Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: If wishing made it so ...

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  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Whitey gets to go home again

    Not yet he doesn't. He hasn't had all the charges dismissed. I'm very curious how the judge reached this particular conclusion, but your insinuation that this is some kind of old boys' network at play doesn't sit well with the reputation of our judiciary for being uncorrupted and impartial.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    your insinuation that this is some kind of old boys’ network at play

    I insinuated nothing of the sort but now you mention it...

    doesn’t sit well with the reputation of our judiciary for being uncorrupted and impartial.

    No, it doesn't, does it?.

    He has had the most serious charge dropped under circumstances that demand explanation.
    An unsafe verdict is one that will, most likely, be overturned on appeal as not being beyond reasonable doubt. In this particular case it seems, although I am not certain, that the daughter may have perjured herself while acting as a witness for the prosecution. This is enough to bring the prosecution case into doubt.
    Was it a deliberate ploy? who knows? but sure as chips are chips when you have Paul Davison QC as your defence lawyer such manoeuvres are not that much of a surprise.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    (for example)

    In considering whether the verdict was unsafe, the judge at the pre-hearing must weigh up all the factors. One would like to believe that the judge will conduct a fair and balanced review of the material of the case, but it invariably comes down to something as simple as; was the original judge a close friend of the review judge? Cynical? Yes; add a corrupt police department to the wayward legal system, with a smattering of injustice and a tablespoon of lying deviants. Once baked you'll find a nice golden cynicism drizzled in a healthy sauce of disgust.

    Not to suggest anything as dark is happening here.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Seriously, the reason for using a touch-based smart card is that people don’t need to stop as they board the vehicle, they just swipe as they walk past. If you’re bringing on 10 people at one stop and it takes even 10 seconds for each person to pay and take their ticket that’s well over a minute spent at that stop just getting passengers on board. If they can swipe through it could be 10-20 seconds.

    MInd you, a cardboard ticket that the driver clips, or simply looks at, is pretty damned fast, gets money off people, and costs next to nothing to set up. I'd prefer it to owning a Snapper card myself. Not a big fan of technology for its own sake. Has the added advantage that you can just look at it to work out how many trips/days you have left.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    also people don't have to all get on at the front - people can get on and swipe through any door - makes loading and unloading even faster

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2181 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    also people don't have to all get on at the front - people can get on and swipe through any door - makes loading and unloading even faster

    Pursuant to that, in Melbourne, on trams, there's no one, in general, checking your tickets at all. They simply have random inspections and spot fines. You check the ticket in a little box, or buy at the annoying machine (it has the advantage of being so slow and unwieldy that you often get to the end of the trip before you even have a chance to purchase a ticket).

    I preferred conductors, frankly. I seem to remember that they ended up actually losing money putting in machines and taking away the conductors, just on the free riding. It only took about 10 people every hour not to pay for their ticket and that was the entire wage cost of the conductor lost. Not to mention that a conductor is actually a better service all round for the customer - you can sit down straight away, you can ask them questions, and on late lonely trains, they gave a considerable sense of security to people. It's one of the things I really like about the Auckland train system, that there's a human being. It changes the whole feeling of the ride, really, it becomes more like entering a community and less like stepping onto a conveyor belt. You get a lot less of the dickishness that can happen on unconducted trains, people making a racket, constantly moving between carriages, threatening behaviour.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    MInd you, a cardboard ticket that the driver clips, or simply looks at, is pretty damned fast, gets money off people, and costs next to nothing to set up. I’d prefer it to owning a Snapper card myself. Not a big fan of technology for its own sake. Has the added advantage that you can just look at it to work out how many trips/days you have left.

    Works fine for fixed-value trips and zone-based passes, but the second you need to do a trip that's outside what's contemplated by whatever pass you hold (have a two-stage pass but want to go three stages, for example, or have an A-zone pass and want to go to zone B) you start having to bugger about with cash. Having different passes for different kinds of pass is also an administrative hassle, since those have to be managed, distributed, prepared, etc. A stored-value card is much more flexible since you can do things like daily fare caps for casual users (time-consuming to implement if driver interaction is required to validate), and online balance management. Plus you get much, much better patronage stats from stored-value.

    Regarding the loss of revenue from free-riders, Auckland is currently losing a lot of revenue on peak train services because the on-train staff simply cannot move to collect tickets. Not allowing people on/off the Britomart platforms without a ticket will take care of that.
    I'm a fan of large fines (if I read the sign right, in Berlin it's EUR400) for not having a valid ticket. If the cost of getting caught is high, people are more likely to comply. At present the fine here is negligible and it's actually the economically-optimal course of action to game the system since on the off-chance that you get caught you're still going to be ahead financially. Taking away some of the on-train staff and instead using them to conduct random ticketing compliance audits right across the Auckland transport network would be very effective, especially since they're moving to a driver-plus-one model with the new electric trains.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    MInd you, a cardboard ticket that the driver clips, or simply looks at, is pretty damned fast, gets money off people, and costs next to nothing to set up.

