Annual PT Fare Changes for 2016

Auckland Transport are making a few changes to public transport fares on 28 February and some of them are bound to result in howls of outrage. The changes are part of ATs annual fare review and they have said they are being influenced by a couple of key factors:

  • The need to achieve the NZTAs farebox recovery policy of 50% of costs covered by fares by June 2018
  • Changes to operating costs
  • Changes in preparation for ATs Simplified Fares which they say are currently on track to roll out at the end of July

I’ll cover off these aspects before going into the fare changes.

Achieving the Farebox Recovery Policy

As I talked about on Friday, the NZTA require that 50% of all PT costs across NZ are met by the revenue from fares paid by PT users. As Auckland accounts for over 50% of all PT across the country it means the city is critical to the country meeting that target. Of course this doesn’t mean that the target is rational or provides the best economic and social outcome but it currently exists so AT has to work within that. The good news is we’re on the right track. Farebox Recovery has increased to 47.8% from 45.9% the year before.

2015-12 - Farebox Recovery Ratio

Changes to operating costs

The way that contracting currently works for most services is that the operator gets the fare revenue and AT pay the net cost of providing the service. The amount that AT pay is adjusted based on a cost index determined by the NZTA which takes into account changes to aspects such as labour costs, fuel costs, RUC costs etc. There are two indices, one for bus/train and one for Ferries. AT say these are up 0.5 for bus/train and 0.1 for ferry in the September Quarter and the fare changes are to respond to that.

Out of interest the NZTA’s info on the indices say that fuel prices only make up about 15% of the operational costs for buses and just over 30% of the costs for ferries. But those indices also suggest that while prices are up in the September Quarter they are still down on a year on year basis. In other words, as of the September Quarter – which would have been used by AT for their fare review – AT were paying less for services than they were the same time the year before. On a YoY basis they are -0.4% for bus and -3.7% for ferry.

PT Cost Indicies to Sep-15

Changes for ATs Simplified Fares (aka integrated fares)

There are two main and significant changes being made by AT to better align fares in the lead up to AT rolling out Simplified fares at the end of July. They are also the ones that will likely get the most reaction – especially from the media. The changes were suggested as part of the consultation for simplified fares but that won’t make the changes any easier for those affected. Essentially it seems like they’re getting the bad news parts of the Simplified Fares out of the way now so that when they do roll out in July the positive aspects don’t get overshadowed.

The first change is that Orakei Train Station to Britomart will go from 1 stage to 2 stages. The reasons suggested are:

  • As part of Simplified Fares there will be a City Zone which is based on roughly the same area as covered by the current 1 stage fare zone and which is effectively a circle the same distance from the centre of the city. Orakei is an anomaly sitting well outside of that. In addition, buses from Orakei pay a 2 stage fare so there needs to be consistency. Changing the area to 1 stage would be unfair on others who are travelling a similar distance.

Simplifed Fares Isthmus - Mt Eden&Orakei

  • The park & ride is often full as a result of people driving from around the region to pay for the 1 stage fare. They are hoping that changing it to 2 stages eases pressure on the station and that passengers will instead go to closer stations to catch the train.
  • Hobson Bay is a logical boundary for a fare stage/zone boundary.
  • As the station data AT provided suggested, the number of people affected isn’t that high overall. There are ~300,000 trips a year to or from Orakei which is around 2% of all rail patronage across the region.


The second change also affects the city zone and will see the removal of the current CBD zone which was a separate price for those catching a bus purely within the CBD (and a little bit around the southern end of Symonds St as shown below with the lighter area. Again it’s so that there will be a single City Zone. Until the Simplified Fares roll out it means trips within the CBD will be a 1 stage fare however importantly this doesn’t affect the CityLink buses which will remain at $0.50 if you use HOP.

CBD Fare Zone

Fare Changes

There is one other aspect is at play in the fare changes, AT say that compared to many other cities our short fares are often a bit cheaper while our longer distance fares are a bit higher. AT have decided to use these fare changes to try and balance that out slightly and so the fare changes are primarily for shorter trips.

Adult fares are below and there are no changes to child, accessible and tertiary fares with the exception of the child monthly train pass (which still uses the old cardboard tickets). As you can see stages 1 to 4 increase by $0.10 if you use HOP while other fares remain unchanged

Adult Fares from 28 Feb 2016

There is a change to the Adult Monthly passes too with the 2-zone monthly pass (the one I use) going from $190 to $200. There are a few changes to child monthly train passes too as well as family passes – on those AT say they are still working out just what the future will be for family passes and hopefully will finalise that soon.

Ferries don’t escape the changes.  They are splitting ferries into three zones which they say simplifies things and allows for better integration with the future integrated fares pricing structure – although they’re not quite ready to say how that integrates the approach they indicated to me sounded pretty reasonable. They’re working to align ferry fares within those zones over time and the new Adult HOP prices for them are below.

  • Inner Harbour (Birkenhead to Devonport) – $4.50 – these prices are now aligned.
  • Mid Harbour (Half Moon Bay, Hobsonville/Beach Haven, West Harbour) – $7.04 – $8
  • Outer Harbour (Gulf Harbour, Pine Harbour, Waiheke etc.) – $11-$11.20

AT want more ferry customers using HOP and as such they’re making some changes including removing some pass options and increasing the price of some too.

