Another day of cricket but not only that, last weekend was crammed with events, the cricket, The Eagles concert, the Pasifica Festival, the Volvo Ocean Race (though postponed due to the impending storm) and St Patrick’s Day Parade on the Sunday. And of course the Auckland Arts Festival is also in full swing. Well I only got to cover the cricket for PeopleMax, though I did get to an Arts Festival show called The Kitchen, a spectacle of drumming, cooking and drama from India. Seemed a fitting follow-on from covering the cricket.
As usual the easiest way to get to the cricket was on public transport and as before extra trains and special buses were included in the match ticket. To pick up your ride on the train though you had to wait till midday. Since I covered the previous New Zealand v Australia match, I thought I would concentrate more on catching up with the PeopleMax Ambassadors that were working on the fringe so to speak, same starting point though, Britomart. Daniel, Chris and Andrew were there and Chris managed to corral some Indian supporters who were skiving off work into having their dedication at all costs to cricket documented in a group photo.
From Britomart I made my way out to Morningside on the train, where Nirmala and Andrew were working informing the fans on their best travel plans for their return and how to reach the stadium from the station. Then I dropped off briefly at Kingsland to see how things were progressing there. Well I don’t expect there are very many Zimbabweans in New Zealand and if there were any at the match that day they were vastly out numbered—it seemed very much an Indian day out, and in come cases it demanded some celebratory traditional costuming.
At Mt Eden station Johnny B was covering the platform while Dhaval manned the bus stop where fans could take one of the special buses if the wait between trains was too long and they too eager to wait. Both locations; platform and bus stop were relatively quite, with just a steady stream of spectators heading out for the start of the match. I’m sure the two who patiently shared a photo with Dhaval would be exploding with enthusiasm once installed at the stadium. Understandably at Grafton Train Station it was quieter, though Malkit’s sunny disposition and determination to fulfil his brief had him eagerly engage the few fans that were coming his way. Overall it was another successful day for cricket and PeopleMax ambassadors played their part.
Over the past week our Ambassadors have been part of a display at Britomart, getting people to really think about the future of Public Transport in Auckland. A ‘pick a lane’ set up down on lower Queen Street saw people walking through either a Basic Transport lane and an Advanced Transport lane, with a ticker on the top monitoring numbers that walked through.
This project was a collaboration between the Auckland City Council, Mango Events and Peoplemax and was brought together to encourage the public to have their say on the 10 Year Budget Plan which closed on March 16th.
Our Ambassador’s were stationed around the set-up, some holding ‘pick a lane’ and ‘basic or advanced’ signs and were also distributing fliers that had the key message of how to submit feedback and the importance of doing so. I went down and caught up with some of the Ambassador’s to see how they were going and from a distance, I saw them engaging with good energy and concise vocal announcements! “Have your say, submissions close Monday!”
We also worked with some really friendly and passionate members of the Auckland City Council who were there to do one-on-one consultations with the public and help us with finer details. The great part about working with this team is that they trusted us with our abilities and let us handle the public in a non-abrasive, non-invasive way- yet still getting the message across and getting the flier out there.
Working on the project myself and talking to members of the public, most seemed to be in favour of the Advanced Network options and we had some very strong responses.People were coming up to us and asking to partake in the questionnaire, which showed us that they really believed in having their say and thinking forward for the future.
We had many Ambassador’s involved in this project as well as crossovers from Action Actors and it was great to have a big team with a variety of skills and great confidence. This project was a bit of fun for us too, among many new projects that we have been getting in. 2015 seems to be shaping up quite well for Peoplemax and we look forward to more variety as the year progresses.
Those responsible for setting up this Cricket World Cup event here in Auckland certainly made the effort to make it a celebratory affair. 28th February was picked to be a nail-biter between New Zealand and Australia. Eden Park was sold out; around 45,000 revved up spectators I believe packed themselves in. The trains were splitting at the seams, buses running hot, PeopleMax Ambassadors with their fingers on the pulse.
I caught up with David who was the PeopleMax Ambassador covering the Kingsland station, he told me trains were coming in from Britomart on both lines. To accommodate that, along with the occasional train running from Swanson to Britomart would require some careful juggling in the signal box—well maybe signal boxes don’t exist these days, coming to think of it I haven’t noticed any, maybe the ‘line command centre’ then?
