Auckland Transport have their board meeting this week and so have finally release the patronage results for April and there has been some significant changes to how they are doing it. Instead of just some monthly PT figures, AT staff are proposing adding in wider economic indicators which may have impacts on the transport network along with results on other parts of their business, like arterial road performance, I think this is a good move.
I won’t go into each of the indicators n the report as you can read them yourself but the new ones are:
- Auckland Economic Activity
- Auckland Employment
- Auckland Residential Building Activity
- Auckland Airport Passengers
- New vehicle registrations (NZ)
- Heavy Traffic Index (NZ)
- Fuel Prices
- Auckland Fuel Sales
- Monthly traffic volumes
- State Highway Traffic
- Arterial road productivity
- Auckland road crash deaths
Now onto the PT stats.
First the good news is that PT use increased compared to April last year with patronage up 5% although what isn’t mentioned is that there were two extra working days thanks to Easter falling partly in March and there being one less weekend day. This also saw both the Northern Express and other buses increase in patronage (16% and 7% respectively). This is a particularly good result for the Northern Express and is likely a result of AT marketing the service, let’s hope it continues. Ferries were down 1.6% on last April despite having the addition of Hobsonville and Beach Haven, perhaps this was hampered by the weather?
I deliberately left rail out as this is where AT are starting to make some changes to how PT is reported. Overall for the month patronage was down 1.9% on April last year which AT say is partly attributed to the pre-purchasing of tickets to avoid fare changes the previous year. However it appears that they have now recognised that simply reporting monthly numbers doesn’t show the full picture thanks to variances in the calendar, special events and other ticket purchasing. Now included is a graph showing what is the normalised weekday patronage for each month. This removes from the data patronage associated with public holidays and special events (ticketing is taken care of by HOP) to show how normal services are performing which is a fare more useful tool.
Now it shows that average daily patronage was down in April compared to April last year but its usefulness is particularly if you look back at February and March this year. Those months saw total patronage down 8% and 4% respectively on the same months the year before however by looking at the weekday patronage graph, you can see that patronage actually improved. The March numbers are particularly interesting as with the exception of the months through the RWC, March 2011 is still the highest monthly result achieved. March 2013 is 11% down on that mark yet weekday patronage is actually higher.
Another interesting paper going to the AT board this week is on a review of HOP carried out by Deloitte. They have looked at the problems, what is being done, compared it to what is happening in other countries and made some recommendations. I won’t touch on every aspect in the report but there are some very interesting bits.
First up it seems that this report is what is largely responsible for the change in rail patronage reporting. Deloitte went back through the data to remove the anomalies mentioned above. By looking at HOP data they also found that monthly passes had previously been over counted. In the past when a ten trip of monthly pass was sold, AT would amortise the trips on it over a period from when the pass was brought and this is why there were spikes in patronage when fares went up. For monthlies they would assume that the holder would use 43 trips over the month however HOP data is showing that on average people are only using monthly passes for 30 trips a month so they also correcting historical patronage numbers for this. The graph below shows ticket purchases by type and it is interesting to see monthly passes decline so much.
While the next graph shows the impacts the adjustments have had on monthly patronage numbers
Next up we have fare evasion, the report says that previous levels of evasion were reported in the range of 6-10%. I certainly remember from before HOP where huge numbers of people from the inner stations would not get their tickets checked as the staff simply couldn’t get through the trains. While not deliberate on the part of the passenger, it was still a form of fare evasion. The report says that checks before April were finding similarly high levels of evasion but that since April 12 evasion is sitting at around 4.2%
- The report also says that AT are already in the process of:
- Purchasing more hand held devices for ticket inspectors
- Purchasing more ticket machines for platforms
- Working to improve the interface to reduce transaction times.
- Investigating gating more stations, Manukau will happen later this year and they are also considering Grafton, Henderson and New Lynn.
- Working to reduce the time taken for funds to appear on cards.
- As part of the bus roll out, a retail network will be put in place which train users will be able to also use.
- Increasing penalty fares for fare evasion although that relies on legislative changes (which I understand have been delayed further by the MoT)
The report lists a fairly comprehensive list of the issues that still remain. In the interests of space I won’t list them here but it certainly covers the various complaints I have seen raised.
One of the particularly interesting aspects of the report is that it compares the performance of HOP to other roll outs intentionally through a number of case studies (although some of the systems can’t be named for as the information isn’t public.
And where is Auckland
So we seem to be fairly at a fairly similar level to other cities. With HOP rolling out to buses we should hopefully see significant uptake in the coming months. One thing noted by the authors is that the price differential between cash and card fares appears to have been a key contributor to increasing smart-card uptake. Hopefully we will see greater discounts offered in future but at this stage, I’m not holding my breath. Of the two systems for which fare evasion data is available, Myki (7%) and Oyster (1.5%) , HOP seems to be sitting in the middle of them at 4.2%.
The report also shows the measures being taken by AT to increase uptake are similar to those overseas.
And finally here are the conclusions and recommendations that were made to AT
Auckland Transport have just announced a the results of their annual fare review.
2013 Annual Public Transport Fare Review
Auckland Transport (AT) has completed its annual review of bus, ferry and train fares.
An annual review of Auckland public transport fare prices is undertaken by AT in accordance with its service contract obligations with transport operators.
This year, there are no across the board increases in fares, but there are targeted fare changes. The fare changes are designed to align bus and rail fares and, for ferries, to align fares on 10-trip paper tickets and AT HOP cards in preparation for the final rollout of the AT HOP card across AT services during the rest of 2013.
Bus and Rail
Single trip cash fares will remain unchanged across all bus and rail as will adult and child* NZ Bus fares and child AT HOP and child 10-trip fares. Increases to some adult AT HOP and adult bus 10-trip tickets are needed. These will be between 2c and 22c per trip.
