At Auckland Transport’s February board meeting there was a paper about the ongoing flattening of public transport patronage growth and ways in which Auckland Transport can look to grow patronage. Most of the paper consists of fairly boring excuses for the drop in patronage in recent months but towards the end of it there’s actually a bit of actual information on what Auckland Transport is trying to do about this drop.
These are some of the shorter term initiatives for rail:It’s interesting that all the initiatives seem to be focused on marketing campaigns rather than trying to find ways of actually improving the system. I quite like the focus on off-peak, shoulder-peak and weekend patronage as these are times where we have the rolling stock and infrastructure to cope with increased usage. The problem is that on many routes the service offered at these off-peak times is completely rubbish. For example we still have only hourly trains (and often just two car ADL sets) on the Western Line at weekends, with trains only running as far as Henderson on Sundays. Same goes for the Onehunga Line, even though there’s probably plenty of potential for off-peak trips on that line as people visit Onehunga for shopping or people from Onehunga travel to places like Newmarket or the city centre.
I do quite like the marketing approach though (which makes it even more depressing that the service offered will be so rubbish):Turning to bus, the focus here at least includes a number of actual improvements along with marketing. While of course the complete revision of the bus network is still sitting in the background as something to be rolled out over the next three years, at least there are a number of “minor” improvements that were recently implemented:My general feeling is that these have been good changes – especially by improving access to the University and AUT from the North Shore. Other initiatives, particularly focusing on improving the reliability of services, have been rolled out in recent times or will be in the future:While these are all good initiatives, they do seem like the kind of thing Auckland Transport should be doing as business as usual, rather than as any particular initiative to turn around the stagnation of patronage growth.
I do think that rollout of the AT Hop card across buses and trains (whenever that’s finally completed) should be a significant boost to both rail and bus patronage, largely as it should make it easier for people to take spontaneous journeys and easier to transfer between services. The new bus network, once it starts to rollout from the middle of next year, is also likely to make a big improvement, but I think that needs to be complemented by other matters. Nothing breathtakingly unusual but a proper commitment to rolling out more bus lanes, undertaking a detailed examination of delay points across all routes on the bus network and targeting small-scale infrastructure improvements to fix those issues (like where intersection signalisation is necessary to enable buses to avoid traffic jams from cars trying to pull out onto the main roads) and other small things like proper traffic light pre-emption by buses. In other words, a whole myriad of little things to make the buses go quicker.
Oh, and Auckland Transport should be the strongest advocates for getting rid of minimum parking requirements – though the benefits of that change will really only pay off in the longer term as the biggest subsidy for driving is slowly wound back.