Simplified Fares

Lastly as a quick update to Simplified Fares. As mentioned it is due to roll out in July this year and AT say the project remains on track and they are currently testing some of the new functionality. They have confirmed the zones that will exist but are still reviewing four of the zone boundaries based on feedback from the consultation. These are:

  • Upper North Shore/Lower North Shore – There are a few school trips affected by the boundary on the map below.
  • Huapai/Waitakere – how it integrates with the new Westgate/Massey North development
  • Waitakere/Isthmus – again some school trips and short trips are affected but the boundary on the map below.
  • Manukau North/Manukau South – impacts on trips around Manukau

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

So what do you think of the changes and how much will they impact you.

Time for fares to come down?

Public transport fares are often a contentious issue. Too high and they can put people off, too low and it may increase the subsides needed or you may need to cut services. So it’s interesting to think about fares in the current climate we have in Auckland. We know from the last AT board meeting that the annual fare review was up for a decision/approval in the closed session. Given this is the time of the year they usually announce the outcome of that fare review I expect we’ll be hearing soon what they’re going to do.

Over the last few years we’ve seen fares for most people (HOP users) stabilise quite a bit and even fall while fares for cash payers to increase to help encourage people to move to HOP. Given some of the trends we’re seeing and what’s planned it seems that other than perhaps a few small tweaks any substantial changes can’t really be justified – in fact possibly the opposite, reducing fares might be justified.

We know that later this year Auckland Transport will be implementing integrated fares which will see us move to a zone based system. It’s quite likely they’ll use the fare review to move towards what’s planned for integrated fares and that could see some interesting changes, one of these could be around Orakei train station which sits outside the City zone in the proposed map below.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map


The NZTA require that by mid-2018 public transport has a farebox recovery ratio of 50% – the percentage of costs that are covered by passenger fares. Auckland has traditionally hovered around 45% meaning that if we’re to meet the national goal then AT needs to do better – whether 50% is the right level to get the best economic outcome is for a different debate. Many of the current initiates such as electrification, the new bus network and PTOM contracts are all expected to improve Auckland’s performance through both reducing costs and increasing patronage and therefore revenue (AT’s farebox recovery policy is in the RPTP). For this year Auckland Transport and the Council set a formal target of 46-48% as part of their Statement of Intent.

The good news is that the surge in patronage that Auckland has been experiencing over the last year has had a noticeable impact on the farebox recovery ratio. The most recent data up to October last year show it sitting at top of the target range at 47.8%, that’s up from 45.9% the at the same time the year before. Does this suggest perhaps there’s some room to move on fares while still keeping the farebox recovery ratio within target?

2015-12 - Farebox Recovery Ratio

In the past when they’ve raised fares AT have said that one consideration in setting fares is the cost compared to driving for an individual. We know that in recent months fuel prices have fallen (shown below) which obviously makes it cheaper to drive. The decrease

Petrol Prices 2016-01-22

Diesel prices have fallen even more sharply and that will likely be having an impact on bus operational costs.

Diesel Prices to 2016-01-22 (2)

There are likely to be some other factors I’ve overlooked however it seems to me that given the broad factors we’re seeing that raising prices is about last thing we should be doing.

Inevitably when discussing fares many like to compare Auckland’s to those in other cities. In September I took a look at a number of Australian and Canadian cities. One thing that was clear from doing that activity is it’s incredibly difficult to say whether fares are too high in Auckland. Every city has very different fare structures and often who is cheapest depends on distance travelled and the mode used.

Lastly another topic people love to raise is fare evasion and suggest we should gate all stations immediately. To put some things in perspective the last I heard fare evasion – which I believe is based on how many passengers are found without a ticket by the ticket inspectors – sits at around 6-8%. The amount of lost revenue from those evading fares is the vicinity of $2.5 million. The reality is that if AT tried to eliminate fare evasion the amount of money they would need to spend on staff and infrastructure to enable it would dwarf the amount of money they end up collecting. The key is to get the right balance rather than an impossible attempt to stop all evasion (which still happens on systems fully gated)

December-15 Patronage


Auckland Transport normally releases their monthly patronage data at their board meetings but as the first one for 2016 isn’t till February they’ve kindly provided me the results for December.

Overall patronage growth has remained strong with trips in December up 7.4% on December 2014. The 12-month result has now topped 81.5 million trips which is up 7.6% on the same time last year.

2015-12 - Total Patronage

One concern though is that the growth is increasingly being driven increases in the rail network and on the ferries. This is due to a slowing on the rate of patronage growth on buses. My guess is this reflects there hasn’t been all that much in the way of service improvements on buses over last year or so and I suspect some of the growth that has occurred has been due to HOP making travel easier. The growth that is occurring on buses is mostly being driven by growth on the Northern Busway.

2015-12 - Bus Patronage

We will hopefully see the slowing growth reverse once we finally get the new network starting to be rolled out which is happening in South Auckland later this year. Integrated fares are also likely to help and we should hopefully know more about that soon.

I was expecting the rail results in particular to be very strong as the network was open for Christmas Day and Boxing day while the Western line and the inner part of the Eastern Line remained open all through the Christmas/New Year period. This has shown through in the numbers with rail ridership in December up a staggering 32.6% compared to December last year reaching 1.1 million trips. That leaves January as the only month that has now carries less than a million trips a month and given many of the same factors are at play I’d expect that to change once we get the January results next month. The chart below shows how patronage has changed for each month since 2002 and you see just how big the jump in 2015 was compared to previous years.

2015-12 - Rail results by month 2

The 12-month result is up 22.9% or 2.9 million trips to 15.4 million. Related I remember when the case for electrification was being made about a decade ago they touted it as delivering 15.6 million trips by June 2016. It looks like we’ll surpass that despite the actual roll out happening a few years later than predicted.

