Whatever Happened To Daily Passes, an LGOIMA Answer 19/06/2014Posted by Nigel in Opinion.
Tags: Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, FOI, LGOIMA, media, OIA, Public Transport
For a few months buried in the Auckland Transport Monthly Board Reports (basically the monthly meeting where the business controlled by Auckland Council report to the publicly appointed people accountable for it’s actions), was the following statement in reference to replacing the now hard to purchase, but formerly very useful Discovery Day Pass (which allowed unlimited travel on most of Auckland’s Public Transport services) – personally, I used the D/P as a very cheap method of travel between Waimauku and Newmarket over multiple carriers.
Auckland Transport’s original statement to the AT Board, unedited, and in full was:
Testing of a new AT HOP Day Pass is underway for targeted
introduction by May 2014 across bus, rail and ferry. The pass will
offer greater flexibility through three separate geographic zones
compared with the existing and to be withdrawn paper Discovery Day
Pass. Existing Discovery Day Pass will remain in market until at
least 31st May, to ensure customers still have access to
multi-modal travel product.
(That particular version taken from Page 31, https://at.govt.nz/media/417390/8-Chief-Executives-report-April.pdf of the April Board Report)
Come late May, the silence was deafening, usually the AT PR machine is in full action broadcasting new products at least a week or two in advance and they had said “by May” so it did appear to be delayed as it was, I decided to send in an Official Information Act request to find out what had happened, today just before their 20 working day deadline (which was tomorrow) they finally responded, and what they returned with is very interesting.
You can read their LGOIMA dump on fyi.org.nz (as of 20/6/14 the link is back in order) but I’ll try and summarize the best I can.
While AT have pointed out in their response to myself that “there has been no publicly announced launch date for the AT HOP Day Pass” it has been well known by a lot of people that it was Auckland Transport’s intention to roll one out as soon as possible to replace the Discovery Pass because they did not want to code Thales based Ticket Machines (both on Bus, at Station, and other venue), we are at a point where it is now neigh-on impossible to buy a Discovery Pass as a regular commuter, and even tourists are limited in venues to purchase from – which WAS the target audience originally.
Helpfully in their response they have summarized that the key failure to deliver the Day Passes as originally indicated to the Board are due to technical issues waiting to be patched, described simply as, “Our software supplier has identified the cause of these issues and will provide a software patch when rectified.” the software supplier is identified as Thales (the primary supplier of the AT Hop system for Auckland) in the LGOIMA dump, but there is no indication of when such a patch is expected, and no Thales-AT communications were provided (I had requested ‘Internal communications’, so they likely decided they were classified ‘Supplier communications’).
But, there is something interesting at play here, while the project may have been delayed, there is an interesting timeline, in the April Board report, presented 29 April 2014, the AT Day Pass section read “by May 2014” as a layman, that means before May starts, if I say something is going to happen by May, I mean it’s going to happen before May, not before or during May. Which technically only would’ve given the team a day and a half. What they really seemed to mean, was “during May 2014“, because through the supplied e-mail thread in the OIA dump “Status Update for AIFS Day Pass Implementation” we have the following interesting statements made which we can draw interesting observations:
Thursday May 1 at 6:16 PM, Someone working out of the Pitt St Office made the following comments:
- The Target release date was to be 14 May 10 pm (Wednesday evening) due to a large go-live of timetable changes on the 16th (a Friday), But immediately acknowledged that there were many blockers including:
- TOT devices (Ticket Office Terminal devices – thanks NCS in comments for the correction) seem to have trouble with reading some HOP cards – some taking up to 10 seconds to READ!!! It is a NFC smart card, that is SLOW, it isn’t trying to read the bible.
- It appears they are still having trouble apportioning revenue from AT Daily Pass use – an issue that dates back to Discovery Pass days, it seems many iterations of contracts and agreements still haven’t sorted this issue out and even apparently ‘smart systems’ can’t sort this mess out.
