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Auckland’s Historic PT Patronage

Some comments the other day raised the question about what led to patronage dropping so much in the late 1950′s. Was it the removal of the tram network or was it the opening of the Harbour bridge, the motorways and the introduction of cheaper cars. In a way it is kind of a chicken or egg debate. It was sparked by this graph from Auckland Transport and thankfully they had previously provided me with the data behind it allowing us to look at the info in more detail.

Population, cars and Public transport use (1925 - 2012) 1

So let’s have a look at things in more detail. I think that there are four distinct periods in the history of PT patronage in Auckland and with the exception of the one we are in now, they conveniently each lasted about 25 years. I characterise these four periods as:

  • The Rise – 1920 to 1945
  • The Fall – 1946 to 1970
  • The Bounce – 1971 to 1995
  • The Revival – 1996 to Now

The Rise

By 1920 electric trams had been plying Auckland for almost two decades (having replaced Horse drawn trams) and they had enabled the city to spread out across large portions of the central isthmus. Effectively where the trams went, development followed and the suburbs were designed to make trams easy to use. This is most noticeable in the western side of the isthmus where most houses were within 400m walking distance of a tram route. Further looking at aerial images from 1940 on the councils GIS viewer, it doesn’t appear that there were very many houses outside of the areas covered in the map below

city_trams1-650

400m catchment from the former tram lines. (thanks to Kent)

Patronage during this time was clearly affected by the great depression however rebounded afterwards then surged during the war thanks to the rationing of fuel and rubber as well as the increase participation in the workforce to support the war. The graph below shows patronage by mode up for this period. As you can see the trams carried the vast majority of passengers with over 80% of all trips occurring on them. Auckland’s population during this time went from around 150,000 to just under 300,000 however even at the lowest point, there were an average of over 240 trips per person per year. During the war patronage peaked at over 420 trips per person per year.

By Mode 1920-1945

The Fall

As you would expect, after the war patronage decreased however it didn’t fall back to pre-war levels and instead stayed above 100 million trips per year. All up by 1950 patronage had only decreased by ~11% from its wartime peak. While the total number of cars in NZ had definitely increased over time, annual new car registrations were still below levels seen during the depression, so much so that between 1945 and 1950 the total vehicle fleet in NZ had only increased by 12%. Per capita usage in 1950 was around 330 trips per person.

A tram in Queen St 1949 – Queen Street, Auckland city. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-7171-06. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23214342

Unfortunately our city leaders fell hook line and sinker for the utopian dream spreading out from the US that cars and buses powered by petrol and diesel were the future. It was decreed that buses were to replace the trams and in typical Auckland fashion, we not only proceeded to do this but extremely rapidly – and likely very expensively – pulled out the entire tram network over roughly a 6 year period. What was likely an initial optimism about the future of Public Transport seemed to be wiped away once people actually tried the new bus services and by the time the last tram was removed from the city in 1956, patronage had plummeted from over 105.5 million in 1950 to around 66.5 million in 1957.

During this time period the first motorways also started to be completed and by 1957 sections on the Northwestern were open between Lincoln Rd and Pt Chev while the Southern motorway was open between Ellerslie -Panmure Highway and Redoubt Rd. It’s interesting to question how much impact they would have had on PT patronage initially as both ended outside of furthermost extent of the former tram network. Car ownership throughout NZ also increased during this time which I suspect is partly due to more being available and partly people not happy with the bus options being provided.

After the sharp fall caused by the removal of the tram network, patronage then went into a steady decline as the car culture became further entrenched and more and more motorway extensions were opened. Despite what one person has suggested, the only noticeable impact of the harbour bridge opening seems to have to the ferries which is understandable.

By Mode 1945-1970

The Bounce

By 1972 public transport patronage had reached a low of just 42 million trips per year and then the oil crisis hit. Almost instant it seems as though patronage bounced back with it increasing by over 10 million trips in a year. From there it bounced around between 50 and 60 million trips a year for around 15 years. I don’t know the history behind it but it also seems odd that just as oil prices spike, we obviously started pulling out the trolley buses and replaced them with diesel ones. Both trains and ferries had little to no impact on patronage during this time period.

I have also called it the bounce because the increases experienced didn’t last. By the late 80s petrol prices started to decline once again in real terms. Around the same time (or early 90′s) reforms made it much easier and therefore cheaper to import cars which saw PT patronage fall away again to new lows. In 1994 we reached the lowest point ever with just over 33 million trips in the year.

By Mode 1970-1995

The Revival

Bus patronage started to see a revival in the late 90′s spurred on primarily on buses. I’m not entirely sure what started it so perhaps some readers can fill me in. In 2003 Britomart opened which was really the turning point for the rail network, it initially saw some impact to bus patronage however both have grown and it has seen patronage climb back above 70 million trips. Incidentally the last time it was that high was the year the last of the tram lines were pulled out.

