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

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.

Are we ready for March Madness

We’re now in March and for public transport that means one thing – March Madness. It’s called that because a number of factors combine to see usage of buses, trains surge. Those factors include but are not limited to:

  • It’s a 31 day month with normally no public holidays – next year will be a big exception with Easter falling entirely within March.
  • Decent weather still so people are less likely to be put off walking/waiting for services.
  • Universities are back and students are often keen to start the year well so attendance is likely higher.
  • There are normally no school holidays.
  • I suspect there are less people taking leave in March due to no school holidays and many having taken leave over Christmas/New Year or in January or February.
  • There are likely to be less people taking sick leave
  • More people trying out PT as a way to avoid congestion also caused by the previous points.

The surge normally starts in late Feb and runs through to at least Easter before people start settling down into more established travel patterns – which may include travelling earlier or later to avoid the worst of the peak.

From a patronage perspective March is almost always the month with the highest patronage in any given year – and May is usually second. This is shown on the graph below where March has been highlighted in red.

AKL March Madness Patronage

There are a couple of exceptions to this, on the rail network the last couple of years has seen patronage in May slightly higher than March while on the ferries January is usually the highest month as a result of more people visiting places like Devonport and Waiheke Island.

One of the problems Auckland Transport and the operators face with March Madness is that a lot of the extra trips occur at the height of the peak which is exactly where it is the hardest and most expensive to add new services. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important that AT put a lot of effort into making the buses we have go faster by:

  • Reducing dwell times:
    • getting more people on HOP – it’s not uncommon to see 5 or more people be able to board with HOP in the same time it takes someone paying by cash.
    • in some places possibly allowing rear door boarding – currently the only place I’m aware that this happens on the NEX at Britomart in the afternoons.
    • encouraging bus operators to buy buses with larger doors – and bigger buses in general.
  • Getting buses out of congestion and therefore moving quicker with more bus lanes and other bus priority measures.

Speeding up buses means that the same number of them can deliver more services for no extra cost. That’s good for passengers and for city as it means we’re spending money more efficiently and getting better outcomes.

I personally think we’re in for a huge month for patronage. The last few weeks in particular have been extremely busy on almost all services I’ve caught – much more so than I can remember seeing before. For example even the buses I use which travel opposite to the peak direction have been standing room only while on some parts of the rail network the new electric trains are driving huge growth.

On top of the factors driving growth in PT, just due to the way the calendar falls this year it means there’s an extra business day means the total results should be even better. Below are a couple of images hopefully highlighting just how busy services have been of late.

This Northern Express bus heading to the city in the afternoon was so full that a number of people (myself included) couldn’t get on. Another one two minutes later was almost as full.

NEX Full

A frequent sight on morning buses to Takapuna and afternoon buses to the city

Takapuna Bus full

A regular sight in the afternoons with the queue for the Northern Express to the North Shore. It extends behind where I took the photo too.

NEX Queues Britomart

A different day and different angle but there were two queues, one back to Customs St and the other around to the right

NEX Queues Britomart 2

Trains leaving Britomart on the Western line are packed before even reaching Newmarket and Grafton where a large number of additional passengers try to get on.

Packed Train Leaving Britomart

And another one from twitter

From Patrick yesterday, the Airport Express was standing room only after only one terminal meaning a long trip to town for those on their feet.

So anyone want to take some guesses on how many PT trips there’ll be this month? As a comparison in 2014 there were just over 7.3 million with it broken down as per below.

  • Rail – 1,174,588
  • Northern Express – 262,431
  • Other Bus – 5,374,783
  • Ferry – 494,123

Given the growth we’ve been seeing in recent months a 10% increase seems entirely possible and that could see us reach over 8 million trips in the month.

December 14 and January 15 Patronage

Due to the summer break it’s been a while since we’ve seen any public transport patronage for Auckland with the last results being for November last year. That finally changed yesterday as Auckland Transport published them ahead of their board meeting on Friday and the results are stunning.

Firstly December where we saw a major change for rail with a new timetable that saw the Southern and Eastern lines split and both move to 10 minute frequencies at peak and 20 minute frequency off peak.

2014-12 - Patronage Table

There are some fairly solid results in there, especially on the Rapid Transit Network which was up over 29% on December last year.