Some bus and rail, return pass, daily pass, monthly pass and multi-operator fares will also change in preparation for the transition to integrated bus and rail monthly and daily passes.
There is no general fare increase. Some ferry fares have reduced; targeted fare changes are proposed to achieve alignment of fares for 10-trip paper tickets and AT HOP cards and improved alignment of historic differences in fares for similar distance services.
For example, short distance inner harbour services such as Devonport, Bayswater and Birkenhead 10-trip paper tickets will increase up to 20c per trip but with reductions in AT HOP fares.
Beach Haven, Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry service fares will remain unchanged or be reduced.
Across bus, rail and ferry the discount offered to tertiary students will reduce from a minimum of 38% to a minimum of 35% off the adult single trip cash fare, resulting in individual fare increases of between 7c and 40c per trip.
“Auckland Transport is working hard with its operators to provide greater connectivity and efficiency between public transport modes as well as better integrated pricing structure and price parity”, says Auckland Transport’s manager of Public Transport Operations Mark Lambert.
“We all know that Auckland’s roads are under enormous pressure and increased use of public transport across all modes has to be part of the solution to that problem”.
“Making public transport services customer friendly, and with a fare structure that makes them an attractive choice for people is a priority for Auckland Transport and its operators. Our New Network programme which is starting to be consulted on in June, forms part of that approach”, says Mr Lambert.
The new fares come into effect on 3 June.
For further information: www.AT.co.nz
*Children aged from 5 to 15 years inclusive and full-time secondary school students aged between 16 to 19 years inclusive (provided they are able to show a current Auckland Transport approved secondary school student ID, or are wearing a recognised school uniform. Please note that there will be no exceptions to this policy – proof of school attendance must be provided at all times).
I must say, I find it very odd that cash fares are being left but that HOP fares are being are being increased. Surely a better option would have been to at least increase cash fares by a greater level so to increase the effective discount being provided.
The actual fares aren’t online yet so we will have to wait to see exactly what the changes are.
As we know, public transport in Auckland often leaves a lot to be desired with it only seems to work really well in a handful of situations. The good news is that despite a few delays and false starts, we seem to be on the right track and over the next few years there are a few massive changes happening. We will get an entire fleet of brand new electric trains, an entirely revamped bus network and tying all together will be integrated ticketing and fares. There are a few other important things going on behind the scenes like the roll out of a new contracting regime but that is something that most people won’t know or care about.
Communicating some of these changes is not going to be easy for Auckland Transport as there is simply so much changing over what is a relatively short period of time. There are also bound to be some challenging times for the organisation, especially in relation to the changes for new bus network. So it is good to see support and communication for the changes coming straight from the top of the organisation. In an opinion piece in the Herald today, Chairman Lester Levy provides his thoughts.
Restoring faith in Auckland’s transport system
When it comes to transport in Auckland the stakeholders are as many and varied as are the differing and divergent views.
I guess it has always been like this and over many decades ad hoc decisions, decisions half-made, questionable decisions and decisions deferred or never made have severely limited options.
Transport solutions in Auckland are well behind where they should be, but not where we have to stay.
I have been chairman of Auckland Transport for six months. What do I see? Public transport in Auckland is just not yet good enough. The trains do not run frequently enough and frequently they do not run on time. The bus real-time information does not seem real to many, because it is not, a lot of the time.
Peak times on trains and buses are often very crowded and it just seems like there are not enough of them – that is because often there are not. The new AT Hop card has had some issues – these have been very frustrating for passengers.
Doubt, distrust, ridicule, criticism – that has largely been the history of transport in Auckland. The possibility that transport issues in Auckland could ever be resolved seems to have been consigned to the wastebasket of history.
I believe a large part of the problem is there have been so many strategies and plans that it seems to me that figuring out what to do has become more important than actually doing something.
Perhaps because of this, far too many Aucklanders have lost faith that there is an alternative to their private car.
There is no need to declare defeat.
Change is coming fast! I believe that Auckland’s transport problems can and will be resolved – but it will not be easy.
Imagine if every negative, downward-spiral critic had prevailed in history. We would have no antibiotics, no air travel, no smartphones and a whole bunch of other fantastic stuff that has enriched our lives. We need to move beyond the downward spiral critics (even many of the transport reports are loaded with pessimistic assumptions and outcomes), but just as importantly we need to take off the rose-tinted glasses, confront reality and be very honest about where we are with transport in Auckland and very clear about where we need to be.
As I said, change is coming fast. Neighbourhood by neighbourhood, transport operator by transport operator, mode by mode, route by route, street by street – we at Auckland Transport are taking this thing apart piece by piece and will return it put back together in a new form – a form where public transport will operate with precision.
High frequency, reliability, attractive and affordable pricing, higher levels of passenger comfort, accurate and accessible information and high levels of safety and security are the principles that we are now moving forward on.
What we are proposing is not a simple “chemical face-peel” where the changes are minor and temporary. For a few months the skin looks perfect and then just returns to what it was before. What Auckland Transport is about to undertake is “major reconstructive surgery” where the changes will be significant and permanent.
Auckland Transport is embarking on a full review of every single bus route, a major upgrade of the trains, new ferry services, new fare structures, new ways of paying for everything – so much needs to be turned around and we are going at public transport like it has never ever been done in Auckland before.
Auckland Transport is going to create a public transport network of buses, trains and ferries that will present as a highly desirable option for those who have never really considered it before. Critical to providing public transport in a totally different paradigm is planning and delivering the services totally from the perspective of the passenger – not of the bureaucracy or the provider. Revolutionising the passenger experience is fundamental to moving forward.
