Well we knew that this was coming. Auckland Transport have released the patronage stats for September and they look pretty grim as the glow from the RWC wears off. Overall patronage was down 13.4% on 2011 however AT have also pointed out that this year has been affected by the fact there were two less working days which they estimate has had a -7% to -8% impact. Without these factors, they suggest we would have had an underlying growth of 4.3%. The highlights section has a very defensive feel to it:
- Annual Auckland public transport patronage for the 12-month period to end-September 2012 was 70,681,947 boardings and continued to show underlying growth of +4.3% (+2,927,191 boardings) compared to the previous 12-months to end-September 2011.
- All modes contributed to this growth: rail at +1.9%, the Northern Express bus at +4.7%, all other bus at +4.2% and ferry at +10.8%.
- Financial year-to-date (FYD) for three months of July to September 2012 and monthly September 2012 patronage compared to the same periods in 2011 has reduced. Table 1 provides actual patronage results +4.3% annual, -2.5% three month FYD and -13.5% monthly.
- It is important to present the context of these results within known patronage impacts to assess underlying performance trends. The greatest impact on these results is the patronage spikes during September and October 2011 of the Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC2011) tournament (9 September and 23 October 2011), in particular from one-off special event public transport services to and from matches and also across scheduled services. This is consistent across all modes as illustrated in Figures 5, 8 to 10 and 13 to 15. Table 1.1 provides estimated patronage normalised for RWC2011 of +5.2% annual, +3.5% three month FYD and -3.2% monthly.
- A second significant impact on actual results for September 2012 was two less business days in September 2012 compared to September 2011 (resulting in a -7% to -8% monthly impact). Estimated patronage normalised for RWC2011 and business days is +4.5% monthly.
- Estimated real patronage results normalising business days and not adjusting for RWC2011 are approximately +4.3% annual, +0% three month FYD and -5.5% monthly.
- Patronage was further impacted during September as a result of cancelled bus services due to NZ Bus industrial relations activity and weekend rail network closures to facilitate electrification infrastructure works.
And the usual table
Going just of the pure numbers, rail was the hardest hit with patronage down 30% on 2011 and is actually lower than what was achieved in September 2010 (893,048). Along with the already mentioned RWC drop and having less weekdays, AT also says that rail patronage was further impacted by having weekends affected by shutdowns for electrification works. We have seen both the weekend and shutdown reasons for stalling patronage in quite a number of the reports this year however they don’t tend to make these comments when the opposite is true i.e. in September next year there will be an extra business day and there is less likely to be any network shutdowns so will it be mentioned that there those things affected this years patronage when comparing the two? I assume that AT has the patronage data at a daily level (or at least they will shortly with HOP), I wonder if it is time for AT to perhaps start also releasing perhaps the average weekday and weekend patronage on a monthly basis to give a clearer picture of what is happening and that would take away some of these issues.
On a more positive note, the cycling trend continues based on the number of people recorded cycling at the set automatic monitoring sites with September up 8% on the same month last year.
I have noticed though that they have been calculating the percentage increase on their table wrong for the last few months, I have recreated their table with the correct figures.
As mentioned at the start, we have been expecting a result like this for some time but still it is not nice to see. There is clearly a bit more thought going into what is impacting the numbers and I hope that AT can start releasing a bit more of it. We still have another painful month to go in October as we finally get the RWC results out of the system but I also wonder if it will be mentioned that there are two extra weekdays compared to 2011?