Auckland public transport patronage for September is now available and sitting on a Shinkansen racing across Japan seems like the perfect time to write about it.
Compared to September 2015 there is once again a marked difference between the modes with AT reporting the following high level results for the month:
- Total – up 3.4%
- Bus – up 0.4%
- Train – up 13.8%
- Ferry – up 6.7%
The more detailed breakdown is shown below
Once again you can see that with bus, it’s the busway that continues to be pull up the numbers up with stellar growth. With Ritchies now running all but two buses in the peak as double deckers, hopefully we’ll see this fantastic growth continue. AT also report that they’ll be adding more NEX services to the peak in January and February head of March Madness to help cope with expected demand and ongoing growth.
But the growth on then NEX also means that the results on other bus services remains poor. AT have said in the past this is partially due to a range of issues such the CityLink buses no longer being free, buses from the west not being as attractive due to the changes with the CRL works and poor overall performance on buses in the south, something we should hopefully see some improvement on as a result of the new network.
On trains there are continues to be strong growth but the percentages in recent months do appear to be starting to reduce from the regular 20%+ we were seeing for a couple of years. But we did expect this to happen eventually and in reality it’s odd to be seeing 20% growth as a normal thing. What’s worth pointing out though is that even though growth as a percentage is slowing down a bit, it’s primarily due to being compared against a higher base. In total numbers it remains high and on an annualised basis we’re continuing to add over 2.7 million trips a year as you can see in the graph below.
What’s also worth noting is the results for the different lines. Following the long awaited increase in frequency on the Western Line it continues to grow well and on an annualised basis has now passed 6 million trips. It’s worth noting that just 9 years ago the entire rail network had fewer trips on it that.
At the same time the Southern Line only had 4% more trips than September 2015. I wonder if what’s driving this is the same as affecting buses or if there are other issues such as capacity constraints. AT do say they’ll me making some slight changes to how they run trains from this month which will see another 3-car set freed up which can be used to help increase capacity.
There is planned to be a new timetable in March which will see services sped up and which will free up two more 3-car sets to increase capacity. AT say the March timetable will finally see the electric trains on the Southern and Eastern line running faster than the diesels that they replaced. On the Western Line speeds will be about the same as they were and can’t be faster due to the safety measures needed around the way too numerous level crossings.
For rail, on an 12m rolling basis there are now over 60,000 trips being taken on weekdays.
Ferries continue what has been some solid growth and while most of it is on the except services (Devonport, Waiheke and to be soon to be formerly Stanley Bay), as a percentage growth is strongest on the contracted services which is an area AT have been improving services. With some recent improvements to Half Moon Bay and Pine Harbour, and the new Half Moon Bay ferry terminal under construction, we’ll hopefully see these results continue to improve.
On to some of the other PT metrics, punctuality seems to be a mixed bag. Overall it is improving but has been declining on ferries. Over the last year or so, AT have standardised all of their punctuality metrics to focus on the time the service departed its origin destination. I don’t agree with this way of recording results as it feels like a convenient way to make the results look better than what most people experience, especially for buses which often get caught in congestion. As a comparison, for rail AT still show the percentage of trains that arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes and that shows 96.3% of trains on time vs the 98.6% based on departure time.
Since the introduction of integrated fares, farebox recovery has fallen a bit. This was to be expected but is still will within AT’s target range for this financial year. NZTA’s farebox recovery policy means it needs to reach 50% by June 2018 so at 49% it’s still looking pretty good. One positive thanks to the increasing patronage is that the subsidy per passenger km for rail continues to improve. We should also start to see it improve for buses from November with the New Network in South Auckland saving AT around $3 million annually.
HOP usage continues to improve, with 84.5% of all trips in September being via HOP. What is interesting is the steady increase in HOP use on ferries. I wonder if this is mainly due to the increase in contracted services.
Overall we’re continuing to see some positive results. Now back to the rest of my Shinkansen trip.
My wife and I are currently taking a couple of weeks holiday in Japan. I’ll post more about some of the urban aspects later but I thought I’d start with a day trip we took to Hakone that ended up in us using eight different forms of transport.