2015-12 - Rail Patronage

The last year has seen good growth on ferries on the back of service improvements on a number of routes. Patronage for the month was up 9.6% compared to December 2014 to around 580,000 trips and the 12-month result is up 10.7% or just over half a million to 5.7 million trips.

2015-12 - Ferry Patronage 2

All up December was a continuation of many of the trends we saw throughout 2015. It will be interesting to see if those same trends carry on through to 2016 or if things slow down. Rail likely has a bit of strong growth left yet, especially if AT improve frequencies and move the rail network towards a proper raid transit service with decent frequencies off peak too. The roll out of Integrated fares is likely to help patronage too and the big unknown will be the new network which rolls out in South Auckland in October.


Related, last week Patrick posted results of the latest rail station boardings. I thought it would be interesting to plot the change in rankings over time based on data I’ve collected over the years. In the end I’ve only done it from 2011 onwards as prior to that the movements were too erratic which will be in part due to the how station usage was counted. It might look like a mess of lines now but was worse with pre 2011 data included.

To be clear this only looks how the stations rank compared to other rail stations so isn’t looking at the size of growth but there are a couple of notable points.

  • The impact of Manukau is very clear and between mid-2014 and mid-2015 rose substantially and is currently the 13th busiest station.
  • Panmure is also seeing strong growth, moving from 14th to 5th busiest.
  • New Lynn shifted from 7th to 3rd.
  • Given the stations above along with Otahuhu and Henderson will also have bus interchanges in the New Network then I’d expect them to keep seeing them with an upward trend in coming years.
  • Sylvia Park shifted up 7 places to 8th.
  • Onehunga moved up 8 places to 21st.

Station Rankings Change to Dec 15

On the same topic we’ve long wanted to see station growth from the Northern Busway and many readers expressed the same thing too. AT have now provided us with some data on this and I’ll post this in the next day or two.

2015 – A Year in Review Part 1 – PT

With the year rapidly drawing to a close it’s a good time to look back at all the important events that have occurred over the year. There is too much to squeeze into one post so this is the first of four posts reviewing the year – one each day – and will be followed on New Year’s Day with a look at the year ahead.

2015 has been a huge year for PT. While there haven’t been any major infrastructure changes, we’ve seen the completion and roll-out of a few projects but the important story is how people have responded to those changes. We’ve also seen significant progress on plans for the future.


Overall PT patronage for the year to the end of November was 81.1 million trips which is up over 6 million (8.1%) on the same point last year.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

By far the biggest story though has to be how people have been flocking to the use the trains in the wake of the roll out of electric trains. Patronage on trains has jumped from 12.3 million trips in November 2014 to 15.1 million in November 2015, an increase of 2.8 million trips or staggering 22.6% increase. We had already started to see patronage rising strongly at the end of last year and the question was how long it would continue. I had thought we might at 14-14.5 million trips by the end of the year but it looks like I under estimated by about a million trips. The thing that has surprised me the most about rail patronage has been just how consistently strong it has been, sustaining 20%+ increases all year. Just how long it can keep doing that will remain a question in 2016.

2015-11 - Rail Patronage

The growth is so strong that if trends continue we’ll hit the government’s target for the CRL in 2017, around three years early.

Of course buses still carry the majority of PT trips in Auckland and bus patronage for the year to the end of November was 60.4 million trips, an increase of 4.9% or 2.8 million the same as the increase on rail. Given we haven’t seen too much change with buses this year the result isn’t too surprising. The strongest areas of growth on buses remain the busway and frequent routes which is unsurprising and highlights the importance of the changes the new network will introduce. As such I expect we’ll see much stronger growth on buses in a year or two once the new network rolls out – something I’ll cover later in this piece.

Lastly the ferries have been shown some decent growth in 2015 with patronage up 10.5% to the end of November to 5.7 million trips. During the year AT changed the way they reported ferry patronage, splitting out exempt and contracted services. Exempt services are run fully commercially with no subsidy and are Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke and these routes carry over ¾ of ferry patronage. Interestingly the strongest growth has been on the contracted services where AT have started to make a number service improvements and in November they had increased by 15.9% for the year.


AT completed the roll out of electric trains in July when the Western Line was the last to go fully electric. This was a little sooner than they had expected but was needed as the reliability of the diesel trains became a major issue – in June over 6% of all services were cancelled and over ¼ of those that did run were more than 5 minutes late. Since going all electric reliability has soared to record highs and in November 99% of services ran and over 95% of those arrived within 5 minutes of the timetable. The impact can be shown below.

2015-11 - Rail performance

The final train arrived in August and was celebrated at an event at the Wiri depot that included the Prime Minister.

Not everything with the electric trains has been smooth sailing though. The earlier roll out left many services without enough capacity and severe crowding – although that eased a little as more units came on stream. There have also been a number of issues that have meant the trains aren’t operating as well as they should do – such as hugely excessive dwell times. Despite a timeline to address the issues it doesn’t feel like a great deal has been done.

EMU + Rail improvement action plan 1 - Jun - Sep

The first part of AT’s action plan to improve rail performance


Electrification to Pukekohe

Not much progress appears to have happened on extending the wires from Papakura to Pukekohe which is expected to cost over $100 million but AT have said they are looking at an interim solution of buying some new trains that include a battery to power them for the distance. At this stage all they’re saying is that the idea is looking promising.

New Network

This year has seen progress on a number of areas of the new network – although also repeated push back of when we’ll see key parts of it rolled out – South Auckland is now not likely to be rolled out till October 2016.

