Last year John Key caused a bit of outrage by saying that Wellington was a dying city but particularly when it comes to transport, perhaps he was right. A couple of articles yesterday about transport in Wellington helped to highlight this so in this post I’m going to look at a number stats about and associated with transport in the region.
First up let’s have a look at a couple of key stats that have an impact on transport, population and jobs.
As you can see from Stats NZ estimates, Wellington’s population is growing but it isn’t growing that fast (when compared to somewhere like Auckland) and you can see the growth has been slowing down over the last decade or so.
Jobs in the Wellington region are still down on the peak of 2008 but not by too much (3%). Some areas appear to have been harder hit than others though, with Upper Hutt down 12% (1450 jobs) and Lower Hutt down 8% (3670 jobs). These changes are bound to have had some impact on travel but probably not massive amounts.
On to transport. The first article that caught my attention was this one on the current proceedings from the Board of Inquiry hearing into the proposed flyover around the Basin Reserve. The NZTA’s expert witness used the same argument of the insane traffic modelling that traffic volumes are just about to go up so we need to build build build.
Today Mr Kelly attacked the view that the flyover was not needed because more young people were choosing not to own cars these days.
He acknowledged traffic growth had been low or flat in recent years, and that some of that could be attributed to declining car ownership.
But, in his view, the economic downturn was more to blame.
“This should be no surprise. We all know of individuals and companies who have restricted their travel as a result of belt-tightening during the period of economic contraction.”
In recent months, economic indicators had been pointing to a return to more traffic growth as the economy rebounded, he said.
Mr Kelly also produced research by ANZ Bank that showed GDP growth since 2009 had been mirrored by a rise in the number of heavy vehicles on the nation’s roads.
There are two and bit issues in here. Dealing with the easy one first, the ANZ data which is known as the Truckometer. What’s important to remember is that the rise in the number of heavy vehicles isn’t an indication of what will happen with private vehicles which are invariably the ones that contribute most to congestion. Further the Truckometer is at a national level not a regional one so rises in trucks volumes in other parts of the country doesn’t mean they are in Wellington.
The Wellington vehicle fleet continued to rise in both total number and on a per capita basis until 2007 before flat-lining or even falling slightly so likely economy related although I suspect also related to PT (which I will touch on shortly. Interestingly there has been a spike this year presumably as people have started feeling happier about the economy. Due to the way the stats are done I wonder if we might see them drop slightly next year as cars that are no longer in the fleet work through the numbers.
The map and graphs below show traffic volumes on some of the state highways over 20 years and as you can see, they have been almost flat for that entire time.
Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT)
In total VKT remains flat around Wellington and despite a small rise around 2009 it’s at around the same level it was in the early 2000’s. On a per capita basis the length of vehicle trips has fallen by about 10% since 2000/01.
So with the exception of a spike in the vehicle fleet, it doesn’t look like traffic volumes are about to suddenly rise. That is unless the GRWC continues to drive public transport in Wellington into a bit of a death spiral.
The pinch of bus fare rises is causing Wellington commuters to desert public transport – but the regional council has responded by raising fares further.
Bus patronage had not increased since 2008, yet fare revenue was expected to rise 3 per cent annually in Greater Wellington Regional Council’s long-term plan.
Councillors voted yesterday to increase bus and train fares. Smartcard and multi-trip fares would rise in October by 1 per cent, and cash tickets by 50 cents in certain zones.
The public can give feedback on the decision during the council’s Annual Plan consultations in April.
Councillors Sue Kedgley, Nigel Wilson, Gary McPhee and Paul Bruce voted against the increase.
The graph below shows the patronage across the different PT modes in Wellington. Growth has remained stubborn and is bound not to be being helped by fare increases. As I said above I can see a PT Death Spiral starting to form where increasing fares drives passengers away but then the fares are increased further in a bid to make up for what has already been lost but further alienating even more customers. If it continues then perhaps the prediction about heaps more cars will come true. It’s quite sad really.
There’s probably a heap more graphs that could be included but this will do for now.
Edit: Meant to include this graph showing PT patronage per capita