PeopleMax Ambassadors are currently covering train stations and distributing information on one of Auckland Transport’s latest initiatives. What’s on offer is, no matter whom your current mobile provider is, you can now suck in free WiFi at the train stations. For those of us who revel in taking full advantage of the digital age we live in, you are now being offered the possibility of dunking yourself that much deeper into the world of digital interconnectivity. What the Ambassadors were passing on to travellers was however, that you need to be a registered AT HOP user to take full advantage of this; not a problem, after all, an AT HOP card already has all those travel advantages, and this is just more icing on the cake.
There are one or two stipulations though, you can’t just have the registered card, it does have to be alive-and-kicking with some credit on it, even though the access to the WiFi is free, 1 GB a day free. Oh, but if you haven’t used the card in the last five days you can’t gain access either, and then it may take 48 hours to get access again once you have topped up, or done more travelling. However, if you satisfy the requirements, life surfing on the ether doesn’t have to be suspended while you wait for your train, now you can marinate in your mobile office and forget about the frustrations of those wasted minutes on the platform—it won’t even matter so much if the train is late, in fact you may not even notice.
Auckland Transport is offering this further step towards a seamless digital world in co-operation with Telecom. Telecom can now boast of over 700 ‘hotspots’ where you can get on internet in public spaces and the train stations are the latest. It could be that it won’t be too long before every ‘public’ space will morph into one large hotspot, won’t that be convenient. One such hotspot station was Newmarket, here Ian found reception of the offer something of a mixed bag. Some pause to engage with him, others powered on past, leaving unfinished phrases hanging off his lips. Echo or Zipei in her home tongue, one of the army of Business Studies students, was canvasing the platforms of Mt Albert and Morgan, an actor busy doing extra work to fill her coffers to cover her trip to LA, found the reception easier—she was informed by one enterprising individual that he had made a special trip to New Lynn station for the specific purpose of a free download of music.
We know well that crowded, straight and narrow stretch of Dominion Rd, known for its ethnic eateries and bulk stores, Jeff’s Emporium and traffic jams. It has that chaotic vibrancy and lack of conformity, that though it escapes some aesthetic standards, is refreshing for its authenticity. Now Auckland Transport has a strategy for making it that much easier for you to park and shop there.
The variety and colour of Dominion Rd’s cluttered culture won’t be lost, the essence of this project is simply to encourage owners and employees of businesses in the area to try public transport instead of using their cars. If achieved this will liberate more parking space for visitors to the area and at the same time help to alleviate some of the traffic problems. So, for this project it’s about changing attitudes and behaviours. After all, if the owners and employees of the area are using up a large number of the parking spaces, in the end they are shooting themselves in the foot, are they not? So it’s a smart scheme that Auckland Transport has come up with, if they can get it to work.
Certainly with Dominion Rd. a main arterial route to and from the central city, improvement of the flow of traffic can only be a good score. AT’s rational, prior to any general enhancement of the traffic and transport system for Dominion Rd, is to encourage people to give public transport a go, as they are doing throughout Auckland. This fits into the bigger picture, which anticipates that a million or so more people will be living in Auckland in the not so distant future and we don’t really need a million more cars being used.
So where do PeopleMax Ambassadors fit into this? AT with the support of the local Business Association of Dominion Rd. have a scheme, which has been touted to local businesses by our feisty PeopleMax Ambassadors. The teams of ambassadors, Andy and Allen, Nirmala and Melissa under the guiding hand of field manager Elaine, were going door-to-door canvasing all the businesses in the area, to glean information on the travel habits of owners and employees alike. What was on offer as an incentive to get more people on the buses was an AT HOP card with two weeks free travel loaded onto it if they qualified. With the survey material gathered, the data inputted, the incentive of free travel could be geared to where the individual lived. No doubt AT will also find value in the information gathered in helping them to refine their new travel upgrade. Lets hope Dominion Rd., with whatever improvements occur along the way, always hangs on to some of its charm. This scheme of Auckland Transport’s is all about adding charm, and our ambassadors certainly helped with that too.
Recently a team of PeopleMax Ambassadors were out counting traffic for another Opus survey. This time several suburbs were being covered; Pt. Chev, Grey Lynn, Western Springs, Sandringham and others. Some of the ambassadors were given an area to cover that generally took in a large block. They were required to make the circuit round that block every 15 min. to record the registration numbers of all the parked cars they came across. Not the whole number plate incidentally, just the last three digits, so the vehicle could be clearly identified as to whether is was a new car that had parked since the previous turn round the block, or whether is was the same car that was still parked there. This information was carefully jotted down on a spreadsheet.