Sure, we will need to build more infrastructure (and hard choices will need to be made), but let us not miss the opportunity right in front of us to extract the huge and unseen potential from our existing investments. It is not simply about building more, it is also about getting a lot more out of what we have and then when we do build more we will get outcomes that currently seem unlikely.
Change will happen, but like all progress will take time – in three years transport in Auckland will be different and by 2020 it will be very, very different.
This comes less than a week after AT launched the excellent new video for the new PT network that we are getting.
The long running saga of Auckland’s Integrated Ticketing project continues, with this story in the Sunday Star Times today:
Auckland Transport’s accounts indicate the city’s integrated ticketing system is $27 million over budget and behind schedule, but the council-owned agency refused to comment on or clarify its numbers last week.
The Sunday Star-Times has been requesting an update on the project for two weeks, but last week spokeswoman Sharon Hunter said no-one was available for an interview.
After saying the project was on schedule, Hunter said Auckland Transport would be holding a media briefing around the start of the AT HOP bus rollout programme “shortly”.
As well as the apparent budget blowout, the article also points out that the legal dispute with Snapper remains unresolved.
Earlier this week, Auckland Council approved only $2m of a $9m request for additional funding for the project from Auckland Transport. It isn’t clear what impact this will have on the rollout.
It is very hard to know how the AIFS project is tracking, with Auckland Transport being so circumspect about what the plan is for the bus rollout. We certainly don’t seem to be any closer to a decision on what the final zone fare structure will be and how transfers will work, let alone family and other types of monthly passes.
The most recent official information we have is from the March Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting, with the following points highlighted for each mode.
- 49,000 plus users
- Cash fares higher than forecast
- System fully operational
- On-line top-up behind forecast
- VRD performance
- Revenue management issues
- Manukau gating
- System fully operational
- Very low number of users
- Fare challenges to migrate to HOP
- Downtown Ferry Terminal upgrade
- Thales programme of works on schedule
- Bus cabling and installations commenced this month
- Pilot for Northern Express scheduled to begin on 21 April
- Bus rollout commences from June
- Complex bus roll-out due to multiple fare products and individual operator cards
The low uptake for ferry users should not be surprising – using an AT Hop on the ferries is more expensive than a 10 trip ticket.
The obvious thing to do would be to make the fare for AT Hop card users the same as the 10 trip ticket price, and do away with 10 trip tickets altogether, but who knows what “Fare challenges to migrate to HOP” actually means.
As for the bus rollout, clearly we are running behind time with the Northern Express pilot still continuing. The chances of a June bus rollout seem remote.
The Auckland Integrated Fares programme has been dragging on now since the end of 2009. A brief summary:
Auckland Regional Transport Authority signs a $47m contract with Thales to provide integrated electronic ticketing for buses, trains and ferries. The initial contract was for the core system capable of being a nationwide clearing house, and the set up in Auckland of the rail and ferry hardware. Despite not being awarded the contract, Snapper announce they will be rolling out their ticketing solution on to Auckland NZ Bus services.
Auckland Transport announce that “Supplementing the contract already in place with Thales, a Participation Agreement has now been signed between Auckland Transport, NZ Bus and Snapper for the introduction of a single smartcard for use on NZ Bus services as part of the Auckland Integrated Ticketing program. Other bus operators were said to be at “different stages of understanding”.
The decision is somewhat surprising as, at the time of the announcement, the Snapper card is not compatible with the Thales Desfire technology.
It is later revealed in Parliament that Snapper met with Steven Joyce on 3rd March of 2010. Soon after the meeting Snapper confirmed in a letter to the NZTA that “NZBus should be free to proceed on its current plan to implement Snapper equipment … in Auckland.” Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee responds saying that ”it is incorrect to say that the New Zealand Transport Agency was instructed by the Minister to include Snapper.”
In a presentation to the newly formed Auckland Transport Committee, Auckland Transport project the following timeline for the AIFS programme:
The “purple” Hop card is rolled out on the NZ Bus fleet, starting with North Star services.
It is alleged that Snapper cannot make its card compatible with the Thales solution by November 2012, claims refuted by Snapper at the time. Earlier, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says that Snapper would be “off the run” if they fail to meet the deadline.
Snapper vows “all necessary steps will be taken to recover losses arising from the wrongful termination”, warning that “Auckland ratepayers would be the casualties, saying the ultimate cost of the decision by the council transport organisation’s board … was likely to the significant”
Auckland Transport announces that non-NZ Bus operators will install Thales hardware on their bus fleets.
Andrew Ritchie, Chief Executive of Ritchie’s, says, “The bus consortium previously chose Parkeon as its hardware supplier and they have proven themselves to be professional and responsive in their approach to the project. However, in the interests of a seamless approach we have now elected to move to the AT Thales solution which will also be used on trains and ferries”.
AT Hop is rolled out on trains. The introduction of the AT Hop card causes confusion over branding that continues to exist, with “purple hop” continuing to be used on NZ Bus services, while AT Hop is used on ferries and trains.
AT Hop rolled out to ferry users. Greg Edmonds quoted as saying “AT HOP for ferries will begin with single ticket fares with at least a 10% discount off the equivalent single cash fare. Auckland Transport and ferry operators are working closely together to enable products such as ferry monthly and other passes, to be available on the AT HOP card in the near future”.
Some comments the other day raised the question about what led to patronage dropping so much in the late 1950′s. Was it the removal of the tram network or was it the opening of the Harbour bridge, the motorways and the introduction of cheaper cars. In a way it is kind of a chicken or egg debate. It was sparked by this graph from Auckland Transport and thankfully they had previously provided me with the data behind it allowing us to look at the info in more detail.
