February 2015 Patronage

We’d already heard about the spectacular rail patronage results of passing 13 million trips, an increase of 1 million in just 5 months. Now we’ve got the full patronage information for February and it’s looking good.

2015-02 - Patronage Table

One of the aspects I noticed in the table above is the Western line appears to have dropped however AT say that is just because of the timing of events last year and so if removing special event tickets from the numbers of each year shows patronage growth for the month of 9.8%.

One impressive aspect about the rail growth is that the total patronage in February was higher than any single month last year despite being only 28 days and including a public holiday. Only one month – October 2011 which was the peak thank to the RWC – has higher and the difference is only around 2,000 trips.

The total patronage growth is shown below.

2014-02 - AKL - Total Patronage

Other than the rail results it’s also pleasing to see buses growing so strongly. The Northern Express (NEX) is obviously still up strongly but other buses which carry the bulk of patronage are increasing too. For the 12 months to the end of Feb patronage was 7.6% (around 4 million trips) compared to the same time last year.

2014-02 - AKL - Bus Patronage

With results so strong I’m really looking forward to seeing just how big the numbers are for March. Given what I’ve been seeing and hearing about how full trains, buses and ferries are the results could be absolutely massive. Of course we’ve also been hearing a lot about buses and trains being so full that it’s putting people off using them, especially on the rail network where issues and delays have become an almost daily occurrence.

On issues, this is showing through in the train punctuality stats which have shown a decline in recent months and it can also in part be attributed to services being too full increasing dwell times. I suspect the 78% the western line managed to achieve could go much lower in March.

2014-02 - AKL - Train Performance

We also have Wellington’s patronage results for Feb which have remained flat. The monthly figures for buses and trains were down 0.2% and up 0.1% respectively. Due to growth over the last year they were both up on the 12 month figure though.

2014-02 - WLG - Total Patronage

West Auckland and Pukekohe/Waiuku New Network Consultation Outcome

Reports to the Auckland Transport board next week gives the outcome of the West Auckland and Pukekohe/Waiuku new network consultations that occurred last year.

West Auckland

In total AT say they had 1242 submissions on the network with an equal number (41% each) supporting and opposing the changes with the rest neutral. Given the changes that have been made as a result of the feedback AT expect the number of people who opposed the change will reduce.

New Network West Support

Before going into the feedback it must be remembered that the network was essentially compromised by the delaying of bus interchanges at Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu Rd. That meant that instead of being able to implement the new network as originally envisioned an interim network was needed which retained a higher number of low frequency services as shown below.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

Some of the notable demographics of submitters include

  • 60% of submitters are women which is not too dissimilar to the break down we saw in the Census data.
  • 58% of submitters are over 40 years old. Young people who tend to be the majority of PT users are very under represented with just 18% of submissions coming from those less than 30.
  • Perhaps aligned with the age numbers, 59% of submitters work while only 13% of submitters are students.
  • Of all submitters only 115 said they don’t currently use PT.

In total AT say they have made changes to 11 of the 24 routes originally proposed and that will mean it does cost more to run the network. These extra costs would not likely have been needed if the two interchanges were in place which once again highlights that having the right PT infrastructure can help save on operational costs. The 11 changes are below

New Network West Changes

And the map below shows what the official network will look like.

New Network West Post Consultation Map

And for the rural services these are the maps. AT said “Extending rail services past Swanson was outside the scope of this consultation and is not currently being investigated”

New Network West Post Consultation Map - rural

The report also mentions there was a lot of support for the development of the Northwest busway with 65% of people supporting or strongly supporting it and only 12% who opposed or strongly opposed it.

New Network West NW Busway

Pukekohe/Waiuku

There seems to have been much stronger support for the changes in Pukekohe and Waiuku. All up there were 939 submissions of which 643 discussed the Pukekohe changes and 542 discussed the Waiuku changes. Of those there was respectively a 90% and 95% level of support.

New Network Puke-Waiuku Support

There has been one change made to the Pukekohe network and of the three options originally presented, option 1 has been chosen and a modified version of option 3 will also be run.

New Network Pukekohe Post Consultation Map

 

New Network Waiuku Post Consultation Map

I understand we should see the next area for consultation in a few months.