In March we had the outcome for the consultation for the network in West Auckland – which has been severely limited by the lack of priority on building interchanges at Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu – and in the Franklin area.

In June AT launched consultation for the North Shore network

North Shore Proposed New Bus Network

In October they launched the last major consultation and the biggest of the lot covering the Isthmus and East Auckland.

Central Proposed New Bus Network

We will hear the outcome of these consultations in 2016.

For South Auckland AT finally started the tender process for the South Auckland network and their requirements for buses going forward will see the quality improve over time. We will hear about the outcome of the tenders in 2016 and so far all AT will say is they are happy with the level of response they’ve had.

Lastly the first of the new network rolled out a few months ago on the Hibiscus Coast. Part of that was also the extension of the Northern Express service to Silverdale. So far AT have reported that patronage is up about 10% in the area which is a promising start and should only improve once integrated fares roll out.

Double Deckers

One of the issues in 2015 has been that many key bus routes have struggled with capacity. We frequently heard stories of people on some routes (such as Mt Eden Rd) watching multiple buses sail past them completely full. In September AT announced that bus operators were buying 53 new double deckers for use in Auckland, many of them being built in Tauranga. Including the original from a few years ago there are already three on the Northern Express with many more due in January and one being used by Howick & Eastern. Unfortunately, most of the ones for NZ Bus and Howick & Eastern are not likely to arrive till after the rush in March.

Northern Express IMG_4447


Integrated Fares

AT continue to work on integrated fares with the latest go-live date being July 2016. AT consulted on a zonal system including expected prices. This was confirmed in August although they say they are still working in more detail about some of the boundary issues identified. The changes indicated will see the cost of PT travel reduce for most people although there are some exceptions.

RPTP Integrated Fares Zones Map

Simplifed Fares Prices

Light Rail

The year kicked off with a huge surprise from Auckland Transport – they’ve been seriously looking at building a light rail network on the isthmus. It stems from the realisation that even with the CRL, the number of buses in the city centre from areas not served by rail will be too much for the streets to cope with. As such they’ve been looking at ways to deliver more capacity and have decided that light rail on the isthmus is the best option. Over time it could see tracks laid down Dominion Rd, Sandringham Rd, Mt Eden Rd and Manukau Rd – some of Auckland’s original tram routes.

Town Hall LRT_800

One of the interesting aspects of this proposal is just how fast AT are talking about moving, they’re suggesting the first tracks could start being laid in the next year or two.

RPTP potential LRT + RTN Map

Given the reasons for it’s also hard not to see increased pressure coming on ways to address the huge number of buses coming from the North Shore.

Northern Busway Extension

One positive piece of news was that the NZTA will now be including an extension to the Northern Busway to Albany in their massive motorway works planned for the area. When the government announced their accelerated motorway package back in 2013 they specifically left busway extension out of the programme despite advice from the NZTA to build it. It’s still some years away from construction but it’s great that it’s back on the agenda.

Northern Corridor - July Busway Extension

AMETI Busway

Not a great deal seems to have happened with the AMETI busway in public this year. AT had been set to go for resource consent but as far as I’m aware they’re still finalising some details. Early in the year they announced they would delay the Reeves Rd Flyover and use the money to accelerate the next stage of the busway to get it to Botany sooner. Unfortunately, a few months later they announced the original announcement was not correct and delaying the flyover was just one option being considered. I’ll talk more about the flyover saga in a separate post.


Lastly I of course have to mention the CRL. The project has progressed this year and the project officially started a few days ago with early works beginning on Albert St to move services in advance of tunnelling work. We also learnt a lot more about the project including station designs.

Aotea Station - Victoria Entrance

The one major disappointment with the project has been that AT cut the Beresford Square entrance for the K Rd station from the current plans in a bid to save $30 million. Work will still be done in the area to enable it to be opened later but we feel it should be done at the same time.

We hear that the government is close to committing to an earlier start to the project which would be a welcome piece of news.


Overall it’s been a big year for PT in Auckland and the future looks promising. Anything you think I’ve missed from my round up?

2015 – Auckland’s Watershed Year

The more I look at the events and data of 2015 the clearer it becomes that this has been a profoundly significant year for Auckland. It is my contention that this year the city reached a critical turning point in its multi-year evolution back to true city pattern. I have discussed this change many times before on this forum, most notably here, as it is, I believe, an observable process that has been building for years. Generally it has been gradual enough, like the growth of a familiar tree, as to easily pass unobserved, but now I think it has passed a into a new phase of higher visibility. The group who see it most clearly are people returning from a few years overseas. Many ex-pats express surprise and wonderment at the myriad of changes in quantity and quality they find here on returning.


Changing City: New apartments with views over the city and harbour, a Victorian school and park, 20thC motorways, and the new LigthPath.

Below is a summary of evidence for 2015 being the year Auckland returned as a city, in fact the year it crossed the Rubicon onto an unstoppable properly re-urbanising path. Later I will add another post on how 2016 and beyond is certain to see the city double-down on these trends, and why this is very good news. This transformation is observable in all five keys areas:

  • Demographics
  • Transport
  • Development
  • Economy
  • Politics

DEMOGRAPHICS. New Zealanders returning in big numbers are one of the key metrics of 2015. Along with new migrants and natural growth, the other change driving Auckland’s demographic strength is fewer people leaving, all of which, of course, are a vote of confidence in the city as a place to want to live and to likely fulfil people’s hopes for a better future. Population growth for the year was at 2.9%, the strongest rate since 2003, the strongest in the nation, and biggest raw number on record. See here for Matt’s [Population Growth in 2015] and Peter’s [Why is Auckland Growing?] posts on these issues.