We were staying in Tokyo in Harajuku so the first step was to get to Shinagawa. Staying only a couple of minutes walk from the local station and then super frequent services every couple of minutes on the busy Yamanote Line – which stops at Shinagawa – this step was easy.
According to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia:
- The Yamanote Line is a circle line around central Tokyo linking many of key destinations, playing a similar role to the Inner Link in Auckland but on a much larger and busier scale. According to that fount of knowledge that is Wikipedia, it is one of the busiest lines in the world with an estimated 3.6 million trips every day. That’s more people than the entire London Underground carries (3.4 million a day). Tokyo’s fairly extensive subway network is mostly located within the ring of the Yamanote Line
- Harajuku station is a fairly simple affair with just a fairly narrow island platform. Even so it is estimated that over 70,000 people use it daily, that’s more than our entire rail network on a busy weekday.
After a brief 16 minute journey, we were at Shinagawa and from here we could transfer to a high speed Shinkansen to allow us to cover the 70km distance to Odawara in just 27 minutes, reaching top speeds in places of around 270km/h.
- The Tokaido Shinkansen line – between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka – is the busiest (and most profitable) high-speed line in the world. Every day more than 430,000 trips are taken on it. There are multiple service patterns that run and has have trains in each direction every few minutes
- Shinkansen on some lines can reach over 300km/h and the Chuo Skinkansen (maglev) under construction is expected to run at over 500km/h
At Odawara we purchased a pass allowing us to use all other different transport modes listed below. We transferred to small local railway to start our journey up into the hills to the town of Hakone-Yumoto. This train is effectively run as a shuttle service following a river valley up to the hills and taking only 15 minutes with a couple of stops along the way. From about 26m above sea level at Odwara, Hakone-Yumoto sits at 108m. It was a midday on a Saturday and the service was fairly busy, like a morning peak in Auckland.
Upon reaching Hakone-Yumoto it was a short hop along the platform to change to the Hokone-Tozan Mountain Railway. The three car trains that are used are able to climb up the steep sides of the mountains at grades of up to 8% (rising 1m for every 12m travelled) but it definitely doesn’t do so very fast with speeds of only around 15km/h. It takes about 40 minutes to cover 8.9km and along the way there are a handful of stops at mountain villages. There were a couple of switchbacks along the way to help it get up the mountain and which also served to allow trains to pass trains heading in the opposite direction. Winding through the steep bush clad hills the railway was apparently designed to be as hidden as possible.
The train was full of passengers for the ride up to 553m above sea level at the town of Gora.
At Gora it was a transfer to a furnicular for a trip up the side of the steep mountain. This is about 1.2km over which it rises 214m to Sōunzan. The transfer from the mountain train to the furnicular is easy and part of the same building.
At the top of the furnicular it was then a transfer to a gondola to reach even higher up the mountain to the tourist area of Ōwakudani.
Ōwakudani is a geothermal hotspot and is famous for the cooking eggs in the sulphuric hot springs which turns the shells black.
Not a scene from Lord of the Rings but works to stabilise the side of the mountain
The shell might be black but they still taste like normal eggs
From the side of the mountain it is also a great spot on a good day to get views of Mt Fuji. It just so happened we had a great day for it.
After bite to eat it was time to continue and a second gondola takes riders down to Tōgendai on the edge of Lake Ashi. From there we transferred to one of three pirate ship themed ferries that run along the lake. I have no idea why they are themed as pirate ships but they are. We also had some fortuitous timing, the ferries only run every 40 minutes and we arrived with about a minute to spare, a perfect un-timed transfer.
At the other end of the lake was Moto-Hakone where we took a quick break before boarding the last new mode of the day, a bus. It also happened to be the least enjoyable because it was a small bus, smaller than the stupid small ADL buses NZ Bus use, and was also completely packed with people. They seemed to have a moto that you can always fit one more person on – although even that had its limits. This wasn’t helped by the buses only running ever half an hour and meant that some people got left behind. To go with the cramped conditions, the route was through some mountainous terrain with steep hills and frequent sharp bends.
After getting very personable with others on the bus for about 45 minutes – especially when someone sitting at the back wanted to get off – we arrived back in Hakone Yumoto. From there it was simply a reverse of the first three legs to get back home.