By Mode 1995-2012

Conclusion

So did greater availability of cars turn people off PT or were people put off PT by the removal of the tram network and pushed into using cars? I think it is a bit of both. Had the trams not been removed I suspect that patronage would still have dropped as car use became more prevalent however I doubt it would have fallen by as much as it did. Of course we can’t know for sure but I think we can say with certainty that Auckland would be quite a different city if we still had those tracks in place today.

For a total comparison, here is the total change experienced by mode since 1920.

By Mode 1920-2012 Stacked

And here you can see the impacts that at a per capita level. A rapidly increasing population has meant that despite recent gains in patronage are still not using PT anywhere as much as even a few decades ago.

Patronage vs per capita

73 comments to Auckland’s Historic PT Patronage

  • Pete

    I love trams, but you are revising history. Trams of the 1900 – 1950′s where slow, dangerous, expensive to maintain, had inflexible routes for the growing city etc. Those “American lies”, were the reality. Like it not people voted with their cars. Those selfish people wanted to get around 10% quicker and without screaming children, smelly, or drunk people jammed next to them

    • Sailor Boy

      Much like people now voting with their bums on buses and train seats?

      Yet we still refuse to fund them any more than a pittance.

    • Peter H

      Hello Pete
      you say dangerous – is this a fact

    • Pete, I think it is actually you who are revising history. Trams of the 1900-1950s were not slow, they were usually the fastest way to move around the city full stop. In those days most people didn’t have cars and major main roads were dirt or metal other that their sleepered tram tracks. The apparent inflexibility of routes is a red herring, back then Auckland was a monocentric city. People had groceries, fresh produce and local services within walking distance (literally a dairy on every corner for fresh dairy products), and everything else happened in the CBD. As the city grew, it grew outward along the tram lines. Also in those days, tram travel was the provenance of the middle class. Men wore ties and coats, ladies put on hats and gloves. There may have been the odd screaming child (although those tended to stay at home), but there were few drunks or “smelly people”. Likewise they weren’t expensive to maintain, or at least the expense of maintenance was not a burded because they made profit. Not just opex and maintenance, but capex too. Property developers invested money in tram extensions to new suburbs, in early days the land development was a loss leader to float their tram businesses.

      What really killed the trams was the war. Our fleet and network infrastructure was built to replace horse trams in the 1910s, largely, and was in service through the war and right into the 50s. During the war maintenance was deferred due to labour and material shortages. Come round to the dawn of the 50s and you had track, electrical systems and vehicles that had been in constant service for over 40 years, with a ten year backlog of repairs and maintenance. It was shagged. The easiest thing to do was scrap it and let private motorists and bus companies deal with the problem. Thank’s to wartime advances in production technology the western world was lined up and ready to start pumping out cars.

      Melbourne is a contrast to this. They were late to the tram game, still installing a parts of a large cable tram network at the time Auckland had gone electric. They got round to converting to electric ‘normal’ trams in the 1920s and 30s mostly, meaning that when the war kicked off their system was more or less brand new. After the war they were replete with a perfectly serviceable network only a decade or two old and therefore faced none of the backlog pressures to just dump the system. Analysis at the time showed it would cost more to remove that to operate for another decade, so they kept it.

      End result, Melbourne had a good reason to keep it’s trams operating intact through the autopia days of the 50s and 60s, and were reminded of their value in the oil shocks that followed. Auckland on the other had had good reason to rip them out in the face of the automotive dream, and was left with nothing to do during oil shocks but ration driving with carless days.

    • And Pete I for one don’t ‘love trams’ or for that matter ‘hate cars’. It isn’t about the quality of individual vehicles at all. I certainly suffer from no longing nor nostalgia for rattly old trams or cars, and am amazed by the engineering quality and sometimes grace and beauty of new versions of both.

      It’s about the service and the social, economic, environmental and city making externalities of all forms of infrastructure that have the lasting impacts; machines come and go.

      And it is important to note that a standard way of breaking away from a current system is to allow it to fall into decline and point to how old and under performing it is. We very nearly lost our rail right of way in Ak that way (and would have without the freight use) and it is how the current management is further dismantling the national rail network.

      This is nothing other than a shortsighted and special interest-group-serving fraud.

      As for modern Light Rail, I do expect it to return to replace a few very busy bus routes sometime in the medium term in Auckland- yes I’m looking at you Dominion Rd/ Queen St. But no more silly museum pieces except, of course, in museums.

    • @Pete In Peter Newman’s book Fighting Traffic he exhaustively dismantles the “people voted with their feet”, or consumer-demand theory.

