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.
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.