I recently had a couple of interesting questions pop up that deserved answers regarding how Snapper processes problems. We haven’t talked much about Snapper directly, but it’s the largest volume of fare payments in the Wellington Region and it’s set roots deep enough that at least one councillor is playing political cards around the future.
Snapper has been around since 2006 and handling fares in Wellington since 2008, according to the website. They’re not the only smartcard in the network, but the number of routes covered by Snapper easily dwarfs the card system used by the Mana/Newlands buses. Add to that taxi fares, ferry fares and the ability to buy train tickets or pay for parking. Snapper covers a significant proportion of the transport payments around here. So what happens if something goes wrong?
I was speaking to a lady who catches the same bus as I do. It’s a pretty social bus route and we’ve gotten to know each other over years. She’d asked if I’d heard that bus pass prices had gone up, which sent me checking Metlink for information on that. As it turned out, prices hadn’t increased – she’d been sold the wrong bus pass and told that the price must have gone up. It’s easy to see how these sorts of accidents happen. There are two passes that cover buses through the Hutt Valley: GetAbout and Hutt Commuter. The question that I took to Snapper was whether retail agents are able to process the refund. I’d expect that any retailer selling a product to a customer must be able to offer a refund. According to Snapper, retailers aren’t able to remove the bus pass that was incorrectly loaded. Customers would have to find the time to contact a Snapper office to get the problem sorted out.
Within the same week, we had another situation pop up. Our bus driver was subjected to a spot inspection and wasn’t carrying his license. Passengers were told that the service was cancelled and to catch the next bus. That seems easy and straightforward, unless you’ve tagged onto the bus. There’s a quirk of Snapper’s system that doesn’t allow a passenger to tag on and tag off again if the bus hasn’t moved. As each person tagged off, as instructed, they heard a message about fare already being paid. Then boarding the next bus, each person was charged a penalty fare for not tagging off the previous journey and then charged the first fare for the next journey. In the case of an Eastbourne-bound bus, that’s a significant amount of money. The same problem can easily occur if a passenger tags on and realises that they’ve boarded the wrong bus before it departs. When asked, Snapper told me that the driver should collect the ID numbers on the Snapper cards, so that the refund can be applied quickly and automatically. I have never heard of a driver doing this and I really doubt that drivers would go out of their way to take details at the expense of keeping to their schedule, assuming the service hasn’t actually been cancelled. There’s definitely some work to be done here to be more customer-focused.
There are a few issues with Snapper that come up from time to time. I’m aware of a couple other issues that I’ll try to write up when I have more complete information. If you’ve run into anything really curious, especially if you’ve noticed an interesting pattern, leave a comment below. Snapper isn’t a perfect system, but it’s gotten better over the years and I’m pretty convinced that they’re interested in solving problems as they’re found. That’s been my experience.