This is a guest post by John Polkinghorne
The Ministry of Transport, bless ‘em, actually have a lot of interesting information on their website if you know where to look. One of the things they do is carry out a Household Travel Survey, which surveys 4,600 households in various parts of New Zealand each year. There’s plenty to look at, and you can check out various results at their transport survey, but for today I’ll look at a summary they put together on public transport use – taken from here.
The thing that stands out to me is a table showing the percentage of people who use public transport in NZ’s major cities. From this, 53% of Aucklanders surveyed hadn’t used PT at all in the last year. This put us on par with Christchurch and Dunedin, both of which are significantly smaller, neither of which have rail, and neither of which are particularly PT-oriented cities. We’re well behind Wellington, where only 27% of people hadn’t hopped on a train or bus at least once. Remember that (greater) Wellington is around the same size as Christchurch, and both cities are less than a third the size of Auckland.
Wow, that’s not a good start. How about people who haven’t used PT in the last month, but have in the last year? 17% of Aucklanders fell into this camp, in line with the other cities except for Wellington.
So, by this point, we can see that only 30% of Aucklanders had used public transport in the month before they were surveyed. We were in between Dunedin (26%) and Christchurch (34%), and well
behind Wellington where 46% of the people had used it at least once.
The last few lines of the table below are asking people how many days in the last month they had used public transport. I won’t dwell on it except to point out that half the Aucklanders who used PT in the last month hadn’t used it very often. Only 14% used it on 5 days or more, ahead of Dunedin (11%) but behind Christchurch (16%) and Wellington (27%).
These results for Auckland are pretty poor, by any stretch of the imagination. As New Zealand’s largest city, and keeping in mind that public transport should be better utilised as cities get bigger, Auckland is dragging the chain.
I was genuinely quite shocked that public transport use in Auckland is not much higher than in Dunedin. Aucks is more than ten times the size of Dunners. I studied in Dunedin for the first 18 months of my Bachelor’s and never used public transport once. A lot of students would have been the same – the vast majority live within walking distance of the university. I would imagine that PT use by tertiary students is much higher in Auckland than in Dunedin, and (given Dunedin’s large student numbers, compared to its size) that’s probably the only thing that puts us above the southern city in terms of how often Aucklanders use public transport.
Coming in behind Christchurch is pretty embarrassing too, and not a little surprising. As mentioned above, Christchurch is a third the size of Auckland, and doesn’t have rail. Christchurch is a flat city which lends itself well to walking and cycling, and Cantabrians tend to do more of both.
Wellington is leaps and bounds ahead of Auckland, but I think we all knew that. I think these results are a pretty telling scorecard, and, to put it mildly, Auckland doesn’t look too flash. The majority of Aucklanders never use public transport at all, and most of those who do don’t use it very often. Two basic questions come out of this:
- Why don’t Aucklanders use PT very often?
- How do we improve PT usage in Auckland?
Questions that are answered in a number of different posts in this blog! A redesign of the network, and rail electrification, should help boost patronage over the next few years. But the thing is, we should really be aiming to get to where Wellington is now in the short to medium term. Anything less is short-changing ourselves in my opinion.