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Design: Tina Tiller.
Design: Tina Tiller.

SocietySeptember 20, 2023

A thank you letter to the Robin Hoods of the Auckland Transport outage

Design: Tina Tiller.
Design: Tina Tiller.

Lauren Marrion saved a lot of money when AT told passengers to travel for free while the Hop card system was down.

Early last week, Auckland Transport suffered a cyber attack. It caused an outage to the AT ticket and Hop card top up stations across the city. The AT website stated that patrons who were unable to top up could still travel – for free. What!? 

Now, as an over 30-something commuter, I am not a beneficiary of Labour’s travel discounts for students on public transport. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the free commutes.

But it did make me wonder: are there people out there who carry always-topped-up Hop cards who know about this, and are still paying for travel? If they’re aware that some people who only top up daily or weekly are currently travelling free – while they’re paying – shouldn’t they also get to travel for free? Technically, no. 

AT asked transport staff to request that commuters tag on anyway – even if their Hop cards have insufficient funds. That way, if you do have money on your Hop card, you will be paying for your trip. A surprising reward for those of us who can only afford to top up weekly or even daily.

three plastic keytags with cool hand drawn designs by kids
Limited-edition Hop card keytags designed by Auckland children. (Image: Auckland Transport)

As a ferry commuter, I fork out $170 a fortnight on travel to and from downtown Auckland, so these hackers have truly been my knight(s) in shining armour. Who are these brave bandits, these Robins Hood? In a sense, they have essentially taken from the rich and given to the poor – i.e, average middle income earners and students. 

What they’ve done is illegal, and we certainly don’t promote that, not one bit. However, if one of them is reading this – I’d like to say a little thank you. 

Thank you that for the past two weeks I had some extra cash to buy that overly priced zucchini I’ve been craving. Has anyone ever deep fried zucchini, slapped it onto ciabatta toast topped with ricotta? You’ll thank me later. 

Thank you that I had some extra cash to get that soy-mocha I have banned myself from buying since the cost of living crisis took effect. Even last week’s grocery shop had the team at home smiling thanks to extra treats from the supermarket. It’s the little things in life that bring such joy. 

Zucchini, a delicacy only those getting free public transport can afford during the cost of living crisis. (Photos: Emma Boyd)

Sailing the Auckland seas (bay) from Hobsonville to downtown for free has been a game-changer these two weeks. There’s a weight off your shoulders travelling without having to wallow in how much you’re out of pocket each time.

Thank you for doing this during spring. The sun is out early, it’s setting a bit later. This free travel — it’s been nothing less than a thing of beauty. 

AT has indicated the technical issue affecting this terrible outage on their systems will be resolved this week, and that no personal data has been compromised by the hack. It was also noted that there have been no significant changes in commuter travel since the glitch, except for the odd occasion where commuters have been refused travel. (Mind you, I had my phone open on the AT web page in the ferry queue, just in case I had issues and needed to flash staff with their homepage content stating: “If you are unable to top up your Hop card you will still be able to travel.”)

While it was short-lived, it’s something that will live in my heart for a long time. It’s these moments in life that make it count. So thank you. 

Keep going!