So let’s have a look at things in more detail. I think that there are four distinct periods in the history of PT patronage in Auckland and with the exception of the one we are in now, they conveniently each lasted about 25 years. I characterise these four periods as:
- The Rise – 1920 to 1945
- The Fall – 1946 to 1970
- The Bounce – 1971 to 1995
- The Revival – 1996 to Now
By 1920 electric trams had been plying Auckland for almost two decades (having replaced Horse drawn trams) and they had enabled the city to spread out across large portions of the central isthmus. Effectively where the trams went, development followed and the suburbs were designed to make trams easy to use. This is most noticeable in the western side of the isthmus where most houses were within 400m walking distance of a tram route. Further looking at aerial images from 1940 on the councils GIS viewer, it doesn’t appear that there were very many houses outside of the areas covered in the map below
400m catchment from the former tram lines. (thanks to Kent)
Patronage during this time was clearly affected by the great depression however rebounded afterwards then surged during the war thanks to the rationing of fuel and rubber as well as the increase participation in the workforce to support the war. The graph below shows patronage by mode up for this period. As you can see the trams carried the vast majority of passengers with over 80% of all trips occurring on them. Auckland’s population during this time went from around 150,000 to just under 300,000 however even at the lowest point, there were an average of over 240 trips per person per year. During the war patronage peaked at over 420 trips per person per year.
As you would expect, after the war patronage decreased however it didn’t fall back to pre-war levels and instead stayed above 100 million trips per year. All up by 1950 patronage had only decreased by ~11% from its wartime peak. While the total number of cars in NZ had definitely increased over time, annual new car registrations were still below levels seen during the depression, so much so that between 1945 and 1950 the total vehicle fleet in NZ had only increased by 12%. Per capita usage in 1950 was around 330 trips per person.
A tram in Queen St 1949 – Queen Street, Auckland city. New Zealand Free Lance : Photographic prints and negatives. Ref: PAColl-7171-06. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23214342
Unfortunately our city leaders fell hook line and sinker for the utopian dream spreading out from the US that cars and buses powered by petrol and diesel were the future. It was decreed that buses were to replace the trams and in typical Auckland fashion, we not only proceeded to do this but extremely rapidly – and likely very expensively – pulled out the entire tram network over roughly a 6 year period. What was likely an initial optimism about the future of Public Transport seemed to be wiped away once people actually tried the new bus services and by the time the last tram was removed from the city in 1956, patronage had plummeted from over 105.5 million in 1950 to around 66.5 million in 1957.
During this time period the first motorways also started to be completed and by 1957 sections on the Northwestern were open between Lincoln Rd and Pt Chev while the Southern motorway was open between Ellerslie -Panmure Highway and Redoubt Rd. It’s interesting to question how much impact they would have had on PT patronage initially as both ended outside of furthermost extent of the former tram network. Car ownership throughout NZ also increased during this time which I suspect is partly due to more being available and partly people not happy with the bus options being provided.
After the sharp fall caused by the removal of the tram network, patronage then went into a steady decline as the car culture became further entrenched and more and more motorway extensions were opened. Despite what one person has suggested, the only noticeable impact of the harbour bridge opening seems to have to the ferries which is understandable.
By 1972 public transport patronage had reached a low of just 42 million trips per year and then the oil crisis hit. Almost instant it seems as though patronage bounced back with it increasing by over 10 million trips in a year. From there it bounced around between 50 and 60 million trips a year for around 15 years. I don’t know the history behind it but it also seems odd that just as oil prices spike, we obviously started pulling out the trolley buses and replaced them with diesel ones. Both trains and ferries had little to no impact on patronage during this time period.
I have also called it the bounce because the increases experienced didn’t last. By the late 80s petrol prices started to decline once again in real terms. Around the same time (or early 90′s) reforms made it much easier and therefore cheaper to import cars which saw PT patronage fall away again to new lows. In 1994 we reached the lowest point ever with just over 33 million trips in the year.
Bus patronage started to see a revival in the late 90′s spurred on primarily on buses. I’m not entirely sure what started it so perhaps some readers can fill me in. In 2003 Britomart opened which was really the turning point for the rail network, it initially saw some impact to bus patronage however both have grown and it has seen patronage climb back above 70 million trips. Incidentally the last time it was that high was the year the last of the tram lines were pulled out.
So did greater availability of cars turn people off PT or were people put off PT by the removal of the tram network and pushed into using cars? I think it is a bit of both. Had the trams not been removed I suspect that patronage would still have dropped as car use became more prevalent however I doubt it would have fallen by as much as it did. Of course we can’t know for sure but I think we can say with certainty that Auckland would be quite a different city if we still had those tracks in place today.
For a total comparison, here is the total change experienced by mode since 1920.
And here you can see the impacts that at a per capita level. A rapidly increasing population has meant that despite recent gains in patronage are still not using PT anywhere as much as even a few decades ago.
I live in a parallel transport universe. A universe where zombies make uninformed statements about Auckland’s transport issues, which are subsequently published by well-meaning but clueless mainstream media. The zombies’ strategy is to hypnotise people with absurdity and then proceed to eat a few parts of their brains, after which their haplessly brainless victims stumble out into the world spouting transport nonsense.
Yesterday threw up two delicious brain-eating examples.
The first came courtesy of this rather interesting hour-long series of interview on RadioLive. First off the mark was Patrick (cue Irish accent), who took 10 minutes to deconstruct a few of the myths about Auckland’s transport problems in somewhat humorous fashion.
