National smartcard planned by NZTA

Auckland system in vanguard of national plan

The New Zealand Transport Agency is working with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) to deliver integrated ticketing smartcards that work nationally rather than just in one city.

According to NZTA’s Planning, programming and funding manual, dated August 2008, NZTA is working with ARTA and other “approved organisations” to design a national smartcard integrated ticketing system that can be “cloned”.

The manual says a national system will provide economies of scale and interoperability by allowing reuse of parts of the national integrated ticketing system design.

“Standard requirements for interoperability are being developed as part of the national system design. This national integrated ticketing system is expected to be operational in Auckland by 2010,” it says.

One of the sticking points of the Auckland integrated ticketing project has been arguments about the creation and control of a clearing house to distribute fare money collected through the ticketing system. Overseas, cards such as Hong Kong’s Octopus card use such a system.

However, Greg Ellis, ARTA’s programme director for the project, says changing the way services are procured will make the need for a clearing house redundant.

Recent transport law reforms will allow ARTA to change the way transport operators are contracted. ARTA will pay them a gross amount for the routes and trips they provide, rather than subsidising their services as is done now.

By doing this, there are no fares to be allotted to different transport operators.

Ellis says in the future, however, the New Zealand Transport Agency’s plans to allow integrated tickets to be used nationally will require a clearing house to be established.

According to the manual, the reconciliation process requires such a clearing house facility, which acts as a “bank” for both financial and passenger data. The passenger trip-making information is also of considerable value for planning purposes, it says.

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority is confident it will be able to award a contract to build an integrated ticketing system for Auckland before Christmas, as planned.

Ellis says ARTA is still dealing with tenders and finalising the process and there are still some hoops to go through in the form of board meeting and negotiations with funders.

“It’s still achievable by Christmas, to get those aligned,” he says.

Ellis denies suggestions the project scope has been changed or reduced.

“It will still provide integrated ticketing for integrated fares for all public transport in Auckland,” he says.

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