    • TheBigWheel

      “There are lies, damn lies and anecdotes” ..it’s dangerous to generalise from the particular, generally speaking(!)

      In contrast, Matt’s visualisations of the stats, his and Patrick’s commentaries and the body of literature from other analysts who have, as Kent says, studied these trends in depth effectively de-bunk myths. Like those in Pete’s post IMO and the nonsense we read in the Herald most days.

      What I like about this blog is that time and again, it “tells the stories” around the hard facts in persuasive and articulate way that the data alone cannot convey.

      Keep going guys!!

    • Geoff Houtman

      Pete, come off it bro. The trams Built Auckland as fast as Auckland could build the trams. Councillor Dunlop and his friends organised the hit, and not for any selfish reasons either ;-)

      Even with open fires and burning rubbish I bet the tram era residents had better air to breathe than us…

  • It isn’t of course just a movement issue. The parts of the city built by the tram network are still the most desirable on the isthmuth today; wide boulevards connected to a network of leafy narrower streets specifically designed for walkability to tram stops which are also nodes with local amenity like shops, parks, and schools. Designed for a world of people on the footpaths and in direct contrast to the post 1960 driving suburbs that discourage walking and make Transit provision difficult through route disconnection; made for a world of individual isolation in little tin boxes. Oh Brave New World.

    Nice summary Matt and it does underline the point that this is a dynamic field and that patterns of movement are always changing. We all alter our habits to fit with new opportunities, technologies, desires, and cost pressures [in time and money]. And that what we choose to build or not build will always have a huge influence on both how we move and how we live.

    Had we, like Melbourne, kept the trams, it is clear we would have a very different Auckland to today; a less auto-dependant one, and one with a much more varied character too…. But we didn’t, so now we need to make sure that what we do now is also not as one-eyed and naive as those who forced the motordom coup on Auckland in the 1950s.

  • Nick R

    The late 90s bus growth is usually attributed to policies that resulted in a big spike in foreign students living in the city. Often from
    East Asia the we’re used to PT, being foreign they didn’t automatically drive nor necessarily know how to, and being students they were predicated to saving money in transport, especially capital.
    End result, big bubble of residents who used PT exclusively, and at the time that meant buses.

    • IIRC (was at Uni 99-04), busways on places like Dominion Road opened which made it quicker to get into town by bus in peak. Over the next few years, a lot of the cheap carparks near Uni disappeared – along The Strand when the Port motorway extension started, and later Carlaw Park. So prices went from $4-5/day to $10+ pretty rapidly. AUT grew massively over that time too, which brought even more students into the city every day.

    • snow flake

      The fact that the road network was in a state of extreme congestion would have also helped boost PT usage, quite obviously.

      • Sailor Boy

        Can I quote you on that?

      • Not necessarily, back then the PT system was largely bus on street in traffic, so it would have been in a state of extreme congestion also.

        • snow flake

          Not necessarily, back then the southern, northern and western motorways were all two lanes each way. Thats why in the early 2000s they stared doing all those upgrades and completing the CMJ.

          And similar to today buses tended to not use the motorways all that much.

  • Sailor Boy

    I’d be quite interested to see something similar for the bridge, would be interesting to see just how well the busway is working.

  • snow flake

    Matt, like I asked yesterday. If as you say PT usage fell by 40 million when the tram lines got removed, why does the graph at the top show an increase of 5 million? Something is clearly not matching up here.

    • snow flake

      Oh, and that graph is different from the one we were talking about yesterday.

      • snow flake

        The graph yesterday quite clearly showed PT usage go up when the tram lines got removed and buses introduced.

        The first drop came when the SH 16 causeway was opened.

        • As I mentioned in the post. I don’t think that the opening of the first sections of motorways had anything to do with tram patronage dropping as the motorways were outside of the tram network so users of the tram network wouldn’t have suddenly been able to switch to the motorway for their trips.

          • snow flake

            Good to know, as I have said 3 times already. The large drops in patronage were seen in the years 1957 and 1960.

            In both cases after the tram network had already been removed and 1 year after a new road based water crossing was opened.

          • Your making things up now. Patronage in:
            1954 – 97.8m
            1955 – 90.5m -7%
            1956 – 77.4m -15%
            1957 – 66.5m -14%
            1958 – 66.2m 0%
            1959 – 62.2m -6%
            1960 – 61.3m -1%
            1961 – 58.5m -4%

            The big decreases happened while the tram network was removed.

          • snow flake

            I’m not making anything up, I’m referring to the graph we were talking about yesterday. I’d say either that graph was wrong or you are missing some data from the 1950 to 1960 range.

            If we do use your current graph the war time peak took some over 10 years to correct itself being about 1958. If there had been no war and no big uptake in cars you would have expected about 70 maybe 80 million trips. However the graph shows about 65 million so a normalised drop if 5 to 15 million.

