Auckland City rolls on with transport smartcard quest

ARTA is expected to go to market for a smartcard-based integrated ticketing system before the end of the year

Auckland’s quest for an integrated public transport ticketing system — one that will allow passengers to travel on any form of public transport on a single ticket — is about to take another step forward.

The Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) is expected to go to market for a smartcard-based integrated ticketing system before the end of the year. ARTA, which reports to the Auckland Regional Council, held briefings for potential suppliers last week, after requesting information about the technology in June.

A system is scheduled to be in place by 2010. ARTA’s communications manager Sharon Hunter confirms the tender will be released as expected.

In June, ARTA asked for “registrations of interest” from “experienced fare-collection system suppliers who may have an interest in responding to a tender for the provision of a smartcard based integrated ticketing system for public transport for the Auckland region.

“The work will involve the design, development, manufacture, installation and testing of a system, and the provision of ongoing operational services,” said the document.

According to an Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy annual report, dated September 2007, the introduction of integrated ticketing is considered critical to the development of effective, efficient and reliable public transport system.

“The proposed integrated ticketing system will encompass all transport modes and operators within the region, and will support the Integrated Fares Policy currently being finalised by ARTA,” the report says.

The delivery of the system is closely linked to the controversial changes in passenger-transport procurement that have been made, and which have given ARTA more control over operators. The report notes ARTA is “working with transport operators to ensure that the integrated ticketing system will be sympathetic to their business operations.”

Last year, ARTA bought Auckland City’s transport information system and took over supplier contracts with Vodafone and systems integrator Technisyst. Officials also visited other cities, including Melbourne and Brisbane, to study similar transport projects. The “Transit Tracker” system in Portland, Oregon, attracted their attention as well.

As in Auckland, the Portland system is based on GPS systems installed on buses and other vehicles, combined with real-time information delivery.

Integrated ticketing projects are notoriously difficult to deliver successfully. A Sydney project was supposed to deliver such a system in time for the Olympics, in 2000, but legal disputes, technical and bureaucratic problems mean commuters there are still waiting. According to a report last month in the Sydney Morning Herald, the “integrated ticket” is now not expected to arrive until 2010.

ARTA is also in the market for a passenger transport-reporting system. It currently operates a system based on SAP’s Business Warehouse, which extracts data from SAP R/3 financial and HR systems for analysis.

ARTA also operates a real-time passenger information system (RTPIS), which provides data on bus service punctuality and performance, as well as fare and boarding data. As part of the integration project, additional data-sets, for ferries, trains and other travel activities, will be added to this system.

ARTA is trialling WhereScape Red as the extraction, load and transformation tool for acquiring data from RTPIS, and for creating SQL tables for loading into Business Warehouse. It is currently looking for vendors to provide a system that enables data to be acquired from the WhereScape Red generated tables, so it can be used as a reporting tool by ARTA and the transport operators’ staff.

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