You were invited to start the match day early by walking the Fan Trail, where it was touted you’d be able to come across some “cool activities”, and get yourself suitably attired by their ‘Dressers’—if you hadn’t already grasped the need—who were handing out free wigs, flags, sun visors, all free in your team colours. Everybody has to be fully enrolled in the spirit of things. Outside the main gates to Eden Park I came across a group of Navy band members handling some up-tempo very unmilitary numbers for the very up-tempo day and a young Maori group doing a stout job handling some more traditional numbers. You could also have your mug shot for a post card.
When I was last on a mission for the rugby Nines I was to cover the Disability Shuttle Service that was running at Morningside station. I never found it. So this time I was determined, in fact after briefly catching up with Daniel, Chris and Jimmy who were supervising things at Britomart, I headed out on one of those packed trains with creaking springs straight to Morningside. Though the journey was slow going the spirit in the train was entertaining with jibes being batted back and forth. An Australian fan who needing to squeeze onto the already packed seat declaring she was recovering from a recently broken shoulder was jibed by a Kiwi, “Well you’ll have a broken heart by tonight.” Seems that one was true Blu!
Anyway, back to the mission. I found Andrew and Nirmala who were the ambassadors dealing with the shuttle at Morningside, but as it turned out they were also looking for this allusive Shuttle too which was very busy ferrying fans to the game who are unable to walk from Morningside Station. I finally found it together with some patient clients who were very satisfied shortly after their assisting ride!.
I followed the stream of fans from Morningside back to Kingsland to jump on one of the trains running back towards town. On the way I observed that you can run into problems if you want to make a few dollars selling flags to the fans—no one is to ride on the back of the event apparently. Anyway, I had a more tranquil ride back to Newmarket and jumped off to catch up with Elena and Shani. Being close to the first ball being pitched back at Eden Park, most of the fans had made the trip, so Grafton and Mt Eden where Malkit, Johnny B and Dhaval were located were by then very quite. Actually the rush was also well over in Newmarket when I arrived, but as soon as I saw Elena I knew something was different. A new hairstyle! Apparently she had walked past a hairdresser a day or so back, as you do, which had nobody in it, an opportunity to be taken—“A short haircut would be good” “Would you like to go blond?” “Um? Lets go red!” “What about some shaving?” “Eh? …Well why not a bit of a shave too!” So here we have it, Elena’s new hairstyle! Shani was outside the station at the bus stop, where passengers who couldn’t get on the over-packed trains could pick up a bus. Apparently it had been full-on shortly before I arrived; now like on the platform itself it was back to normal.
This PeopleMax job was fairly straightforward, advising travellers of an imminent change to the timetable on the Birkenhead Transport buses. The major Bus Stops where the Birkenhead Transport buses left from in the CBD and on the way out in Fanshawe Street is where the PeopleMax ambassadors were located. Then at the Highbury shops, Glenfield Mall along with the Northcote Shopping Centre these were also covered by PeopleMax Ambassadors; the job, advising of the changes and handing out the new timetables.
On my way down to the CBD I checked in at Fanshawe St bus stop where Chris and Sim were stationed. Being 4pm in the evening there was already a steady stream of people gathering to catch the bus home, so plenty there for the ambassadors. After having a quick chat and a snap I moved on towards the CBD. In Victoria St. West I came across Nirmala and Oliver. I hadn’t seen Nirmala for a good while; last time I saw her she was just finishing her Masters in IT. Oliver was someone I hadn’t met before and I have to take a moment to talk about him too. Oliver is just completing his Masters and going on to do a PhD at the Music School, Auckland University. His grandfather was a composer in China, his mother is a violinist, so not surprisingly he is a pianist and composer himself now. What knocked me sideways, was when he tells me he is able to compose a symphony of twenty parts in a day! Apparently that isn’t unheard of in the music world, but it certainly impressed me!. So stationed at Victoria St. West, were two highly talented PeopleMax Ambassadors. What’s nice to know is that PeopleMax, by employing their ambassadors who are mostly made up of students, is giving all this young talent a helping hand along the way.
Further down Albert St Malkit was on the job. Malkit like many of our ambassadors has a warm, comfortable manner about him, which he was bringing to the job in hand. While I was there plenty of people were lining up to find out about the changes and he told me generally people were pleased, as the new schedule that kicks off on the 22nd of this month, means more frequent buses.
When I made it down to the Lower Albert St. I found Andy and Echo. I learnt from past experience when Andy’s on the job you can expect a good deal of mirth going with it. I wasn’t disappointed. Full of bright ideas he is set to advocate to AT the introduction of Karaoke on the buses with mics dropping down from the roof for all to participate—not a bad idea to brighten up the travel home after a hard day at the office; it will be a while before we see that happening however Andy. He also claimed that he had managed to get at least two members of the public to perform the chicken dance before he would give them a new timetable. I’m afraid this is hearsay, as while I was there I didn’t see any chicken dances. Well, the public always seems to enjoy his banter as do I. So the fact of the matter is, PeopleMax takes on all sorts from symphony composers, to experts in computer programming to …clowns, quite a range and all communicating the message of new timetables and schedule enhancements effectively and seamlessly to Birkenhead Transport bus passengers .