Here is a quick map of the journey
Back at Odawara we had a little wait for our Shinkansen back to Tokyo. The stations are each designed with at least four tracks so that stopping services don’t hold up ones that aren’t stopping. While waiting a number of services in each direction flew past at speed
Scenery wise, it is very reminiscent of various places around the centre of the North Island, which is why I guess Hakone has a sister city relationship with Taupo.
It was mostly just a day of travelling but it was enjoyable and despite not really being planned and using lots of different services, the transfers seemed to work fairly well. I know a few readers have done this trip too, if you have, what did you think of it.
Auckland’s public transport patronage results for August are now available and there are some decent numbers on show. This was partially expected thanks to there being two extra business days in August this year compared to August last year but even accounting for that, numbers are up. August is traditionally a strong month for patronage with its 31-days and no school or public holidays, and the month didn’t disappoint clocking in with the third highest patronage behind March 2015 and 2016. The month was significant as halfway through we finally had integrated fares roll out, something that Auckland has needed for decades. Changes like we had normally don’t have an immediate impact though and so it will be some time for us to see the full extent of the new structure and for many, cheaper fares.
Overall patronage was up 8.7% for the month (normalised to 3.9% when taking account of the extra weekdays) and 7.9 million trips were taking on PT. Drilling down to the PT modes:
- Trains once again led the charge up 18.4% (normalised to 14.5%) and on a 12m rolling basis, we surpassed 17 million trips for the first time. Looking at the rail numbers we’re still seeing fantastic results but the percentage increases are slowly starting to reduce, guess we can’t grow at 20%+ per annum for ever. The next boost is likely to come from the roll out of the new network.
- Buses have been struggling lately despite some key routes such as the busway growing impressively. This month we’re still seeing that overall trend with this month the busway looking even more impressive after posting a 34.6% increase in August. On a 12m rolling basis, Busway usage could soon exceed usage on the Eastern Line. In fact, patronage growth has been so strong that AT say Ritchies will increase the number of double deckers on Northern Express services in October from 16 to 29 and there will only be two non-double decker buses used (all off peak services will be double deckers too). Other routes that have had double decker love are also said to be posting some good growth. But with stagnant patronage on buses overall, it means those routes seeing crazy growth are offsetting declines elsewhere and the two areas experiencing this the most are the south and the west. More on this later in the post.
- Ferries have continued to show relatively good and consistent growth over the last 18 months or so.
As part of some travel planning, AT conducted a survey of employees in a number of large office buildings in the CBD on how they travelled to work. From over 10k responses an impressive 51% said public transport.
In some analysis of bus patronage performance, AT have broken the results down by area and eventually route. As you can see from the last image, many of the routes in the south have been on a bit of downward trajectory. Hopefully the New Network launching at the end of next month will help address this.
Looking at some other results, farebox recovery was expected to take a bit of a hit, and it has, but not by too much. We really need to wait to see a few months with integrated fares to see just what impact it has but a promising start at least. Related to integrated fares, AT say 84% of all PT trips were taken by using a HOP card.
As mentioned this morning, at Auckland Transport’s board meeting today there is an interesting paper giving an overview of the HOP system, which AT say is the third largest financial transaction system in the country. Here are some of the figures from the paper.
- AT have sold just over 965k HOP cards while they had only anticipated selling 338k over the same period – a case of AT underestimating demand? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done that with a public transport initiative. They say they typically sell about 23.5k per month but that has increased to 26k per month due to the SuperGold card conversion that took place recently. I also wonder how many are due to people who have bought more than one due to cards being blacklisted.
- AT say that as of July, 86% of trips are made using HOP and that compares favourably with systems overseas which have taken much longer to get a similar level of use. Trains still have the highest level of HOP use with 87% of trips being on HOP compared to 85% on bus (note: the graph below is to June, HOP usage has increased since then primarily due to the SuperGold card conversion.
- AT now have 74 ticket machines at train and busway stations plus one in the Manukau Mall. There are also 73 retailers and 10 customer service centres.
- All up the project has cost just under $100 million. That’s certainly a lot of money (and time) but nowhere near what the two biggest cities across the ditch have paid.