The Demographics of Travel to Work

The last census was two years ago and there’s already been a lot of analysis of the results of it. In terms of transport the census asks about Journeys to Work and while it is a fairly flawed metric due to it ignoring other trip generators like journeys to education – a large component of the morning peak in particular – it still has shown some interesting results. From it we know that in Auckland the number of people commuting to work by car increased, however it has partially come from fewer people carpooling and even more importantly it was eclipsed by the number commuting by PT. Add in the strong growth in people using active modes and there’s been the below shifts in modeshare.

modeshare-change-percent

PV = private vehicle

 

I just happened to be looking at Stats NZ a few days ago and came across data giving a demographic break down of the results which is something I haven’t seen before and the results are fascinating. In particular the results that caught my attention the most were those by age and gender and how that had changed over time.

First up the total number of people who said they worked on Census day and you can clearly see from this the aging of the baby boomer generation.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Total

Unsurprisingly the number of people driving a private vehicle to work looks fairly similar to the graph above. What is interesting are the other private vehicle categories of driving a company vehicle, driving a motorbike or scooter and being a passenger in a car.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Private Vehicle

Moving on to public transport I’ve only shown bus and train below because ferries are included in the Other category. What’s remarkable about the changes is that it so clearly shows that the growth in PT is being driven by the younger generations. The question is what the people in these younger age groups will do once they start getting older and having families etc. The changes in the older age groups suggest that the numbers using PT won’t drop off as much as they have in the past which will have big implications for mode share in the future.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Public Transport

I’ve also looked at the data for Wellington and while most categories have a fairly similar profile to Auckland, the one that stands out as being dramatically different is in train use. I suspect that as Auckland’s network matures it will start to look more like Wellington’s does now.

Census Journey to Work by Age - AKL & WLG- train

Next up are the active modes of walking and cycling with two very different trends. For walking its young people driving the change whereas for cycling it’s older generations making the shift.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Active

Lastly it’s the Other – which is likely to primarily be ferries – and those who worked from home. The latter is primarily made up of people who live in rural areas and the wealthier coastal areas places within the urban area.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Other

 

Overall there are some very interesting changes happening with how we travel and those are primarily occurring in non-car modes. If the younger generations continue to keep the current trends up then it’s likely to have big implications for how people get around in the future. The question is whether what we’re building is going to support that change or hinder it.

The other piece of demographic information available is mode usage based on gender. Unlike age the gender split over each mode doesn’t seem to be changing much over time but what the data does highlight is that there is quite a lot of variance between the two based on which mode is looked at. Overall 54% of those who said they were working are men versus 46% women.

In the graph below are the total numbers of each gender for each mode – with the exception of Driving a Private Car as it’s so large it makes it difficult to see the other results. The first thing you notice is how over represented men are in driving a company vehicle. This is also the case for riding motorbike or cycling. In the other modes more women than men are likely to be a car passenger, use PT, walk or work from home.

Census Journey to Work by Gender & Mode - Auckland

To highlight the degree of over or under representation the graph below shows this for females (the opposite can obviously bee seen for males). Of these the quickest and easiest I think that we could change would be cycling and to do that it is essential we make our roads safer through far greater use of cycle infrastructure.

Census Journey to Work Female Over-Under Representation - Auckland

If anyone wants to look into this deeper this info is also available by local board level which I’m sure would show some interesting results between different parts of Auckland.

Tomorrow is transit driver appreciation day

Tomorrow is “Transit driver appreciation day“:

“Consider this… For hours on end, transit drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more, all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces! The fact is, transit drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way. On March 18th, join us in celebrating the contributions of our hard-working bus drivers and rail operators! That could be as simple as a smile and a wave when you board the bus or train, and a “thank you” when you leave. You can also print out and personalize any of the thank-you cards below to show your appreciation in person, and you can help spread the word using the sharing links provided. And, don’t forget to submit an official commendation for a job well done, so your drivers can be formally recognized for their efforts.”

At times, I find the discourse around public transport can be rather negative.