          • You can’t just go making up what you think the number would have been. Per capita usage in 1954 was than in 1938 (which increased from 1937). The effects of the war appear to have had already worn off by then and the increased population meant increased patronage.

          • snow flake

            Matt, that is pretty much what you are doing. If you look at your own per capita graph the effects of the war lasted to almost 1960.

    • Probably a rouge bit of data. The graph is the same but I suspect they removed a few of those odd points. It could also have related to efforts to increase patronage, perhaps reductions in price or something.

  • Christopher T

    Possibly the trolley bus equivalent of the sparks effect? By the time they were taken out of service the trams were ancient; the trolley buses on the other hand were quite modern, spacious and comfortable, even if it was guaranteed that the poles would disengage from the wire outside the Mt Albert Methodist Church on New North Road.

  • Sanctuary

    “…Unfortunately our city leaders fell hook line and sinker for the utopian dream spreading out from the US that cars and buses powered by petrol and diesel were the future…”

    Not just our city leaders. Practically every city that could afford it fell in love with the cultural symbolism of the motor car post WW2. I think there is little point in arguing that some sort of terrible mistake occurred when we ripped up the tram tracks and turned our backs on PT. That is just 20/20 hindsight. Immediately post WWII New Zealand was relatively a very rich place, and the United States was at it’s very height of power and confidence and was unreservedly admired as the richest, most successful, and most powerful country in the world. And the ultimate symbol of America was the motor car. The American car symbolised post war, post depression prosperity and modernity. You only have to look at the cars from that time to know they were making as big a cultural as there were a transportation one. My Dad left home at fifteen in 1954 to work in a forestry camp. The first thing big thing he ever purchased was the biggest car he could afford. My Dad was a man of his time, and cars were the zeitgeist of those times.

    However, the graph shows us that times change and that nothing is forever. Cars have pased their zenith and the cost to the environment and of fuel prices, infrastructure and congestion all call for a more balanced future. The symbols of modern living, of advanced technology and urban sophistication is modern, clean, swift metro systems and buses. The zeitgeist has changed, it is just the minister of pies and the rest of the middle aged (and largely provincial) white males who sit around the cabinet table with him haven’t yet got the memo that culturally they are already irrelevant.

    • Sanctuary: Yes exactly. My view too, and right now we are at the start of the next phase again. The wheel is always turning. It’s never as easy to see the hinge points when you’re in the middle of them as in hindsight. For a really good background to this see the link below. It really starts about half way through, (you can skip over the intro about the billionaire) and was written back in 2005. Very good analysis of our culture’s relationship with the internal combustion engine. I am always on the look out for historians and economists who are awake to the role of physical resource availability and technology, and not just ideology and theory.

      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/12/23/173993/-Billionaires-for-Peak-Oil

    • SlowJoe

      “Not just our city leaders. Practically every city that could afford it fell in love with the cultural symbolism of the motor car post WW2.”

      Correct, but not many cities gave their people fewer transport options than Auckland gave theirs, post-War. Others cities ripped out their tram systems, but then extended and electrified their railway networks, in addition to building motorways. Auckland just got motorways.

  • Dan

    I’m glad you got to a per capita measure in the end. That is the one that matters and makes me question your naming of the periods: it looks more like the rise and fall or possibly the rise, fall and plateau.

    • harminder

      Yes, per capita is the key measure, I’d say. Even if this rate remains the same (because of norms, trends, etc like the ones Sanctuary suggests), the total number of PT trips will increase as the population increases, making it important to increase investment in PT with projects like the CRL, etc. Good post, Matt!

      BTW, could you include a “like” button beside each comment, so we can vote on comments we agree with?

      • Harminder we’ll look into that.

        And to both you and Dan, yes the per capita figure is the one and Auckland’s is very low by every measure; both International and historical comparison. Clear evidence of poor service provision and a lack of choice.

        And here’s the exciting and interesting opportunity: How much uptake would it take to make a big and observable difference to our congestion problem? The Council’s target of doubling the Transit and Active mode share looks both realistic in terms of that per capita figure and likely to materially decrease pressure on our lavish road network at the most critical times: the peaks.

        So for all those that react negatively to proposed investment in Transit and Active modes because ‘I’m never going to use a bus/train/bike’ miss the point. Hard core drivers in many ways have the most to gain through improvements in movement choice in Auckland; they get to benefit from the changes made by others, changes made possible by building up the ‘missing modes’ in our transport networks.

        It isn’t Transit versus Driving. It’s Transit and Active investment for drivers as well as users.

        • snow flake

          You know Patrick, after going through these graphs I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason for Aucklands loss in PT share is due to toomh choice rather than a shortage.