Hot on Patrick’s dainty little high heels was an almost comical, but unfortunately serious, interview with Simon Lambourne, who apparently is the transport spokesperson from the AA (OMG he gets paid?). In response to a question about whether hovercrafts were the solution to Auckland’s transport problems, Simon replied by saying:
“Yeah well I think this person’s actually onto something. If you look at public transport in Auckland, and we desperately need to look at investing more in public transport than we already do, there’s a lot of attention on buses and trains, but hardly anything on actual ferries. Now if you look at somewhere like Sydney, where they really unleash the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network …”
Let’s follow Simon’s advice and “look” at Sydney’s public transport system. A quick internet search reveals the following (approximate) annual public transport patronage statistics by mode:
- Ferry ~13 million p.a.
- Bus ~200 million p.a.
- Rail ~250 million p.a.
Has Sydney really “unleashed the potential of their harbour through a great ferry network”? Perhaps – if you consider a ferry network that carries approximately 2% of total annual public transport patronage as being “unleashed” (NB: Ferries currently carry about 5% of Auckland’s PT patronage). But this has not been achieved without monumental investment in bus and rail, the very same type of investment that Lambourne is lamenting.
That “boom” you just heard was Simon Lambourne blowing up his own credibility. Seriously though, someone needs to tell Simon that it does not matter how reasonable you try and sound when you’re talking about public transport; if you’re working from blatantly incorrect information then you will always be, well, conspicuously wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong, I quite like ferries. In terms of overall deliciousness they rank just below chocolate ice-cream and puppies. Mmm … delicious.
But as previously discussed in this post, the potential of ferries in Auckland has largely already been tapped; there simply aren’t many craggy peninsulas like Devonport left. In other places where they have been considered, such as Te Atatu, the general conclusion (for good reason) is that ferries will struggle to compete with cars and buses in terms of speed and accessibility and therefor would be an expensive way to grow PT patronage.
And even putting these physical realities to one side does not alter the fact that the maximum potential share of total travel demands that could possibly be met by ferries is really, really small in the scheme of a large city like Auckland. So please don’t let Simon (or Cameron Brewer or Phil Twyford) eat your brain: Ferries are not going to solve Auckland’s transport problems (as the evidence from Sydney demonstrates).
Yesterday was the transport zombie gift that kept on giving. Another example came by way of this op-ed entitled “Strategic car parks part of gridlock solution“. The op-ed itself is not too bad, at least compared to Simon’s effort. The author (Neil Binnie) starts off by making the following claim (emphasis added):
Traffic congestion in Auckland is chronic and deteriorating fast. The comments that follow relate to the North Shore and the Northern Busway but the principles may be applied across the city. One issue that has had little promotion is park and ride.
Little promotion? Well, my 2 seconds of internet searching threw up this AT website, which identifies P&R sites across Auckland. These can be summarised as follows:
- Northern Busway – 1,100 car-parks
- Southern line – ~1,000 car-parks
- Western line – 300 car-parks
- And various ferry P&R sites.
We’ve also discussed P&R at length in this earlier post. One such ferry P&R is at Devonport, which is illustrated below. Here we see some of the most valuable land in New Zealand being occupied solely for P&R. How is this not a scandal? And how can an article on P&R not even mention the value of land?
Let’s look at the example of the Northern Busway in more detail. Here we have 1,100 P&R car-parks. Now if we assume that all these car-parks are occupied by cars that carry 1.2 people each, then these P&R spaces might be expected to generate approximately 1,100 x 1.2 x 2 = 2,750 boardings per day (2.5 boardings per car-park).
At last count the Northern Busway was carrying something like 2.25 million people per year, which is an average of 187,500 people per month or 6,160 per day (it’s likely to be much higher on weekdays). So on the average weekday P&R is able to contribute, at most, 45% (2,750/6,160) of the patronage on the Northern Express. Don’t forget, however, that the NEX is only about one-third of the bus services using the busway. When we consider all the other services using the busway, and their likely patronage, then P&R would seem to generate ~20% of total bus patronage in the corridor.
P&R is not even close to being the most important mode of access.
That’s not all, however. One of the often-overlooked issues with P&R is the degree to which it diverts existing PT passengers. When the Northern Busway, first opened, for example, surveys showed that approximately half of the people using the P&R had previously been catching a local bus from their street. Why is this relevant? Well, it indicates that approximately half of the people using P&R were not new to the PT system. That in turn means that half of the P&R provided on the Northern Busway did not contribute to a net increase in PT patronage.
None of this is mentioned in the article, which prefers to argue that “Passenger numbers on the Northern Expressway [sic] have plateaued because parking options are exhausted.“ The article also ignores that just over a year ago Auckland Transport spent $5.5 million to expand the Albany P&R by 550 spaces. Expanding park and ride in many locations is enormously expensive, because land is expensive. So the question Auckland Transport must try to answer is: Where is it cost-effective to do so? Places like Constellation and Albany generally are not cost effective. Silverdale maybe.
Despite all of these omissions the article then finishes with the following comment:
We are told to use shuttle busses rather than parking at a bus station or dropping family off. In practice the buses are so infrequent that it is not an option. For example, there is a bus every half hour from Albany bus station to Torbay shops. .
A bus every half an hour? That to me sounds like an argument for increasing the frequency of bus connections to busway stations, which indeed is what the draft RPTP has proposed to do. Again, these proposals, their potential costs (the proposed network is broadly cost neutral), and their subsequent effects on PT patronage (and the demand for P&R) does not even warrant a mention in the article.
Some of you may think that likening these people to “brain-eating zombies” is a little harsh on my part. Perhaps.
On the other hand, the people responsible for these pearls of wisdom, namely Simon Lambourne and Neil Binnie, have had the temerity to approach mainstream media offering their personal opinions on potential solutions to Auckland’s transport issues; opinions which can be shown to be demonstrably incorrect, or at least highly uninformed, with just 2 seconds of internet research. That, I’d suggest, is deserving of a lampooning.