This is somewhat understandable in a city such as Auckland, where many people are aspire for better service. Most of the issues with our current system, however, reflect decades of neglect and under-investment by central, regional, and local councils (representatives and public servants). Many of these representatives and public servants got inculcated in the cult of motordom, and subsequently “strategically misrepresented” the benefits/costs of private vehicles versus public transport.

None of this, however, is the fault of our drivers.

Nor are they usually at fault for running late (who would want to run late?), or for their bus being full, or for running out of change because too many people by cash.

Indeed, my personal experience is that drivers are almost universally decent people, if not downright pleasant. One Ritchies driver I was talking to told me that the best part of his job was driving over the Harbour Bridge with a bus load of people in the morning peak. He said it gave him immense pleasure to know that he’d made a positive contribution to so many people’s lives. Many of whom he recognised as being regular customers.

Yes there’s the odd bad experience, e.g. I have been left flailing at a stop as a bus drives past in the middle of the night. But in my experience these are the exception not the rule.

They also seem more likely to result in a bus system characterised by inaccurate timetables operating in mixed traffic. In our current system, drivers tend to be the people left carrying the can for systematic issues arising from the aforementioned neglect and under-investment.

For these reasons, if you’re using transit today then please spare a thought for your driver. Try employing your kiwi accent to its fullest by bellowing a “thanx drivah!” as you exit the bus. Or if you feel so inclined, then consider going to this website to print one of these cards to give to them when you board.

Thanks to all the drivers out there.

Cards

Auckland PT fare changes for 2015

Auckland Transport have announced the results of their latest review of public transport fares which should be the last before integrated fares are introduced early next year. They have said that some of the changes are being made now in advance of integrated fares to make that transition easier later on. The changes really depend on how you pay, how far you travel and whether you use ferries or not.

Auckland Transport says the focus of this year’s public transport fare review is to better align short and long distance fares in preparation for a change to a simpler zone based system (integrated fares) next year.

Auckland Transport’s General Manager Public Transport, Mark Lambert, says, “As we continue to pick up the pace of transport changes in the city, improving the fare structure with integrated fares will allow the introduction of the New Network which will see more frequent services on key routes at a minimum average of every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

“This is along with the introduction of the AT HOP card, electric trains on the rail network, the first step towards the construction of the City Rail Link and an investigation of the benefits of light rail. All of these initiatives are designed to give Aucklanders choices that will offer them the freedom to most effectively use that valuable commodity, time”.

The changes to public transport fares through the 2015 review will see:

  • Small increases of between 5 and 10 cents for short distance (stage one and stage two trips) for those using the AT HOP card
  • No increases on longer AT HOP trips on buses and trains, other than for stage five journeys which receive a tertiary concession
  • Stage six and seven child fares, using AT HOP, reduce by 5c and 16c per trip respectively.
  • Some cash fares will increase by 50 cents to increase the incentive for passengers to take advantage of fare discounts that AT HOP provides
  • Some fares on Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry services decrease by between 24c and 50c a trip.
  • Tertiary and child concession fares will now be available on the InnerLink bus service

There will also be some changes to pricing for the CityLink bus service. This service had received funding from the Heart of the City business organisation and Waterfront Auckland however that subsidy has now ended. Auckland Transport therefore, reluctantly, has introduced a 50 cent (adult single trip), 40 cent (tertiary student single trip) and 30 cent (child single trip) fare for a AT HOP card users. Single trip cash fares will be $1 for adults, 50 cents for tertiary students and 40 cents for a child.

Mr Lambert says that on average fares contribute 47% to the total cost of providing public transport services – the remainder is provided through government (NZTA) contributions and rates subsidies. He says while petrol and diesel prices have fallen over recent months, and fluctuated in recent weeks, fuel prices make up only a small percentage of operator costs and by far the largest expense is wages.

Public transport patronage growth has continued strongly during recent fuel price reductions showing that customers are choosing to use improved services rather than sit in traffic congestion, he says.

Latest figures show that public transport patronage is at an all-time high. Public transport patronage totalled 76,480,955 passenger trips for the 12 months to January 2015, an annual increase of 9.4%.
Rail patronage alone totalled 13,000,000 passenger trips for the 12 months to January, an annual rise of 20.0% a rise of two million journeys in one year.

