Auckland Transport again has gone out of their way to brighten the recreational life of Auckland with their Bike the Bridge event. This entailed, on an early Sunday morning, closing a lane of the harbour bridge to motor traffic and encouraging biking enthusiasts to take a ride. Entering from Shelly Beach Road Off-Ramp they made their climb up and over the harbour bridge, and once they had made the encouraged ‘controlled’ journey on the downward side, a 160 bus “Guard of Honour” greeted them. That consisted of all 160 buses spaced out along the motorway to form a protected passage for the cyclists to undertake their chosen ride, which could then be one of 20Km, 50Km or for the extremely zealous, 115Km, all to arrive finally at the North Harbour Stadium.
Fortunately there was a bright break in the recent turbulent weather we’ve been having and the early bird cyclists were well ahead when I went looking for the PeopleMax Ambassadors, who were helping to deal with the necessary closures of the Northern Busway. However, not being forewarned, I was mystified to see the so-called “Guard of Honour” lining the motorway. I didn’t count, but all those empty buses, evenly spaced, “What on earth was that about?” Had they been festooned with a few brightly coloured flags I may have picked up on the Guard of Honour theme.
Arriving at Smales Farm Bus Station my bemusement shifted to amusement when I came across seasoned PeopleMax Ambassador Elena directing buses. That exhilarating surge of adrenaline, the shock, the shear power of control, the thrill of seeing that bus redirected! It was written all over Elena’s face!… Being a PeopleMax Ambassador can be real fun!
And there were more winning smiles when I went on to check out how things were at Sunnynook Station. I had hoped to catch at least one lone, straggling cyclist there, but they were well gone. Elaine was there though with that warm smile of hers and Sunnynook by now was drifting tranquilly through the remains of the Sunday morning. Elaine was well positioned to take care of travellers as the bus station was still shut down, but when I was there, there was nobody needing her assistance, so I moved on again to see what was happening at Akoranga Station. Here I found Andrew helping to answer the questions as travellers were patiently waiting for the resumption of transport options.
Seems like the PeopleMax Ambassadors had everything well under control in their domain. I was disappointed not to see some bikes along the way, but then next time I’ll know I need to be up with the lark for that. But I did see the 160 bus “Guard of Honour”. Now that’s not an everyday event.
Te Horeta Road in Panmure had it’s grand opening this past Saturday with a fun-filled day of entertainment (which included Clowns and Stilt Walkers!) food, an antique car show and the chance for the public to test out the new road for themselves, including the cycle and pedestrian lanes. The road is expected to take thousands of trucks off Panmure roads per day and is expected to take on around 20,000 vehicles each day.
Auckland Mayor, Len Brown was there to cut the ribbon and officially open the new road, it also seemed he was testing out the new cycle lane for himself.
Two of our Ambassador’s, Andrew and Ted were on the field offering the sale of Hop cards to any of the public that may need them. They had dozens of varying enquiries about the new road and it’s design, and seeing as they were in the AT uniform, this would naturally happen.
One customer had a very passionate opinion about the new road and why there wasn’t pedestrian access at one point. Just as she began explaining her concern, she called over to Len Brown and said“let’s see if Len Brown has the answer”. Mr. Brown came over to the customer and listened to her query and then referring to Andrew he said “I’m sure this gentleman here can help you with further information”. Andrew, like the professional he is, took the customer’s details to pass on to Auckland Transport so the appropriate department can contact her directly. Before Mr Brown peddled off, the customer asked for a photo opportunity, Andrew took the opportunity to do so too- when in Rome!
Andrew has been on our team since late 2011 after the Rugby World Cup, he enjoys working with public, helping them and informing them. He likes the challenges the different jobs bring. He is the type that takes on full responsibly of being an Ambassador and will go above and beyond his role to help someone in need, mainly getting him or her from A TO B. Previously he studied Electrical Engineering.
