Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Farce that is Auckland City Public Transport

Have you ever tried to catch a bus in Auckland?

The whole process leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For starters, there's trying to find information. Go to maxx.co.nz and try and figure out where a particular bus route goes... And those that don't really fit nicely into a particular region (such as the 007 which, if I understand it correctly, goes between St. Lukes and Sacred Heart College) are impossible to find. You can't search via bus route. No, that would be too easy. And hell, wouldn't it be nice if you could see where the stages started and ended? Miss Bird got mugged at one stage because bus drivers kept telling her the stage end was one stop earlier than the sign that said "Stage End".

Add to that the monstrosity that's Hop.

If you look here, you'll see that stage 2 involves upgrading your Hop card. Brilliant! Way to manage a transition! It was bad enough that transitioning to the Hop card involved 3 or 4 different dates and people stranded on bus stops as some buses had upgraded (even when that region wasn't due to be transitioned for another week or so) while others hadn't.

And then there's the functionality.

The new touch screen machines in front of the bus drivers have a few problems. You'll notice they press the screen 4 times for a single ticket. One to go back a screen, one to say "Adult" or "Child" fare, one for the number of stages and one to actually print out the ticket. Rather than the more sensible approach of allowing the driver to change one or two fields (i.e. change the number of stages), the driver is forced to go back a screen and start from scratch.

I've heard a few drivers complain that the screen is far too bright for evening driving. It's distracting, causes some glare on the window and hurts the eyes. Surely a dimmer wouldn't have been too hard.

I got charged a penalty today. I have no idea how it happened as I ALWAYS swipe on and off again. Always. I've been quite anal about it. However, there's a couple of possibilities.

  • If you're going to the end of a route, and the bus driver presses buttons before you swipe off, there's the chance that you're unable to swipe off. I suspect this is what happened to me as when I did swipe off yesterday, it showed 0.00.
  • If when you swipe off, you miss the short beep (as opposed to the talking machine when you swipe on) but assume you heard it, then once again you're open to a penalty.
There is no information about how much you may be paying in penalties. How it's worked out or if it's a consistent price or anything.

Then you've got the monthly passes - broken up by zone. I went to buy one. $200. It turns out though, you can only buy them at the beginning of the month. Heaven forbid you might want to buy one half way through the month...

Given that Auckland suffers from some quite serious traffic problems, you'd think they could get this sorted. Provide easy to find, relevant, convenient information. Think about the drivers and different conditions in which they drive in. Make sensible choices for transitioning. And again... information, information, information.

It's no wonder that Aucklander's don't have a positive reaction to public transport...

Friday, June 10, 2011

And We're Back...

At school today one of the kids commented that I hadn't written on my blog for a while.

I do wonder about the appropriateness of this blog on young minds and the entertainment level. Still, if I'm going to put it out to the world, that's what I get.

Anyway... so what's been going on for the last few weeks... I met some awesome American's. It was interesting watching the cultural differences. Cultural differences you ask?

Take what we know of American culture, the most prominent presence in New Zealand being fast (psuedo) food outlets. Think about the size of a drink from Wendy's. It's huge! A medium is what we would consider a large and completely un-necessary. That's an awful lot of sugar and corn syrup and other such empty calories. So what happens if you don't want to drink all of it? You throw it away...

But isn't that awfully wasteful? I was talking to a woman who had taken her kids to America. They had tried to order a kids meal - which just didn't exist. So she'd had to buy a full meal. The problem with this though, the kids had different tastes and so wouldn't eat the same meal. Thus, 2 full meals. Oh course, the portions were way out there and so she'd had to throw the excess food away. Cringe worthy if you ask me.

I would like to think that we have a different attitude to food here. You buy what you need and eat it all. We teach our kids to clear their plates. We say things like "there are other children out there starving in the world". We try to teach a level of appreciation for the amount we do have.

What effect does this have on American's in relation to New Zealanders? The differences are kind of subtle I think but you start to spot things. Little things. Interesting things. Things I'm not going to go into here.

Anyway, it turns out there'll be another group of American's next year. I've already started to write up a blanket apology for them to sign. Something that apologises for things like KFC, MacDonalds, Pizza Hutt, Starbucks, Gloria Jean's and the very concept of shopping malls.

I'm just coming out of a bout of depression. This one was interesting. I discovered that my self esteem doesn't exist. I was incredibly happy about this. It means I've got something to work on and I've identified what it is. To that end, I'm getting myself out of my comfort zone and singing a song up at the pub tonight with an Irish band.

That happiness was counteracted by uncertainty. A five letter word - "maybe". Add to that a five month wait to maybe resolve that uncertainty. Not terribly happy. And it could have all been solved with a little communication. Woman are ... confusing. Go on Baillie - tell me otherwise.

I think that says it all really.

I've seen a spark. One of the kids is horribly eager to learn a little programming. Bring on the flow charts! In fact, this week I found myself working with a few kids. I gave one who lacked enthusiasm in the library a book. Another I got doing some work for me and finally started to hammer in the idea of patterns in maths (i.e. rote learning 10x10 is no good if you can't spot that fact that multiplying by 10 just adds a zero to the end of the number). Next I'm thinking strategies to figure out problems.

So enough of this rather general post. I'll get onto some more in depth rambles soon. Just watch this space...