It couldn’t have been a more miserable day for a PeopleMax Ambassador to be out in. It was cold and very wet when I arrived at the Mangere shopping centre. As staunch as PeopleMax Ambassadors usually are, Anton and Shani had already beaten a justified retreat from the weather into the interior of the shopping mall. With a large representation of the Island community in Mangere, the sun always shines despite the weather in the colourful array of clothing, fabrics and flowers you find there. And despite the weather there was plenty of activity.
I found PeopleMax Ambassadors Anton and Shani were busy handing out fliers notifying the locals of Auckland Transport’s latest endeavour to streamline Auckland’s transport system. Their seemingly relentless work on cracking that egg of efficiency is something Auckland Transport can be congratulated on. Their latest initiative is to help make it easier for travellers by creating a more connected network. What does that mean? The introduction of a ‘Simplified Zone Fare System’. It’s intended to be easier for regular travellers as well as visitors. Basically, using your AT HOP card, instead of being charged separate fares for each ride you may take in your journey, the fare will be calculated for the total from A to B, regardless of whether you transfer between different services.
Well, there are some further ins-and-outs to that which takes a bit of explaining by the ambassadors. But even though the miserable weather’s relentless drumming on the roof seemed to encourage shoppers to move on as fast as possible, Shani and Anton were managing to pass out the information on the new scheme. For those prepared to tarry a moment longer than just receive a flyer in passing, the system could be explained in more detail. Potential travellers were then able to find out that, true to form, Auckland Transport intent on getting it right, were not only distributing information on their new system, which they intend to introduce mid 2016, they were also inviting Feedback via the Feedback forms. So, despite the weather, PeopleMax Ambassadors were getting the message out there in Mangere for Auckland Transport.
A PeopleMax Ambassador sporting a pair of rabbit ears and offering you wee Easter Eggs from a basket laden with the colourfully wrapped chocolate eggs is not going to have much of a problem grabbing peoples’ attention. The other reason for being there was to hand out information on Easter Timetables for buses, trains and ferries over the Easter Holiday on behalf of Auckland Transport. When I was out at Manukau Train and Bus stations seeing how it was all going and meeting up with PeopleMax Ambassador Yvette, it seemed that little extra treat was working wonders—I’d say a near 99% up take. No doubt that was not entirely due to the eggs since the ambassador was certainly charming.
It was the first time I had met Yvette, perhaps not surprisingly since she has just returned from Florida for a three-week break before she goes back to complete her pre-cruise preparation. She is about to cruise the Caribbean Islands as one of two singers in a band who will be entertaining the passengers. The multi-national band comprising of a Canadian, American, Australian, a Panamanian and a Kiwi, who has been singing since way back, are all about to sail away in June to those sunny islands—sounds like a lot of fun. Keep your ears out for it too, she is about to launch her first EP, maybe we can follow that one up when she comes back to NZ.
Well Yvette wasn’t the only Easter Bunny working for PeopleMax on this job, Leonie was working at Glen Innes Train Station, Karly at Onehunga Bus and Train Stations as well as Andrew Hogg at Takapuna Bus Interchange. I imagine the eggs went down a treat everywhere… it’s chocolate after all. So Auckland Transport entered the Easter festive spirit and brightened up everybody’s day, making the handing and receiving of fliers just that little bit different. Its amazing what a smile and chocolate will do!
Just before the Easter holidays I was chasing PeopleMax Ambassador, David, down Jervois Rd trying to catch up with him, he was moving fast. When I did catch up he was halfway down a side street. The information I gleaned from him said that the area we were in had been identified as having high leaf-fall and something was about to be done about it. David and fellow PeopleMax Ambassadors Daniel, MalKit and Johnny, were posting fliers about the news in all the letterboxes in the area on behalf of the contractors Downer NZ, contracted by Auckland Transport. For the next 13 weeks Downer would be collecting leaves, keeping the streets clean to prevent roads and footpaths from becoming slippery and leaves blocking the stormwater drains, hence preventing flooding.
So was there an imminent threat from leaf-fall? Sure, the whole street was lined with leaf-laden trees itching with the Autumn’s drafts to shimmy and shed. This was soon verified by an outspoken, and might I say passionate, resident who said he had contacted the council several times about even now the dangerously clogged storm-water drains in the street. They were indeed well clogged and with his encouragement I took pictures to prove it. The trees had really only just begun to toss down their leaves—and it was another of those bright blue skies we’ve been having with no ‘storm’ lurking just below the horizon. But you can’t really be sure what’s going to happen with the weather these days, so one supposes it’s best to be well prepared.