    Still not fast enough for rush-hour commuting on a crowded system, I think – the driver has to take it, look at it, ascertain which square hasn’t been punched, punch it, hand it back…it’s not as fast as you might think, in a situation where you need to onload people *quickly*. There’s no reason you couldn’t have an electronic card system and conductors for crowd control/questioning, though, if you wanted them. The functions are not the same.

    ETA: Plus, everything Matthew said above.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    also people don’t have to all get on at the front – people can get on and swipe through any door – makes loading and unloading even faster

    If you have double-width doors, certainly. If, however, you've got a single-width rear door and you have people trying to alight it's going to be a lot slower trying to fit through bi-directional traffic.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Works fine for fixed-value trips and zone-based passes, but the second you need to do a trip that's outside what's contemplated by whatever pass you hold (have a two-stage pass but want to go three stages, for example, or have an A-zone pass and want to go to zone B) you start having to bugger about with cash

    Sure, but most trips (don't have the stats, but still), are commutes and they are always the exact same thing. Once you start asking the driver about the fare and so on, you're already into buggering around territory.

    Having different passes for different kinds of pass is also an administrative hassle, since those have to be managed, distributed, prepared, etc.

    And designing, mass producing, installing, maintaining, upgrading touch technology and selling the cards to people for a stored card system isn't a hassle?

    Regarding the loss of revenue from free-riders, Auckland is currently losing a lot of revenue on peak train services because the on-train staff simply cannot move to collect tickets.

    Sounds like they could get more people on the job at peak times. The improved revenue would probably pay for it. Or perhaps they could be trained to be more pushy. I rode on many a jam packed tram in which conductors simply pushed through, demanding that people move, which they always did. It's also worth considering that from a customer point of view, riding standing on a jam packed train is a much lesser experience than sitting comfortably, so it's actually fair enough to get a free ride occasionally. If the train company wants to be all stally and collect every fare, they could put more trains on.

    I agree with trains that platform turnstiles make a lot of sense. Especially with ridiculously crowded commuter trains.

    Still not fast enough for rush-hour commuting on a crowded system, I think – the driver has to take it, look at it, ascertain which square hasn’t been punched, punch it, hand it back…it’s not as fast as you might think, in a situation where you need to onload people *quickly*.

    Punching the ticket is slower than swiping a touch card, yes. But not by a great deal. And a touch card is slower than a card you simply show. I'm not guessing about this - as a child I commuted to school every day across multiple buses in Auckland, and a bendy bus, holding almost 200 kids could be loaded in a few minutes. You could board side by side, the driver only had to look at the card, so you didn't have to pass under their nose. They just sat back and watched. On the commuter bus, I was in the driver's face for a second. As were most passengers - the adults going to the city had monthly passes. It really didn't seem like something that needed a hugely engineered solution.

    However, I'm not against all touch systems. If they increase patronage, as Matthew claims, then that's reason in itself to have them. I just can't help but feel that they're often an excuse for not solving the real problems with public transport, like not having enough buses/trains in service. Every million you spend farting around with the ticketing system is a bunch of buses or trains you don't have on the road/rails. If they think they're making money by doing it, I really hope they did their numbers right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Um, not sure, I think it must be the hybrid. My card has both logos on it.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sure, but most trips (don’t have the stats, but still), are commutes and they are always the exact same thing.

    Which is great, if your aspirations are nothing greater than to have a public transport system that is little more than a way to move commuters. If, however, you want to make it a viable alternative to owning a private car, it needs to be a whole lot more flexible. HOP allows for that flexibility, and coupled with the redesign of bus operating patterns we're going to start becoming a city where, for increasing numbers of people, owning a car is not essential.

    Sounds like they could get more people on the job at peak times. The improved revenue would probably pay for it. Or perhaps they could be trained to be more pushy.

    I've been on several trains where it was simply impossible for the train staff to get through and check tickets before people started getting off again. I've heard of trains making it as far as Mt Albert station from Britomart before some people had their tickets checked, and that's a function of not only the density of the packing but also of the train staff having to clip tickets, sell tickets, hand out change, etc. More people might help, but it's also more people trying to move through absolutely packed carriages.

    If the train company wants to be all stally and collect every fare, they could put more trains on.

    Uh, no, they couldn't. There aren't more trains to put on (literally, Auckland is out of rolling stock at peak time) and there also isn't movement capacity at Britomart during peak hours even if there were more trains available. It's no exaggeration to say that there is no more room to send trains to the CBD during peak hours.

