Yesterday I boarded a bus (#8) in the CBD, bound for Merivale, and got a bit of a surprise when I went to tag on with my metrocard. Instead of the usual set-up there was the new ticket operating system. I’m aware that these have been installed on some Leopard buses already, but this was my first experience using it. Tagging on seemed a lot quicker, although this could just be my imagination, and the driver’s side is a lot less cluttered with just a digital display and touch screen. Overall the machine on the bus is much more compact than before (and it’s also quieter!!!)
I got to watch the driver use it when topping up someones metrocard and it seemed relatively easy to use. I have heard a lot about what the new system will be able to do (e.g. online top-ups) and some of the neat new features that come with it (drivers will be able to see the bus route on the screen) but I’ll leave that for the future as it the system comes more online. One thing I couldn’t help but notice though was the set-up. I have always wanted to see metrocard users separated from passengers paying with cash fares and even those topping up their metrocard’s with the driver. In my opinion there could be much to gain by positioning the tag-on function behind or opposite the driver to allow this to happen, allowing better flow when boarding the bus at busier stops.
I have experienced this overseas, and even in Wellington with the Snapper card, and it works really well. The only problem I could forsee in Christchurch is that there is no tag-off function, so on routes which go through zones 2-3 there would be an issue with getting people onto the right fare. However, I don’t think it’s anything insurmountable. One option could be to charge the full zone 3 fare on such routes with those passengers wanting to travel within one zone needing to go to the driver. That’s just off the top if my head, I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to do it.
This is one of those small things that I think can go quite some way toward making public transport easier to use. Sadly, it’s also probably one of those missed opportunities that we seem to have so much off these days. The basic idea is ‘on the money’, but the end result is missing something simple and obvious that would make it the ‘real deal’. Maybe I’m just being picky, but we always seem to be falling just ever so slightly short of the mark. Nevertheless, I’m still really looking forward to the new system being rolled out and being able to check out all the new features.