In five years’ time Aucklanders may be using single smart-card tickets to travel on any mode of transport across Auckland — and enjoying real-time reports on bus arrival times, via their mobile phones and bus-stop screens.
That vision took a big step forward in December, when funding to investigate the plan was approved by Land Transport New Zealand. The funding will allow the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to take Auckland’s integrated ticketing project to the next stage and develop a business case, says ARTA’s latest quarterly report, which was presented at the Auckland Regional Council’s Transport Policy Committee meeting in December.
Land Transport NZ has also set up an integrated ticketing national working group, to investigate a national solution. ARTA is a member of this group.
“[The funding] is a big, positive step for this project,” says ARTA spokeswoman Sharon Hunter.
The project involves deploying an integrated ticketing system, based on electronic cards, and also a real-time information system for passengers. An interim paper-based integration ticket will be rolled out in 2008, in time for the opening of a new bus-way, while the electronic tickets, or smart cards, are expected to be deployed in 2010, says Hunter.
“This is an incredibly complex project, [which] will take three to five years to complete,” says Hunter.
She expects the business case to be finalised in March or April this year.
According to council documents, ARTA has already bought Auckland City’s existing transport information system and is taking over supplier contracts with Vodafone and systems integrator Technisyst, ZDNet Australia reported in September.
Officials have also taken a close look at a project called “Transit Tracker” in Portland, Oregon. The Portland system, like Auckland’s, is based on in-vehicle GPS, with electronic signage at all stops. The system also provides access to real-time passenger information via mobile phone and online. Each stop has a unique number, allowing users to receive location-based electronic updates on their transport options, says the website.
In the past, many integrated ticketing projects have been problematic. Sydney commuters were promised smart-card ticketing for the Sydney Olympics, but, after a series of technical problems and a legal dispute between suppliers, seven years on it still hasn’t arrived. Brisbane was also promised integrated ticketing by 1993, but it wasn’t delivered until 2004, according to ZDNet.
Auckland City Council also plans to deploy a pre-emptive signalling system, which would allow buses to be given priority over other traffic at major intersections.