Due to the summer break it’s been a while since we’ve seen any public transport patronage for Auckland with the last results being for November last year. That finally changed yesterday as Auckland Transport published them ahead of their board meeting on Friday and the results are stunning.
Firstly December where we saw a major change for rail with a new timetable that saw the Southern and Eastern lines split and both move to 10 minute frequencies at peak and 20 minute frequency off peak.
There are some fairly solid results in there, especially on the Rapid Transit Network which was up over 29% on December last year.
Moving on to January and the results for rail in particular are incredible. This is primarily due the summer shutdown being shorter than in previous years with the Southern, Eastern and Onehunga lines back in action on 5th January and the Western Line a week Later on the 12th. In addition there was no shutdown during Auckland Anniversary. There were a few events that also impacted on patronage. Even taking all of those changes out the patronage growth in January was impressive across all modes.
While it would have been affected by some of issues mentioned earlier, I wonder if the 166.9% increase on the Eastern Line is a record of some kind. That’s a staggering increase. Putting aside the percentages, the actual growth in number terms is also impressive. Compared to January last year, for the previous 12 months there have been over 6.5 million extra PT trips, an average of around 18,000 extra per day (will be higher on weekdays and lower on weekends). Included in that is an extra 4.3 million bus trips and 2.1 million extra train trips. If rail growth continues the way it has for the past year it will be putting huge pressure on the Government’s target for an earlier start to the CRL.
What’s also impressive about both December and January is that buses and ferries are showing some great growth too. In the case of the jump in ferry usage, AT say it is partly attributed to the patronage coming from the new Explore Group services that started a few months ago between the city and Waiheke Island. The timetable means there is now a 30 minute service throughout the day which offers a vast improvement in utility on what existed before so it’s not really surprising to see that having an impact. That also helps to highlight that the new bus network should help drive very good patronage growth.
The graphs below highlight some of the changes in patronage.
The last time total patronage was as high as it is now was prior to 1958
The most impressive growth is occurring on the Rapid Transit Network which comprises of the Northern Express (NEX) and the rail network. Both rail and the NEX have shown great numbers recently.
Another thing that’s really impressive about the patronage results is that they’ve occurred at a time when petrol prices have been at their lowest point in years. Even though fuel has been cheap it seems many simply don’t want to sit in the congestion.
Looking forward, February has already been feeling very busy and I expect the strong patronage growth will likely continue all the way through March Madness and beyond.
Update: some people noticed an issue with the change compared to the sane month last year figure for the Onehunga line. AT have corrected it below however it doesn’t affect the overall result
The issue of SuperGold subsidies has arisen once again, this time in relation to which operators should receive them.
Waiheke Island’s new ferry operator says it cannot keep offering pensioners free passage without sharing a subsidy the Government pays its competitors.
The Explore Group says it will serve notice next week of an intention to charge fares for holders of SuperGold cards, most of whose travel at weekends and after 9am on weekdays on the rival Fullers passenger and Sealink car-ferry operations is reimbursed by the Government.
Explore chief executive William Goodfellow said older passengers, who had received free trips on his vessels since they started on the Auckland-Waiheke run in late October, would receive a grace period “of weeks rather than days” before having to buy tickets.
But after that, they would have to pay $16 for a one-way fare or $29 for return passage.
“The reason we have accepted them to date is that we believed we’d get a fair outcome from the Ministry of Transport for the whole SuperGold Card scheme,” Mr Goodfellow told the Herald.
“We’re doing it simply out of goodwill, because we thought fairness would prevail, but it obviously hasn’t.”
He was referring to a moratorium the Government has imposed against new services joining the SuperGold travel concession scheme while it is being reviewed to ensure its costs “remain sustainable.”
His company had initially expected the review to be completed by the end of last year, but had since heard that would not happen until at least June, and could not wait that long for subsidy relief.
Not only was it letting seniors travel free, but it was also paying a wharf tax of more than $1 each way for each one carried.
The scheme’s annual cost of $18 million after Labour and New Zealand First introduced it just before National swept to power in 2008 has since risen to $26 million, of which Fullers receives a capped payment of $1.5 million.
I’ve never been a fan of how SuperGold works however given it exists I do believe that the subsidy for trips between the City and Waiheke should be shared equally between operators based on the patronage each one carries. This is especially the case seeing as a return fare on the services cost the same and off peak the services are staggered to providing a 30 minute all day service to and from the island. Maintaining a moratorium on new services is absurd when both offerings are competing commercially.
The herald notes that SuperGold payments for trips to the island are capped at $1.5 million, that’s currently around 12% of all SuperGold costs for Auckland which in the last financial year totalled just under $12.3 million. That is made up of $8.6 million for buses, $1.2 million for trains and $2.5 million for ferries.
Just how many trips on SuperGold trips are to and from Waiheke specifically is unclear however I’ve been able to find how many trips there are by each mode – although only up to the 2012/13 financial year. As expected buses made up the majority of patronage however the thing that surprised me the most was that comparatively SuperGold trips only made up a comparatively low 5.5% of all rail patronage.
The council’s City Centre Integration Group (CCIG) – the team charged with turning all of the various visions and plans for the city centre into a reality – are wanting the council to endorse their strategy for the city’s Central Wharves which will see some significant changes to how the wharves are used. The central wharves are essentially the finger wharves that jut out into the harbour and include Princes Wharf, Queens Wharf, Captain Cook Wharf and Marsden Wharf.