The information provided was not only enlightening the residents to the fact that the leaf-fall was about to be dealt with, but also that it was going to be a sizable operation using mechanical road sweepers, leaf blowers and “other small tools”? That part is certainly intriguing. Understandably, as the flier requested, it’s worth asking residents to be helpful when parking their cars on the roadside and making sure their children and pets were well supervised during the coming weeks.
In the end I managed to catch up with Daniel as well as David and get the snaps of them in action. At the rate they were both moving, and I think I can safely assume Malkit and Johnny were working at a similar pace from the other end of Jervois Rd, the job would be soon be covered and another PeopleMax assignment well taken care of—so I bid my fairwells knowing Auckland Transport with the assistance of Downer NZ and PeopleMax had the leaf-fall situation well covered in the Herne Bay area.
Our Ambassadors spent the weekend of the 28th and 29th of March right up amongst the action of the ITU Triathlon, with front row views of the running and biking courses through Auckland’s CBD.
Due to road closures for the event’s course, we were called on to aid passengers and redirect them to their temporary replacement bus stop, or a shuttle which would connect them to their usual bus route.
We had a big team working throughout the weekend with Ambassadors getting hundreds of enquiries and plenty of people needing assistance, they really felt like we were needed!
For this job, it was crucial for the Ambassador’s to fully understand the brief and know it inside out. There were many specifics that they needed to get their heads around to make sure that passengers felt confident on their redirected journey. Communication was 100% key in making this work and the Ambassadors were certainly looking out for each other and keeping in touch.
We had several of our Ambassadors take on the role of Team Leaders to coordinate a small team in certain areas, which worked really well and was a new experience for some of them…certainly a good skill to build on. This meant the Ambassadors could go to them with enquiries rather than our huge team bombarding our Field Manager Elaine with a million questions!
I went and visited some the Ambassador’s working in the heart of the CBD down at Queen Street and Customs Street. Some of them had a great view of all the action. We had Rachel on Customs Street, Sim on Galway Street and Niladri on the Tamaki Drive stop on Customs Street. They were supervised and looked after by Chris and made sure they kept their communication lines flowing. Most of them were non-stop with enquiries!
The weather was unfortunately not the greatest, we had some wind and rain throughout the day, which didn’t seem to put the spectators off, and certainly not the contestants and most of our Ambassadors were able to find shelter at their stop. Passengers were generally understanding of the nature of the event and the road closures and appreciated all the help they could get from our team. Talking with some of the Ambassadors, they feel it’s very rewarding helping out customers who feel quite lost and enjoy being able to give them a confident redirection. Some customers like to stick around and have a bit of chat about the event and what tasks the Ambassador’s have to do as well.
There can at times be a customer who can be quite stressed out in situations like these and i’m proud to say that i have seen our Ambassador’s handle these situations with complete professionalism and assure the customer of a solution in a clear and concise manner without reacting to the offensive.
These big jobs, we have had recently, really show our strength as a team and our ability to communicate with one another and not feel ashamed to ask each other for help. Some really good friendships have been built within this team, allowing us to feel secure and looked after while we are working in the public.
Another day of cricket but not only that, last weekend was crammed with events, the cricket, The Eagles concert, the Pasifica Festival, the Volvo Ocean Race (though postponed due to the impending storm) and St Patrick’s Day Parade on the Sunday. And of course the Auckland Arts Festival is also in full swing. Well I only got to cover the cricket for PeopleMax, though I did get to an Arts Festival show called The Kitchen, a spectacle of drumming, cooking and drama from India. Seemed a fitting follow-on from covering the cricket.
As usual the easiest way to get to the cricket was on public transport and as before extra trains and special buses were included in the match ticket. To pick up your ride on the train though you had to wait till midday. Since I covered the previous New Zealand v Australia match, I thought I would concentrate more on catching up with the PeopleMax Ambassadors that were working on the fringe so to speak, same starting point though, Britomart. Daniel, Chris and Andrew were there and Chris managed to corral some Indian supporters who were skiving off work into having their dedication at all costs to cricket documented in a group photo.
From Britomart I made my way out to Morningside on the train, where Nirmala and Andrew were working informing the fans on their best travel plans for their return and how to reach the stadium from the station. Then I dropped off briefly at Kingsland to see how things were progressing there. Well I don’t expect there are very many Zimbabweans in New Zealand and if there were any at the match that day they were vastly out numbered—it seemed very much an Indian day out, and in come cases it demanded some celebratory traditional costuming.