For more: https://at.govt.nz/farechange

Overall the changes don’t seem too bad and for most people probably won’t have any impact – or at least not too much. For a commuter in the inner suburbs it represents about $1 extra per week. AT say that one of the reasons for the shorter stages going up is that compared to other cities our shorter stage fares are quite cheap but our longer stage fares are expensive so this is a way of helping align those better.

Those that will be impacted the most will be those still paying by cash and hopefully these changes will see even more people move across to using HOP.

For ferries the changes are dictated in part by the commercial services to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke. For the rest of the services the price changes are also about aligning fares hence the increases to Half Moon Bay but decreases to West Harbour and Hobsonville as they are a similar distance.

The changes are below.

image001-3

image002-1

Lastly because it’s often raised I questioned about Fare Evasion. AT say that on average it’s at 6-8% across the network but as high as 40% at some individual stations with some of the worst being Fruitvale Rd and Henderson. They say every 1% of evasion is equivalent to about $300k in revenue so any actions to improve it needs to take that into account. They did say New Lynn will be gated in June which they think will help address some of it. Also any new stations – such as the new Otahuhu station – will be designed to have gates.

Time for All Door Boarding?

We’ve talked before about the importance of speeding up buses. Just briefly speeding up buses:

  • Makes buses more time competitive with other modes and with the right infrastructure can make them faster than other modes. That means they’re more attractive to potential users and therefore generate more patronage.
  • Makes buses more efficient as they can complete their routes faster. That in turn can mean they potentially run more services for the same operational cost or alternatively run the same level of service but less cost. Either way we get a better result for the money we invest in PT.

When it comes to the actual task of speeding up buses there are a couple of key ways we can do that. The one we talk the most about is the introduction of bus infrastructure either bus lanes or dedicated busways but that isn’t the only way. Buses can also be sped up by reducing how long they spend at bus stops. Dwell times for individual stops might seem small but when combined can end up being a very significant portion of any bus journey and so improving them can have a lot of positive outcomes.

Thankfully we’ve already made some improvements to dwell times which has primarily come through the introduction of HOP – although more work is needed to get the percentage of people using it up. With HOP I’ve easily seen 5 or more board a bus in the same amount of time it takes for a a single person to buy a paper ticket and an entire bus can be fully loaded 1-2 minutes if no one is paying with cash. However dwell times could still be sped up further and there are a couple of key ways we could do that. They are

Ensuring buses have larger doors on both the front and the back – In a bid presumably to squeeze more seats in buses we’ve also seen bus doors shrink. On many buses such as the stupidly small ADL buses NZ Bus use an entire line of people paying by HOP can be held up by a single person paying by cash because depending on where they stand it can be difficult to get past them. The same issue can occur at the back door where only one person at a time can tag off and disembark. Both of these issues are noticeably reduced on buses with double doors and multiple HOP card readers such as on many of the Northern Express buses.

Another way to improve boarding times would be to allow people to do so from the rear doors, potentially halving dwell times. Currently this only occurs on some Northern Express services – such as those leaving town in the afternoon – and only because Ritchies pay for someone to stand at the back door watching people tag on.

All door boarding is something that Muni in San Francisco allowed in 2012 and as CityLab reports, it’s been a huge success.

Well, the “final” results of San Francisco’s all-door program are in, and they’re spectacular. All-door boarding reduced the average dwell time from nearly 4 seconds to 2.5 seconds among all Muni buses—a dip of 38 percent. More than half of all passengers used the rear door to enter, and time-consuming fare payments at the front door declined 4 percent. As a result, overall bus speeds improved.

Here’s the crux of the dwell finding, in one chart:

Muni All Door Boarding Outcome

Of course fare evasion is always likely to be a concern with such a scheme however interestingly on Muni as a percentage it actually improved from all door boarding.

Most impressive, though, was that fare evasion didn’t increase. Muni added a rear-door smartcard reader and hired 13 new fare inspectors to spot-check rider proof-of-purchase. Pre-implementation studies had found fare evasion as high as 9.5 percent; after all-door boarding was implement, evasion was at 8 percent. As mobile fare technology improves, especially through contactless smartphone payments, boarding through any door should become even easier.