Jim M was one ambassador given this task. Even though he was pausing frequently to make notes, at his brisk walking pace, generally he made the round trip OK within the allocated time frame. A car park on his route was also taken in with a quick snap. Johnny was given a similar task on an adjacent Pt. Chev block. He reported that the official looking activity of the ambassadors seemed to be inducing some nervousness in some of the locals, who feared parking meters and greater parking restrictions were following in the slipstream of this effort. On more than one occasion Johnny was called on to explain that this was about assessing the traffic and pedestrian movement in order find ways to improve the general flow and to see whether such things as plazas could be used to enhance the public’s recreational and shopping experience in the area. And of course he was forced to admit that if there were areas where the traffic flow was very busy a parking meter might be necessary.
As said, the traffic being considered wasn’t just vehicles, ambassador Nailesh for example, a 2nd year IT student at MIT, and another ambassador Sandeep, were strategically positioned to check how many passengers got off at particular bus stops and in which directions they then took after descending from the bus. Also, another aspect to be recorded was how many people were crossing at a particular pedestrian crossing, or at certain lights in the area, during a particular period and again in which direction was recorded.
And what was to be done with all this information? Believe it or not it was to be sent to Canada to be processed—all in the cause for finding ways to best to enhance traffic flow and enhanced utilization of the public spaces. So, once again PeopleMax Ambassadors were playing a key role in helping the Auckland Council enhance the ‘liveability’ of our city of Auckland.
It wasn’t just that it was the first All Black game of the season, the stakes were high, England was out to take them down. As with all the All Black matches there was a fair amount of excitement from the anticipation of the game and the supporters were on their way to Eden Park in droves. Many coming on the special trains laid on for the event, free for those with a game ticket. Naturally this would mean that streets around Eden Park would need to be blocked off to deal with the sizable, surging mob as it disgorged itself from the ground at the end of the game. And this in turn would mean some of the usual bus stops would be moved, which could easily lead to confusion; not ideal in a large crowd. Also, trains timetables would be altered, again to cater for the masses; best to be explained well in advance.
To deal with this potential problem and pre-empt confusion, PeopleMax Ambassadors were deployed prior to the game in Kingsland and Britomart. Their job was to answer queries and to convey information on changes to buses and trains to those supporters who had the presence of mind to pause to reflect on their homeward journey in advance. PeopleMax Ambassador Karly, situated on the Kingsland Station, was in the thick of those descending on Eden Park. She was there she said, “To tell them what they wanted to hear.” She was telling them more than that of course, what they wanted to hear was how best they could get home again after the game, given that Karly was pointing out that after 10.30pm New North Rd would be closed. So, if that was a problem for them, she had the answers. Though positioned on the platform at Kingsland, she was largely mobile keeping an eye out, as she said, for dazed confused looking people that may need some redirection. Coming from a security background, instinctively she was also making sure the excitement didn’t get the better of them and put them in danger. What she called, “A pro-active approach”.
Another ambassador, Ekta, which in Indian means ‘unity’ and who is a postgraduate with a Business Diploma in Business Administration, was also fulfilling a similar role in Kingsland. She had a pair of eyes that were certain to hold the attention of those she engaged with—they were a bright violet in colour. Apparently, they are not always that colour, she can also do pink, green, hazel and blue… green being the preferred.
At Britomart, Sandeep and Dorothy were providing the same service. There were a surprising number of English supporters making their way to the game on the train, well marked out as to whose side they were on. Many were obviously noting the ambassador credentials and taking advantage of them to clarify where to catch the train for the game, or how to best to get themselves back to England after. Elaine was there at Britomart also, she had nothing to do with this project, but I thought I should include her, it was her birthday after all.
There is a major overhaul of the Devonport wharf that has been going on for some time now, re-piling it’s old encrusted wooden piles, re-planking, refashioning the surrounding roading, a general upgrade. Shortly this is going to include proposed improvements to the wharf’s transport facilities, both the bus stop area at the entrance of the wharf and the wharf areas serving the Devonport ferries. The objective is to create a sense of openness while as much as possible preserving the views of the harbour. Where there used to be a walk-through area that included shops, the walk-through part is being shifted to the wings to create an enhanced shopping area. We need those shops of course, to keep us satisfied and enthralled. It is gratifying though that the council and Auckland Transport are canvasing for public feedback on the designs, that no doubt helps us all to own the final result.
The four main design elements that are being proposed, which the public is being given the opportunity to comment on and maybe put an oar in for an improvement to the ideas, are two new roofing elements, new bus shelters and as mentioned those ‘enhanced’ shopping areas. PeopleMax Ambassadors, Andy and Andrew, were at the wharf catching the early bird travellers, the rush hour travellers and then there again in the evening, to catch the work weary ones on their way home in the evening. They were there handing out brochures that outlined the project and contained a feedback form. There seemed a genuine willingness by the travellers to take notice, perhaps because Devonport does have that special community feel that they cherish and they want preserved along the way. But not only because of that, no doubt the two spirited PeopleMax ambassadors caught their attention too.