Ted, our other Ambassador onsite that afternoon said “it was a very exciting day” and he enjoyed being a part of it, he said he was busy with enquiries all day and that it was a very a nice atmosphere to be around. Ted has been on our team for 1 year and 4 months. He speaks fluent Mandarin, which is a huge advantage to have. He enjoys speaking with people and working with public.
This work has enabled our Ambassador’s to get out and meet many new faces including well-known ones.
Helping and informing people are what we do best. Communication is the key ingredient to this work and from what I have experienced with the Ambassador’s, the recognition of helping a customer in any way is the most rewarding part of the job.
As we know Auckland Transport has been undertaking major investment and development of our transport system and with their latest initiative they are proposing what could be described as a major game changer. This is all part of the impact of the introduction of the electric trains, which has also provided the opportunity to redesign the bus services to compliment the train service and realize a more integrated public transport network for Auckland.
But it’s not something Auckland Transport intends to do without thoroughly sounding out the public who use their buses. So once again, recognising the effectiveness of our PeopleMax Ambassadors, Auckland Transport has asked us to help them distribute their brochure, which outlines the project. Along with informing the public of the proposed changes, they want to know what we think, they want the feedback and ideas from their customers, so they can really make it work as best they can for everybody.
What’s it about then? The current public transport network is deemed to be too complex to be as effective as it could be if it were instead based on a model already proven in many North American and European cities. So our ambassadors were helping to explain how the current network tries to connect many locations with many other locations with a low frequency of buses, as apposed to the new model, which has fewer routes but higher frequency. The buses quickly converge on a ‘hub’ where passenger change buses to their desired destination. This Frequent Network will operate within Auckland Central suburbs on key routes, with buses and trains at least every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week. The frequency will be a little lower outside those hours.
Wanting to find out how the explaining of the brochures was going and how people where reacting, I caught up with Chris just as he was taking over from Daniel at the Pt Chevalier bus stops. It was one of those days when the overhead protection of the pavement truly comes into its own; it was pouring with small concessions breaks before another drenching downpour. This prohibited wandering too far afield, but that was ok, there was a steady stream of people arriving at the bus stops. Those approached weren’t too shy of being offered news of the changes and willing enough to take the brochures.
Chris has recently returned to New Zealand after a trip to his homeland, Wales. He worked for PeopleMax before, so it’s a homecoming to PeopleMax too. He finds working as an ambassador a good job, while he develops his creative passion for photography; landscape and animals the preferred subjects. He told me animals for him have so many nuances to their behaviour, I suppose the landscapes do too in fact. The zoo offers endless opportunities for practice for him.
Moving to Avondale I found Shane. By then the weather had eased up and Shane had been able to canvas the area more broadly. With a strong presence of the Island community in the area the shops reflected the bright colours of island fashion, enough to brighten any of the weather thrown at us. Shane, Originally from Christchurch, came to Auckland to train as an engineer and aspires to set up his own business eventually.
Shane and Chris had no trouble distributing their brochures and in that easy confident manner that is a hallmark of PeopleMax Ambassadors were doing their part in helping Auckland Transport perfect our transport system.
Spark (formerly Telecom) wants to spread the word about their free 1GB of mobile data, available for their customers and Hop card users at hotspots around town and at Train Stations, our Ambassadors were perfect for the job.
Out on the field the Ambassadors go, letting customers know about this great offer. For some it means they can spend time catching up on their favourite TV show on their phone while waiting for their train, without chewing up all of their own data!
Firstly I caught up with our Michelle Guillard at the Henderson Train Station, she has been part of the Peoplemax team since the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and has enjoyed the variety and flexibility of the work since.
“I enjoy meeting different people, tourists – helping them out. I’m also a Public Transport user myself.”
Which means Michelle is ready to fire off any info or assistance to customers when needed- Initially when I approached her, she was assisting a customer on the ticketing machine.
It’s always handy to have knowledge of these things with this work and Michelle knows her stuff.