At Mt Eden station Johnny B was covering the platform while Dhaval manned the bus stop where fans could take one of the special buses if the wait between trains was too long and they too eager to wait. Both locations; platform and bus stop were relatively quite, with just a steady stream of spectators heading out for the start of the match. I’m sure the two who patiently shared a photo with Dhaval would be exploding with enthusiasm once installed at the stadium. Understandably at Grafton Train Station it was quieter, though Malkit’s sunny disposition and determination to fulfil his brief had him eagerly engage the few fans that were coming his way. Overall it was another successful day for cricket and PeopleMax ambassadors played their part.
Over the past week our Ambassadors have been part of a display at Britomart, getting people to really think about the future of Public Transport in Auckland. A ‘pick a lane’ set up down on lower Queen Street saw people walking through either a Basic Transport lane and an Advanced Transport lane, with a ticker on the top monitoring numbers that walked through.
This project was a collaboration between the Auckland City Council, Mango Events and Peoplemax and was brought together to encourage the public to have their say on the 10 Year Budget Plan which closed on March 16th.
Our Ambassador’s were stationed around the set-up, some holding ‘pick a lane’ and ‘basic or advanced’ signs and were also distributing fliers that had the key message of how to submit feedback and the importance of doing so. I went down and caught up with some of the Ambassador’s to see how they were going and from a distance, I saw them engaging with good energy and concise vocal announcements! “Have your say, submissions close Monday!”
We also worked with some really friendly and passionate members of the Auckland City Council who were there to do one-on-one consultations with the public and help us with finer details. The great part about working with this team is that they trusted us with our abilities and let us handle the public in a non-abrasive, non-invasive way- yet still getting the message across and getting the flier out there.
Working on the project myself and talking to members of the public, most seemed to be in favour of the Advanced Network options and we had some very strong responses.People were coming up to us and asking to partake in the questionnaire, which showed us that they really believed in having their say and thinking forward for the future.
We had many Ambassador’s involved in this project as well as crossovers from Action Actors and it was great to have a big team with a variety of skills and great confidence. This project was a bit of fun for us too, among many new projects that we have been getting in. 2015 seems to be shaping up quite well for Peoplemax and we look forward to more variety as the year progresses.
Those responsible for setting up this Cricket World Cup event here in Auckland certainly made the effort to make it a celebratory affair. 28th February was picked to be a nail-biter between New Zealand and Australia. Eden Park was sold out; around 45,000 revved up spectators I believe packed themselves in. The trains were splitting at the seams, buses running hot, PeopleMax Ambassadors with their fingers on the pulse.
I caught up with David who was the PeopleMax Ambassador covering the Kingsland station, he told me trains were coming in from Britomart on both lines. To accommodate that, along with the occasional train running from Swanson to Britomart would require some careful juggling in the signal box—well maybe signal boxes don’t exist these days, coming to think of it I haven’t noticed any, maybe the ‘line command centre’ then?
You were invited to start the match day early by walking the Fan Trail, where it was touted you’d be able to come across some “cool activities”, and get yourself suitably attired by their ‘Dressers’—if you hadn’t already grasped the need—who were handing out free wigs, flags, sun visors, all free in your team colours. Everybody has to be fully enrolled in the spirit of things. Outside the main gates to Eden Park I came across a group of Navy band members handling some up-tempo very unmilitary numbers for the very up-tempo day and a young Maori group doing a stout job handling some more traditional numbers. You could also have your mug shot for a post card.
When I was last on a mission for the rugby Nines I was to cover the Disability Shuttle Service that was running at Morningside station. I never found it. So this time I was determined, in fact after briefly catching up with Daniel, Chris and Jimmy who were supervising things at Britomart, I headed out on one of those packed trains with creaking springs straight to Morningside. Though the journey was slow going the spirit in the train was entertaining with jibes being batted back and forth. An Australian fan who needing to squeeze onto the already packed seat declaring she was recovering from a recently broken shoulder was jibed by a Kiwi, “Well you’ll have a broken heart by tonight.” Seems that one was true Blu!
Anyway, back to the mission. I found Andrew and Nirmala who were the ambassadors dealing with the shuttle at Morningside, but as it turned out they were also looking for this allusive Shuttle too which was very busy ferrying fans to the game who are unable to walk from Morningside Station. I finally found it together with some patient clients who were very satisfied shortly after their assisting ride!.
