Do we need a $1.2 billion ticketing system?

A reader writes in:

In case you missed it, the National Ticketing system for public transport that was launched last month looks like it will have a high cost per ride. The Greater Auckland website covered it ( and stated that it will cost “nearly $1.4 billion to build and operate over the next 15 years. That might sound like a lot, and I’m sure some people will say it should be just used to make fares free, but it’s worth noting that pre-COVID, total fares collected across New Zealand were about $340 million annually. That $1.4 billion would only cover a few years in that scenario.”

I then did some calculations. $1.4 billion divided by $340 million gives 4.1 years of fare revenue. If the system only has a 15 year life then 27.4% of fare revenue will be spent on the system. This looks very expensive and puts it in a similar league to the NZTA road tolling system which when I checked a few years ago absorbed about 30% of the money collected.

Put another way the NTS will cost 55 cents per boarding on 2018/9 MoT data ( which had 168.4 million public transport boardings. The web page doesn’t define boardings, but I think it is each time someone boards a public transport vehicle as opposed to a trip which might consist of boarding a bus to get to a railway station and then boarding a train to get to the destination.

Public transport patronage in Auckland is still well below pre-COVID levels in 2019, although it has been climbing from 42% of January 19 levels in January this year to 63% when September this year is compared to September 19. (

I am a huge fan of having a national integrated ticketing system, but the price tag of $1.4 billion is eye staggeringly large. I understand the Auckland HOP system only cost $100 million or so.

Having 25% of the cost of a fare go simply on the ticket is insanely high.

As 99% of NZers have a smartphone, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just have a smartphone app that can work on all public transport?

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