          If you track the data PT has been in decline since 1920 and it has only been when things reduce choice that PT share has gone up.

    • snow flake

      Yes the per capita one is very interesting. It shows the decline in PT usage started before 1920, some 30 years before we started building roads for cars.

      I do wonder what the reasons behind that are as it is clearly not the one we have been told.

      • Kevyn

        The only way to answer snowflakes question is to obtain census data for each of the boroughs and counties in the Auckland “region” to find out what proportion of the population growth was occurring in the tram catchments and how much was occurring outside those catchments, in the boroughs/towns that were to become the commercial/industrial centres of Waitakere, Manukau and North Shore cities. If these new population growth areas were also major employment growth areas designed to place work and home within walking distance of each other then the per capita PT use for the entire region would most definitely have fallen whilst the per capita stats for the tram catchment areas may have been growing. However, the actual per capita stats for each tram system were publish in the NZ Yearbook until the 1960s and there were only modest declines in per capita patronage within each town and bourough during the 1920s.

        • snow flake

          That is a good point Kevyn and quite a believable hypothesis. It would seem that pre 1920 Aucklands growth was already mainly occurring outside of the PT network showing a lack of investment or a new mind set that had prevailed for some 100 years.

          • Greg N

            If that is correct, then how did the people not using PT get around to and from these “distant” suburbs outside the PT area during this time?
            The total vehicle registrations line on the 1st graph shows pretty stable “flat line” growth over most of the 20′s and early 30s (as you’d expect during the Depression).
            And Bus/train etc trips weren’t going through the roof either.

            Petrol wasn’t that cheap 2/6 a gallon (50 cents in todays money but thats about $12 a gallon after inflation from 1925, but was the petrol price rate for most of the 20′s. (in todays equivalent prices, a gallon of 91 petrol would be $9 a gallon – assuming its $2.00 a litre). And cars didn’t get 30-40+ MPG like they can now either.

            And if you look at the total PT trips by mode share graph for the 1920′s to 1945 you see that modest growth in PT trips up to 1925, then a reasonable rise/fall pattern, with a big dip from 1929 to recover eventually to the same level as it was in 1929 on/or about 1938/39.

            Then the war came and that changed everything (Petrol rationing initially, then post 1941, other measures e.g. American GIs etc in/around Auckland who would have used PT to get around).

            So maybe the issue isn’t so much a ‘decline’ by people living outside the tram area – its also possible that the need to take a lot of PT trips implying travel outside ones immediate area of living/working, was not particularly great.

            This could equally be explained, by assuming that initially all those (then) new outlying suburbs (like say Greenlane, Three Kings, and Mt Eden/Albert etc) eventually “grew up” enough so that work, schools and other usual PT type destinations were plentiful enough to these locations but now all locally so that you didn’t need to hop the tram or whatever to go to town for shopping etc – you walked, or cycled or whatever instead to your “local” supplier?
            Didn’t movie theatres used to be in all these suburbs as I recall (mostly long gone now, and they wouldn’t have been built if there wasn’t demand for “local” movie theatres by residents would they?

            What you see here is the kinds of communities in these “suburbs” that we now miss taking shape, and PT demand dropping as a result of the lack of a need to travel far outside your suburb.
            This is a planners dream – local people using local shops and working locally, reducing the need to travel – isn’t this the nirvana Auckland Planners want future Auckland to have?

          • snow flake

            Greg, you question is answered in the post just after the one you responded to. From what I can work out from the data the PT provision in these new suburbs was of equal quality to that in the old tram suburbs.

            This meant that as the old parts of Auckland normalised from the war time peak new people in the new suburbs started to use PT which helped maintain the total number of trips.

        • snow flake

          Kevyn. After looking at the Auckland GIS website it seems you are on the right track. If one compares the 1940 photos to the 1960 photos it can be seen that pretty much all the growth was outside of the tram network. Over that time the cities population went from about 250k to 500k.

          The interesting thing however is that the trend of reducing PT trips per capita that was establish pre 1920 appeared to continue at a steady rate and actually started to level off. This would imply that the parts of the city outside of the old tram network had a similar level of PT to that of the new sections.

          Pretty much what I get from the graphs is that pre 1920 people had no choice but to use PT which then went through a 70 year transition of people exercise their choice.

          From there the city has got so large driving is becoming less of an affordable option and so we are seeing PT making a return.

          • Sailor Boy

            Another factor to consider right now is that we are starting to see some investment on PT for the first time in 50 years and are getting some really good BCRs because the network is approaching a critical quality, will be really interesting to see what happens immediately after electrification.

          • snow flake

            Sailor Boy. You are falling for the lies that are being posted on this website.