    And a touch card is slower than a card you simply show

    The Snapper cards certainly are. However, the actual HOP system is supposed to read with high accuracy (another Snapper fail) in under a second. Also, while the driver is dealing with a passenger who's paying cash passengers with HOP can continue to board. If everyone has a visual pass, there is nothing faster. In the real world of public transport in Auckland, though, there are lots of combinations and there are lots of people paying cash. I don't think I've ever got on a bus heading away from Symonds St and not had someone getting on who's paying cash. For the 20 seconds that the driver is dealing with that one person, you could board another 10 people who're using touch cards or you could have the driver take 30 seconds to deal with the passenger while they board half that many people.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Tamara,

    Yeah, that's the bastard Snapper hybrid. The real HOP will be a lot quicker and a lot more reliable, if the design specification has actually been followed. Snapper is, as I've said above, slow and unreliable.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I look forward to that then. For what it's worth, all your points make sense Matthew. Even with Snapper I've noticed trips are much faster since while one cash passenger is being served a whole horde of Snappers just pile on. From a passenger point of view the journeys have become much more pleasant since there's less idling time and there's no waiting in a queue behind passengers with issues.

    Now, if only I didn't have a 7 minute walk in the rain from the bus stop.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Which is great, if your aspirations are nothing greater than to have a public transport system that is little more than a way to move commuters. If, however, you want to make it a viable alternative to owning a private car, it needs to be a whole lot more flexible

    But...it was and still is flexible. All you're talking about is that it could be a little bit quicker, maybe. If you're seriously talking about it being an alternative to owning a car, then the users of it are hardly going to find it that much of an arse to own a couple of bus cards, and occasionally to pay cash for a ticket if they want to do something unusual. My point is that 95% of boarding passengers are not slowed down by a clip or flash system compared to, say, Hop. The residual 5% are always going to slow it down anyway.

    More people might help, but it's also more people trying to move through absolutely packed carriages.

    It probably wasn't clear what I meant. I didn't mean more people so they can check more tickets per minute. I meant it so that they could be spaced out on the carriages, without having to move more than a couple of meters to ticket everyone within their responsibility.

    There aren't more trains to put on

    What, nowhere in the whole world?

    there also isn't movement capacity at Britomart during peak hours even if there were more trains available.

    That's more of an issue, soluble only by increasing line capacity. Finishing the loop, making more lines, etc. Until then, turnstiles probably makes more sense if they really must collect every fare. Which means there's no need for any fancy payment systems, really, people can buy their tickets at their leisure. Or they can acknowledge that whilst providing a rather crap service (being crammed into a train is unpleasant), they probably have to just wear those lost fares.

    For the 20 seconds that the driver is dealing with that one person, you could board another 10 people who're using touch cards

    Even if you could board a thousand people, you're still only losing 20 seconds on the cashie. So long as their numbers are kept low, basically the people who have come to the system completely unprepared, the savings are minimal from a system that cost tens of millions of dollars more. So long as it is generally cheaper to buy a flashable or clickable card, then most people boarding will have one, as they did when I was a kid.

    But yes, I can see that it makes the bus a little faster to have a whole lot of Hoppers. Presumably over a long period of time this actually amounts to a saving on the large capital outlay involved in the system.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    users of it are hardly going to find it that much of an arse to own a couple of bus cards, and occasionally to pay cash for a ticket if they want to do something unusual.

    That's what we have now. It's balls. I have a train ticket, a HOP-Snapper card and a Howick & Eastern card. That's three different transport tickets, each of which requires different ways of being topped-up/purchased, credit for each of which is non-transferable, and all of which are taking up space in my wallet. I, and many, many others, want a single card that works everywhere. If that's a paper pass then great, but since I don't use public transport every day I don't want to buy a monthly pass. That means a multi-ride ticket which then needs to be clipped by the driver/fare-collector, which adds time. I absolutely don't consider the status quo to be acceptable, in any way, because it's keeping us tied to the fragmented bullshit delivery system foisted on us by 1990s National.

    There aren’t more trains to put on

    What, nowhere in the whole world?

    We've got a half-billion-dollars worth of new trains on order, due for delivery within the next four years. Why on earth would we buy, or even lease, additional rolling stock from overseas? We're already using freight locomotives to drag around passenger carriages, which is hardly an ideal use of expensive locomotives. Plus there's the Britomart issue.

    they probably have to just wear those lost fares.

    But we've got a public transport-hostile government who're demanding ever-greater levels of farebox recovery. "Just wearing lost fares" is a non-starter, and it should never be an acceptable solution in any case. Implementing systems that make it much harder to free-load while not making it significantly harder to participate (and, in this case, generally making it easer) are much more desirable.

    I can see that it makes the bus a little faster to have a whole lot of Hoppers. Presumably over a long period of time this actually amounts to a saving on the large capital outlay involved in the system.