It was certainly entertaining reporting on the Nines last year and no less this year. It’s that carnival spirit that hits town, dress-ups for party-time. To me maybe it wasn’t quite as well costumed as last year, but I can’t fault it, the mood was as high spirited. This is Dick Smiths sponsored NRL Nines and quite a feature for Auckland given we only have one rugby league team at this level in NZ, so all the other teams came across from Oz, along with all their entourage of exuberant supporters. No doubt for them the trip across the Tasman adds to the flavour of the event.
Travel on the trains and special events buses is included in the ticket for the game, which saves on an awful lot of congestion that would otherwise dampen the spirits. Extra trains were laid on for the event and were operating three hours before kick-off. This meant PeopleMax Ambassadors were at their posts by 9 or 10am. By 10.30 I was down at Britomart, but I was a little surprise to find it still rather quiet. Elena was there along with Malkit and Elena’s two young daughters were there waiting in the wings patiently for their mother to finish, so that they could so something a whole lot more exciting!. As it wasn’t all that colourful yet at Britomart I jumped on the train and headed for Kingsland, where it had to be happening, being the Eden Park train station.
At Kingsland I came across Edward receiving the western trains. I hadn’t met him before, though he has worked for PeopleMax for a while. It was interesting to find that he was thespian from Theatre Corporate days and is currently rehearsing a series of Becket plays directed by Paul Gittens. His well honed vocal skills were coming to the fore at the station as he was having to alert alighting fans to the fact the train they had arrived on would not, as one might legitimately expect, be departing from the same station on the way home—they had to make their way to Morningside station instead. Though a loudhailer would have helped, Edward’s doubling as the Town Crier for this gig was doing a fine job. While I was there in Kingsland, the field manager for the day, Chris, arrived. He seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the job and being an avid photographer he was also taking a few of his own snaps on the festive fans.
Having gained the best of what was on offer at Kingsland I thought I would see what was happening in New Market. I remember the previous year it was packed with colour. When I arrived it wasn’t as frantic as I had expected. I found Marina fresh from a recent camping holiday at the main entrance of the station and it wasn’t hard to have some fans pose with her for a picture. She looks quite at home amongst the … well, not quite sure what they were, Greco-Roman-Celts perhaps, along with a …Carrot? Outside there was a complementary bus service running every 15 min, so if you just miss a train that came every half hour, you could hop on one of these. Amar was manning this location; he was another ambassador I hadn’t come across before. I was under the impression all Sikhs wore a turban; so I was surprised when Amar told me he was Sikh. Apparently his mother took him to the temple at an early age and had the priest cut his hair, it’s been short ever since and no need for a turban. The finer details of this I’m not well enough informed to relate, but it was certainly a pleasure to make acquaintance with yet another amiable PeopleMax Ambassador. He also had no trouble collecting a bunch of fans around him for a snap. Back to town after that my reporting on the 2015 Nines winding up.
To see Auckland celebrating its 175th birthday and catch the PeopleMax Ambassadors responsible for maintaining the smooth connection of passengers to their buses during the event, I made my way downtown to where it was all happening. It was to be a three-day event organized by the Auckland Council and the ASB to cover Auckand’s Anniversary Weekend 2015
I headed for Britomart and the surrounding area, as I knew that was where I’d find the Ambassadors. Along Quay St in front of the Ferry Building, neatly capturing how Auckland developed over time, a selection of historic photographs were on display, installed as giant cubes—these were really quite impressive. Shed 10 and Queens Wharf were also devoted to giving the public a glimpse into the past and Queens Wharf also kicked off a free six part live music series to take place over the next six Friday lunch times. And if you had the patience to join the numbers stretched out waiting to climb aboard, the Navy had one of their boats tied up for the curious to have a wander around.
Britomart was transformed; buses were banished and replaced by AstroTurf, deckchairs, food stalls and street performers. While I was there one performer, a contortionist, was drawing quite a crowd while she crammed herself into what appeared to be an impossibly small, clear, Perspex box. She finally made it after a good deal of preamble to pad things out, quite a squeeze—as most of the street performers are visitors to this country, maybe this one arrived in NZ by post.