Auckland LB Population Change - 2015 2And importantly for my thesis many more people are moving into the centre, particularly into new apartments. This is a evidence that the The Great Inversion is happening in Auckland as it is all over the developed world; the return of vitality to centre cities all over. Auckland’s urban form is reverting to a centred pattern; with proximity to a dense centre as a key determinant of value.

City Centre Population - 1996-2015 2

TRANSPORT. The huge and sustained boom in rail ridership way in advance of population growth is the headline transport news of 2015, and is the result of the upgrade in quality, frequency, and reliability of the service brought by the new electric trains. Sustained growth of over 20% is very strong; this year every four months an additional million trips have been added to the running annual total; 13 million in March, 14 million in July, 15 million in November. I am not overstating it to say that these numbers change a great deal: They change the argument for further investment in rail systems in Auckland, and significantly they change growth and development patterns across the city:

2015-11 - Rail Patronage


Elsewhere on our Public Transport systems the news is great too; The New Bus Network is just beginning, and is already showing huge growth in the few areas it is in effect. This year we have also seen new ferry services, including a new private Waiheke service that means there is much more like a real turn-up-and-go service there [started late 2014]. Ferry modeshare is holding its own at 7% which is a strong showing given the explosion in rail and bus numbers.

Importantly AT is now routinely rolling out long overdue bus lanes across the city. And now that they are doing this confidently and more consistently, surprise and anguish about this more efficient re-purposing of roadspace by car drivers has fallen away to nothing- there surely is a lesson there.

So total PT ridership cleared 80 million annual trips this year, for an overall growth of 8.1%, a rate running at nearly 3x population growth, evidence of a strong shift to public transport at the margin. Growth that is certain to continue despite capacity issues becoming pressing at peak times on both buses and trains.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

HOP card use also became strongly embedded this year [except on the ferries] which is another sign of a maturing system.

2015-09 - HOP Use

More population and a growing economy of course means more vehicles and more driving on our roads, [see: What’s Happening to VKT?] but because of the powerful trend to Transit outlined above the per capita number is flat to falling. This is a historic shift from last century when the two tended to move strongly in lockstep.

2014 VKT - AKL VKT + Pop

Another discontinuity from last century is that GDP and employment growth have also separated from driving VKT, as shown in the following chart from Matt’s post linked to above. Another sign that the economy too is shifting on the back of public transport, and not driving as much as it was last century:

2014 VKT - AKL Econ 2

So whereas investment in the rail network has been answered by an extraordinary boom in uptake the multi-year many billion dollar sustained investment in driving amenity has not led to massive uptake. It is hard to not conclude from this that 1. We are far from discovering the latent demand ceiling for quality Transit; only the degree of investment will limit it. And 2. Driving demand in Auckland is saturated; this mode is mature, well served and not the area to invest in for new efficiencies or growth.

2015 also saw the launch of the Urban Cycleways programme; a multiyear government led investment in infrastructure for walking and cycling. This, like the Transit boom is another shape changing departure from the past. Although the active modes are not well counted [what a culture counts shows what it values] it is clear that the shift back to the centre is also accompanied by a growth in active mode transport. This is one of the great powers of Proximity; the best trip is the one that isn’t need because the potential traveller is already there, or near enough to use their own steam:


DEVELOPMENT. All over the city investment is going into building projects of various kinds, the retirement sector is particularly strong, as is terrace house and apartment buildings, all three at levels not seen for a decade and together support the argument that Auckland is not just growing but also changing shape into a more more city-like pattern, as John Polkinghorn has kept us up to speed on all year on the Development Tracker:

Auckland Dwelling Consents to Sep 2015

Significantly there is also renewed investment into commercial projects especially in the City Centre, led by Precinct Property’s 600 million plus Downtown rebuild and tower, and Sky City’s massive Convention Centre and Hotel project between Hobson and Nelson. Additionally Wynyard Quarter is also moving to a new level soon with a mix of Hotel, Residential, and Commercial buildings. Somewhere in the region of 10 billion dollars of projects are underway or close to be in the City Centre. And as Peter clearly illustrated recently this is in no small part due to improved regulatory conditions [The High Cost of Free Parking].

ECONOMY. Cities exist simply because of the advantages for humans to be in close proximity to each other for transactions of all kinds; financial, cultural, social, sexual. And Auckland is beginning to show real possibility of opening up an agglomeration advantage over the rest of the country now that it is really intensifying. The latest data on Auckland’s performance shows a fairly consistent improvement over the last five years

GDP Growth Dec 2015 AKL

POLITICS. Two major political programmes begun this year will have profound impacts on Auckland for decades to come. The first is the Auckland Transport Alignment Process. Something we haven’t discussed on the blog because we are involved in it and are awaiting the first public release of information which will be soon. Then we will certainly be discussing the details of this ongoing work. But the importance of this process is already clear; it is a reflection of a new found acceptance but the government that Auckland’s economic performance matters hugely to the nation and that transport infrastructure investment is, in turn, critical to that performance. We are of course striving to make the case for a change in the balance of that investment in Auckland away from a near total commitment to urban highways now that motorway network approaches completion [post Waterview and Western Ring Route] and that the evidence of success from recent Transit improvements, particularly to the Rapid Transit Network, is so compelling. There are hurdles here in the momentum and habits of our institutions and politics but also huge opportunities to really accelerate our cities’ performance across a range of metrics through changing how they are treated.