Over at New Lynn Station, I have the pleasure of meeting Dave Rivere, another Ambassador who has been on the team for three years. Dave is also promoting the Spark Wi-Fi offer and says customers are really enjoying the option to use it, rather than their own data.
This kind of work, works really well for Dave who is currently studying Health Science at the University of Auckland.
When he gets time off he enjoys Sports and lives up to his Rock star name by playing the guitar.
Dave seems comfortable and confident with his work and from what I saw he was a doing a very thorough job with his distribution of fliers.
The variety of the work and clients PeopleMax has will continue to grow and the Ambassadors are very capable and adaptable to new projects. We look forward to working with Spark more in the future.
Changes are being made to North Star bus timetables as of 12th October in order that the times represent a service that best suits the traffic flow and thus a more reliable service. PeopleMax Ambassadors were riding North Star buses in the early morning to introduce passengers to this impending change to their timetable. Ambassadors were also positioned at Smales Farm bus station and at North Shore Hospital, armed with timetables specific to their stops. These new times simply reflect what is occurring on the road at the peak times and journey planners will reflect these changes. Generally, the change is only a matter of five minutes one way or the other, but five minutes, after rushing your tea and toast in the morning may make all the difference.
Opus has once again recruited our services while they are reviewing a current Corridor Management Plan, which focuses on Town Centre’s that may need attention with traffic and pedestrian efficiency.
Our team is back on the field and this time, in Papatoetoe. The Ambassador’s have been allocated different surveying tasks- Pedestrian/Cycling counts, parking lot vehicles and side street/main street parking.
Today I went to catch up with some of the Ambassadors working on this project see to what they were up to. You couldn’t have asked for better weather today and it’s the kind of day you definitely want to be working outside!
First up, I caught our lovely, Marina Jackson, who thrives off this work and has an eye for detail. As I approach her she is in full motion and rapidly filling out her survey form, which she refreshes every 15 minutes. She’s doing a good chunk of Great South Road, so you have to be quick on this job!
Marina herself, immigrating to New Zealand from Belgorod, Russia, 8 years ago. She loves it here and absolutely enjoys the work and flexibility Peoplemax has to offer.
From what I have observed, Marina is a friendly, personal and trustworthy Ambassador who works very well in the public.
Around the corner is our bubbly, Karly Semu, who has worked for Peoplemax for quite some now. I’ve caught her in the middle of a conversation with a customer who is voicing a parking concern. She is dealing with it well and seems to have a very placid nature with customers.
I introduce myself to Karly and she explains that the situation could have gone bad with this particular customer – had she not dealt with her in the understanding way that she had. A vital skill to have in this job!
Like Marina and most of our Ambassadors, Karly enjoys customer interaction and talking to people. She is very honest and approachable.
Working on these projects she has gained the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to follow through the work with a smile.
Across the block, I’ve found Norma Dellossa. Originally from the Philippines, Norma is another member of our diverse and multi-cultural team.
“I’ve learned a lot from the work and enjoy the challenge” say’s Norma, who has worked for PeopleMax since last year. Like the others, she enjoys the flexibility the work offers and meeting different people.
Outside of work, Norma loves to cook and is an avid gardener.
Lastly on my journey today, I meet Vinesh Kadari – who is back at Karly’s spot with the Opus supervisor, Megan.
He is about to be briefed on the work, which he will take over from Karly. Vinesh is a recent player to the PeopleMax team, he joined us 4 months ago, and has slotted in nicely.
“I enjoy communicating with people and helping” says Vinesh and says that this kind of work had developed his confidence in this area.
Vinesh is originally from Hyderabad, South India. When he has time off, he enjoys music and keeping himself updated on the latest technology.
The team worked on this project over two days and provided vital information to Opus that will help them to improve the current traffic and parking situation in this area. From the information gathered, they will be able to make improvements, which will create better safety and efficiency for pedestrians, cyclist and private vehicles.