- In the 2015-16 financial year (to end of June), the HOP system processed over $193 million in revenue. That was up 10% on the previous financial year and up 26% on two years prior. The charts below show where that revenue comes from (AT just stop with using pie charts will you).
- There is currently $11.8 million in the HOP account, 85% of which is from stored value on cards and the remaining representing monthly passes. There is also a noticeable trend in January with the values dropping, presumably as people used up their remaining balance before going on leave over summer.
- HOP costs $16.6 million to run every year which is well above the expected $9 million from the business case. The additional costs get a 57% subsidy from the NZTA. AT give the following list of reasons for why opex is higher than expected.
- Additional bus services which increased the cost of system support
- Increased AT HOP Operating Staff from the original budget of nine FTEs to 37, in order to support retailers, operators, and customers
- BT test support to provide system testing of BAU changes and system enhancements (average of 40 route changes are made each month).
- Additional finance support – providing reconciliations, settlement support and process development (recognition that the AT HOP System is a significant financial system).
- Increased banking fees, secure cash collection and retail commission due to the high uptake of the AT HOP Card
- Removal of the 25 cent transaction fee for Top-up transactions
Also included in the paper is one of the worst business diagrams you’ll see, I’m still not sure what ticking and clocks have to do with it. But still a lot better than this.
Now that integrated fares have finally been rolled out (and done so successfully), many will be interested to know what’s next for HOP. After all payment systems are undergoing rapid change right now. Here’s what AT say about it.
The development opportunity to improve customer service offerings is being actively pursued by the AT Metro, HOP and BT teams. This may include the ability to use credit cards or phone applications for payment and the potential to extend HOP to other services such as parking. Other options include online bus updates for balances, mobile top ups, use of the ATM network and account based systems. Whilst many of these are feasible to a degree, e.g. bus updates for balances is probably only available at 10-15 minute intervals, much of this technology is new, not only to Thales but other card systems as well. Generally, development is very slow and expensive which has limited the ability for AT to progress at pace these types of initiatives. Currently AT is investigating a solution to enable the HOP card to use Near Field Communications on a smart phone and the business is working with Thales on proposals for a real time top up ability via smart phone to the physical cards.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait years for some of these features which should almost be a minimum standard these days.
We’ve been getting used to seeing some fairly strong patronage results over recent years, especially on the trains which have been seeing 20% year on year growth for a couple of years now – in large part thanks to electrification. But in July, at first glance the numbers appear to have hit a snag, with much lower growth on trains and negative results on buses.
Thankfully there is a valid reason for the results: the calendar. In fact, the calendar has played a significant role in July as there were two fewer weekdays compared to July last year and weekdays are where the PT system does its heavy lifting. Adjusting for that, we continue to see good growth on trains and ferries while buses scrape into the positive – more on that shortly.
As we’ve come to expect, the Rapid Transit Network remains the star of the show with some significant growth, especially on the Northern Busway and the Western Line, both of which manged over 21% growth and that’s before adjusting for the fewer weekdays. The western line in particular was expected to do well given it the vast improvement in the number of services near the end of May. Overall trains fell only about 60k short of passing the next milestone of 17 million, something I’d be almost certain has happened in August already. Ferries also continue to tick along nicely and are likely to tip above 6 million trips before the end of 2016.
The big concern remains the buses other than those on the Northern Busway. Take the busway results out and even normalising for the fewer weekdays won’t help. AT say in their business report that there was also good growth on the Onewa Rd and Mt Eden Rd corridors – which is unsurprising as we continue to see almost daily reports of full buses leaving people behind, even in the middle of the day or late in the evening. But this suggests the results from other bus routes are even more dismal. AT say that the biggest issue is in South Auckland which will be the first area to get the new bus network rolled out and is due at the end of October.
Another area I’ve been following closely in recent months has been farebox recovery. With the rapid passenger growth we’ve seen, the level of subsidy required has reduced. One aspect of this report that is different compared to previous months is that in the past farebox figures have been two months behind, but this July paper has the results up to the end of July. A few things caught my eye:
- Train farebox stayed about the same as the previous few months which is good given the Western Line service increase at the end of May.