I don’t think fare evasion would be as high on our buses however this certainly shows all door boarding isn’t necessarily going to make things worse.

Overall it seems like something Auckland Transport should definitely be considering.

You can see the full Muni Report here.

More on the Reeves Rd Flyover Decision

Auckland Transport held the first of their community nights yesterday to discuss with locals the AMETI works. They’ve also released a copy of the information boards they’re using online. Crucially the documents give a hint in to the reason behind the recently announced decision to delay the Reeves Rd Flyover.

The plan for years has been for the busway to turn right off Pakuranga Rd into Te Rakau Dr. After stopping at the bus interchange the busway would then carry on towards Botany and would do so by shifting to a busway in the centre of the road. That shift would occur at the intersection with Reeves Rd and would need it’s own phasing. The issue – as explained to me – was that because of the other demands on the intersection the but phase wouldn’t be frequent enough and would have created huge delays. The flyover was to get some of that traffic out of the way.

AMETI Pakuranga

The image above suggests that AT is looking at alternative routes for the busway with one of them going around the back of the mall. In many ways this is quite an elegant solution. Going around the mall doesn’t add to much to the time it would take for buses but gets them out of that Te Rakau/Reeves intersection thereby negating the need for the flyover. Where the busway crosses Reeves Rd it could be via a very simple intersection that phases quickly as there would be no turning movements and the shift to the centre busway would just occur a bit further south.

It’s innovative thinking like this that AT should be applauded for as it gets the outcomes for much less money. Of course not everyone is happy with the decision. MPs Jamie Lee-Ross and  Maurice Williamson along with Councillor Dick Quak have been very vocal in condemning it and I understand have been lobbying the Minister to intervene and get the flyover back on the agenda. I certainly hope AT do a good job of explaining their reasoning.

Northern Express delays on the way?

The NZTA have announced works that should result in an improved experience for bus users from north of Constellation Busway Station but that while it’s constructed is likely to cause delays to both bus users and car/truck drivers.

North Shore commuters are advised to allow additional journey time as work starts on the upgrade of the citybound shoulder lane on State Highway 1 leading to the Upper Harbour Highway (Constellation Drive) exit.

The temporary motorway shoulder lane closure, citybound between Greville Road and the Upper Harbour Highway, will be in place for 10 weeks, while the shoulder is widened to take buses continuously between the two interchanges.

Providing a continuous bus shoulder between Greville Road and the Upper Harbour Highway off-ramp will mean citybound buses no longer have to merge in and out of traffic lanes heading to the Constellation Park and Ride,” says NZ Transport Agency’s Acting Auckland and Northland Highway Manager Mieszko Iwaskow.

“These improvements, along with the upgrade of the Greville Road interchange, and the additional northbound lane between Upper Harbour Highway and Greville Road, will provide better journey time reliability for those travelling along the Northern Motorway.”

Due to be completed in June, the shoulder widening is the final stage of the Upper Harbour Highway to Greville Road Northbound Three-Laning Project, which is part of the Northern Corridor Improvements Programme.

For further information please visit www.nzta.govt.nz/UHH-Greville, or call 0800 72 74 74.

For Northern Corridor Improvements, please visit www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/auckland-northern-corridor/ or the Project Information Hub located at 33A Apollo Drive, Rosedale.

image002

While the outcome should certainly be an improvement I do worry about the impact this work will have on bus reliability, especially with it starting in the middle of March.

Now if only they’d build a full busway instead of our at least as part of the massive interchange they have planned.

Are we failing March Madness?

I asked last week if Auckland Transport were ready for March Madness – a situation that happens every year where public transport usage goes nuts from a variety of factors. Unfortunately it increasingly it seems like PT services simply aren’t coping under the stress of the surge that we’re seeing. It’s not clear whether this is as a result of patronage simply surging ahead what was expected or if there simply hasn’t been enough capacity added to the system but either way the result is the same. Every day now I’m seeing/hearing comments on the blog, on social media, in my emails or even directly to me in person about crowded buses and trains.