Delivering the idea of change and improvement to Public Transport for Pukekohe and Waiuku residents has been met with huge enthusiasm from frequent users. Our Ambassadors are privileged to be at this point of contact.
Pukekohe and Waiuku will see a whole new bus network unravel by mid 2016 and Auckland Transport are currently hosting consultation days for these proposed plans: to hear from the public themselves what they would like to see changed and improved. The area is growing rapidly and a public-transport system revamp is much-needed.
Our enthusiastic PeopleMax Ambassadors were sent down this week to consult with customers face to face to hear what they would like to see improved and inviting them to fill out feedback forms to get their voices out there. On top of that, the ambassadors advertised the consultation days, which begin October 27th, encouraging those with passionate ideas to attend these events and have their say.
I met up with some of the Ambassadors to find out a little about them and what they were enjoying about the project and the work with PeopleMax in general.
The bright, young ‘Energizer Bunny’ that is Summer Liu was one such Ambassador. Summer moved to New Zealand two years ago from Guangzhou, China and is currently studying Sales & Marketing at M.I.T.
Summer loves that this work allows her to be the point of contact for information to the public.“I enjoy talking to people and being the bridge from people to Auckland Transport, a key communicator”
This is something Summer is passionate about and she is paving her way to a successful career in working with people.
On this project, Summer has received a slew of feedback about what the public would like to see change and turned in a whole box of feedback forms- 180 in total.
Later, I was able to follow the calm and introspective Johnny Bembo on his bus ride around Pukekohe where his task was to engage with travellers on board and have discussion with them about the proposed plans.
Johnny has an array of skills under his belt. He studied Arts Management at AUT, as well as Sports and Leisure and Primary Teaching. As if this wasn’t enough, Johnny is a qualified Gymnastic Coach.
He’s been with PeopleMax since 2011 and he says that these jobs work for him really well. Johnny says “ I enjoy making a difference, meeting different people from different background with different needs”. He has become very familiar with Auckland Transport and how the whole system works. He also says that this work has developed him to be a quick learner, a must for this position.
After my trip with Johnny, I caught the glowing and ‘onto it’ Elaine Thompson who is PeopleMax’s resident Field Manager.
Elaine is just the type of person that this team needs to manage the show. Her enthusiasm and vibrant energy makes being around her inspiring. “ I love the variety of intensity in the projects and using my communication skills,” says Elaine. She says the position has allowed her to challenge herself in testing situations and she has built huge strength in that area.
Her passion is presenting, whether it’s on TV, on the web or in public: she does it all day and she’s a natural. In the past she has been the face for Lumino Dentists and now currently lends herself on the Good Morning show with Suzanne Paul, demonstrating Thin Lizzy Makeup products. She maintains balance in her life through Yoga and healing. She is a Reiki Master, Atua Practitioner and Deeksha Blessing Giver.
But don’t let this fool you. Elaine is a no nonsense woman and expects the best from her team and really encourages thorough work and full engagement with the public.
From working on the project Elaine can see the huge demand for change in these areas and is very pleased to be a part of the well-needed change.
The last stop on my trip was a meeting with David Austin, a long time Ambassador with both PeopleMax and its sister company, Action Actors. David has been in the creative industry for quite some time now, with an infamous intersection commercial and a Spartacus role to his name.
He also works at Spookers Haunted Attraction Park in Kingseat. David told me that once he was approached by a customer at Spookers, who had recognized him from his character in Spartacus and was asked for an autograph. The perks of being a superstar I guess!
David is a respectful and genuine person who listens to his customers and has a vast breadth of knowledge about the transport system and is quick to answer any and all questions that come his way.
“The job has allowed me to learn a lot of new skills” says David, who enjoys the variety of work he is offered, which is often challenging but never the same week-to-week. PeopleMax allows him to be flexible so he can work on his creative endeavours at the same time.
In total our Ambassadors distributed 1500 feedback forms for the new network to the public over the two days of this project. They had a huge response and a lot of feedback for Auckland Transport.
