Auckland targets smart cards for transport integration

Smart cards and real-time technology will be rolled out to integrate Auckland's public transport ticketing and scheduling, according to Auckland Regional Council documents.By the end of the project, locals will be able to use one ticket to travel to and from any point in the city using multiple modes of transport.

Smart cards and real-time technology will be rolled out to integrate Auckland's public transport ticketing and scheduling, according to Auckland Regional Council documents.

By the end of the project, locals will be able to use one ticket to travel to and from any point in the city using multiple modes of transport.

The Council has appointed its subsidiary Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA), which was established in 2004 to drive Auckland's transport strategy, to plan the project.

ARTA spokeswoman Sharon Hunter would only say an interim paper-based integrated ticket would be developed in time for the opening of a new bus-way in 2008. Smartcards would be deployed -as soon as possible" after that.

However, council documents reveal ARTA has already bought Auckland City's existing transport information system and was taking over supplier contracts with Vodafone and systems integrator Technisyst. A draft of the Integrated Ticketing System (ITS) plan has been finalised and is being workshopped before a business case is prepared.

Officials have made visits to Melbourne and Brisbane to study similar projects there, however, a project called -Transit Tracker" in Portland, Oregon is also providing a model.

The Portland system, like Auckland's, is based on in-vehicle GPS with illuminated electronic signage at all stops. In addition the Portland system provides passengers with access to real-time information by mobile phone and online. Each stop has a unique number allowing users to log their position and receive electronic updates on their transport options.

The introduction of integrated ticketing and scheduling will be phased to coincide with the renegotiation of supplier contracts with the private contractors who provide services. ARTA is also understood to be pushing for changes to the law to provide greater control over operators, arguing it currently has little ability to ensure private service providers conform to its policies.

Integrated ticketing projects in Australia and elsewhere have been a technical and legal minefield. Sydney commuters were promised a smart-card based ticketing project for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. After a series of technical problems and a legal dispute between prospective suppliers it still hasn't arrived. Brisbane was promised integrated ticketing by 1993. It was delivered over a decade later in 2004.

Also on the cards for Auckland, according to the documents, was pre-emptive signalling, a system which allowed buses to be given priority over other traffic at major intersections.