            If you look at the data posted you will see that what gets written in the text is often a miss interpretation of the data.

            For example. Over the past 15 years in Auckland some $2 billion has been spent on both highways and PT.

            If you then go back to the 50s the council spent a large amount of money doing what they thought was upgrading the PT system to buses. This investment in PT has continued since then as the city has grown.

            They even put money into trains when nobody was using them as they saw the potential.

            The issue has been that for the past 100 years people have been getting increased freedom for their mode of travel.

            The issue is that few people take into account the costs they put on society when they choose to drive.

          • Sailor Boy

            Snow Flake, grow up.

            If you think that PT has had anywhere near its fair share of the transport budget you are having a laugh. We have underinvested in it, and it got really bad, now it is starting to get better and reaching a transformational quality despite National’s attempts to destroy it.

            I would like to hear what investments you think have happened between say 1959 and 2000. Because removing tram tracks is an upgrade for private vehicles, and buses are generally not paid for by council.

            The only real investments we have seen since 1959 are the Manukau and Onehunga lines, the Northern Busway, and Britomart.

            In the same time we have built almost the entire motorway network that we have today, plus all the massive ‘local’ roads.

          • Snow Flake

            Salor Boy.

            For the past 50 years Aucklands PT system has been based on buses and so upgrades for PT have come indirectly through road upgrades. In addition to that you can’t possibly believe that not a single new bus was purchased for the city from 1950 to 2000.

            In terms of fair share of funding I never made any claims about that, I was opposing your claim that is hadn’t got any.

  • Greg N

    So the story of the decline of the trams here mirrors the UK Railways in Post WWII – both run into the ground during the war and immediately following,
    So much so,that the “new” Diesel powered alternatives probably seemed like the promised future that millions fought and died for in WWII – was finally arriving in the 50′s, hence the rush to embrace the new and discard the old.

    The “chicken and egg” question – did PT usage go down in the 50′s because of crappy bus services or because of crappy tram service?

    Reading the graph I believe the latter, because as was pointed out previously in this blog in another post, the old Trams had priority over cars/trucks so the tram service would be fast and reliable as per journey times.
    And while the trams were undoubtedly bone shakers and probably prone to the odd breakdown they did run more reliably than anything else.

    The key thing is that the trams had their own busway and prioritisation over other traffic, something we don’t have today for buses – only trains including Northen Expressway still have this today.

    Once you took the trams “off the road”, and replaced them with buses, then the buses would then be in the “same soup” of traffic as the rest of the road users were [which the trams avoided for the most part].
    And for Auckland in the 50′s traffic was a real nightmare – even worse at times than today. You can see that in old movie footage and photos. As Maurice Williamson used to run and point out in his unclog the arteries speechs just how bad Auckland traffic was “before the motorways”.

    So, as buses replaced more and more trams, the journey times and timetable reliability of the new buses plummeted too, this in turn meant less usage of the bus services.
    And also meant that anyone who could afford a car, went and bought one pronto as that way they were no worse off than “the poor saps using the buses” as they were at worst in the same traffic jams.
    But (from the car users point of view) at least the car users could go places where the buses or trams didn’t run – like the new motorways that were being built or promised to be built.

    So that put most of the downward pressure on PT usage, and all of this was before the bridge or any of the main motorways through town opened. And when these come to pass, PT usage had tanked.
    Hardly surprising – if you give people shitty service they vote with their feet for something else?

  • snow flake

    Another big item here is the war time peak.

    Looking at the graph the pre war usage was about 70 million. If you normalised the growth from then on PT usage from then on would have seen it in the range of 70 to 75 million by 1960 assuming cars remained as affordable as they were through 1920 to 1940.

  • Dave

    One tram line you left out was the Victoria Ave route which ran from Remuera Rd to Shore Rd. Even the people of Remuera used PT back then.

    • Greg N

      Didn’t a tram also run to Mission Bay as well?
      I recall Frank Sargeson, in his short story (well Novella really) “That Summer” which was partly set in the Depression era Auckland, that the main protagonist got the Tram to Mission Bay more than once.
      [and in one case rob money from someone to get the tram fare back to Auckland]. But maybe I’m mis-remembering it.

      Can’t recall about trams beyond Mission Bay, though I did read that there was an extensive local “Motor bus” network along the Eastern Bays roads (using Kepa and St Heliers Bays roads) which eventually got taken over by the Council? Bus operator.

      This link http://stheliers.com/our-community/our-history/timeline has some interesting growth stats for St Heliers, from 24 in 1901 census to over 1700 in 1926 – but mainly in St Heliers due to the use of Ferries to get to/from Auckland.