Moving on to January and the results for rail in particular are incredible. This is primarily due the summer shutdown being shorter than in previous years with the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga lines back in action on 5th January and the Western Line a week Later on the 12th. In addition there was no shutdown during Auckland Anniversary. There were a few events that also impacted on patronage. Even taking all of those changes out the patronage growth in January was impressive across all modes.

2015-01 - Patronage Table

While it would have been affected by some of issues mentioned earlier, I wonder if the 166.9% increase on the Eastern Line is a record of some kind. That’s a staggering increase. Putting aside the percentages, the actual growth in number terms is also impressive. Compared to January last year, for the previous 12 months there have been over 6.5 million extra PT trips, an average of around 18,000 extra per day (will be higher on weekdays and lower on weekends).  Included in that is an extra 4.3 million bus trips and 2.1 million extra train trips. If rail growth continues the way it has for the past year it will be putting huge pressure on the Government’s target for an earlier start to the CRL.

What’s also impressive about both December and January is that buses and ferries are showing some great growth too. In the case of the jump in ferry usage, AT say it is partly attributed to the patronage coming from the new Explore Group services that started a few months ago between the city and Waiheke Island. The timetable means there is now a 30 minute service throughout the day which offers a vast improvement in utility on what existed before so it’s not really surprising to see that having an impact. That also helps to highlight that the new bus network should help drive very good patronage growth.

The graphs below highlight some of the changes in patronage.

2015-01 - Total Patronage

The last time total patronage was as high as it is now was prior to 1958

The most impressive growth is occurring on the Rapid Transit Network which comprises of the Northern Express (NEX) and the rail network. Both rail and the NEX have shown great numbers recently.

2015-01 - Rail Patronage

2015-01 - NEX Patronage

Another thing that’s really impressive about the patronage results is that they’ve occurred at a time when petrol prices have been at their lowest point in years. Even though fuel has been cheap it seems many simply don’t want to sit in the congestion.

Petrol Prices to 13 Feb 15

Looking forward, February has already been feeling very busy and I expect the strong patronage growth will likely continue all the way through March Madness and beyond.

Update: some people noticed an issue with the change compared to the sane month last year figure for the Onehunga line. AT have corrected it below however it doesn’t affect the overall result

image004

Sharing SuperGold Subsidies

The issue of SuperGold subsidies has arisen once again, this time in relation to which operators should receive them.

Waiheke Island’s new ferry operator says it cannot keep offering pensioners free passage without sharing a subsidy the Government pays its competitors.

The Explore Group says it will serve notice next week of an intention to charge fares for holders of SuperGold cards, most of whose travel at weekends and after 9am on weekdays on the rival Fullers passenger and Sealink car-ferry operations is reimbursed by the Government.

Explore chief executive William Goodfellow said older passengers, who had received free trips on his vessels since they started on the Auckland-Waiheke run in late October, would receive a grace period “of weeks rather than days” before having to buy tickets.

But after that, they would have to pay $16 for a one-way fare or $29 for return passage.

“The reason we have accepted them to date is that we believed we’d get a fair outcome from the Ministry of Transport for the whole SuperGold Card scheme,” Mr Goodfellow told the Herald.

“We’re doing it simply out of goodwill, because we thought fairness would prevail, but it obviously hasn’t.”

He was referring to a moratorium the Government has imposed against new services joining the SuperGold travel concession scheme while it is being reviewed to ensure its costs “remain sustainable.”

His company had initially expected the review to be completed by the end of last year, but had since heard that would not happen until at least June, and could not wait that long for subsidy relief.

Not only was it letting seniors travel free, but it was also paying a wharf tax of more than $1 each way for each one carried.

The scheme’s annual cost of $18 million after Labour and New Zealand First introduced it just before National swept to power in 2008 has since risen to $26 million, of which Fullers receives a capped payment of $1.5 million.

I’ve never been a fan of how SuperGold works however given it exists I do believe that the subsidy for trips between the City and Waiheke should be shared equally between operators based on the patronage each one carries. This is especially the case seeing as a return fare on the services cost the same and off peak the services are staggered to providing a 30 minute all day service to and from the island. Maintaining a moratorium on new services is absurd when both offerings are competing commercially.

The herald notes that SuperGold payments for trips to the island are capped at $1.5 million, that’s currently around 12% of all SuperGold costs for Auckland which in the last financial year totalled just under $12.3 million. That is made up of $8.6 million for buses, $1.2 million for trains and $2.5 million for ferries.