- There has been a significant change in the ferry numbers
While not mentioned, I suspect the August results will be challenged due to the launch of simplified fares which were expected to reduce revenue.
Other measurements like HOP are also working well but I’ll cover that off in a separate post.
Note: While July suffered from the fewer weekdays, it is August that will benefit from them with there being two more weekdays compared to August last year.
When it comes to public transport patronage, June is always important as it represents the end of the financial year and so also gives up the official annual results for the year. The June results are now available and the result was fairly similar to what we’ve been seeing for a few months now, continued strong growth on the rail network, decent growth on the ferries but with bus numbers relatively stagnant, even after some fairly great growth on the busway services.
All up patronage grew by 4.6% to 82.9 million and I’ve heard that only one other region in NZ experienced growth over the 2015/16 year, which I assume to be Wellington based on the numbers up to May. That’s the highest patronage has been since 1956 – although we obviously had a much lower population then.
The breakdown of the June results is shown below. A couple of things that stand out in particular include:
- The busway continues to show great growth, good thing we have all of those double deckers on it but perhaps more will be needed soon.
- Other buses are performing poorly, some more details of which are below.
- Rail is still performing strongly and the western line is clearly benefiting from the increased peak frequency.
For a bit more detail, here are some comments from AT’s business paper on the results
Bus patronage has grown by a modest +0.7% which is contrary to the general downward trends experienced across New Zealand where Auckland is only one of two systems (18 in total) that have experienced growth. The comparison found after allowing for population changes, the total New Zealand boardings /capita in 2015 declined by 3.2%. This may be compared with increases in 2013 (+1.0%) and in 2014 (+0.4%). The main reasons cited for the 3.2% decline include a real reduction in fuel prices impacting boardings by (-1.5%) and car ownership increase as a result of real price reduction in cars of (-0.8% reduction in boardings). Specifically in Auckland fare elasticity on a single service resulted in (-1.1%) reduction in boardings. In addition there were some unique events affecting Auckland, including disruptions as a result of CRL works and a bus strike earlier in the financial year
Train services totalled 16.8 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +20.6% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 1.5 million, an increase of +17.3% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 15.5% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Rail patronage during FY16 has continued to grow in line with extra capacity provided by way of a homogenous EMU fleet, improving passenger comfort, punctuality and reliability. An increase in western line peak frequency in May 2016 with timetable improvements in February 2017 should see continued growth in this mode.
Ferry services totalled 5.9 million passenger trips for the 12-months to June, an increase of +6.2% on the previous year. Patronage for June was 0.41 million, an increase of +9.6% on June 2015. June normalised adjustment ~ 9.6% accounting for special event patronage, with the same number of business days and weekend days/public holiday. Ferry patronage growth of +6.2% has been strong, with Gulf Harbour, Hobsonville and Pine Harbour showing strong growth in line with increased residential development in these areas. Additional sailings by two competing companies on the Waiheke route also saw strong growth both in terms of service trips and patronage. Continued expansion of capacity and further development in these areas
It will be a few months before we see any results but it is going to be fascinating to see just what impact the introduction of Simplified Fares will have on the numbers. Also likely to be having an impact soon will be the introduction of the New Network to South Auckland, due on 30 October.
The recent changes to SuperGold is likely driving some of the changes with HOP usage, as of the end of June AT say 78.2% of all trips used HOP while I understand some days are now seeing well over 80% HOP usage which puts it on par with systems like Brisbane which has had integrated ticketing and fares for about a decade.
One area AT have been doing particularly well on has been farebox recovery which has now stormed above 51% to the end of May (it is always two months behind). This is a great result considering that the NZTA require AT to reach a 50% farebox recovery by the end of June 2018, so the recent results should have given them a bit of breathing space. One of the biggest factors has been the significant improvement in the rail result thanks to electrification lowering costs and encouraging more people to use the system. In the coming year a number of things will be impacting this including:
- Simplified Fares which will see a lot of trips get cheaper, the question is just how much impact it will have, perhaps it will drive enough additional people to use the system to offset some of the costs.
- The New Network in South Auckland which will considerably improve services while seeing AT also save around $3 million a year in costs.