      • No trams to Mission Bay

        • Geoff Houtman

          All the way to Onehunga Wharf though, Thats only two stages away from Australia…

        • Mike

          I think that tram map is copyright, from the Quail Map Company’s NZ Railway and Tramway Atlas.

        • Swan

          bottom right corner. A horse drawn one to St Heliers? The “northcote and st Heliers” land company. I am fairly sure there was a horse drawn tram up queen st in northcote, so maybe the same to mission bay?

          • Nick R

            I believe the Northcote and Bayswater-Pupuke trams were steam powered, but could be wrong.

            Almost certain there was never a tram to Mission Bay. Tamaki Dr didn’t even exist until the late 20s, prior to that most people went by boat.

  • Why we think Vancouver is a good model:

    • tuktuk

      What is the mode breakdown for Vancouver? And, very specifically, how does the housing density work along the various transit corridors? Do the driver-less metro lines rely on walk-up catchment, or on transfers from buses? How dense does the housing need to be to support a Vancouver style driver-less metro line? Capital costs are massive, but the operating costs appear to be low in comparison to other modes. Given that all stations will be grade separated, gated and staffed, this implies a very high level of potential catchment being required.

      Looking at North Shore for example…..could high rise tower blocks alongside the motorway particularly through the Glenfield basin provide the spur to build metro to the shore? The tower blocks may need to be mixed use – retail on bottom floor, say 7 floors of office space, then 10 floors of residential…..this gets the residential well above the motorway noise and fumes. Views from the upper levels should be good if you can see over the ridge-line of East Coast Bays, and out to the west and back to the city. From the motorway, the effect may be a little like the motorway beside The Terrace in Wellington where one looks out toward a high rise wall…. ie no big deal.

      The Glenfield Basin itself is typical warehousing and big box retail – in other words ripe for re-development into transit-style development. Glenfield is close to the CBD but – near the motorway, there are no established residential neighborhoods to jump and up and down.

      Is residential and office space possible and feasible in a typical tower design?

      • Nick R

        I do know that 55% of skytrain passengers get to the station by bus. Vancouver has only one significant Park n Ride so most of the rest would be walk up (or cycle, drop off etc).

        Based on that statistic alone you can say that housing doesn’t need to be dense at all to support driverless metro, the vancouver system would still be very efficient (in terms of ridership per station) with bus passengers alone. Obviously their intensification helps plenty but it doesn’t appear to be a requirement.

        • Interesting stats Nick R. Can you provide sources?

          • Nick R

            I have it from a presentation given by some Skytrain staff that I found on the web, It’s a wealth of data on the system. Since been taken down but if you want a copy email me. See the contact us tab.

        • tuktuk

          Vancouver seems to offer a good pathway for Auckland to follow to get back to the sorts of PT ridership levels experienced in the early 1950s. Interesting from what you are saying that density is not essential to achieve the goal. Vancouver must have one very well thought out bus network that has achieved a high level of market share. The Vancouver PT network and how it overlays across the urban form of the Vancouver region is a very worthwhile case study and one that I would like to find out more about.

          Automated metro – I actually think there is a good case to link a cross harbour link with an intensely developed nodal point on the North Shore. Such a node would provide a “northern anchor”, allowing a North Shore automated metro corridor to grow from there.

          Takapuna – an existing centre but situated away from the motorway and with more than its share of wealthy nIMBYs, or a re-developed Glenfield straddling the motorway?

          • snow flake

            The big thing that Vancouver had going for it is that a very large portion of the city is the old grid system which makes driving a very slow process.

            If you look at most of their main roads taking you to the working areas you are required to go through countless signal controlled intersections.

            In order to follow the same path in Auckland all we need to do is slow down our arterial roads by adding more signals and stop conditions. Once driving becomes less attractive we will then see an increase in PT usage.

          • Vancouver is covered in a half mile grid of 60km/h multilane arterials. If by countless signal controlled intersections you mean one intersection every half mile then ok, but Auckland’s arterials are much worse that that already. On our arterials intersection spacing is a quarter mile or closer.

          • snow flake

            Referring to the Vancouver in Canada their arterial roads generally have a signal controlled intersection ever 200m. Sometimes stretching out to 300-400m.

            Then comparing to Auckland New Zealand, 3 of our main arterial roads have no signals at all, and the other ones have one every 1km or so.

            So in comparison, if you try to drive to work in Vancouver you will go through about 5 times as many signal controllediersection and generally be limited to an average speed of about 30km/h in free flow conditions. In Auckland your free flow average speed would be about 80km/h on half the arterials.

          • According to the TomTom survey their average freeflow speed across the whole network is 56km/h, and 43km/h at peak times. Obviously that includes their motorways too.

            If you drive to work in Auckland you won’t be doing it at an average of 80km/h, even if you did night shifts.

