This is a Guest Post by reader Luke Christensen
There has been much concern regarding stalling rail patronage recently. This was a substantial topic of discussion at both the Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting and the CCO Strategy Review Committee last Wednesday. At the latter Auckland Transport was criticised by the Mayor and the councillors for its attempt to lower patronage targets for 2013/2014 to 10.6 million, from 11.4 million. In the end the council won the battle and the 11.4 million target was retained. There is also of course the longer term issue of the government pushing for 20 million trips a year for the CRL to start construction earlier than 2020.
At the meeting a range of initiatives the Auckland Council transport team presented a range of ways to improve patronage, and issues that might arise.
- Improved Interpeak and Weekend Patronage
The report mentions that weekend frequencies on the Western Line can be improved to half hourly. However there are also some other easy wins, such as increasing Manukau services to half hourly during off-peak periods, and increasing off-peak Western Line frequencies to 15 minutes. Currently there are only half hourly frequencies between about 10am and 2pm.
- Parnell Station
Parnell station has been delayed until 2015 as it is not suitable for diesel operation.
- Manukau Institute of Technology
MIT campus above the Manukau station will open early 2014. However interestingly enough better than hourly frequency will not commence until the end of 2014 which seems very strange. There should be spare diesels during day, and is much better to get people used to using rail from day one.
- New bus network
The new bus network will not be implemented in South Auckland until early 2015, so will not provide a boost until then. This is due to need for retendering, and building new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau stations.
- Park and Ride
Swanson and Glen Eden Park and Rides will be expanded soon. However this blog has often noted than P&R is not a great long term strategy to improve ridership, and is a very expensive way of doing so.
- Fare Strategy Initiatives
The report highlights the excellent Greater Wellington Regional Council fare proposals. This report recommended family passes and off-peak fares to help boost patronage.
Overall the report highlights it will be difficult to achieve major boosts in the next year. The major areas I think that should be pushed are in increasing off-peak frequencies using the diesel fleet and fare initiatives.
Auckland Transport seem to be taking a highly conservative approach to rolling out any new products on the AT HOP card. This is causing trouble as some people are losing very helpful discounts, such as the Northern Pass. Another example is the Discovery Day Pass will be scrapped in a couple of months. This cost $16 for unlimited travel on bus, train and some ferries. It should be very easy to add a $16 day cap to the AT HOP card, but this is not being done for some reason in the short term. Discounted weekend travel should also be very easy to roll out. A blanket fare reduction on weekends could be a interesting idea, parking is often cheaper on weekends so need an extra incentive to get people on public transport. Some things such as accompanied children travelling free can be done totally outside the AT HOP system, although it is best to ensure these are done as part of the HOP card, so the extra patronage can be counted!
Of course we should keep in mind it is just the short term picture that is concerning. Some election candidates are being very mischievous with there use of the ‘patronage is dropping’ phrase. In 1991 Perth had about the same patronage we do now (10 million). After electrification there was a huge jump, and they are now at 60 million, and there is no reason we can’t follow suit with Electrification, the City Rail Link and of course the Congestion Free Network.
Edit: The comments in this post have gone way off track. Skypath or other topics have nothing to do with the patronage targets that Auckland Transport have to achieve. If this discussion continues it is likely to lead to argument and frustration for everyone involved. Phil and Richard – we are sick of you hijacking threads arguing minute points as for one it puts many people off reading what others have to say – Matt