That aside, since Auckland Transport had its buses shunted out of Britomart, PeopleMax Ambassadors were dispatched to be available to reroute the public to the temporary bus stops on the periphery. I found Anton and Dhaval taking care of Britomart itself. I hadn’t seen either of them for a good while, explained by both having taken a trip back to their homeland. Now he’s back Anton is working for Vodafone, but keeping his hand in with PeopleMax when he can. Dhaval, more recently returned from two months in India, is back to finish his course in retail management. It was good to catch up with them again, though I wasn’t absolutely sure they weren’t putting a hex on me for yet again forcing them to have their picture snapped.
Around the edges of Britomart I found Marina stationed at the Ferry Building. Around the corner in Tyler St., I found another ambassador I hadn’t seen for a while, Kree-Ann, she’s normally to be found studying health related skills, working through her four-year course as a medical technician. She has two years of it under her belt, two to go. Putting all that aside for the day in her ambassador role, she was a busy redirecting travellers.
Skirting further round the periphery of Britomart I found Shani in Custom St, it had been a long hot day with an early start, so she welcomed handing her shift over to Jimmy. There were PeopleMax Ambassadors located at other sites, Summer and Chris stationed at Lower Albert St for example. This was a three day event so I wasn’t going to be able to catch up with all the ambassadors who would be covering it, but they would be out there doing the their part to make sure all ran smoothly while Britomart changed its transport hub hat and masqueraded as a recreation centre.
In this episode, our Ambassadors are out and about at the Eastern and Southern Train stations personally handing out new timetables to customers who will be affected by adjustments to train times from December 8th.
I caught up with Peoplemax’s famous Russian duo, Marina and Elena to see how they were going; both were working on Eastern Line Stations.
Elena says “Customers have been very appreciative and grateful” and Marina says that the reception has been good and that people appreciate being handed information that is useful and important to them – face to face.
The new timetables highlight more swift and efficient train services through the Southern and Eastern lines. Auckland Transport decided to rework some of these services so customers that start at Pukekohe, Papakura, Manurewa and Homai will travel only via Newmarket, therefore if they are heading North-East to Sylvia Park, Glen Innes or Panmure, they will need to transfer to an Eastern Line train at Papatoetoe. The same format goes for customer’s travelling in the opposite direction from Glen Innes, they will now have to transfer at Papatoetoe station to continue South.
“The new timetable will significantly increase the number of services operating on the network, with double the number of trains between Manukau and Britomart. The current inconsistent splitting of Southern Line services can cause delays on the busiest section of the network (Puhinui to Westfield), inconveniencing customers.”
Even though some are effected by this change, Ticket sales and Hop Card activity at these Southern stations mentioned, showed that many did not depart at Glen Innes Station, bound to Britomart, most would continue on further central, Auckland Transport has reacted to this demand from their customers.
The other message our Ambassadors are delivering is that there will be rail replacement buses from the December 25th until January 5th, so there will in fact be a service running on Christmas Day!
The 2014 Red Bull Drift Shifters event happened today on December the 6th. Part of Auckland City was transformed into a giant Pinball inspired track!
The event garnered a lot of attention and the main part was held on Quay Street, where the road was cordoned off.
Because of the road closure, Auckland Transport had to create a temporary bus stop
AT needed 3 of our staff to work through the day to redirect passengers to the replacement stop which was located a short distance away on Lower Queen Street.
I caught up with Daniel Palenski who was working at the stop for the afternoon shift. Daniel has been with Peoplemax for a few years now and gained huge knowledge of the ‘in’s and out’s’ of Auckland’s Public Transport. He was born and raised on the North Shore and uses public transport himself to get from A to B.
Daniel enjoy’s doing this particular job as he realizes the importance of redirecting Airbus Express customers to the replacement bus stop – no one want’s to miss their flight! From what I saw with Daniel, passengers are very appreciative of being informed of the change.
He once worked on this redirect while Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla came to Auckland, which was exciting and created a huge buzz in the city.
Daniel has been enjoying the variety of work Peoplemax has offered this quarter. He is part of the Peoplemax Opus team and worked on our recent Customer Satisfaction Survey’s job.
Like all of the Ambassadors I talk to, they love the flexibility of this work and the skills gained out on the field. Not only do you learn about Auckland’s public transport, but you also enhance people skills and communication. You have a responsibility and it will determine the rest of someone’s day, whether it’s catching a flight or heading home from work. We as Ambassadors want to make sure that this can be as seamless as possible, even during this season, where there are a lot different event’s going on!