The other political shift is another we are yet to cover in depth but soon will, and that’s the agreement in Paris on Climate Change. This does indeed change a great deal. The city and the nation will have to ask the question of all decisions around urban form and transport how they fit with the new commitment to reduce our carbon intensity. This will clearly lead to a further push for higher density and greater emphasis on Public and Active Transport, as these are current technology and long term fixes to this global challenge. Unleashing further the urban power of proximity and agglomeration economies. So much of the conversation around New Zealand’s carbon intensity is around the agricultural issue and this tends to ignore the opportunities our cities offer, particularly Auckland, and particularly the Auckland transport systems, to this problem.

Cities are emerging as the key organising level that are most able to react to this problem as discussed here in The Urban Planner’s Guide to a Pst-COP21 World:

In many ways, Melbourne’s experience represents a coming-of-age of the urban sustainability movement. The private sector is listening to cities and responding. Now it’s up to cities and national governments to continue the conversations that began at COP21 and continue the evolution.

“The commentary for a long time has been ‘nations talk and cities act.’ We’ve been part of that dialogue too. That’s changing now,” said Seth Schultz [director of research at C40 Cities]. “National governments are coming to organizations like ours and saying ‘help us. We get it.’ I want to change the trajectory of the conversation. Cities are a vehicle and everyone should be getting in that vehicle and joining in for the ride.”

So in summary 2015 has seen:

  • Completion of Electrification of the Rail Network and the New Trains
  • The start of the New Network
  • New Interchange Stations
  • New Buslanes
  • Improvements to Ferry services
  • Start of the Urban Cycleways Programme
  • CRL start
  • ATAP
  • Paris COP 21

I will follow this post with another looking ahead to what is going to be a huge 2016/17. Here’s a short list to start with:

  • Fare Integration
  • Further Interchange Stations
  • Western Line frequency upgrade
  • New Network rollouts
  • Queen St Buslanes [so overdue]
  • More Cycleways
  • SkyPath underway
  • CRL seriously underway
  • Huge city developments begin
  • ATAP concludes
  • Council elections
  • Progress on Light Rail [it could be closer that many expect]

For all the frustrations and compromises that we’ve highlighted over the year I think it’s very clear that there are many very hard working and dedicated people in AC, AT, NZTA, and MoT and their private sector partners and it is their collective efforts in a very fast moving and changing field go a long to making Auckland the dynamic and exciting city it is fast becoming. I am keen to acknowledge their efforts. Onward.

I also want to personally thank my colleagues here at the blog, as it has been another big year for us, Matt, Peter, Stu, Kent and John, from whom I continue to learn so much, it doesn’t look like we are going to be able to give this up anytime soon…

Also I would like to shout out to colleagues over at Bike Auckland, our sister site, they’ve had a fantastic year, so cheers to Barb, Jolisa, Max, Paul, Kirsten, Ben, Bruce and the rest.

And of course to y’all, the reader, you are what really makes this thing work, so if what we do here makes any kind of difference, ultimately that’s because of you.

Kia ora tatou…


November-15 Patronage

Auckland Transport released patronage results for November yesterday and once again there were some great numbers – helped a little by there being one extra business day and one less weekend day. Even so it was another spectacular month for rail – which wasn’t particularly surprising given the strong growth we’ve been seeing and that near the end of November it was announced that Auckland had passed 15 million rail trips within a 12 month period.


For rail November was the third busiest month we’ve ever had, up 23.9% compared to the same month last year (adjusted to 21% when adjusting for the extra day) which itself was a 21% increase on November 2013. The growth increased the 12 month rolling total to 15.1 million – up 22.6% on a year earlier. One big contributor that I mentioned a few days ago is likely to be the improvements in reliability of services which reached a new monthly record in November of over 95%.

2015-11 - Rail Patronage

Given that some of the rail network remains open over the Christmas/New Year period – for the first time in probably more than a decade – and the shutdown that does occur in places is only for a week, I’m expecting patronage in both December and January to be very strong compared to what we’ve seen before.

Another aspect to remember is that based on current trends Auckland is on track to be about three years ahead of the government’s target for the CRL. On that topic yesterday Mayor Len Brown said “discussions with the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Transport were going well”. My guess is the government will make an announcement on their share of funding for the project within the first half of new year.

At a more detailed level there are some interesting results for the individual lines.

  • Growth on the Western Line has kicked up a gear again and was up 20% for the month – I suspect growth will be even stronger once Auckland Transport finally move to 10 minute frequencies next year.
  • The Eastern Line is still growing strong like it has all year. It is up 33.8% for the month and up a massive 40.5% for the year showing the value of frequent, fast electric trains on the line.
  • There is remarkably good growth on the Pukekohe shuttle with usage up 53% on the same month last year although I suspect some of this is from the Pukekohe V8s that were in November.

Of course there’s more than just rail and the other modes saw increases too – just not quite as extreme. Bus patronage was up 4.1% for the month and 4.8% for the year although there is a noticeable difference with the results of the busway which was up a massive 28.4% compared to the same time a year earlier.

Ferry patronage did grow but only just with it increasing by just 1.7% for the month and 10.5% for the year. As I’ve highlighted before one aspect I’m keeping an eye on is the difference in between the commercially operated ferries (Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke) and the ones contracted out by AT covering all the other routes. Interestingly the commercial ferries actually had a slight fall in patronage but that was covered by and a little more by the growth in contracted services that’s been occurring

2015-11 - Patronage Table

One of the features you can see from the growth of all modes is that rail patronage is definitely making up an increasingly large share of the patronage pie. Now almost 19% of all PT trips are made on a train.