Auckland Transport may just think this is a phase which will be over soon however one of the reasons it’s so important they get it right is that the experience customers have can set the tone for how people travel for the rest of the year or longer. I’ve already heard people saying that they’re giving up on PT and going back to battling the congestion behind the wheel of their car.

Below is just a small selection of the comments I’ve seen/received.

At the moment I am finding the time it takes to catch a bus during peak times to be utterly ridiculous. I catch a bus from Mt Eden Road to Britomart and on Monday had to wait 50mins for a bus that had capacity for more passengers (between 10-15 went past full). There was around 20 people left at my bus stop by the time I caught one, and another 20 or so down the road further. Surely there could be some buses that start partway through the route to pick up the stranded passengers left at the second half of the route for very long periods of time. It is issues like this that put people off public transport – there were several people at my stop who were distressed about being late for work, and some even gave up and went back home!

 and
Caught 224 home at 8.15pm, and we left people behind on Symonds St over bridge as over 20 were standing, also nearby saw a 258 and 471 with bus Full signs.

Hell even these three got on a bus

As mentioned earlier this is just a small sample of the comments I’ve seen in recent days. In some ways I have a little sympathy for AT and the bus companies in that it can be very hard to add capacity just for the peak as that makes for an expensive proposition however some of these comments are also coming in off peak or at a time when there should be a lot of spare capacity available.

The big concern is that full buses and trains are putting people off using PT all together – a case of the system truly becoming a victim of its own success.In my view AT need to come up with a plan for addressing crowding and do so quickly.

AMETI busway closer

Auckland Transport have announced that they are close to a final design for the Panmure to Pakuranga Busway and that there will be community consultation about it this week.

AMETI Buslane - Pakuranga Rd

Busway for east Auckland a step closer

Quicker, frequent and more reliable bus services for the east are a step closer with Panmure to Pakuranga busway design plans near finalisation.

Public information days and neighbourhood meetings are being held next week and information has been sent to people in the project area to get feedback before consents are lodged in late April.

The key project is the Panmure Station to Pakuranga town centre section of the South Eastern Busway. Construction is likely to start in 2017, with the busway due to open by 2021.

Auckland Transport recently announced it is aiming to open the full busway to Botany by 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, and extend bus lanes to Highland Park.

The Panmure to Pakuranga projects include:

  • Replacing Panmure roundabout with an intersection with traffic lights and more direct pedestrian crossings
  • Panmure to Pakuranga busway on lanes separate to traffic congestion
  • Panmure to Pakuranga cycle and foot paths separate to traffic
  • Second Panmure Bridge for busway and shared cycle/foot path.

Auckland Transport AMETI Programme Director Peter King says large numbers of new passengers will be attracted by buses travelling on congestion free lanes every 5 to 10 minutes between Panmure and Pakuranga.

“Buses currently get caught in the same congestion as cars, meaning people have limited choice. Providing a quicker, frequent and more reliable option is expected to shift large numbers out of cars to ease pressure on the roads for journeys that can’t be made by public transport.

“The recent experience with the new Panmure Station and electric trains shows significant growth comes with higher quality public transport.

“Another major feature is separated cycle and foot paths which will make it possible to cycle between Panmure, Pakuranga, and on to Farm Cove and Pigeon Mountain by connecting with the Rotary Walkway along the coast.

“We encourage people to come to the information sessions, return written feedback forms or give feedback online. This will help us finalise plans and reports as we intend to lodge consent applications in late April,” Mr King says.

The consents process will provide the opportunity to make a formal submission to Auckland Council on the projects and be heard at an official hearing.

The open days are:

Pakuranga open day
When: 12 March 2015 from 5pm to 9pm.
Where: Pakuranga Plaza Centre, Aylesbury Street.

Panmure
When: 14 March 2015 from 10am to 1pm.
Where: Panmure Bridge School, 76 Kings Road, Panmure.

You can also give your feedback online below until 29 March.

Lagoon Drive cycling and busway image

It will be good when this finally gets underway. East Auckland desperately needs some good quality PT improvements and given what we’ve seen in other areas of the city this is likely to be very popular. This also comes just a few weeks after AT announced that they were delaying the Reeves Rd flyover which has allowed them to bring forward the completion of the busway.