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.
Spark (formerly Telecom) wants to spread the word about their free 1GB of mobile data, available for their customers and Hop card users at hotspots around town and at Train Stations, our Ambassadors were perfect for the job.
Out on the field the Ambassadors go, letting customers know about this great offer. For some it means they can spend time catching up on their favourite TV show on their phone while waiting for their train, without chewing up all of their own data!
Firstly I caught up with our Michelle Guillard at the Henderson Train Station, she has been part of the Peoplemax team since the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and has enjoyed the variety and flexibility of the work since.
“I enjoy meeting different people, tourists – helping them out. I’m also a Public Transport user myself.”
Which means Michelle is ready to fire off any info or assistance to customers when needed- Initially when I approached her, she was assisting a customer on the ticketing machine.
It’s always handy to have knowledge of these things with this work and Michelle knows her stuff.
Over at New Lynn Station, I have the pleasure of meeting Dave Rivere, another Ambassador who has been on the team for three years. Dave is also promoting the Spark Wi-Fi offer and says customers are really enjoying the option to use it, rather than their own data.
This kind of work, works really well for Dave who is currently studying Health Science at the University of Auckland.
When he gets time off he enjoys Sports and lives up to his Rock star name by playing the guitar.
Dave seems comfortable and confident with his work and from what I saw he was a doing a very thorough job with his distribution of fliers.
The variety of the work and clients PeopleMax has will continue to grow and the Ambassadors are very capable and adaptable to new projects. We look forward to working with Spark more in the future.
Changes are being made to North Star bus timetables as of 12th October in order that the times represent a service that best suits the traffic flow and thus a more reliable service. PeopleMax Ambassadors were riding North Star buses in the early morning to introduce passengers to this impending change to their timetable. Ambassadors were also positioned at Smales Farm bus station and at North Shore Hospital, armed with timetables specific to their stops. These new times simply reflect what is occurring on the road at the peak times and journey planners will reflect these changes. Generally, the change is only a matter of five minutes one way or the other, but five minutes, after rushing your tea and toast in the morning may make all the difference.
Opus has once again recruited our services while they are reviewing a current Corridor Management Plan, which focuses on Town Centre’s that may need attention with traffic and pedestrian efficiency.
Our team is back on the field and this time, in Papatoetoe. The Ambassador’s have been allocated different surveying tasks- Pedestrian/Cycling counts, parking lot vehicles and side street/main street parking.
Today I went to catch up with some of the Ambassadors working on this project see to what they were up to. You couldn’t have asked for better weather today and it’s the kind of day you definitely want to be working outside!
First up, I caught our lovely, Marina Jackson, who thrives off this work and has an eye for detail. As I approach her she is in full motion and rapidly filling out her survey form, which she refreshes every 15 minutes. She’s doing a good chunk of Great South Road, so you have to be quick on this job!
Marina herself, immigrating to New Zealand from Belgorod, Russia, 8 years ago. She loves it here and absolutely enjoys the work and flexibility Peoplemax has to offer.
From what I have observed, Marina is a friendly, personal and trustworthy Ambassador who works very well in the public.
Around the corner is our bubbly, Karly Semu, who has worked for Peoplemax for quite some now. I’ve caught her in the middle of a conversation with a customer who is voicing a parking concern. She is dealing with it well and seems to have a very placid nature with customers.
I introduce myself to Karly and she explains that the situation could have gone bad with this particular customer – had she not dealt with her in the understanding way that she had. A vital skill to have in this job!
Like Marina and most of our Ambassadors, Karly enjoys customer interaction and talking to people. She is very honest and approachable.
Working on these projects she has gained the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to follow through the work with a smile.
Across the block, I’ve found Norma Dellossa. Originally from the Philippines, Norma is another member of our diverse and multi-cultural team.
“I’ve learned a lot from the work and enjoy the challenge” say’s Norma, who has worked for PeopleMax since last year. Like the others, she enjoys the flexibility the work offers and meeting different people.
Outside of work, Norma loves to cook and is an avid gardener.
Lastly on my journey today, I meet Vinesh Kadari – who is back at Karly’s spot with the Opus supervisor, Megan.
He is about to be briefed on the work, which he will take over from Karly. Vinesh is a recent player to the PeopleMax team, he joined us 4 months ago, and has slotted in nicely.
“I enjoy communicating with people and helping” says Vinesh and says that this kind of work had developed his confidence in this area.
Vinesh is originally from Hyderabad, South India. When he has time off, he enjoys music and keeping himself updated on the latest technology.
The team worked on this project over two days and provided vital information to Opus that will help them to improve the current traffic and parking situation in this area. From the information gathered, they will be able to make improvements, which will create better safety and efficiency for pedestrians, cyclist and private vehicles.