- They also seem to be having trouble with purchasing different zone products on zone border, the ticket machine gets confused, and may not offer the correct Zone options – a MAJOR failing if you ask me – additionally this seems to be mimicked on this testing matrix also provided)
- One of their solutions, and most concerning is to, and I quote:
Delay Day Pass implementation (already done at least twice – potential reputational to AT)
There were some interesting points raised in a reply made by a staffer out of the Queen St office on Monday May 5 at 9:00 AM including:
- That if the the only way to reduce the delays in reading HOP cards with TOT devices is to reduce the number of Day Pass options it should be done (My Note: This would of course mean that for people in inner areas that would’ve opted for single zone options would not use Day Passes and not be encouraged to use PT still, i.e. same ol’, same ol’)
- The most concerning comment in this response, was to the adjacent zones purchasing issue:
Aware of and accept this limitation, and will be reflected in the comms – just need confirmationfrom testing re. which combos are/are not possible
Err, yeah, I’m going to purchase my Day Pass while I’m biking past the ticket machine in the other zone, or working in a different area the previous day, that shouldn’t be a problem. Feels like a classic case of the ‘too hard basket’.
- Of course, given the date, at the very start of the e-mail, is the acknowlegement that the target date is very likely to be missed, said very plainly:
Thanks for the update – given the target launch of 14th May is now only a week and a bit away, and the number of outstanding issues, is it safe to assume this date is highly unlikely to be achievable? Even if it was, one week is not enough time to notify operators, organise comms etc –however could potentially nominate a forward date (e.g. 1 June) if you thought a 14th May EOD drop was do-able? Otherwise I assume the next available date will be the June EOD drop (which I think is around 10th June?)
Of course, all those dates are missed now, but it does and will bring up a very interesting point soon.
Lastly, the final e-mail in the dump (I think the same one as the first) seems to imply (my note: thanks to Ben for letting me run this by him and get his two cents) that, the passes won’t be able to go live by 14/5, and the software implementation date would generally be moved as well. BUT because they double-uped the schedule with the already published bus network changes on 16/5 it seems they couldn’t change the EOD so they were forced to push-live the backend code parts of the day pass systems.
What this means, is at the moment, sitting in the AT Hop/Thales system currently running live at the moment is hidden version of the Day Pass system that is limited to a select few people with special cards (similar to when the system was in limited trial/beta mode) that has a very limited scope, it certainly seems like the intention to deliver the originally planned 3-zone + ferry options system is gone (I believe Ben Ross will be posting further on this later I’ll link to this if/when) due to costs/the need to patch ticketing machines.
But who knows, I get a feeling we are still seeing only half the story, which brings me to my last point…
Finally, I feel that there a document missing and I’ve asked AT for clarification here, I find it odd at the very least that there was no internal communication to the people that prepare Auckland Transport Board Reports to at the very least remove the statement about AT Day Passes from the May report, where it conspicuously disappeared, and I get the feeling that the AT Board may not have been briefed on the project delay. Keep in mind, the AT Board Reports are gleefully filled with boasts about their successes, their delays seem to go missing a bit which is a tad disappointing for what is meant to be an accountable organisation, especially in the words of the blacked out AT staffer:
Delay Day Pass implementation (already done at least twice – potential reputational to AT)
Alas, they seem to lost count of the number of delays, but they do admit it is embarrassing to Auckland Transport, something I’m sure we can agree on.
So the key questions really are:
- Do the AT “power players” such as Mike Lee (Auckland councilor/AT Board), Lester Levy (AT Chairman), Christine Fletcher (Auckland councilor/AT Board)know that this project that was meant to be deployed in May, was delayed.
- Do they know it was delayed at least 3 times?
- If other projects that are lagging behind have disappeared from the board reports, but have been noticed by observant members
I intend to try and get these answers, first by reaching out to the three “power players” as I do want to get their side of the story as I feel it is important, the Board Minutes are generally very short, so it is possible that they are under reported, the main thing is, this is hopefully just the start.
Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Ben Ross (@BenRoss_AKL / Talking Auckland) for the help this afternoon/evening for assistance with acronyms (TOT really got me) and bouncing questions, and encouragement, it seems I unfortunately beat him to the scoop which he deserved, but his help is appreciated. Additionally, Transport Blog and Campaign for Better Transport while I don’t agree with everything they say, I would never have got interested in keeping an eye on how money was spent on Public Transport and what AT were doing as far as these sorts of projects. So keep it up guys. Lastly, most importantly, the people that run fyi.org.nz you rock!
Corrections: NCS has provided a correction to the abbreviation to TOT originally thought to a reference to Ticket & Top-up devices (self-service) it appears to be Ticket Office Terminal devices. Thank you. – 23/6/14.