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Huge PT patronage in September

The full public transport patronage report for September is yet to be released, but hidden within the general business report for the October board meeting we can see some pretty spectacular numbers – to be expected of course due to the Rugby World Cup:

September 2011 patronage was 6,634,342 passenger trips across public transport, an increase of +18.7% compared to September 2010. For the 12-months to September 2011 patronage was 67,682,156 passenger trips, an increase of +9.8% compared to the 12-months to September 2010.

The large increase in patronage in September is partly a result of Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC2011) matches held in Auckland. Special event PT services were provided for RWC2011 and fanzones on 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 22, 24, 25 and 30 September 2011 with integrated match and public transport ticketing across rail and bus special event services.

Rail patronage for the month of September achieved 1,178,586, a new monthly record and an increase of +32.0% on September 2010.

I wonder whether the big rail numbers in Auckland in September and October will finally push us ahead of Wellington’s rail patronage. I don’t have numbers for Wellington more recent than June this year, but it’s interesting to see how both the monthly and 12-month rolling totals (full data here) for Auckland and Wellington have converged over the past few years: 

Of course Wellington’s much smaller population means it has far higher per capita usage of the rail system (Auckland would need to be having more than 30 million trips a year to compete, something that’s probably 20 years away and requires the City Rail Link). But it’s interesting to see how much we’ve caught up since 2003. I would imagine that by this time next year Auckland may well have pulled ahead.

12 comments to Huge PT patronage in September

  • Stu Donovan

    Things are going very well indeed.

    And to think that many of the major PT improvements (electrification, new trains, integrated ticketing, Manukau Rail Station) are yet to kick in. 20 million trips is rail trips per year not as far away as we may think. Also, much growth remains to be tapped in the bus network, so I’m convinced that we’re only getting started!

    Just note the City Rail Link is not the only project struggling for funding – I’m personally a little worried about how long we’ll have to wait for the BRT components of AMETI. There’s a huge but largely ignored PT catchment out in Auckland’s Eastern suburbs just crying out for some good service.

    So much progress has been made, yet much work remains to be done.

  • I think the step-change in train patronage will come when people can catch a feeder bus to their train station and jump on the train without being penalised. In most successful train systems in lower density cities (Toronto, Vancouver, Perth) a huge chunk of rail passengers get to the station on the bus. We have so many opportunities to do that in Auckland – Manukau, Panmure, Onehunga & New Lynn are four key transfer points.

    • Stu Donovan

      Do you think that will be a step-change, or just more steady growth like we’ve seen? I agree that the connections/transfer issue is crucial in terms of the medium-long term network development, but I’m not convinced that there’s so much “latent” demand for transfers at the moment that removing transfer penalties will cause a major jump in patronage – at least not compared to the major CAPEX items.

      • I think it will be a step change in rail patronage and unlinked PT patronage because many long bus trips will turn into short feeder bus trips + rail trip – where that makes sense.

        Check out these time comparisons:

        • Stu Donovan

          Hmm, let’s break this down a bit. Electrification (and new trains) = reduced travel-times = additional passengers. A certain % of those additional passengers will use feeder buses to access the station, as compared to walking, cycling, and car. You’re suggesting the % of passengers who start using buses will be quite large, once they get rid of transfer penalties? I’m still not convinced it’ll be a step-change, but hope I’m wrong :)!

        • I’m not quite sure if I’m explaining myself fully. What I mean to say is that if we look at overseas cities with similar urban structure to Auckland (i.e. not super dense European cities and not super-large cities) we find that many of those with really well performing rail systems have a similar trait: that trait being that many of their passengers get to the train via feeder bus. This rings true for Toronto, Vancouver, Perth and probably many others.

          What good feeder buses do is effectively dramatically increase the catchment of the rail network, bringing many many more people within reach of using the train system for the “trunk” part of their route.

          At the moment we don’t have a system that encourages this – which vastly undermines the cost-effectiveness of the rail network. We have buses from far out west and south and southeast duplicating the rail network for large stretches, where they could work much better as feeder routes. This would reduce the number of buses in the CBD, allow much higher frequencies in the outer suburbs and ensure a much more efficiently used rail network.

          It’s not only integrated ticketing that’s necessary to achieve this change in the way we use our rail system. It’s also putting the feeder buses in place, aligning their times with those of trains, making the trains faster so it makes more sense for people to transfer, making the transfer physically easy and probably other things too. But integrated ticketing with free transfers is a key step in this process.

          • Stu Donovan

            Yes I agree: Getting rid of transfer penalties is very important.

            But I just don’t expect the impacts to manifest in a jump in patronage. We’re more likely to see the rate of patronage growth to persist (or even accelerate), while the rate of growth in services declines. That is, removing transfer penalties will – over time – result in progressively higher utilisation of the PT network.

            I think we both agree on what should happen with respect to transfer penalties and network structure, but maybe we just disagree on the timeframes over which the positive impacts will manifest? I’m expecting steady, positive growth, whereas you seem to be expecting a “big bang” impact.

          • Fair point, I think that it will probably take people a while to get used to the benefits of full integrated ticketing and fares – so we probably will have more of a steady increase. Probably the biggest chance of a real “jump” in rail patronage is when the electric trains come online. Probably because capacity constraints will have limited patronage growth over the previous couple of years, as well as the “sparks effect”.

          • There is clearly a role for marketing here too. Once integrated ticking is functioning and feeder services are operating the bus/train idea and routes need be sold.

  • Wonder how many Thales A-passes were sold, and more importantly how it performed? I had heard that on the trains inspectors don’t bother scanning, the just look at the sticker.

    • The business report suggests around 1200 A-Passes have been sold. It doesn’t say much beyond that.

      • Matt L

        There is a bit more information in section 5 which indicates that most sales were on the day of a game or a day either side as well as a graph showing the number of card sales as well as the number of passes sold for those cards.

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