More comfort, more accessible, more safe—smarter, better, quicker, the new electric trains commenced roll out in Auckland this April. It started with a few days of ambassadors plying the platforms of the first line to be graced with the sleek new trains—Britomart, Newmarket, Greenlane, Remuera and beyond to Onehunga. Ashwini and Lin Ying were positioned at Remuera and Greenlane stations, their job handing out brochures to inform and raise expectation that the trains would be running the following week. The new trains, feature apparently the latest in train technology, such as audio and video announcements, generous wide doors and ergonomically designed hand grabs. However, if you’re at all camera shy you’re in trouble. There’re no doors between carriages, so you can see the length of the train and there are 16 cameras to ensure that every inch of the new air-conditioned carriage is covered.
On the day of the launch, expectations pitched high with some parents bringing their children for their very first ride on an electric train, PeopleMax ambassadors were ready to reassure when the trains had any issues. Nirmala and Tina were two of the ambassadors at Newmarket train station and as usual exuding a soothing charm and warmth. But more importantly they were there to instruct the travelers on the how to open the doors when the train arrived, as the train doesn’t do, as you might have expected. There is a large green button in the center of the bright, canary yellow doors that flashes when you’re free to push it to open the doors. There could be some sustained confusion over that piece of interactivity. Plenty of foreign travellers, used to fully automatic doors of modern trains, could be left behind wondering.
However, the sleek new trains certainly did glide into the station, a striking contrast to those lumbering diesel trains that exude strain and labour. These trains are lighter, smoother, quicker and much, much quieter. Their arrival is something to celebrate as Auckland struggles to free itself of its horrendous traffic congestion. They’re designed to carry 40% more travelers than the older trains, more efficiently and no doubt more comfortably. Keep on rolling them out, but don’t get too close to the power lines, 100 times more grunty than your domestic ones; they’ll turn you to ash.
The excitement and vibe was certainly over crowding the waterfront for the ITU World Triathlon series in the heart of Auckland. It was a hot sunny day, a perfect day, the sea calm with air and sea temperatures only a degree apart. Queens Wharf was the staging post for the events, which was open to all ages from eleven year olds to seventy year olds. You could even choose your mix for the event between Standard, Sprint and Super Sprint distance tri. Swim-peddle-run was the mix for the Elite Women – ITU World Triathlon in the middle of the day, the Elite men later in the day. First the two lap swim of the course in the harbour meant a real bun fight round the buoys. No quarter shown by any of the swimmers I witnessed as they fought to get ahead of each other. Once on land, decorum seemed to be reinstated and for those super tuned bodies it was a matter of following through with that dedicated focus and get to those bicycles for the next stage of the battle. One can’t help but admire the taut dedication that has brought these athletes to these events.
PeopleMax was there too with its version of taut dedication. As a rule these events completely derail the inner city bus routes, so it’s PeopleMax ambassadors again that helped Auckland Transport assist travellers in negotiating the upheaval and finding their way to the various temporary bus stops. Certainly without guidance on hand, trying to find where your bus has gone to can bring with it a certain triathlon experience of mind and body.
Amiro was there ready to prevent anything of the kind at Britomart, which was the principle CBD location sealed off from traffic. Nagarjun was also helping out at Britomart. Like many PeopleMax ambassadors, Nagarjun is a student. He currently studies at the International Academy of New Zealand, after completing an earlier two-year course in business studies. Working for PeopleMax part-time helps to pay those relentless living costs and also helps by keeping him active—certainly it was a great day to be out and about in one of Auckland’s extended summer days. There were ambassadors stationed along the route of the race, which took in much of Queen St and Hobson St. Andrew was one of those located in Hobson St. This part to the course of the race didn’t have the same buzz of spectators cheering on the athletes as at the water front, but it did give Andrew a clear view of the race between helping out on travel details.
You could say the message about Auckland Transport’s AT HOP scheme has now been reaching far and wide. All of the inner city and most, if not all of the suburbs have been covered. But now it’s for the real periphery. This saw PeopleMax Ambassadors making an early morning ferry journey across the harbour to spread the word that now you can use the AT HOP card on Waiheke public bus and school bus services. With the weather as it is, it wasn’t at all bad sharing a few hours cradled in the languid airs of Waiheke Island. Though many on this lotus blossom island are the elderly and retired, who don’t really need the AT HOP given their gold card and the many others who are overseas travellers bound for the sun-kissed beaches, who didn’t need them either, broadcasting AT HOP still wasn’t effort wasted.