It’s nothing personal, but I think it’s important to point out that these zombies don’t know what they’re talking about. Simon definitely should know better – after all he’s paid to know stuff about transport.
Of course ferries and P&R should be part of Auckland’s integrated transport system, but they’re relatively small parts – with the potential to contribute, at a guess, a maximum of 10-15% of total public transport patronage. The bulk of Auckland’s patronage will still occur the way it always has – walk-up passengers to bus and rail services It is these people that we need to focus on – they’re the bulk of our passengers and will be for the foreseeable future.
Indeed, the solutions to Auckland’s public transport issues are quite simple. We just need to 1) build the CRL so we can run higher train frequencies across the whole network; 2) establish a more legible, connected, high-frequency bus network ; and 3) implement a simple and “fair” integrated fare system. These three initiatives will provide quite a lot of “pull”. There’s also a need for a few policy reforms, such as the removal of minimum parking requirements, although these initiatives can bubble quietly along in the background providing a gradual “push” for people to drive less and use alternatives more.
I’m convinced that if we focus on implementing these initiatives, and ignore the noisy zombies with all their absurd ideas about how Auckland would somehow be saved if the city was awash with ferries or P&R or whatever, then we will get quite far, quite fast. We just need to stay the course and get the basics right. I realise that’s not a particularly glamorous message, but I think it’s the right one.
Campbell Live has been running a lot of stories on Auckland issues recently which has been nice to see and has obviously also provided us with a heap of material to talk about. Last night the entire episode was devoted to transport in Auckland. There were three parts to the show, the first was the kind of story done by news organisations from time to time where various staff members try to reach a specific location using various transport methods.The second section was the most interesting as involved Gerry Brownlee actually giving an interview on Auckland transport issues while the third section was about a lady who was having trouble topping up her daughters Snapper Hop (SNOP) card. I’m not going to look at the third section primarily because the SNOP card will hopefully be phased out soon although you can watch it here if you are interested. Here is the first two sections.
The First Section
If you haven’t watched the video, a bunch of staff were tasked with reaching their office in Eden Terrace by 9am using only public transport and it it seems the first mistake they made was by using the Maxx website to plan their journeys. To be fair there isn’t a lot of other options, yes there is Google and some apps but MAXX is what Auckland Transport provide. However the planner seems so woeful and doesn’t seem to ever have improved, AT really needs to put the thing out of its misery and replace it with something more modern. That said the results were not unexpected but also show how vital it is to communicate the benefits of the high frequency new bus network and that a lot of effort is made to make transfers easy. Further not all of the journeys were practical to take by PT, Lachlan Forsyth’s trip for example shows the benefits of commuting by bike and it would be better to encourage more people to do that where appropriate.
The Second Section
This was of course the most interesting and the part where I at times felt like pulling my hair out. To cover this I’m just going to go through bullet point my thoughts.
- At least Brownlee admits that Auckland is growing and that the transport problems will only get worse. It also seems that he has now read the report, something he hadn’t done before ruling out some of the options in the funding proposals a few days ago..
- Brownlee repeats quite a few times that Auckland is getting $1billion in transport spending annually. The emphasis he places on it makes it sound like Auckland is gobbling up the spending but in reality, it is less than 1/3 of the total transport spend in the country. It would have been good for Campbell to ask him how much Auckland provided in fuel taxes annually.
- I actually agree with Brownlee when he questions whether the suite of projects in the Auckland Plan are the appropriate ones and if they are timed right. However I don’t think that we would agree on what projects should be dropped or having their timing changed.
- Brownlee is asked his thoughts on the CRL and he is either trying to be deliberately misleading or has been badly informed. He suggests the project is about a short little loop that goes around in circles. This is exactly the kind of reason why it is so important that Auckland Transport actually publicly state the routing pattern that trains will use so that people can see it is about opening up the entire rail network. To put it another way it will have the same impact on the rail network that the Central Motorway Junction does for the motorway network.
- Brownlee talks about how the cost of the project is $3 billion which of course is an inflated and then rounded up figure. He also repeats the lie that Steven Joyce loved to use, that the government is spending $1.6 billion on the rail network. The reality is $600m was approved and budget for from before this government came into office while half of the remaining amount is a loan that Auckland is having to pay back.
- I’m really glad that Campbell actually asked him where he would spend $3 billion differently, as I pointed out yesterday, it is really important that people who oppose what is being planned actually say what they would do differently (not that Brownlee did). It was almost comical that Brownlee then went on to list a whole suite of road projects the government has already built or is building.
- At first I thought it was really odd the way that Brownlee talked about AMETI and whether that would happen as it is well under way and he has even visited the construction site. Re-watching the video, it then becomes clear that he is talking about a reviving of the eastern motorway. Did Brownlee just let slip that the government is now considering building it? It would certainly fit in with some whispers I have heard.
- Brownlee’s comment that “Aucklanders like roads” really does take the cake. For 60 years this city only ever invested in roads at the expense of almost everything else, it isn’t surprising then that most people drive when that has been made the easiest thing to do. The recent and comparatively modest investment in realistic alternatives has had a big impact and stronger investment in them is likely to see big changes in behaviour. As Stu pointed out yesterday, on a per capita basis people are already driving less.
- Brownlee is correct that we do need to sort out our bus routes and information systems. The good news is that is under way with the new bus network and should be completed by 2016, well before the CRL is suggested to be opened.
- The comments from Simon Lambourne are very rational and in line with what I feel. The big question of course is how many would still chose to drive if some good quality alternatives were in place.
- Brownlee is also correct when he states that the documents released on Monday about funding transport are really just the start of the discussion. This was actually something mentioned quite a few times by the CBG themselves. They suggest that a decision doesn’t actually need to be made on how to fund transport till 2015.