I followed the stream of fans from Morningside back to Kingsland to jump on one of the trains running back towards town. On the way I observed that you can run into problems if you want to make a few dollars selling flags to the fans—no one is to ride on the back of the event apparently. Anyway, I had a more tranquil ride back to Newmarket and jumped off to catch up with Elena and Shani. Being close to the first ball being pitched back at Eden Park, most of the fans had made the trip, so Grafton and Mt Eden where Malkit, Johnny B and Dhaval were located were by then very quite. Actually the rush was also well over in Newmarket when I arrived, but as soon as I saw Elena I knew something was different. A new hairstyle! Apparently she had walked past a hairdresser a day or so back, as you do, which had nobody in it, an opportunity to be taken—“A short haircut would be good” “Would you like to go blond?” “Um? Lets go red!” “What about some shaving?” “Eh? …Well why not a bit of a shave too!” So here we have it, Elena’s new hairstyle! Shani was outside the station at the bus stop, where passengers who couldn’t get on the over-packed trains could pick up a bus. Apparently it had been full-on shortly before I arrived; now like on the platform itself it was back to normal.
This PeopleMax job was fairly straightforward, advising travellers of an imminent change to the timetable on the Birkenhead Transport buses. The major Bus Stops where the Birkenhead Transport buses left from in the CBD and on the way out in Fanshawe Street is where the PeopleMax ambassadors were located. Then at the Highbury shops, Glenfield Mall along with the Northcote Shopping Centre these were also covered by PeopleMax Ambassadors; the job, advising of the changes and handing out the new timetables.
On my way down to the CBD I checked in at Fanshawe St bus stop where Chris and Sim were stationed. Being 4pm in the evening there was already a steady stream of people gathering to catch the bus home, so plenty there for the ambassadors. After having a quick chat and a snap I moved on towards the CBD. In Victoria St. West I came across Nirmala and Oliver. I hadn’t seen Nirmala for a good while; last time I saw her she was just finishing her Masters in IT. Oliver was someone I hadn’t met before and I have to take a moment to talk about him too. Oliver is just completing his Masters and going on to do a PhD at the Music School, Auckland University. His grandfather was a composer in China, his mother is a violinist, so not surprisingly he is a pianist and composer himself now. What knocked me sideways, was when he tells me he is able to compose a symphony of twenty parts in a day! Apparently that isn’t unheard of in the music world, but it certainly impressed me!. So stationed at Victoria St. West, were two highly talented PeopleMax Ambassadors. What’s nice to know is that PeopleMax, by employing their ambassadors who are mostly made up of students, is giving all this young talent a helping hand along the way.
Further down Albert St Malkit was on the job. Malkit like many of our ambassadors has a warm, comfortable manner about him, which he was bringing to the job in hand. While I was there plenty of people were lining up to find out about the changes and he told me generally people were pleased, as the new schedule that kicks off on the 22nd of this month, means more frequent buses.
When I made it down to the Lower Albert St. I found Andy and Echo. I learnt from past experience when Andy’s on the job you can expect a good deal of mirth going with it. I wasn’t disappointed. Full of bright ideas he is set to advocate to AT the introduction of Karaoke on the buses with mics dropping down from the roof for all to participate—not a bad idea to brighten up the travel home after a hard day at the office; it will be a while before we see that happening however Andy. He also claimed that he had managed to get at least two members of the public to perform the chicken dance before he would give them a new timetable. I’m afraid this is hearsay, as while I was there I didn’t see any chicken dances. Well, the public always seems to enjoy his banter as do I. So the fact of the matter is, PeopleMax takes on all sorts from symphony composers, to experts in computer programming to …clowns, quite a range and all communicating the message of new timetables and schedule enhancements effectively and seamlessly to Birkenhead Transport bus passengers .
It was certainly entertaining reporting on the Nines last year and no less this year. It’s that carnival spirit that hits town, dress-ups for party-time. To me maybe it wasn’t quite as well costumed as last year, but I can’t fault it, the mood was as high spirited. This is Dick Smiths sponsored NRL Nines and quite a feature for Auckland given we only have one rugby league team at this level in NZ, so all the other teams came across from Oz, along with all their entourage of exuberant supporters. No doubt for them the trip across the Tasman adds to the flavour of the event.
Travel on the trains and special events buses is included in the ticket for the game, which saves on an awful lot of congestion that would otherwise dampen the spirits. Extra trains were laid on for the event and were operating three hours before kick-off. This meant PeopleMax Ambassadors were at their posts by 9 or 10am. By 10.30 I was down at Britomart, but I was a little surprise to find it still rather quiet. Elena was there along with Malkit and Elena’s two young daughters were there waiting in the wings patiently for their mother to finish, so that they could so something a whole lot more exciting!. As it wasn’t all that colourful yet at Britomart I jumped on the train and headed for Kingsland, where it had to be happening, being the Eden Park train station.