- Additional rail service improvements, likely to come early next year should see better off peak and weekend services to tie in with the new network.
With a lot of the improvements on the way it’s going to be another interesting year ahead.
If you’ve been near Hobsonville Point recently you’ll have seen it’s going off and is currently a hive of building activity.
There was some very positive news this week about that would now be developed with twice as many homes as originally intended, especially some of the reasons as to why this has happened, which I’ve emphasised below.
The scale of one of Auckland’s newest big housing developments has now doubled, with Hobsonville Point dwelling dwelling numbers now rising from 2500 to 5000.
Demand for residences at the housing estate in Auckland’s northwest has been so strong that the numbers planned to be built there have been up-scaled.
Chris Aiken, Hobsonville Land Company chief executive, said instead of 2500 dwellings, around 5000 residences would now be built.
More land on the Waitemata Harbour had become available, the area had been prepared for greater density and demand was so strong that it was not only appropriate but also possible to vastly upscale numbers, Aiken indicated.
“Building 2500 [dwellings] was first planned about 10 years ago and there was a view of the market – Waitakere City Council and the Government said ‘we will allow for more density’ and they put in place ferry services, roads and employment zones and the market was there. The market came screaming along five years ago,” he said.
“The doubling is driven by market demand for smaller product and the capability of the master planning and infrastructure to deal with it. It was a visionary, enabling master plan,” Aiken said.
Decisions about rising numbers had been taken over a number of years, due to a combination of factors, he explained.
“The land was always capable of carrying that higher number. Five years ago, it was scaled up [from 2500] to 3000 when it became clear people would buy terraced housing. When we introduced affordable housing, it went to 3500 planned. It made sense to build more. And then with the advent of apartment typologies, that pushed it closer to 4000.”
It’s not the first and definitely won’t be the last but Hobsonville Point is a great example that many Aucklanders are quite happy to buy different types of homes, especially if they’re built and designed well. The old myth that “everyone wants a stand alone house and big section” is once again shown to be completely false.
Another big source of housing is new land that was planned to become a marine industry and then a film studio but for which neither eventuated.
However, an extra 1000 dwellings were added to the plans when a further 20ha became available due to a bureaucratic back-peddling.
After being lobbied heavily by the marine industry, a large slice of 20ha was ear-marked for those services, which failed to arrive. That land is now re-zoned for housing, which further contributed to the increasing dwelling numbers, Aiken said.
“Land which Auckland Council ear-marked for the boating industry – now we can built on it,” Aiken said.
Across most of the site, more apartments and terraced-housing would replace original plans for stand-alone housing.
This land is shown below along with the high level plan for how it will be developed.
With more houses going in, Auckland Transport are going to need to do a lot better with providing alternative options for transport in and out of the area. The ferry to the city is a good start but only runs a couple of times at the peaks on a weekday so is completely useless for anyone not working very specific hours. As an alternative, as currently planned in the new network, the main bus route through the area will link up Hobsonville Point with Westgate and Constellation Dr Busway station at which people could transfer for a bus to the city but the route is only planned to run every half hour. Further either direction is likely to have locations where the bus is subject to congestion until other projects built, such as the Northwest busway.
The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.
During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.
It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.
While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.
That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.
As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.
I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer
South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.
While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.
Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.
Hopefully we’ll find out soon.
Back in March, Auckland Transport announced a special shuttle to link a Park n Ride at Lloyd Elsmore Park to the Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal. At the time it was announced I thought it was a silly idea but said that at least AT were trying things.
A LGOIMA request from reader Felix Lee has discovered just how silly the idea is.
- For the 5 trips being operated each day, can you tell me the average passenger number for each trip?
- Can you tell me the cost to operate this service?
The response from AT is below. It covers the period from 21 March when the service started to 21 May, a total of 42 working days (which is only when the service runs).
So a grand total of just 23 trips and it would seem that about 9 people didn’t even make the return journey. That seems like an abysmal failure to me.
But then we also need to consider the cost. AT say:
So over the 42 days covered above it cost about $7650 to run services on which just 23 trips were made so just over $330 per trip. Based on a quick search, at $175 for a 12 minute flight, it would have been almost half the cost to helicopter them directly to the city.
