It’s hard to imagine the joy I felt this morning catching the bus to work and finally seeing someone else actually using a Snapper Card. 


I had been quietly trying to convince myself that the seemingly slow uptake of this local version of London’s Oyster card was due to unspent currency of 10-ride bus tickets – but alas there always seemed to be too much hard cash being exchanged between driver and passenger to validate this one. But at least we haven’t (yet) got the problems that the Oyster has, where the encrypted security algorithm technology has just been cracked, and the cards can now be hacked: and London’s new Mayor has pulled the plug on the current system.

However: no reason to be smug. Wellington has not been the fastest in New Zealand to issue such a system.  Dunedin’s Go-card (offering a 10% discount) has been out since the end of last year, likewise with Christchurch’s Metrocard, and Auckland has its Go-rider, all three of which, it seems, can be loaded with $ by the bus driver, unlike our Snapper, which it seems requires visiting an “approved Snapper agent.”


Comparisons between these “smart-cards” is interesting.  The Go-card costs $5, the Go-rider $7.50, and the Metrocard is free.  The Snapper tops the lot with a grand price of $10 – going up to $15 by the end of October  The discounts also vary hugely from 0% (Auckland), 10% (Dunedin) to a grand 25% (Christchurch and Wellington).From my quick look at these it seems Christchurch’s Metrocard is not only the best dealt from the get-go – but the system of prices and use is more astute.  Wellington is still stuck with a fare-zone mentality, whereas Christchurch, like several other international cities (even Canberra), has a one price structure ($2.80; $2.10 on the Metrocard) and a two hours transfer, plus a maximum charge of $4.20 for a day.  

By comparison the Snapper, despite its better graphic design and snappier name, requires the tedium of “tagging” on and off with the constant threat of a maximum fare being charged for those of us who forget the second half of the fare-transaction.  The Metrocard appears also to be fully integrated, able to be used on the Red Bus, Leopard, Christchurch Bus Services, the Orbiter, the Metrostar and the Diamond Harbour Ferry, while anyone wanting to catch a Newlands bus has still to resort to searching for cash. Poneke has covered this further in his column, and thankfully reports that the Snapper system does not run on Windows Vista: its Linux of course, not Mac.

While I think the move to the Snapper is a good one, the system hasn’t really taken full advantage of this opportunity to make public transport truely appealing to the masses: instead crudely making the Snapper fit to an old system of fare thinking.  We need to move to the one fare, 2hr transfer, maximum daily limit system, and the ability to give drivers $ to top up the card.  “Tagging” on and off is cumbersome – a rethink is needed.

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