Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: If wishing made it so ...

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  • Ben Austin, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    My new UK visa was issued on a separate chip + pin card, which also stops the Oyster card working, which surely is a subtle message from the No2ID campaign sympathisers embedded at Transport for London

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 894 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to BenWilson,

    Old, proven, effective, reliable, unbeatably efficient.

    I'll grant you old, sure.

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

  • Danielle, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Endless queuing to get on Auckland buses probably took actual days of my life. And in my teens and twenties! The prime of my youth, wasted!

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3661 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    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.

    And if I want to make an ad hoc trip when I feel like it, I'll have to carry around seven of those passes. Which are valid for how long? Or how many trips? How to count off the number of trips used? Seriously, if we went to two zones, or three zones, we'd still have to really heavily cut the price of monthly passes before I'd buy one on the off-chance that I'd use it. I don't want to have to rely on having cash on me to know that I can use public transport. I want one pass, and one pass only. So either we go for a zonal system with a low monthly charge (for my current usage pattern I wouldn't even buy them if they were $100/month, to give you an idea of what I consider to be low), or we go with a smart card that can handle all of the flexibility.

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

    Because the carriages are overcrowded?

    And we can only fit six carriages onto most of our platforms, so we can't just add more carriages to most existing peak-hour trains that are terribly, terribly full. All we can do is add more trains, requiring complete locomotive sets. Not a particularly good use of money for a problem that's already being solved in the near-medium term. And still, Britomart.

    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.

    It's a whole lot more than a minute. It's more like 10 minutes, or more, on long-haul services. The dithering around with cash can be nearly a minute at one stop with one passenger, by the time they get out their wallet, get out the cash, get the ticket, get the change, put the change away, and get out of the way so the next cash-paying passenger can get started. Keep an eye on what happens next time you're on the bus. Plus, even if it's only one minute per service journey, multiply that by 200 buses (which is a very, very low-ball estimate of how many enter the CBD in the morning peak) and you've got over three hours of time wasted. Every day.

    Adding more peak services is expensive, because your marginal cost of adding another bus is buying a whole extra bus. Making services more efficient, such as ending the practice of buses running routes that largely duplicate train routes, allows better use of resources without having to purchase extra resources.

    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.

    Based on my observations, for a long route it would be at least that many. I've watched five people get on at one stop and pay cash. If you've got two stops per kilometre (conservative) and the route is 15km long, even an average of one passenger per stop paying cash gets you to that 30 passengers. I realise it likely doesn't extrapolate like that since once you get into the suburbs people are more likely to be regular users and have a pass, but multiply the effects across hundreds of buses and you can see how these savings rapidly add up.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Staff may also be better deployed interacting meaningfully with passengers than repetitively taking money from them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    unbeatably efficient

    That must be why the rest of the world is changing or has done. You're flogging a dead horse, sir.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16754 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    Even the one second delay of Hop is one second of life all the passengers never get back

    Yeah yeah, break out the sarcasm. Each individual passenger, it's irrelevant. Multiplied by thousands of passengers over hundreds of buses every day, it's an enormous amount of time wasted.

    You clearly don't care, and at a personal level I only care when I'm on a bus that spends several minutes sitting at a stop while the driver takes care of passengers who're paying cash, but looking at the bigger picture this is not about individual passengers on individual buses. It's about the entire regional bus system.

    Greg Dawson, not personally involved with Snapper, but a lot of my hate is Infratil's tantrum and associated Ministerial meddling when they didn't get the tender. That has held up deployment of HOP, and muddied the brand significantly in the eyes of Auckland transport patrons: "Why do I have to keep getting this card replaced?" Their system is inferior to what's specified. I've had issues where my HOP has failed to read first time, and I carefully split my H&E card and my HOP card to separate sides of my wallet so that I can flip it open to the appropriate side.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Not to mention farting around with a website and some evil loyalty card shite just so I can use the bus

    Nobodies mentioned yet the ability to use the system to track people's movements, which is widely used with Oyster.

    I don't think this has been rolled out in NZ, possibly because no self respecting criminal/terrerist/dissident would take the bus.

    However, I do have a solution which might appeal to the social authoritarian instincts of certain posters. Make everyone wear a corrections-style electronic tag, and bill them for any time spent colocated with a bus.

    After all, moving around is a privilege.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Danielle,

    The prime of my youth, wasted!

    Yeah, mine too, but nothing to do with buses...
    West Auckland might have something to do with it.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Yeah yeah, break out the sarcasm. Each individual passenger, it's irrelevant. Multiplied by thousands of passengers over hundreds of buses every day, it's an enormous amount of time wasted.

    Matthew, while I broadly agree with the overall thrust of your argument I think you're getting a little too intense about all this time wastage stuff. Sometimes life needs to be savoured, not rushed through. And while I admit there might be little to savour while sitting on a bus, you're coming across like an efficiency-Nazi who might want to stop people taking coffee breaks or going to the toilet.