- Once again Gerry sidesteps the question of what the government are actually going to do to improve transport issues in the city.
- After the video from Len Brown, Brownlee goes on to talk about tolling new roads. The reality is that there aren’t that many new roads proposed that could be tolled. We have the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway, Penlink, An additional Harbour Crossing and The East West Link. Effectively every other roading project is an upgrade of an existing road, adding a lane here or there and under the criteria, they couldn’t be tolled.
- Brownlee talks about how they have had to put up fuel excise taxes due to falling revenues and gives a couple of reasons but misses the biggest one that vehicle use is dropping, both in real and per capita terms.
All up most of the comments Gerry made were a bit frustrating but not all that surprising given his previous statements. The more I think about it though, the more it seems as though that he let slip that the government is looking at reviving the Eastern Motorway proposals.
What were your thoughts on the video. Did I miss anything?
Patronage stats for March are out and as usual, are interesting reading. Once again only ferry patronage was up on March last year however AT have finally taken on board a suggestion I have made in the past and reported what is happening with weekday patronage (more on this later in the post). The biggest impact for March is that there were two less business days than March 2013, one of which was thanks to Easter. Here are the Highlights:
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,157,661 passenger trips for the 12-months to Mar-2013 a decrease of -1,581,228 trips or -2.2% on the same period to Mar-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 9,951,686 passengers for the 12-months to Mar-2013. Patronage for Mar-2013 was 1,002,967 a decrease of -44,380 boardings or -4.2% on Mar-2012, with two less business days in Mar-2013 (approximately -7% impact). Average daily weekday scheduled service patronage (excluding special event services) increased by +4.5% with increases also in weekend and total average daily figures. Mar-2013 patronage impacts include reduced special event services (negative), continued transition of legacy ticket counts at time of sale to AT HOP at time of travel (positive) and increased network shutdowns (negative).
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,235,202 passenger trips for the 12-months to Mar-2013. Mar-2013 patronage was 231,108, a decrease of -13,877 boardings or -5.7% on Mar-2012, with two less business days in Mar-2013 (approximately -7% impact). Average daily weekday scheduled service patronage (excluding special event services) increased by +2.6%. Patronage impacts include increased utilisation of enhanced alternative Northern Busway services in particular the 881 service (negative), re-branding and launch of the double decker vehicle (positive). AT HOP on bus in 2013 will permit all service boardings and alightings on the Northern Busway to be counted.
Other bus services carried 51,490,203 passenger trips for the 12-months to Mar-2013. Mar-2013 patronage was 5,005,881, a decrease of -346,308 boardings or -6.5% on Mar-2012, with two less business days in Mar-2013 (approximately -7% impact). Average daily weekday scheduled service patronage (excluding special event services) decreased by -1.2%. Patronage impacts include improved capacity on some routes (positive), reliability improvements on some routes (positive) and service changes in February.
Ferry services carried 5,480,570 passenger trips for the 12-months to Mar-2013. Ferry services patronage for March was 555,143, an increase of 45,546 boardings or +8.9% on Mar-2012. Patronage impacts include the launch of new ferry services at Hobsonville and Beach Haven (positive) and additional service trips at Pine Harbour (positive).
Overall patronage was down 5% on March 2012.
As mentioned earlier, for the first time AT have included information around weekday usage. This is something I had raised with them both on the blog and directly so it’s good to see. One of the reasons I have been keen to see this is that every time I catch the train, it doesn’t feel like things are getting quieter. In fact the opposite seems true when the trains are full, especially during the morning peak. Effectively what AT have done is look at the patronage from weekdays and weekends that didn’t have a special event on and compared the averages from March 2012 to March 2013.
Comparing the results this way helps to weed out changes in the number of working day as well as special event services. It shows that weekday patronage in March actually increased over March 2012 although some of the previous months did see drops. Interestingly weekend patronage has been up on the year before for the last few months. Perhaps more importantly it shows just how much greater patronage is during weekdays than on weekends. You may also remember that former transport minister Steven Joyce used to claim that the existing Puhoi to Wellsford route carried more people per day than the Auckland rail network. At ~18,000 vehicles per day on average, even if every single vehicle had two people in it, the road doesn’t even come close.
We are still waiting on the cycling numbers and will post them when they become available.
I also keep an eye on state highway traffic numbers, in particular the Harbour bridge for which the NZTA has the most information. It has continued to see traffic growth however is still down on its peak from 2006.
I imagine that there are a few staff not looking forward to the AT board meeting today when it comes time to discuss patronage as the results for Feb certainly aren’t pretty. The highlights, if you can call them that, are:
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,516,680 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2013 a decrease of -1,147,482 boardings or -1.6%. February monthly patronage was 5,639,960 a decrease of -360,732 boardings or -6.0% on Feb-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 9,996,066 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2013, a decrease of -929,032 boardings or -8.5%. Rail monthly patronage for February was 789,077 a decrease of -72,004 boardings or -8.4% on Feb-2012.
Northern Express bus service carried 2,249,079 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2013 a decrease of -49,126 or -2.1%. Northern Express bus service patronage for February was 170,554, a decrease of -13,505 boardings or -7.3% on Feb-2012.
Other bus services carried 51,836,511 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2103, a decrease of -359,936 boardings or -0.7%. Other bus monthly patronage for February was 4,132,765 a decrease of -313,630 or -7.1% on Feb-2012.
Ferry services carried 5,435,024 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2103, an increase of +190,612 boardings or +3.6%. Ferry monthly patronage for February was 547,564 an increase of +38,407 or +7.5% on Feb-2012.
There was one fewer business day in February this year than the same month last year and no major special events during the month. One fewer business day accounts for approximately -4% in patronage on Feb-2012.