Waiheke has become in recent times the haunt of many who, preferring that more distinct island experience that puts home-life at arms length from the city, commute each day of the week to work in Auckland. Judging from the car parks now bursting at the seams and the road leading from the ferry padded thick with cars, there’s a fair few who may be thinking of swopping their car for public transport, now made that much easier with a swipe of a card. This would certainly help to preserve the integrity of those ‘alternative’, progressive sentiments that they may plug on Sundays. Not wishing to be too harsh, it would be in keeping with the preservation of their island home—but then overcrowding could well be on the way to trashing that in time anyway.
More to the point, Sandeep at the ferry terminal, trim as ever, was experiencing for the first time, the Waiheke spirit of things. He’s been valuing his work with PeopleMax that has involved him in projects in many of the major suburbs of Auckland. Being fairly fresh to New Zealand, its been interesting how in each suburb he finds the people there have subtle but distinct qualities compared to other suburbs. That’s something that for many of us who have been here a good while longer, through familiarity, have come to overlook.
Hilly was stationed at Oneroa bus stops and armed with both promotion material and a portable EFPOS machine to make on the spot sales of cards. Hilly’s ethnic name is Hieu, which isn’t so far from Hilly and means amongst other things ‘love for parents’ or to ‘look on the bright side’; there were more negative meanings apparently one could attach to the name, but he wasn’t about to divulge those. Needless to say, staying on the bright side, there was a steady run on ways Hilly was able to pass on the AT HOP message and help out on general travel enquires.
Further on round the island, Andy and Karly were stationed at the busy Countdown bus stop. Two ambassadors making light work at that Waiheke commercial hub, which also sports PlaceMakers amongst others. Even though there is approximately 45 minutes between buses on any particular route, there was plenty of traffic to keep them busy. They didn’t have the benefit of a sight of that seductive blue ocean at their particular bus stop, but Andy’s high energy spirit no doubt kept Karly entertained and the sunny day was keeping the spirit high for both.
Kick Start Your Health Resolution, that’s the nudge. Make walking part of your journey to work or study, by walking all or part of your way. “You will save money, help save the environment and improve your health and fitness!” An early morning jaunt while the sun lasts, good for the early morning blues, helps clear the night-before mist and good for enhancing your memory, apparently—that’s if you can keep your iPhone in your pocket for the duration; there’s a challenge. Plus you can point your finger at those diesel-spewing trucks with a tad more conviction and given you can steer well clear of them, the lungs will do ok.
On 25th February Auckland Transport launched their City Centre Kick Start Walking promotion. The promotion runs until 20 March and is encouraging walking to work or study at various workplaces across central Auckland. You can register at selected business locations, local community events, at the five city centre Auckland Transport Walking Stations or via www.at.govt.nz/kickstart.
Up early and on the job by 6.30 am, PeopleMax Ambassadors were out helping man Walking Stations. There are five walking stations set up at Victoria Park, Hopetoun Street, Symonds Street, Beach Rd, K’ Rd. Once people register, they receive a personalized Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) wristband. When you walk past one of these stations, your walk will be recorded and you will collect points (1 point per day of walking). The more times you walk to work or study, the higher your chances are for winning a prize—in case the health benefit incentive isn’t quite enough. For all participants, there’s a weekly random prize draw to win a pair of Nike shoes and a walking pedometer. For those participants who achieve at least 5 points, they will go into the draw to win the grand prize of $1000 worth of New World Victoria Park vouchers and the Flying Fox Zipline and Forest Walk experience for 2 people.
Apart from that, you can grab a free snack bar on the way to keep energy and spirits up. You’re also likely to get the benefit of a cheery morning smile from Rebecca and Alysha manning the Hopetoun Walk Station or get well and truly lassoed into the project by Elaine, who Auckland Transport personnel thoroughly commended for her ability to enrol passing pedestrians in Victoria Park into the project.
For further information www.at.govt.nz/kickstart
The 380 Airporter is the Airport bus that runs the Manukau to Onehunga route via Auckland Airport, which also takes in the Papatoetoe train station. You can catch a train from anywhere along the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga Lines and connect at Papatoetoe Train Station with the 380 Airporter bus to the airport. It operates 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It has become an important means of transport not only for air travellers, but also for many people who now work in the growing commercial environment of Auckland Airport.
As of Sunday 9th March the 380 Airporter will become the latest bus service to be linked into Auckland Transport’s AT HOP Card system. As has been the course of things PeopleMax Ambassadors continue to play an important role in promoting the new card system and providing information and answering the various questions that need to be answered in order that passengers are able to adapt to the new ticketing system as smoothly as possible. For example in this case, passengers are being advised to run down the balance on their 380 Stored Value smart card by 8th March, after which it will not be accepted for travel on the Airporter buses. Other standard information such as how to purchase the cards online (at ATHOP.co.nz) or bought from the retailers is in the brochure the ambassadors are handing out to travellers.