Recently PeopleMax Ambassadors were out undertaking a two-week Opus customer satisfaction survey on behalf of Auckland Transport, both on trains and buses. Trains were covered in the first week and in the second week a cross section of bus routes were canvased. There were a broad range of questions to answer such as—are there generally enough seats, cleanliness inside the bus, staff friendliness and even opinions on the level of pollution, which is a heartening question to see in a survey.
Passenger were reasonably willing to fill in the survey, if they had the time between getting on and their destination; and of course the carrot of the possibility of winning an iPod Touch or 1 of 5 $50 Westfield Gift Cards helped. The Ambassador’s polite charm certainly helped too. Passengers were more willing to give their feedback, when on one occasion the Bus was late and they wanted to express their views.
Andrew, one of the PeopleMax Ambassadors conducting the survey, reported that he had no problem receiving a willingness to undertake the survey on route 154 Go West. In the middle of a sunny weekday the going was steady and easy. Closer to rush hour it was a different story, but with one clear, general explanation to the crowded bus, Andrew was able to engage the passengers interest and hand out several surveys in one go.
The Ambassadors will be repeating the surveys on a quarterly basis to ensure that the public can continue to give their feedback to Aucklands’ rapidly growing and changing transport network.
Now its time to board the new electric trains as they take to the Manukau line. Certainly, smarter, better and quieter. Two Ambassadors, Marina and Jimmy, helping with the launch, were already receiving comments on how much more comfortable the travel experience was, to the extent that some passengers are even opting to wait for an electric train in preference to the older trains. Effort has certainly been put into the design to make the journey as smooth and efficient as possible. Even the positions of those in charge of the train have been been renamed, what was once the Train Driver has now been elevated to Locomotive Engineer and what was once the Guard is now the Train Manager to reflect more accurately today’s job description.
Ambassadors were on hand to assist the unfamiliar to open and close the doors, as they are not fully automatic. It requires passengers to press the green button, when it is lit, in order for the doors to open. The PeopleMax Ambassadors are riding the trains and are coaching passengers in the subtleties of operation.
The Electric trains are gradually rolling out across the entire network and you can guarantee PeopleMax Ambassadors will be there too, providing a helping hand to the travelling public.
Perhaps the survey conducted some months back, in which PeopleMax Ambassadors were involved, has contributed to the latest changes for West Auckland buses; changes, which come into affect from Sunday 3rd August. Auckland Transport’s stated principle objective is to improve the reliability and the service. This includes major timetable changes, added frequency on some routes, some route and bus stop changes and some route number changes. For example the so-called ‘Flyer’ is no more, these buses will now be referred to as an ‘express’. Perhaps that adds an extra tone of efficiency and clarity. Auckland Transport continue to streamline Auckland’s transport system, it gets better and better as a result of their continued investment.
And PeopleMax Ambassadors, working on behalf of Auckland Transport in their usual fashion, bright and engaging, were distributing the brochures that provided all the details relevant to the particular areas. Ambassadors were stationed along the westward route, including New Lynn, Henderson and Titirangi, and closer to the centre ambassadors were found in Pt. Chev, Albert St and Mayoral Drive.
As PeopleMax Ambassadors they have a single objective allotted them, but individually of course each harbours their own personal aim. Daniel for example harbours the interest to study urban design. Auckland Council is making an effort to spruce up Auckland, as is Auckland Transport to their transport system, and it’s making a difference—we can never go short on good ‘design’. Rachael can be described as, simply charming. Being from a region of China generally a good deal hotter than Auckland, apparently our summers are a little too cool, but she loves the country just the same. She’s studying accounting at Auckland University. Ash is studying to be a teacher of those in their formative years. He has the warmth and personality for that for sure. (He’s not really a poser, that’s my fault.) And Jim H, a budding actor, we wish him well in that deeply challenging and venerable profession. For sure as this inventory of coolness testifies, as always, PeopleMax brings together a worthy bunch of people to be their Ambassadors.