SuperGold Costs - 2014

Just how many trips on SuperGold trips are to and from Waiheke specifically is unclear however I’ve been able to find how many trips there are by each mode – although only up to the 2012/13 financial year. As expected buses made up the majority of patronage however the thing that surprised me the most was that comparatively SuperGold trips only made up a comparatively low 5.5% of all rail patronage.

SuperGold Patronage - 2013

The Central Wharves Strategy

The council’s City Centre Integration Group (CCIG) – the team charged with turning all of the various visions and plans for the city centre into a reality – are wanting the council to endorse their strategy for the city’s Central Wharves which will see some significant changes to how the wharves are used. The central wharves are essentially the finger wharves that jut out into the harbour and include Princes Wharf, Queens Wharf, Captain Cook Wharf and Marsden Wharf.

It was first signalled that CCIG were looking at the wharves in the Downtown Framework in September last year and at the time they said more work needed to be done to make the best use of the space.

Before going into the proposal some background. The core issue the strategy is trying to address is growth that’s expected to occur in ferries, cruise ships, public space/events and freight. All of those cause congestion not just on land but also on the water too. More specifically on each:

  • Ferries – They say ferry patronage and the number of ferries plying the harbour are expected to grow by around 50% over the next decade. That means more space is needed for ferries and even if the location is left where it is will also need to be reconfigured to handle those extra volumes.
  • Cruise Ships – The number of cruise ships visiting keeps increasing and along with that the cruise ships themselves are getting bigger. They say there’s now a need to be able to accommodate 350m long vessels (Queen Mary 2 which has visited a few times is 345m long and has had to tie up at the freight wharves). That means to keep cruise ships here one or more of the finger wharves need to be extended. This is also apparently not just important for Auckland but for NZ as a whole as if ships can’t stop in Auckland they won’t visit elsewhere in NZ either. It’s also not just the cruise ships themselves but also all of the provisioning that goes along with that. As an example they say one ship carrying 3,000 people on a 7-day cruise needs 6,500kg of fish, 26,500kg of meat, 27,500 of fruit & vegetables and 17,000 litres of milk that all need to be loaded aboard. To add one more issue the cruise ships generally like to leave port right in the afternoon peak when the ferries are at their busiest putting added pressure on that water space.
  • Public Space – All of the council’s plans call for the waterfront to become more accessible and friendly to the public. Queens Wharf was brought from the ports ($40 million) for exactly this reason. Of course because Queens Wharf is also used for cruise ships it becomes anything but publicly accessible during many days in summer – just when people most want to use it. The image below highlights one of the problems with much of the wharf effectively closed off to the public.

Queens Wharf Cruise Ships

  • Freight – Captain Cook and Marsden wharves are currently used by the port for the storage of bulk goods and primarily imported cars – many of which eventually head out of Auckland. The ports obviously want to continue and grow that. I’m not convinced that the storage of large bulk items like cars is necessarily the best use such prime waterfront land.
  • Other – In addition to the uses above there’s also increasing demand for use of various wharves by tourist operators and by the marine sector in relation to super yacht visits.

Moving back to the Downtown Framework, the document suggested four possible future scenarios for the uses of the central wharves. As part of the strategy that was expanded to six options. All options involve the extension of Halsey Wharf at Wynyard and the need to retain the ability for cruise ships at Princes wharf for when there are three in town at once. Further all but one involve the removal of Marsden Wharf. The six options that were evaluated were:

  1. An extension to Queens Wharf, operationally it would be the same as what we have now.
  2. Shifting the Ferry terminal to Captain Cook Wharf which would see Queens Wharf dedicated to cruise ships and still be the public space too.
  3. Extending Bledisloe Wharf substantially with enough space for two large cruise ships end to end.
  4. Extending Captain Cook Wharf and shifting all cruise operations there. They say it would also require some wharf extension and reclamation for Bledisloe Wharf which the port claim is needed to compensate for almost 3ha lost from no longer having access to Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves.
  5. A shorter extension of Bledisloe Wharf with cruise ships shared between there and Queens Wharf
  6. An extension of Princes Wharf to handle longer ships and retaining the use of Queens Wharf.

This list was then narrowed down to options 1, 3 and 4. The remaining options were then evaluated on a range of criteria and compared in a matrix. Unfortunately I currently only have a low quality paper copy of this until the presentation goes online however it is clear from it that option 1 was by far the worst with option 4 the best.