    We are people, not work-units, Just sayin'.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Stewart,

    Yeah, but surely a transport system shouldn't be forcing people to slow down. It's a very well to say we should all be feeling groovy but lots of people have valid reasons to desire their bus trip to be as quick as possible. For example, I really need to be home at a certain time to relieve the nanny from her 10 hour day. Plus, the slower the trip the more likely I am to nod off and miss my stop.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Nobodies mentioned yet the ability to use the system to track people’s movements

    Until there's a compulsion to register your card and/or a prohibition on topping it up with cash, the cards aren't tied to a particular person. Online topup will, obviously, tie the card to a particular person, as would topping up using an electronic payment, but if you hand over cash to the local dairy to get the card topped up it's as effective as handing over cash to the driver.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Stewart,

    I think you’re getting a little too intense about all this time wastage stuff.

    What Tamara said. If I want to take public transport for the experience, I'll jump on a long-distance train. Around town I want the trip to be as quick as possible because I have places to go. The alternative is taking a car, after all, and if we accept sloth from public transport because people shouldn't expect it to be efficient we'll fail to attract people to use public transport for serious purposes.

    As for toilet and coffee breaks, the longer each trip takes the more it eats into the driver's legally-restricted hours. If you want me to go all "efficiency-Nazi" on something I'll start talking about how the drivers are work units within the public transport system, and delays in boarding passengers impacts on the productivity of those work units. For everyone else, it's mostly just about getting from point A to point B in the shortest possible time, which means making the system as efficient as possible.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    hasn't stopped the brits.

    I guess if you want to find a (smart) murderer, they'll probably pay cash on the bus, or cycle to the scene of the crime.

    If you want to see who travelled to the venue of various demonstrations, you'd probably have more luck.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Yeah yeah, break out the sarcasm. Each individual passenger, it's irrelevant. Multiplied by thousands of passengers over hundreds of buses every day, it's an enormous amount of time wasted.

    I wasn't being sarcastic. You really did convince me, with your numbers argument, that time spent paying at the door (by any of the methods discussed) costs. It doesn't just cost the bus company, it costs everyone using the bus. The transaction should be done on the bus, after boarding, to get the fastest possible turnaround, like they do on trains. Even if everyone paid with Hop and that took only one second per person, on a bus with 120 people on it, that means 2 minutes lost on the bus traveling the route, and and average of 1 minute per passenger (given they're evenly distributed along the route), which means 2 person hours of traveller time lost every bus trip. So if you're paying the conductor for less than 2 hours you are making on the deal. Not to mention you have the best possible outcome for passengers who don't need any passes whatsoever (although they could and probably should have many means of paying, from cash, to eftpos, to pre-purchased bus passes, to touch cards), and they can sit down immediately. There's probably even more time really saved because passengers can board at all doors.

    I'm not imagining this system, I used it for about a year in Melbourne, where that was exactly how they ran the trams. It worked great, I loved it. Then neoliberals got hold of the transport system, sold the trams, and the bean counters running it decided to sack the thousands of conductors and replace them with machines that you could pay at. This did not slow the trams down any, but it cost the tram company more than the cost of the conductors in lost fares, and it reduced the passenger experience because they now had to queue at the payment machine, which was horribly slow, and also took away 3 seats. There was no official person to ask about the tram route, and passengers at night felt less safe.

    I'm just not the kind of person who can be trained to see any of that as progress, just because there is a shiny machine instead of a person there. Whatever Sacha has to say about dead horses, I will never forget that that system was the best system I have ever used anywhere in the world at any time, from a customer point of view.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    If you want to see who travelled to the venue of various demonstrations, you’d probably have more luck.

    "Sir, sir, HOP Card number 9010 0660 0400 0226 has been tagged on and off in the vicinity of multiple demonstrations."
    "Excellent work, constable, but do we know who uses that card?"
    "No, sir, not a clue. It's not registered and the last five top-ups were with cash at various convenience stores. We believe they live near New Lynn train station based on travel patterns. That narrows it down to about 15,000 people, sir."

    Yes, I'm absolutely terrified. If the authorities have enough data to figure out who you are without your HOP card having been registered, they don't need the card at all. It's just a convenience for them in figuring out roughly when and where you've been travelling after they arrest you for something and record the card number.
    I could also conceive of multiple ways to completely throw off any attempts at data matching, if I were particularly worried about being tracked. Use multiple cards. Regularly swap cards with friends who're similarly concerned. And so it goes. In the absence of compulsory registration it's still entirely possible to use HOP without giving the authorities much useful data. Or just use cash.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Matthew, when I got my hybrid card I had to register to use it. They do know who I am.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    Sorry, I honestly read that as sarcasm. Bloody context-less intertubes :/

    Even if everyone paid with Hop and that took only one second per person

    Ideally, and this is where Snapper fails, it’s so quick that you wave your card past the reader on the way through the door (except for about one passenger in every few hundred who has to swipe again). That’s how it should work, and if “real HOP” performs as intended that’s how it will work. Obviously there’s an element of user training required to make things that slick, but it works overseas. So we’re now talking about passengers paying as they enter, without a pause. “Real HOP” also ignores other RFID cards, so it’s much easier for users to consistently get a first-time read.