This years Farmers Santa Parade didn’t fall short, the day was perfect, hot and sunny, the turnout impressive. Arriving shortly before the parade kicked off I checked out some muster points and had a chance to snap performers close up and share in something of their anticipation and excitement. The costumes reflected how much enthusiasm and effort had been invested in the event, an event that seems to be taking on more of the carnivalesque year by year, which is wonderful. It’s not everyday you see this colour in the form of tinselled glamour and Roman centurions in the CBD of Auckland. It may be a Santa Parade, but it’s also becoming a celebration for the sheer pleasure of celebration it seems.
Once the parade kicked off I made my way down Mayoral Drive towards Queen St. Since all of Albert and lower Queen St. were reserved exclusively for Santa’s entourage, I was looking for PeopleMax Ambassadors who I knew were dealing with the issues arising from the relocation of bus stops. On my way I found people taking advantage of every high point they could find that would give them a view over the heads of the dense crowd that lined the street. In fact, I was told later when I came across PeopleMax Ambassador, Elaine, that she had to contact security when she found some over zealous kids perching on the top of the fragile glass roofed bus shelters—not a safe place to be. Thanks to her, Security acted swiftly and averted the possibility of a spoiling moment of tragedy.
The first ambassador though I came across was Vikram in Victoria St. Vikram is a baker by trade who has been here in NZ for four years while his wife studies for her Masters IT degree. In his role for the day as PeopleMax Ambassador, with a calm efficient manner he was helping travellers find the buses for the North Shore. After leaving him at his post it was evident I wouldn’t be able to get down Queen St. without a great deal of push and shove, but I found Albert St, no cake walk either. And as there was a strong breeze funnelling down Albert St. by this time, the crew of the Snoopy balloon were having no easy time either, much to the added amusement for the spectators.
In lower Albert St. I came across Manakal, who has been working with PeopleMax for six months so far while he finishes his Bachelor degree in IT at AUT. He was being kept busy with enquires, so I moved on to Britomart, which being a main bus hub had several ambassadors in the field. This is where I found Marina and Manpriya and the Field Manager, Elaine. Earlier apparently Elaine had been busy having some illegally parked cars towed; that was set to put a bit of a damper on things for a few people no doubt. It wasn’t something she relished doing of course, but part of the demand of the job, along with sorting out those kids on the bus shelters. I regret I didn’t ask her to perform some of her ‘penguin moves’ that she was having to practice later in preparation for a performance at the zoo; that would have been good camera fodder and entirely in the spirit of the day. The only other ambassador I managed to locate that day was Elena, in Custom St., she too was already busy, and since the parade was nearly over by then, she was soon to be very much busier.
PeopleMax has an Opus A-Team and they are back in action for more bus rides, ferry trips and train hopping!
Customer Satisfaction Surveys have come around for us once again, so it’s back into Hi-Vis jackets, loaded with pens and our clipboards full.
We had higher targets to reach for this project this time around, so in order to make sure we reach these goals and maximize productivity we have our resident Field Manager, Elaine Thompson “running the ship”.
I caught up with Elaine to chat with her and ask her some questions about how she found the project this time around.
1) What did you enjoy most about this Opus project?
This was seeing our new ambassadors crack their targets and how the whole team integrated so well together.
2) What were the challenges of this project and how did you work with them?
Mainly some late bus arrivals, which affected connections for individual ambassadors. Keeping calm and adapting quickly to change helps. .. And ambassadors keeping me well informed so I can jump on the AT App to find a solution.
Being well prepared prior to the project starting. I had all the schedules planned and the Team was advised in advance of their Route and target.
4) After your Opus work in the morning, where can we most likely find you?
I do a cardio walk with surveys to Opus head office and then grab a yoga class before the afternoon shift. I try to keep some exercise up but the early starts are tiring.
Each day the Opus team would meet at a Base, this time around it was The Square Café in Britomart who kindly let us use one of their booths (we bought their coffee of course). Elaine would then make sure everyone was up to speed and ready to catch their mode of transport (Bus, Train or Ferry) for their surveys and that they had plenty of surveys to do so.
The best thing about this project is that it really does rely on a team effort and dynamic to make the targets. The ambassadors look out for one another and will ‘mop up’ areas requiring more attention to make those targets if need be. Even though you are out there alone, you feel like you are building something up together,
Most customers didn’t have a problem filling out a survey; in fact some were very interested to share their feedback for their most common form of transport.
Something all of our ambassadors in this team understand is that the job relies on having a really good attitude and top people skills, i.e. being respectful to customers who refuse to partake, staying professional and being clear, concise and start with a smile.