Central Wharves Evaluation Matrix

Option 4 is shown below.

Central Wharves Option 4 - Captain Cook Extension

CCIG say the benefits of this option is it enables two new public spaces either side of Queens Wharf (the breastworks between Princes and Queens would be extended). These areas would be the replacement for public space lost from the sale of QE2 square. Queens Wharf would become dedicated to people use or for events along with a reconfigured ferry terminal with 12 end loading berths. The downside in my view is the extension of Bledisloe Wharf. I get the feeling that the Ports of Auckland are trying to use whatever methods they can to get extensions happening.

Admiralty Basin

An idea of what Admiralty Basin could look like

 

Incidentally I and many others have been saying that Captain Cook is the best location for the cruise ship terminal for some time. The last time it came up it was suddenly shot down by Len Brown before it could be investigated.

The one big unknown in all of this is just what it will cost. I can’t see the extension of Captain Cook wharf being cheap nor the works to improve the waterfront for more people space. I also can’t see the councillors being all that supportive of a strategy that endorses the extension of Bledisloe Wharf but we’ll have to wait to see till Thursday.

How far we’re travelling on PT

Last week I wrote about how I’d found some interesting data from the NZTA on how our Public Transport system is performing. In the post I looked specifically at the fare revenues that were collected and in this post I’ll look at Passenger Kilometres Travelled.

Passenger Kilometres Travelled (PKT) is the total distance that people travel on PT services and is useful as it helps to show how the PT system is being used. While we know patronage in Auckland has increased remarkably over the last decade it might be that people are travelling the same distances as they were, alternatively they could be making longer or shorter trips. As an example more people taking longer trips might mean that PT is becoming a more attractive as a way of avoiding congestion. PKT is also useful as it more accurately allows us to compare with Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) as in the past some people have criticised us for comparing VKT and the total number of PT trips.

One aspect I’m not sure about is how PKT has been calculated in the past, I can only assume it’s an extrapolation of some combination of ticket sales, passenger counts and other measures. The total VKT graph looks similar to overall patronage results so I’ve skipped that and instead will focus on the average distance people are travelling. This is shown below:

Auckland

AK PKT

There are a number of fascinating insights we can take from this as all modes are showing some change. The first thing you will notice is that VKT is quite different for each mode, on average train users travel the longest distance while bus users generally have the shortest trips. The overall distance travelled is a reflection of the changes in each mode:

  • Bus – For a decade the average trip length of bus users remained almost unchanged at less than 6.5-7km per trip. Since 2011 thought it’s rocketed up to be just over 9km per trip in 2014. To put that in perspective 9km in a straight line from the city centre covers almost all of the old Auckland City Council area. I suspect the reason for the increase is twofold, longer trips due to increased patronage on services like the Northern Express and probably better data from Hop (and formerly Snapper on NZ Bus).
  • Train – Train journeys are bucking the trend and seem to be getting shorter over time as more people use them for a wider variety of trips. While most people travel on train to the city, the station stats we saw at the end of last year highlighted there are also a lot of shorter local trips, especially on the western line.
  • Ferry – The ferry result is the one that surprises me a bit. Around 80% of all ferry patronage comes from either Devonport or Waiheke Island. The increase since 2011 might be a reflection of more trips from Waiheke plus ferries from Half Moon Bay, Gulf Harbour and Pine Harbour.

Wellington

WG PKT

Patronage in Wellington has seen much less change over the last 15 years thanks to its more mature system and that is reflected in the PKT stats. Like Auckland trains generally have much longer trips over buses or ferries. Again this isn’t surprising considering how far out of Wellington the rail network extends.

The next graphs show how buses and trains compare between Auckland and Wellington. For buses Auckland and Wellington are remarkably similar until recently while the rail networks is considerably different thanks to the longer network e.g. the Wairapapa trains.

Auckland vs Wellington PKT by Mode

Lastly I mentioned that this allows us to more accurately compare measures against changes in VKT. The next graph looks at the PKT compared to VKT for Auckland. Due to the disparity in the number of trips I’ve indexed the results to show where the change is occurring. This is just based on the total VKT however it looks pretty similar if compared on a per capita basis with the primary difference being that the blue line is flatter.