    I don’t doubt that conductors are a better customer experience, but they’re more bodies on the bus, and worse they’re bodies that need enough space to be able to move about freely. I’ve been on both buses and trains that were so packed that trying to have a circulating fare collector would’ve just pissed off the passengers if movement were even possible. It’s common in Auckland for peak-hour buses to be literally full from stem to stern and just blaze past people standing at stops because there’s no space for anyone else to board. Trying to have a roving fare collector in that situation would be impossible.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Tamara,

    when I got my hybrid card I had to register to use it. They do know who I am.

    Had to or chose to? I used my card for months before I registered, and the only reason I did was so I could check the balance online. The card's useful the moment it's got money on it, unless something significant has changed.

    ETA: From the HOP site:

    We recommend you register your HOP

    (my emphasis)

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Looking at the website to refresh my memory. I think I followed their advice to register it so that my balance is protected in case my card gets lost. So yes, that was a choice. But the way the information is worded it isn't made clear you can use it without registering first.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Tamara,

    Matthew, when I got my hybrid card I had to register to use it. They do know who I am.

    I registered mine to John Doe.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    I just lack that level of cunning I guess.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Tamara,

    I just lack that level of cunning I guess.

    Pfft, n00b ;-)

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Sorry, I honestly read that as sarcasm. Bloody context-less intertubes :/

    Well OK, I guess it had an element of "well, if you're really serious about the wait times, then lets actually approach this from top down", which perhaps has a hint of sarcasm. The point being that the most efficient solution in those terms is the least technological. Although more technology to aid them would be good if it didn't cost a lot. There could be little Hop machines in various places, which would mean the conductor wouldn't have to visit those people.

    It’s common in Auckland for peak-hour buses to be literally full from stem to stern and just blaze past people standing at stops because there’s no space for anyone else to board.

    I see that problem as being nothing to do with the ticketing system, and everything to do with the number of buses, and their timing. It's quite crappy that the most frequent users of public transport have to put up with the least congenial conditions. It's also not safe to have people packed into transport like that.

    but they’re more bodies on the bus, and worse they’re bodies that need enough space to be able to move about freely.

    It just didn't seem like that much of a problem in Melbourne. The trams got packed, but the conductors just wriggled past, in just the same way that a passenger who wants to get off has to do. It is possible to reach out to hand people tickets/money, or even get people in between to hand it along, and the driver can refuse to open a particular door at a stop if people are only boarding and the conductor is stuck in some particular part of the vehicle. In the worst case, some people got a free ride. Big deal - it's not like the system isn't creaming it at times when the vehicle is packed like sardines. In that situation, the capacity planning is failing, not the ticketing system, and it's failing everyone because riding like that is really unpleasant. It's not inconceivable to have more than one conductor - they scale up much more easily than vehicle fleets.

    It's different on a train, the carriages are much longer than buses and trams. When it's really packed, they probably should have a conductor for every door.

    Yes, it's another body, but note also that the driver can be completely sealed away from the passengers, and doesn't need ticketing and cash facilities, so you can actually cram to the front more. In terms of safety that separation of duties is big, too. The driver only has to think about traffic, and controlling the doors. Passenger wrangling has a dedicated resource, with a whole different skill set. A conductor doesn't need to also be able to drive a bus, and they aren't stressed out from the traffic conditions. The driver is also much safer from attack, hijacking, having the controls grabbed, etc.

    I think it speaks volumes that I can clearly remember the conductors from that time, 15 years ago, in a positive way, as actual people. If I remember bus drivers in NZ it is usually in a gradation from most disliked. I'm not surprised, on reflection, it must be a shit of a job to have to drive a big dangerous vehicle and deal with hundreds of members of the public at the same time. No wonder so many are surly.

    FWIW I don't think of you as an efficiency Nazi, either. Someone has to ask these questions. But if you're going to be about efficiency, you do need to consider all the options, including the non-technological ones. I thought you made a good case for Hop in terms of the more efficient use of the bus fleet, but in your argument you made an even clearer case for a different system altogether.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8589 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    everything to do with the number of buses, and their timing

    Again, adding new buses at peak time requires purchasing additional buses. It means putting on more staff. It's expensive to add peak-hour services, and they're also an inefficient use of resources because they're not utilised for all but about six hours a day during the working week. There's nowhere near enough off-peak demand to justify keeping them all on the road, which means that there are millions and millions of dollars of vehicles sitting in depots and on roadsides for about 80% (114 hours out of 144) of the time.

    Even if there's a case to have conductors at peak times, when the trip time issue is at its greatest, you're still going to have to hire as many conductors as there will be peak-hour services and then figure out what to do with them in the off-peak when there are no services for them to work. Even more so if you have multiple conductors for a single peak-hour service, since the off-peak services will be comfortably serviced by just a single conductor. Technology doesn't have that issue.

    As for security, a driver with their cash box locked behind armoured glass is a lot safer than a conductor who's roaming the vehicle with a loaded money belt. You can secure a fixed position against casual attack, but it's much harder to secure someone who's walking about amongst the passengers.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

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