with the Thales system in due course. That does not appear to be happening.
This week Auckland Transport said Snapper Services appears likely to miss an extended November deadline for making its its ticket compatible with the Thales system that is now here and ready to start.
Its lawyers accused Snapper of five breaches of the project agreement so far.
Snapper denied that, but its chairwoman added, "Snapper has the only fully functioning ticketing capability in New Zealand." She said it was aiming to deliver an integrated ticket for NZ Bus passengers by November 30 but it was not clear a rival supplier would meet required standards for other bus operators.
It sounds like Snapper is holding out for its own system on NZ Bus routes, leaving the new card for Auckland's commuter trains, ferries and smaller bus operators. That is how it sounded to Mayor Len Brown, who quite rightly said a dual system is not acceptable.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee was silent this week, though he has previously warned that NZ Bus could lose $70 million from the Government and Auckland ratepayers if its ticketing system is not compliant. He should repeat that warning now.
Unless Infratil's bus company is ready to be integrated into a single transferable ticketing system by the end of November, its present Auckland contracts should not be renewed, and it should have to repay any public money it received for last year's premature Hop promotion.
Snapper may have been unlucky in the original tender. Its card can be used in shops, coffee bars, taxis and carparks as well as buses. Transport officials preferred a dedicated card. But that question was settled three years ago.
Snapper has had a year to introduce its card, and at public expense. It needs to comply with the city's plans or face the consequences.