As I’ve said a number of times before, I believe that park n rides are often over-rated and clearly this example shows that parking then taking a shuttle to catch another PT service just isn’t attractive.
As I also said when this was announced, I think using the park as a park n ride is not a terrible idea but it should really be linked to bus services along Pakuranga Rd which AT have confirmed needs bus lanes in the recent information released about the Reeves Rd Flyover.
One other thing this episode highlights is the arguments over the bus colours recently. If you recall, those opposing the changes baulked at the suggestion that it might cost $9,000 to paint a bus and claimed that money could be better spent on new services instead. Here we have a service that runs just five times a day over ~2.6km for two months costing almost the same amount. This suggests that any meaningful addition to services on other routes will cost a lot more in a year than painting a few buses, the cost of which can be spread out over multi-year contract.
Coming back to the shuttle, the whole thing seems to have been a thoroughly predictable outcome. I guess the only real question is how much longer will AT keep the service running before they finally pull the plug on it?
Public Transport patronage results for April are now available and even taking into account that there was an extra weekday, the results were pretty good. This is a good to see after fewer work days in March dragged down the results a little bit.
Once again the most impressive results are coming from the Rapid Transit network consisting of the rail network and the busway. Both of those saw growth of over 30% compared to April last year and even taking one working day off the growth for rail was still over 25% (the adjusted figure isn’t available for the busway). We learnt in early April that rail patronage passed 16 million but from the results we can see it has now soared passed 16.2 million. Combined with the busway which has also passed the milestone of 4 million trips means that rapid transit is now carrying over 20 million trips annually or just under 25% of all PT trips. That’s up 5 million trips in just 18 months, not bad considering a decade ago our rapid transit network carried fewer than 5 million trips and accounted for less than 10% of all PT trips.
One of the results that strikes me the most from the results is the Western Line which is up 35.6% on April last year. This is impressive as other than some added capacity that came with the new trains, there hasn’t been a weekday timetable change for years and the frequency during the peak hasn’t changed since at least 2008. With the change earlier this month giving a 50% increase in frequencies at peak – now every 10 minutes – and improved inter-peak frequencies it will be interesting to see what impact they have. In the business report AT say the initial two weeks are already showing an over 30% increase on the same time last year.
One aspect that will also be having an impact on train results is that punctuality has considerably improved. In April it reached its highest result ever with 96.4% of all services arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of what is on the timetable.
Of course the Busway is also doing extremely well which will be in part due to the increased capacity from the Double Deckers now a regular sight on the busway and the extension to Silverdale which less than 6-months after starting has seen high growth resulting it having “insufficient capacity”. AT are planning on increasing capacity and peak frequencies to Silverdale in late June. It’s also worth noting that the Northern Express performs better than other buses on punctuality too.
Both the busway and the rail network continue to perform ahead of projections made when the various projects were justified. One of the best examples of this is with Britomart where the business case for building the station assumed that by 2021 about 22,000 train trips would start or end there. Data provided to me by AT last week shows that already almost twice that is happening with the number at around 42,000 a day.
As expected farebox recovery – which is always reported a month behind – continues to improve. It is now tantalisingly close to the 50% magical mark which is the level it has to reach by the end of June 2018 to meet the NZTA’s farebox recovery policy. If current trends continue it should mean that AT will have additional funding with which to either improve services or reduce fares. The improvements to rail primarily as a result of electrification continue to be impressive.
One area that isn’t seeing much change in recent times is HOP usage which seems fairly stubbornly stuck in the low-mid 70% range. Perhaps changing all SuperGold card users to HOP will help boost that up a little bit but I hope AT have some plans to improve utilisation above that. One thing area that may help for trains at least is that they say they’re working on designs for gates at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Glen Innes, Henderson and Papakura Stations.
Overall some good results from April and I’d expect those to continue in the coming months. Changes such as the improvement in timetable on the western line are bound to drive passengers. As is the roll out of double deckers to Mt Eden Rd yesterday – although it could be a little while before we see just what impact this has.
We’ll also see double deckers on the 881 route by the end of June and at the end of July we’re due to finally get integrated fares which I think could have a significantly positive impact on PT use.