2015-10 - Total Patronage


Surprise, residents say yes to more ferry services

You may recall back in October that Auckland Transport was consulting on increasing ferry service to Pine Harbour to take advantage of a new vessel operator Sealink was building.

Clipper IV

In perhaps the least surprising outcome to a consultation, last week Auckland Transport announced that when they asked locals if they wanted more services that they said yes.

Early results from a public transport survey carried out in the Beachlands Maraetai community has signalled strong support for a proposed new ferry timetable.

“Even though we’ve only just begun analysing the 541 submissions received,” says Gareth Willis, AT’s Ferry Services Manager, “initial results show that residents support the proposed new timetable, and that it would encourage 86% of those who responded to use the ferry more often. This is a very encouraging response.”

The timetable changes, which were open for public consultation from 19 October to 2 November this year, proposed an increase in the number of sailings between Pine Harbour and the Downtown ferry terminal in Auckland, as well as introducing some later evening and weekend services.

“We appreciate the feedback and comments people gave us, and as a result of the survey we are likely to make some changes to the proposed timetable that was included in the consultation,” says Mr Willis. “We hope to implement the new timetable in early 2016.”

A public information campaign will be carried out before the changes are made, and the new timetable will be available ahead of time, so that passengers will be prepared.

Once full analysis is completed a survey summary will be available on Auckland Transport’s website, and available for viewing in local libraries.

Feedback relating to the bus service requirements for the Beachlands Maraetai community is still being analysed, and results will be used to decide on the next steps to be taken.

“Whether changes are required to the current 589 bus service, and how they would look, is yet to be decided. However we will have more clarity around this by early to mid-2016, once full analysis has been completed” says Anthony Cross, Public Transport Network Manager.

Mr Willis adds, “We also appreciate the previous survey on public transport that was carried out earlier this year by the Pohutakawa Coast Community Association, and we are reviewing that survey’s results as part of our analysis.”

Once the new timetable is implemented it should help to see ferry use continue to grow. The last year has seen patronage on ferries grow by more than 10% over the last year with the strongest growth on the contracted ferries – which is all routes with the exception of Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke – but they still make up the minority of total ferry trips.

2015-10 - Ferry Patronage

Issues to repeat for Santa Parade

It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Auckland’s city centre to watch the Santa Parade. The parade this year is being held on Sunday 29th at 1pm (it’s been at 2pm in the past).


In the past we’ve criticised Auckland Transport for how they’ve handled various aspects of the parade. In particular this has been the transport arrangements they create for getting to the parade and how they deal with Queen St and people afterwards. So what are they doing this year?

First on the transport arrangements AT have published information about this and while a slight improvement over last year, once again I’m left disappointed.

The good thing is that on many routes extra buses, trains and ferries have been put on and AT are being clear about where these are. Last year AT made it clear about the extra trains and ferries didn’t say anything about extra buses despite actually putting them on – putting extra services on for events and not communicating it has been a common issue for AT. The website lists all the bus routes which will have extra services and the times they will run so well that’s a good thing.

There are extra trains being run too however if you want to catch one keep an eye on the timetables. On many of the lines the extra services are only doing a short run, for example on the Western Line they will only run from New Lynn which means if you live further out you only have the normal half hourly services. When it comes time to head home things may be a little crowded too, out west there’s only one extra train on each of the three main lines to take people home

The downside of it all is that normal fares still apply. Given the $24 family pass can only be purchased from a few train stations it cab makes travel very expensive for many families. For example a family of four travelling from Papatoetoe would have to pay almost $31 for their journey to and from the city and that’s only if they all had HOP cards. If they didn’t have HOP cards that cost goes up to $42.

Note: Stations that you can buy a family pass from are Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe.

With prices like those many families will likely opt to drive, especially considering that once again Auckland Transport are offering free carparking in their city centre buildings

If you are planning to drive to the parade, please be aware that road closures and parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic (parking will be limited at Civic) car parks for vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm.

Given those buildings combined only have capacity for about 2,000 vehicles it’s amazing that AT once again offered this.

The other main issue we’ve had in the past is a rush by AT and the likes of the Police to shuffle families on just so that they can reopen Queen St as fast as possible to a handful of drivers.


AT haven’t yet stated what time they’ll reopen Queen St to traffic however in my view they should leave it closed for the day, helping encourage people linger in the city. The numbers in Queen St at this time easily eclipse most other days. This can easily be seen from the excellent data Heart of the City collect through a network of automated pedestrian counters and which they publish online.

As you can see below, pedestrian volumes at 210 and 261 Queen St on the day of the Santa Parade were considerably higher than the year before and well above normal (volumes are just for one side of the road)

Santa Parade Ped Volumes

It will be interesting to see what they do about the Santa Parade next year seeing as a key part of the route – up Albert St – is going to be in the midst of construction of the CRL and many other buildings.

Oct-15 Patronage and Rail to 15 million

Rail patronage continues to soar to new heights and yesterday passed 15 million trips within a year for the first time. That marks also the third million trip milestone we’ve seen this year after passing 13 million trips in March and 14 million trips in July. This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert says rail patronage in Auckland has grown by 22% over the past year. “Just four months ago we marked 14 million passenger trips. And if we go back 10 years we had just 4 million trips a year.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says when he became AT chairman in November 2012 rail patronage was just 10 million. “What Aucklanders have wanted for decades is reliable, frequent and safe public transport options and we have a very clear focus on delivering to those wants and needs.”