Auckland PKT vs VKT

Clearly one mode of transport is growing much faster than the other

Update:

AT have got in touch to say that since the full roll out of HOP in March it’s allowed them to get a more accurate picture of bus PKT and that the average distance travelled on buses is 7.6km

How much we pay in PT fares

Looking through the NZTA website recently I managed to find some data I’ve wanted to see for some time about our PT system. In particular information is about fare revenue, the amount of passenger kilometres travelled and the number of kilometres services travel. I’ll cover it all off over a few posts but to start with I’ll just look at fare revenue.

Fare revenue is the total amount that passengers pay to use PT services and can be affected by a number of factors such as

  • The number of trips taken – more people will generally mean more revenue
  • The distance people travel – i.e. if users start taking longer trips revenue will grow
  • The age of passengers – e.g. a higher proportion of younger people will likely mean more concession/child fares and therefore less revenue
  • The fare structure – reducing fares, like what happened last year for most users, could mean less revenue
  • The number of people paying by cash – cash fares are more expensive than passes or multi trip/HOP fares
  • The mode people used – e.g. ferries re more expensive than buses or trains

Unfortunately we don’t know what’s changed with all of those factors over the years so for this analysis I’m going to assume most (such as the age of passengers) has stayed fairly constant. Usefully the data is also broken down by mode allowing us to see the changes at that level.

In Auckland fare revenue has almost doubled over the last decade from $85 million in 2003/04 to $162 million in 2013/14 while at the same time patronage climbed from 52 million to 72 million trips. An interesting fact I noticed while looking at this data – and that highlights the factors listed above – was that despite patronage on trains and buses falling during 2012/13 fare revenue from passengers actually increased slightly. I was also surprised at just how similar both ferry and train revenues have been for most of the last decade.

Auckland Fare Revenue

That means the average fare Aucklander’s pay has also increased and risen from $1.64 per trip in 2003/04 to $2.24 per trip in 2013/14. The average ferry fare stands out as being well above the other modes reflecting the fact that ferry services cost more to use. I’m not sure why ferry revenue dropped so much in 2003-2007 period, patronage on ferries were certainly growing.

Auckland Average Fare Revenue 2

At this stage it’s looking like we’re paying quite a bit more for many of our PT services but before we declare that I’ve also made a version of the graph above where the average fare has been adjusted for inflation. Doing so shows that on average for buses and trains, fares have actually decreased while ferries remain volatile.

Auckland Average Fare Revenue Inflation adjusted 2

It will be fascinating to see the impact on these figures from the patronage surge we’re experiencing and from the reduction in fares for HOP users (the majority) in July last year. Overall it seems like Aucklander’s are on average paying the paying slightly less for their buses and trains than they did a decade ago. Can the same be said for our friends down in Wellington.

The overall Auckland and Wellington graphs have a number of similarities, especially with the total figure. What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade.

Wellington Fare Revenue

What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade. That means like Auckland the average fare has increased.

Wellington Average Fare Revenue 2

 

And here it is inflation adjusted. Unlike Auckland, adjusting for inflation doesn’t change the outcome for rail which in Wellington is still seeing fares increase on average.

Wellington Average Fare Revenue Inflation adjusted 3

So how do these average fares compare with other international cities? I took look at a number of them in Australia, Canada and the US. In most of those cities, but not all, the average fare is somewhere been $1 and $2. That puts Auckland and slightly above average of the cities I compared but not massively so and as mentioned earlier and I think the average will come down thanks to the fare reduction in July. I also hope the current surge in patronage continues and that too is bound to bring the average down.

Lastly I’m going to look at revenues per Passenger Km travelled. I’ll only compare bus and train fares for this one but include both cities. What we can see is that on average Aucklanders catching the train are paying more per km travelled than those in Wellington but Wellington bus users pay more.

Auckland vs Wellington Fare Revenue

2014 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.

While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.

Electrification

The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.

The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6484

Integrated Ticketing

After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.

As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.

Hop Card

 

Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.

Patronage

Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:

  • Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
  • Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
  • Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)

AK Total Patronage Nov 14

Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.

WG Total Patronage Nov 14 Bus Lanes

This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.

In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.

City Rail Link

It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.

In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.

Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.

AT Metro

Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.

Double Decker

New Network

Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges

AMETI

The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.

Panmure Station 1

MIT/Manukau Station

The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.

MIT dyptych

 

So what did I miss?