At Kingsland I came across Edward receiving the western trains. I hadn’t met him before, though he has worked for PeopleMax for a while. It was interesting to find that he was thespian from Theatre Corporate days and is currently rehearsing a series of Becket plays directed by Paul Gittens. His well honed vocal skills were coming to the fore at the station as he was having to alert alighting fans to the fact the train they had arrived on would not, as one might legitimately expect, be departing from the same station on the way home—they had to make their way to Morningside station instead. Though a loudhailer would have helped, Edward’s doubling as the Town Crier for this gig was doing a fine job. While I was there in Kingsland, the field manager for the day, Chris, arrived. He seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the job and being an avid photographer he was also taking a few of his own snaps on the festive fans.
Having gained the best of what was on offer at Kingsland I thought I would see what was happening in New Market. I remember the previous year it was packed with colour. When I arrived it wasn’t as frantic as I had expected. I found Marina fresh from a recent camping holiday at the main entrance of the station and it wasn’t hard to have some fans pose with her for a picture. She looks quite at home amongst the … well, not quite sure what they were, Greco-Roman-Celts perhaps, along with a …Carrot? Outside there was a complementary bus service running every 15 min, so if you just miss a train that came every half hour, you could hop on one of these. Amar was manning this location; he was another ambassador I hadn’t come across before. I was under the impression all Sikhs wore a turban; so I was surprised when Amar told me he was Sikh. Apparently his mother took him to the temple at an early age and had the priest cut his hair, it’s been short ever since and no need for a turban. The finer details of this I’m not well enough informed to relate, but it was certainly a pleasure to make acquaintance with yet another amiable PeopleMax Ambassador. He also had no trouble collecting a bunch of fans around him for a snap. Back to town after that my reporting on the 2015 Nines winding up.
To see Auckland celebrating its 175th birthday and catch the PeopleMax Ambassadors responsible for maintaining the smooth connection of passengers to their buses during the event, I made my way downtown to where it was all happening. It was to be a three-day event organized by the Auckland Council and the ASB to cover Auckand’s Anniversary Weekend 2015
I headed for Britomart and the surrounding area, as I knew that was where I’d find the Ambassadors. Along Quay St in front of the Ferry Building, neatly capturing how Auckland developed over time, a selection of historic photographs were on display, installed as giant cubes—these were really quite impressive. Shed 10 and Queens Wharf were also devoted to giving the public a glimpse into the past and Queens Wharf also kicked off a free six part live music series to take place over the next six Friday lunch times. And if you had the patience to join the numbers stretched out waiting to climb aboard, the Navy had one of their boats tied up for the curious to have a wander around.
Britomart was transformed; buses were banished and replaced by AstroTurf, deckchairs, food stalls and street performers. While I was there one performer, a contortionist, was drawing quite a crowd while she crammed herself into what appeared to be an impossibly small, clear, Perspex box. She finally made it after a good deal of preamble to pad things out, quite a squeeze—as most of the street performers are visitors to this country, maybe this one arrived in NZ by post.
That aside, since Auckland Transport had its buses shunted out of Britomart, PeopleMax Ambassadors were dispatched to be available to reroute the public to the temporary bus stops on the periphery. I found Anton and Dhaval taking care of Britomart itself. I hadn’t seen either of them for a good while, explained by both having taken a trip back to their homeland. Now he’s back Anton is working for Vodafone, but keeping his hand in with PeopleMax when he can. Dhaval, more recently returned from two months in India, is back to finish his course in retail management. It was good to catch up with them again, though I wasn’t absolutely sure they weren’t putting a hex on me for yet again forcing them to have their picture snapped.
Around the edges of Britomart I found Marina stationed at the Ferry Building. Around the corner in Tyler St., I found another ambassador I hadn’t seen for a while, Kree-Ann, she’s normally to be found studying health related skills, working through her four-year course as a medical technician. She has two years of it under her belt, two to go. Putting all that aside for the day in her ambassador role, she was a busy redirecting travellers.
Skirting further round the periphery of Britomart I found Shani in Custom St, it had been a long hot day with an early start, so she welcomed handing her shift over to Jimmy. There were PeopleMax Ambassadors located at other sites, Summer and Chris stationed at Lower Albert St for example. This was a three day event so I wasn’t going to be able to catch up with all the ambassadors who would be covering it, but they would be out there doing the their part to make sure all ran smoothly while Britomart changed its transport hub hat and masqueraded as a recreation centre.