Mayor Len Brown says this is another outstanding achievement for public transport in Auckland. “At this rate we will pass the next big milestone – 20 million – at the start of 2017. Aucklanders love their trains and compared to this time last year, they’re taking around 10,000 extra trips every day across the suburban network.”

Since the rail network went all-electric in July, from Papakura to Swanson, there has been a marked improvement in reliability and on-time performance. In October 93% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time and the previous month 94.9% of services arrived on time, a new record for Auckland trains.

Mr Lambert says “Our customers are liking the improved level of service and the comfort and convenience of the new trains. We’re also working on a timetable improvement which will see services on the Western Line go to six trains an hour at peak like the Southern and Eastern Lines.”

Overall public transport patronage in Auckland across rail, bus and ferries now exceeds 80 million passenger trips a year.

The result also marks us being halfway to the government’s patronage target for the CRL of 20 million trips by 2020 just over two years after it was set.

2015-10 - Rail vs Govt Target

If current trends continue we will hit 20 million trips in mid 2017 however the Ministry of Transport have continued to claim that patronage growth will taper off. There’s no sign of that happening yet and in fact patronage has continued to grow at increasing rates with it currently increasing by over 22%. There are also a lot of improvements still to come. As AT say in the press release above they are working on increasing frequency of trains on the western line which last I heard was expected to occur around April. That will both help address capacity constraints and make the service much more useful at the same time. In the middle of next year we will also get integrated fares which will make most journeys cheaper and in the South the new bus network will be rolled out which should see more people transferring to trains. The changes to will happen after that. All of this means that patronage is likely to continue to grow strongly for some time yet.

One aspect I will be watching is to see how it takes us to reach the next million milestone. We’ve seen the last two taking just four months. There’s been a distinct downward trend although I’d be surprised if it went lower. One aspect likely to help keep the current trend up is that this year will see the shortest rail closure over Christmas so we should see some decent increases in patronage in the December and January months.

Time between Rail Millions

The patronage results for October have also been released ahead of the AT board meeting next week. Other than rail which reached 14.8m to the end of October both bus and ferries also saw patronage increase despite there being one less business day this October compared to the last one. Buses were up 0.5% for the month while ferries have continued strong growth over the last six months or so up 8.2% for the month.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

2015-10 - Patronage Table

September-2015 Patronage

Patronage results for September are out and once again there are some spectacular results, especially on the rail network which continues to be the star performer when it comes to growth. Total patronage for September was up 5.6% on the same month last year however included in that figures is a massive 21.7% increase in rail patronage. That has raised the rolling annual total to 14.6 million trips, over 700,000 more than there were just three months ago which is the data the Ministry of Transport used in their analysis of the City Rail Link. As you can see in the table below all modes are growing which is great to see.

2015-09 - Total Annual Patronage

2015-09 - Patronage Table

In a few ways I was a little shocked the rail growth is as large as it has been and that’s because September last year was one of the high months at that time and was up 21% on September 2013. Combine those results and you can see that rail patronage in the month of September was up 47% on the same time two years ago – a very impressive increase.

2015-09 - Rail Patronage - AT

One aspect bound to be having an impact on patronage is the rapidly improving punctuality. In September AT say that 94.9% of all trains arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which I think is a record for Auckland. Perhaps it’s time to tighten up that five minute window to three minutes like many other cities.

2015-09 - Rail punctuality

A good news story from the business report is that the strong growth is likely to continue over the upcoming December and January months with the smallest rail shutdown we’ve seen for a long time with the western line remaining open all the way through.

Christmas 2015 rail closure has been confirmed for maintenance and upgrade works. Closures in 2015 are limited to between 27th December and 4th January Eastern Line Sylvia Park to Manukau, Onehunga Line and Southern Line with services operating Eastern Line Britomart to Sylvia Park and Western Line. Rail services will operate on Christmas Day for the first time and Boxing Day across the full network for the first time in many years. Closure permits NZTA works at Ellerslie and Takanini, KiwiRail maintenance and AT works for the new Otahuhu Station

The other fast growing mode right now happens to be the ferries. Annually they are up over 10% with the non-exempt services increasing the fastest. Both the exempt and the contracted services (contracted services are Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke) are bound to see some growth after the announcements recently about new ferries for the harbour.

2015-09 - Ferry Patronage

A good news story across all modes is the continued improvement in farebox recovery and therefore lower subsides per passenger km. If the current trend continues Auckland will be over 50% soon which is unprecedented for the city – at least any time recently.

2015-09 - Statement of Intent result

On the subject of rail ridership growth variability reader and occasional poster Greg N has sent us the follow chart highlighting the trend since 2005, including the RWC/HOP blip [green]:

AT Rail Patronage with Trend

He writes:

As you can see with the RWC 2 month blip shown in green, the “major dip” in patronage Post-RWC is revealed for what is was – back to normality for a few months and then the upward trend continued as per usual.

Its been pretty much a linear trend since 2005 of upwards month by month (allowing for the seasonal variations of patronage).
And we surpassed the RWC blip in patronage over a year ago. So where is this “patronage variability” crap MoT talk about coming from.

Oh and to make it Crystal clear what is going on at Christmas with patronage, I marked up the annual Xmas shutdown in the chart so you can see their impact too.
And given that post RWC we had endless, ongoing nightly shutdown on the rail network past 8pm with rail buses for Monday-Thu and Weekend network shutdowns almost every weekend, it amazing that the 2012/13 patronage is as strong as it was.