Rail patronage has also been affected by the pre-purchase of tertiary ten-trip tickets at the end of Feb-2012 and the allocation of patronage counts at the time of sale compared to the purchase of AT Hop tertiary stored value in 2013 and the count of patronage made at time of travel. This would account for approximately -7.5% patronage reduction for rail in Feb-2013.
So with the exception of the ferries, PT was down across the board. Now to be fair, there was an extra day in the month last year but even so that should only make 4-5% difference. Lets have a look at the graphs:
The most high profile of the patronage stats these days is the rail network and once again things don’t look good with February even below the same month in 2011. Once again a lot of the blame seems to be targeted at the change in how stats are counted. Previously when you brought a 10 trip the trips on it were counted in the month of purchase where as now trips only get counted when you actually take a trip. The biggest problem with this comes when either fares rise, prompting a lot of people to stock up on 10 trip or monthly passes, or at the start of the year when Uni students start buying their 10 trips. With HOP neither of these happen and AT suggest that this accounts for 7.5% of the drop in rail patronage.
There is also likely to have been an increase in fare evasion as students in particular test out the new system. AT say that they are finding fare evasion as high as 6-10% and anyone who catches the train regularly enough will know that it is definitely still a problem with the high school students being the most common culprits.
Last month at the board meeting, AT staff got grilled about if they actually knew who their customers were and where the biggest opportunities lay. In the other board report on patronage (why do we need two) is some information on customer segmentation and to try and address the questions that came up last month.
Yet despite all of the talk, I still continue to get the feeling that AT are waiting for the next thing just around the corner to help solve the problem. The EMUs will fix reliability but they won’t start running till next year, the new bus network will make PT in general much more attractive again that won’t start rolling out till next year. Integrated fares are still some point in the distant future, as is even just integrated ticketing rolled out to buses and we are told that the real time system is going to be updated but that won’t start happening till later this year. Yet I’m still disappointed that nothing seems to be being done to address some of the long standing problems that are within ATs control right now e.g. we still have only hourly frequencies on the Western line and no services past Henderson on a Sunday.
The only real highlights of the reports are that Ferry patronage and cycling numbers continue to increase although currently both only really play a minor role in the overall picture.
Brian Rudman has hit the nail on the head with his piece this morning and raised many of the same points we frequently do:
But let’s not allow the authorities to persuade us that last Thursday’s logjam was a one-off event, and to pin the blame on the drivers involved in the motorway pile-up.
When I read of motorists woes in Friday’s paper, my first thought was, well, welcome to the club. On Monday, I had waited in Albert St for my 5.05pm bus, and when it failed to show, caught an Inner Link at 5.20pm, which then took 45 minutes to crawl up the short trip to Three Lamps, Ponsonby.
The journey wasn’t helped, by a New Zealand Bus car, parked illegally as usual, by a clipboard wielding “inspector”, slap bang in the middle of the bus lane outside the Victoria Park Markets. By week’s end, someone must have talked to her. I last spotted it parked illegally on the footpath in front of the bus shelters instead.
My planning guru, one of the “seen it all before” school, assures me everything will settle down in a week or so, as students start either sharing cars, find the parking problems are too great, or sleep in and start missing early lectures, that sort of thing. Here’s hoping.
Of course in a city with better separated public transport pathways, gridlock on the roads would be manna from heaven. What better promotion for the merits of public transport than a stalled and steamy motorist, trapped in their car, while a bus or train speeds past in their dedicated bus way or rail track.
In a year or three, when the new electric train service finally arrives, a part of this dream will become reality, and start luring commuters out of their cars. But for buses – the main form of public transport here – a network of separated bus lanes remains a pipe dream. Especially when even the bus operators treat what fragments of bus lanes that do exist – such as the one outside the Victoria Park Market – as a joke.
While Thursdays traffic problems were certainly larger than normal, they were by no means the only day that there are issues. The NZTA reports of accidents happening across the motorway network almost daily on their twitter stream, like this one from today.
Not all incidents create major problems but invariably there can be significant local congestion, this is especially the case when roads are near capacity. When that happens it doesn’t take much for traffic jams to form and even someone braking or changing lanes can send a shockwave of congestion back down the the roading network, as this video made by Japanese researchers shows.
The reality is we simply can’t build our way out of congestion, and no city has been able to do so. As Patrick described the other day, one of the big benefits of investing in better public transport is that it can take the edge off the roading network. Its not about each mode competing against each other but them working together to get the best outcome for everyone. But for PT to do its share and help take that edge off, it needs to be a better option in all situations, not just in the peak but also off peak, weekends and for events. One of the biggest things needed is much more extensive priority measures to at least keep the higher capacity PT network flowing.
He comes to the conclusion:
After several years of steady growth, public transport usage is starting to decline. At the last Auckland Transport board meeting, the bureaucrats presented plans for a marketing programme, complete with billboards telling us to “get training” and “get moving”.
Now I’m no marketing whizz kid, but I am a frequent passenger, and my instant response to being told to “get moving” is, chance would be a fine thing. I would, if I could find a regular bus service to move me.
Before fancy double decker buses, we need buses that turn up on time – or at all. We need electronic indicator boards that don’t lie and frustrate. And we need dedicated bus lanes in and out of the city so that be it Mad March or the depth of winter, buses can actually flow.
I agree, the best way to market PT services is not fancy marketing campaigns, or double decker buses but to get services working as people expect them to and having them run on dedicated bus lanes, especially on the parts through the centre of the city. I’m not aware of a single metre of new bus lane that has been added in the last few years, although some of the existing lanes have definitely been downgraded. So come on AT, lets get serious about getting these bus priority measures sorted.