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.
PeopleMax Ambassadors were out aiding Auckland Transport again in their endeavour to provide a well-oiled transport system for Auckland. One crucial aspect of that effort depends of providing the best possible information to the public, in this case of the imminent changes to the train, bus and ferry fares. This change is scheduled to take place on the 6th July.
On that date most cash fares will be increasing. Such news is naturally a touchy subject for any traveller. So Auckland Transport, as much as possible, prefers to avoid your concern by engineering it such that, by using AT HOP, fares will either be staying the same or decreasing. In our heartfelt consumer society for prices to actually go down always comes as a rare and welcomed surprise. What is evident in the fare change and isn’t so surprising, is Auckland Transport’s desire to encourage greater dedication to their AT HOP card. What we can hope for is that the benefits of a slick card system, designed to bring greater efficiency and savings, will indeed trickle down. Whether the price of the AT HOP card with remain low in the near future, or even decrease further, given the savings of automation, we shall have to see.
PeopleMax Ambassadors were located in teams of three on several train stations, where it’s established there hasn’t been the strength of pick-up of AT HOP cards as in other areas. Armed with information on the fare changes and an EFTPOS machine, they were able to notify travellers of the proposed changes, provide brochures showing the new prices and at the same time encourage travellers to make on-the-spot purchases of a new AT HOP card—given the boasted benefits of savings. Saving 20% on travel from the 6th July sounds like an attractive proposition. The card costs $5, but you’ll make it back on a few trips. PeopleMax Ambassadors Karen, Kree-Ann and David were lending some brightness to some miserable weather at Henderson train station for example. Not just focused on travellers by train, other teams and individuals were doing similar work at key locations for bus travellers. John B, Alysha and Hilly were working at the main bus stops in Henderson.
In the central city at Britomart, you could find Ted and Nirmala. Ambassadors, invariably at ease in their role and encouraged to be polite and respectful at all times, usually have little trouble realizing their brief. Engaging with the public means they are also frequently hearing comments on customer experience, and it’s also part of that brief to report back to their field manager comments customers might make to them—they’re a finger on the pulse of Auckland Transport’s customers. This is an information-gathering role that is undoubtedly as valuable to Auckland Transport as the information the ambassadors are disseminating on their behalf. The comments may be problems people are having, or provide feedback on whether promotional material is reaching them. And importantly, are they happy with their experience on Auckland Transport? Nirlama, handing out the brochures at Britomart with the fare changes listed, appears to have found a couple of travellers that seem happy enough.
Auckland Transport wants to get a better understanding of On-Street parking in the Wynyard Quarter. So Peoplemax Ambassadors, Tamara and Johnny, have been sent out to do the rounds of the streets most used for parking, most of which are meter parking. They have been asked to conduct a survey, asking those parking their cars if they could spare a few minutes to answer some simple questions, questions to elicit a good understanding of who, why and how often and for what length of time, people were parked in the area. Questions to simply work out habits.
Even though there is a substantial amount of construction in the area and in these winter months those seeking the area for recreation is lower, there is still a high demand for parking serving those working in the various cafes, bars and offices. Added to which taxis servicing the area and construction workers are adding to those clambering for space. Certainly the Wynard Quarter is an up-and-coming area, both commercial and recreational, so getting the parking sorted out now has to be an advantage. In terms of conducting the survey that required a fair amount of legwork.
According to the ambassadors, most of those spoken to were willing to take a few moments out to answer the questions and were prepared to offer a few suggestions and considerations at the end of the discussion; duly noted down. As the ambassadors discovered, there were some old hands at the parking game, who had a good understanding of how best to negotiate their parking needs. And there were those who had a particularly difficult challenge to keep the costs of parking within reasonable bounds. The hospitality workers for example, had a tough call; they certainly had to know the ropes, often having to find parking for a 15-hour stretch. Taxis drivers also were finding it tough competing for a park, as even at this time of year demand was high. But then there were those who had sussed out ‘secret’ spots, as one does when one can. (Johnny has managed to cotton onto a secret spot or two and is keeping those tucked up his sleeve for the future.) And then the trams aren’t running at present, which also offers a window of opportunity not to be overlooked. …Incidentally, it seems that as yet not many people understand the colour system applied to parking meters. Meters can be allocated a yellow, green or blue colour, which indicates their rating of fee/hr.
Until 22nd August Auckland Transport have rolled out prototype designs for new bus shelters, which they are inviting the public to provide feedback on. They want to use the impressions people provide to help assess how the various designs perform. It’s not just about how much people like them however, they have to gauge that against other criteria, such as cost, durability, ease of construction, and of course, they can’t just reply on good looks, they have to be entirely functional—serve the purpose.
On Symonds St., in the city, alongside the more original design of shelters that have been in service for a while, three new designs have been located. PeopleMax Ambassadors, Summer, Jimmy and Michelle, were there collecting the feedback on a suitably blustery, rainy day. A perfect day for a shelter trial, and a variety of productive comments were forthcoming from travelers.
Starting with the original design in use, one or two were of the opinion, “Why waste more money, why not just improve on what we have already?” Fair comment perhaps; so Summer on this occasion was able to provide a ‘thumbs up’ for the existing shelters. However, others agreed there was room for more radical change and the ambassadors were finding the shelter accumulating the best feedback overall was the one with more wood, shelter A in the brochure they were handing out. The wood seemed to be more appropriate for New Zealand was one opinion. But generally speaking it seemed to pan out that the more colourful style appealed to the younger travelers, and the shelter with a bench seat running the length of it, appealing to your average middle aged member of the public.
And why do we need a new bus shelter for Auckland? Auckland Transport believes that they need to be made safer, easier to use, and more attractive than they already are. Apparently there are 20 different styles of shelter across Auckland and they want to create a more clearly defined ‘look’, which is also adaptable to different needs in the varied locations. So in the end the objective is in fact to save money, but also to have the shelters define a more recognisable public transport network though their consistency. But as one comment had it, “Yes, but we don’t need a living room, but a shelter suitable for all weather, and it doesn’t have to be all that good looking.”
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.