After about 5 months of delayed roll-out of AT Hop on my daily bus service Ritchies, we were finally converted over to the new system which supposedly makes travel around Auckland a lot easier and more seamless than ever before! AT Hop is a service by Auckland Transport (AT) that lets you have one card and be able to travel all around Auckland whether by bus, train or ferry, by only using that one card!
Planned Bus Roll-Out Schedule
The bus roll-out started with Urban Express services in June 2013, followed by Birkenhead Transport in July, North Star in October, LINK and Metrolink in November, Go West, Waka Pacific in December 2013 and Bayes in January 2014. The AT HOP can now be used on Ritchies and Northern Express buses and will be rolled out on Howick & Eastern on 16 February 2014.
AT HOP will be progressively introduced onto the remaining Auckland buses during 2014.
When Auckland Transport were offering free AT Hop cards back around a year ago, I decided to register first, even though my bus wasn’t scheduled to get AT Hop until September (more on this below). It is usually $10 per card, but there are usually specials of $5 per card, or if you are switching from a previous electronic card, you may be eligible to receive a free AT Hop card.
Because I already had a Ritchies FastPass card, I was eligible for a free AT Hop card. All I had to do was to register my information at the above website, then specify the old card (the FastPass card) and the card number on the website. You will then be told on-the-spot if your card is eligible. I found that when I selected Ritchies as the old card provider, then entered a random 5-digit number, the system also found it to be eligible. I really don’t recommend you doing this if you don’t already have a 5-digit card number on your current (previous) Ritchies FastPass, firstly because it is just not nice, and secondly, the numbers can only be used once. So if you randomly entered correctly someone else’s card number, when they enter their number into the system, it will say their card is ineligible.
After confirmation, Auckland Transport sent me the new AT Hop card after a few days and I managed to register it online, on their website.
I mentioned previously that my bus service Ritchies, wasn’t scheduled to get AT Hop until September 2013. While this was partially true, it got delayed 5. Whole. Months! The AT Hop systems were even already installed on most buses, but when September neared, Ritchies and Auckland Transport notified us of a potential “technical issue”, which set back the release until just today!
So on Saturday, I decided to update my Auto Top-up options on the My AT Hop Account page, which was relatively easy to do, but I wish it could do the following thing: allow decimals for selecting the amount. I say this because I usually only travel on a set schedule everyday – one in the morning and one in the evening, so it is pretty predictable how many I usually use up in a week. I usually top up a 10-trip in balance value (i.e if it costs $2.29 per trip, times 10 would make it $22.90), but I just liked it that way – a lot of people will see this as no biggie and probably tell me off for not just going to $23…. Moving on..
I figured out after trying to set up my auto top up that it may take up to 72 hours for changes to take effect and I certainly didn’t have 72 hours to wait before my next/first trip on Monday (today), so I did a one-off top-up onto my AT Hop card, which deducted a 25 cent fee, and if done before 10pm on any day, the balance should be ready for you by the next morning so it says. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to set up the Auto Top-Up feature, as that is the only way to top up your AT Hop card without incurring a 25 cent fee, which is usually deducted off your specified top-up balance.
Okay, so I thought I was all ready and so Monday (today) came and I quickly logged on to the My AT Hop Account and saw that my balance was still $0.00! I was kinda worried because I didn’t think I had enough change to go on the bus, and I certainly wasn’t going to go on the bus carrying a $100 note with me! And either way, the bus driver would most definitely not be accepting that anyway as they don’t like carrying a high-value note on them!
I gave Auckland Transport a ring, and was reassured that the balance (and any Pending Transactions) on the My AT Hop Account page, was only updated once every 24 hours, and told me that if I had topped up my account by 10pm last night, I should be fine tagging on this morning. So this is also one of the changes I would like to see Auckland Transport make to their system – enable Real-Time balances, just like how they tried so unsuccessfully to make their Real-Time Boards actually real-time! Almost half the time those times were just the scheduled times and not really in real-time!
So anyway, that is my experience with the AT Hop cards, oh and travel today on the buses was pretty hectic too! It seemed like only 2/100th of the people in the bus actually used the AT Hop card and everyone else just used cash and so therefore the bus was pretty late! I guess most people aren’t really “geeky” enough to read up on the latest developments of AT Hop, but I think this is just a case of laziness. How hard was it just to go online and enter your information to receive a FREE AT Hop card, then register it? You had nearly 5 months of warning!
Anyway, I guess as time goes on, people will start using the AT Hop cards more and there will be less “waiting time” at the front of the bus, and more “moving time” going on!
For more information about AT Hop, please visit: http://www.athop.co.nz/