          • snow flake

            You will notice in Vancouver that once you are about 10km from the city road network turns into a rather modern layout wutwith plenty of motorways andaess cincontrolled arterials.

            So although driving to the CBD is a slowa painful option those that aren’t going there can zip around quite easily.

            Note that I said “free flow average speed would be about 80km/h on half the arterials”, I never made any claims about the total journey as you suggest.

          • tuktuk

            ‘the old grid system’.
            Now why does that not surprise me considering that Vancouver regularly rates as one of the more livable cities with an enviable international reputation.
            This would be ‘old grid system’ that encourages civic spaces, pleasing housing developments, functional mixed use environments – residential/office/retail, walk-ability, cycling, and oh yes….. functional and well used PT.

            I’m going to argue that average vehicle speed is but a minor factor in the economic, social and environmental attractiveness of cities – if the other things as detailed above are done right, to which I would also add excellent telco/broadband, and generally good access to global transport and communications.
            Unfortunately because of the formulae in NZTA’s “Economic Evaluation Manual” used to build business cases for roads, average vehicle speed in NZ has taken on an unhealthy priority.

          • snow flake

            Tuktuk, civic spaces don’t have anything to do with a grid, it’s more to do with the way a city is developed sacrificing some development space to make the area as a whole nicer.

            If you look at the old part of the city it is about as unattractive as things can get for driving being required to make your way through an endless grid of intersections, and once on the main roads there are still intersections every 200 to 400m.

            Given its so hard and slow to drive thereilittle benefit in doing so and so you get a high levamount of PT usage.

            Although walking may be nice ultimately you need to walk for miles to get anywhere and so again you get people using PT.

            Pretty much Vancouver shows what things can be like if you make driving hard to do. And in a way it looks quite nice from doing so.

          • Sailor Boy

            Glenfield is worse that Takapuna for NIBYs put a northern centre at Albany.

    • Ross Clark

      But what is really striking is that Portland’s per capita numbers are *not* that much stronger than Seattle’s, *despite* all the investment/light rail/planning rules/etc etc. OTOH Canadian cities have much higher rates of bus use than equivalent American cities, despite equivalent levels of car ownership and income.

  • Richard Horner

    I don’t know how Pete could say the trams were slow. When the trams stopped in 1956 we lived at Bayswater and I recall going with my parents to see friends in Mt Roskill. A ten minute ferry ride to down town then tram along Dominion Road. The tram fair rocketed along Dominion Road at well over the 30 mph limit of the day. Not all of the equipment was old and run down the “streamline” trams were not as old as many buses today the one at Motat for example I noted when there yesterday was built in 1939.

    Many factors occurred in favour of cars in the 50′s – 60′s. It was very difficult and expensive to buy cars then and new cars required use of overseas funds which most new Zealanders didn’t have, my Father had a UK Navy pension and purchased several new cars in the late 50′s / 60′s and sold them back to the dealer at twelve months for more than he paid for them. The dealers then sold them as near new at a premium price!!! This requirement came off I think in the late 60′s and any body could buy new cars and they depreciated accordingly thus making vehicle purchases cheaper.

  • Ross Clark

    Richard – yes, buying and operating a car was extremely expensive for many years – that is why the Australians used to joke that New Zealand was the land where Morrie Minors went to die. I am not sure that this is appreciated. Another factor is that in the prewar period New Zealand had one of the highest rates of motorisation in the world. In the post war period, the effective demand for private transport was at least as strong as today, even if that demand was suppressed. That is why my father’s generation grew up riding motorcycles. Perhaps the surprising thing is not why car ownership grew but why public transport survived at all

    The critical change was in the mid-1980s, when we changed our policies to allow what was known at the time as the “Jap import”. This dropped the capital cost of motoring by around a quarter (? – IIRC) and had the added benefit of reducing the number of motorcycles on the road quite substantially as well – with a very positive fillip for our road safety statistics.

  • JeffT

    You’ve included that graph again, Matt, on Auckland public transport use by mode. I’m always interested to see the fall in tram usage in the early 1950′s and the rise in bus usage. It’s quite an example of forced demand by the government. Did the public have any say in this? Public consultation like we are getting for developmental matters today? Maybe that wasn’t the thing back then.

    • Greg N

      I’d bet it was the same level of consultation that was had about putting the motorways through town creating the moat we have today.

    • SlowJoe

      New Zealand was a very conservative, conformist society in the 1950s. Perhaps the public just expected their leaders to do “the right thing.”
      On the other hand, Paul Mees mentions newspaper polls indicating that the early 50s rail plan was popular with the public. In his version of events, it was a small group of roads engineers that hijacked the council’s decision-making, steering it towards the Master Transportation Plan. It was then offered to the public as a fait accompli and proceeded with.

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