    If, conservatively, HOP saves 10 minutes of stop dwell time for a bus that's doing a 50-minute run, that's 20% quicker trips for passengers and allows a corresponding 20% increase in the bus' return-trip availability. Those are big numbers. I've watched buses sit for three minutes getting passengers on board, at a single stop. Millions of minutes a year, wasted on idling while bus drivers deal with passengers' payments. Obviously HOP won't end cash payments, but it only needs to shave five seconds off the interactions of 120 people to save 10 minutes. If we build and upgrade roads on the basis of time savings (I know, I know, flawed to all hell, but it's the system we have), why should we not rate public transport spending on the same basis?

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3913 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I, and many, many others, want a single card that works everywhere.

    Yup, that's a whole 'nother issue, and no arguments from me there. My point is that delivering that as paper tickets is piss easy by comparison to the alternatives. But aren't the barriers non-technological anyway? The networks don't work together because they refuse to, not because it would be difficult to print out a transferable bus/train pass.

    since I don't use public transport every day I don't want to buy a monthly pass. That means a multi-ride ticket which then needs to be clipped by the driver/fare-collector

    Not necessarily. There's lots of ways of making flash passes. They could be day-coded, so you can only use your pass on, say, Friday. There's lots of possibilities that don't require making expensive hardware and software.

    Why on earth would we buy, or even lease, additional rolling stock from overseas?

    Because the carriages are overcrowded?

    Plus there's the Britomart issue.

    Yes, we need the loop.

    "Just wearing lost fares" is a non-starter, and it should never be an acceptable solution in any case.

    You're trying to convince someone who is not me with that argument. It's not an "acceptable solution". But it might be justified in the circumstances. Obviously the solution is to improve the service.

    Essentially that's my main point about the wonders of paperless public transport. I'm underwhelmed by the improvements. You knock a minute off an hour long trip by taking away the cash transaction delay. But having more buses coming more frequently, from a lot more destinations, with a lot more express buses is clearly going to do one hell of a lot more to improve matters. Improving the roads and the train lines likewise, bus lanes, double tracking, loops, etc.

    If, conservatively, HOP saves 10 minutes of stop dwell time for a bus that's doing a 50-minute run

    Is that really conservative? Are you trying to tell me that 30 people on every bus pay cash? Based on a 20 second transaction. I'm genuinely curious - if the cash handling time is really that high, then the savings sound worthwhile.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I'm going to take a punt and assume you've been personally involved the drama around snapper vs hop at some point. That's some serious hate you've got for the snapper.

    As a wellingtonian who relies on public transport, here's what I see with snapper (after using it for a couple of years now):

    1. It fails if you've got a handful of other rfid cards in your wallet - you have to take it out and away from all those barfly loyalty cards. Actual waving it at the thing failure is rare and normally because the reader is bung.

    2. The slowness of it is noticeable, but not the end of the world that you make it out to be. It's still a hold, pause, beep, that at best takes a second.

    3. The major delays are always due to people struggling to move down the bus, not due to hold ups at the snapper. I don't think instantaneous card reaction will make all those people who are old, infirm, or drunk any faster between the seat rows. There's a human involved, not just an iteration of a read time.

    I've also noticed that they use a lot of double readers now - you get around the slowness of the read by having two within reach, which allows two people to do it at the same time.

    That said, of course a better, stronger,faster system would be even better.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    It fails if you've got a handful of other rfid cards in your wallet - you have to take it out and away from all those barfly loyalty cards.

    So, BTW, does London's Oyster. I had to take my Snapper out of my wallet for Oyster to work reliably.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4471 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Greg Dawson,

    I was a bit more observant than usual taking the bus home tonight. We had a couple more cashies than usual and because the door is so narrow it did hold up HOP users. So, the front bus doors do need to be wider. Plus, one person took what felt like ages getting her purse out once she was on the bus!

    I get on in the city and go two stages so I see most of the passengers. At peak time there are not that many cash payers on each bus. Also, I always keep my card out, to avoid delays.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Imagine 700 people trying to pass through a barrier that takes over a second per person just to read their card before opening the gate, which is the situation that'll be faced at Britomart once this is rolled out on trains here.

    Don't you just have more than one barrier? Seems to work in London.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 396 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Beijing too.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 900 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tamara,

    Yeah I get my cash out in exact change when using the bus. It takes under 5 seconds to pay and receive the ticket.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    This is not some sort of wacky unnecessary plan. Bog-standard for decent public transport systems across different modes.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Conductors are better. Matthew has convinced me. Even the one second delay of Hop is one second of life all the passengers never get back. Not to mention farting around with a website and some evil loyalty card shite just so I can use the bus. Board via all doors, sit down. Then pay using coin of the realm without all the other passengers tut tutting you. Old, proven, effective, reliable, unbeatably efficient. Customer service as the phrase used to mean. Bog standard? I don't live in a bog.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8615 posts Report Reply

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