This is a Guest Post from regular commenter Patrick Reynolds
Rail boardings in Auckland are now approaching about 10 million annually. Setting aside issues of kilometres traveled and reports of under-counting on the existing network I thought it might be useful to look ahead to try to see where this number might be heading.
Starting from an almost completely dead system growth has been constant since Britomart opened in 2003, roughly quadrupling in 8 years. Over that period there has been a great deal of work on the rundown and neglected network and its services and there is more to come. So can we expect this rate to continue, decline or even improve?
If we simply extend the rate of growth from the last year, 16%, and compound it we get the following: [year to June, millions]
So it seems not unreasonable by this metric to expect boardings to double to a pretty useful 20 million over the next 5 years. Given Auckland’s relatively low use of public transport clearly it will only take a small shift in circumstances or appeal of the service for these numbers to be possible. Supporting this view are the very significant improvements that are coming.
The opening of the new Manukau City Station will clearly attract a lot of new train users. Real Integrated Ticketing will make transfers between modes instantly more attractive. And there are to be more services especially in the off peak periods. Ten minute services on the Western Line will offer a frequency that liberates users from needing timetables.
If these improvements are able to be combined with a substantial reorganization of bus routes to enable people to transfer to the faster and more direct train services then it is likely that this growth estimate may be too conservative. Add to this the introduction of shinny new electric trains around 2014 and despite the likely disruption the change of systems will cause, this improvement in capacity, speed, reliability and appeal will surely also speed passenger growth.
Then there are other factors that drive PT use, especially the ‘push’ factors of the cost of petrol and the general state of the economy. Again it is likely that these factors will further accelerate demand for all forms of PT. So perhaps we can expect the completion of electrification to lead to the type of growth that occurred in Perth in 1993 when it was introduced there?Fascinating that Auckland is now at the point that Perth was in terms of numbers at their electrification and extension in 1993. But there are a number of differences.
Though the Auckland network is already quite extensive even once electrification is complete there is the limit imposed by the Britomart terminus. Other than the spur to Manukau there will be no actual extension of the reach of the network in this period, and trying to run a Metro style service around a terminus is limiting.
Because of this structural problem I don’t expect that we will be able to have a Perth type of jump in numbers until the CRL is built to unlock the capacity in the network. Although there are some options for wringing more out of the existing track like adding West/South services that bypass Britomart, it seems likely that the news will be full of frustrated train users on packed trains stuck outside of Britomart. Really there is no avoiding the need for the CRL under any analysis unless your aim is to limit the growth in rail use.
However assuming both the CRL and the Mangere Line are open within ten years we ought by then to be able to expect a Perth like transformation in ridership. A jump to something like 40 million by 2021 is not unlikely. Again so long as AT are able to coordinate bus transfer services….Interesting that 40 million is around the current 16% growth rate [43.23 mil., in fact].
A 20% rate would give us 60 million by 2021. A figure that Perth might achieve around 2013, twenty years after the first big jump…. No wonder Einstein called compounding interest the greatest mystery of the universe.