It was first signalled that CCIG were looking at the wharves in the Downtown Framework in September last year and at the time they said more work needed to be done to make the best use of the space.
Before going into the proposal some background. The core issue the strategy is trying to address is growth that’s expected to occur in ferries, cruise ships, public space/events and freight. All of those cause congestion not just on land but also on the water too. More specifically on each:
- Ferries – They say ferry patronage and the number of ferries plying the harbour are expected to grow by around 50% over the next decade. That means more space is needed for ferries and even if the location is left where it is will also need to be reconfigured to handle those extra volumes.
- Cruise Ships – The number of cruise ships visiting keeps increasing and along with that the cruise ships themselves are getting bigger. They say there’s now a need to be able to accommodate 350m long vessels (Queen Mary 2 which has visited a few times is 345m long and has had to tie up at the freight wharves). That means to keep cruise ships here one or more of the finger wharves need to be extended. This is also apparently not just important for Auckland but for NZ as a whole as if ships can’t stop in Auckland they won’t visit elsewhere in NZ either. It’s also not just the cruise ships themselves but also all of the provisioning that goes along with that. As an example they say one ship carrying 3,000 people on a 7-day cruise needs 6,500kg of fish, 26,500kg of meat, 27,500 of fruit & vegetables and 17,000 litres of milk that all need to be loaded aboard. To add one more issue the cruise ships generally like to leave port right in the afternoon peak when the ferries are at their busiest putting added pressure on that water space.
- Public Space – All of the council’s plans call for the waterfront to become more accessible and friendly to the public. Queens Wharf was brought from the ports ($40 million) for exactly this reason. Of course because Queens Wharf is also used for cruise ships it becomes anything but publicly accessible during many days in summer – just when people most want to use it. The image below highlights one of the problems with much of the wharf effectively closed off to the public.
- Freight – Captain Cook and Marsden wharves are currently used by the port for the storage of bulk goods and primarily imported cars – many of which eventually head out of Auckland. The ports obviously want to continue and grow that. I’m not convinced that the storage of large bulk items like cars is necessarily the best use such prime waterfront land.
- Other – In addition to the uses above there’s also increasing demand for use of various wharves by tourist operators and by the marine sector in relation to super yacht visits.
Moving back to the Downtown Framework, the document suggested four possible future scenarios for the uses of the central wharves. As part of the strategy that was expanded to six options. All options involve the extension of Halsey Wharf at Wynyard and the need to retain the ability for cruise ships at Princes wharf for when there are three in town at once. Further all but one involve the removal of Marsden Wharf. The six options that were evaluated were:
- An extension to Queens Wharf, operationally it would be the same as what we have now.
- Shifting the Ferry terminal to Captain Cook Wharf which would see Queens Wharf dedicated to cruise ships and still be the public space too.
- Extending Bledisloe Wharf substantially with enough space for two large cruise ships end to end.
- Extending Captain Cook Wharf and shifting all cruise operations there. They say it would also require some wharf extension and reclamation for Bledisloe Wharf which the port claim is needed to compensate for almost 3ha lost from no longer having access to Captain Cook and Marsden Wharves.
- A shorter extension of Bledisloe Wharf with cruise ships shared between there and Queens Wharf
- An extension of Princes Wharf to handle longer ships and retaining the use of Queens Wharf.
This list was then narrowed down to options 1, 3 and 4. The remaining options were then evaluated on a range of criteria and compared in a matrix. Unfortunately I currently only have a low quality paper copy of this until the presentation goes online however it is clear from it that option 1 was by far the worst with option 4 the best.
Option 4 is shown below.
CCIG say the benefits of this option is it enables two new public spaces either side of Queens Wharf (the breastworks between Princes and Queens would be extended). These areas would be the replacement for public space lost from the sale of QE2 square. Queens Wharf would become dedicated to people use or for events along with a reconfigured ferry terminal with 12 end loading berths. The downside in my view is the extension of Bledisloe Wharf. I get the feeling that the Ports of Auckland are trying to use whatever methods they can to get extensions happening.
An idea of what Admiralty Basin could look like
Incidentally I and many others have been saying that Captain Cook is the best location for the cruise ship terminal for some time. The last time it came up it was suddenly shot down by Len Brown before it could be investigated.
The one big unknown in all of this is just what it will cost. I can’t see the extension of Captain Cook wharf being cheap nor the works to improve the waterfront for more people space. I also can’t see the councillors being all that supportive of a strategy that endorses the extension of Bledisloe Wharf but we’ll have to wait to see till Thursday.
Last week I wrote about how I’d found some interesting data from the NZTA on how our Public Transport system is performing. In the post I looked specifically at the fare revenues that were collected and in this post I’ll look at Passenger Kilometres Travelled.
Passenger Kilometres Travelled (PKT) is the total distance that people travel on PT services and is useful as it helps to show how the PT system is being used. While we know patronage in Auckland has increased remarkably over the last decade it might be that people are travelling the same distances as they were, alternatively they could be making longer or shorter trips. As an example more people taking longer trips might mean that PT is becoming a more attractive as a way of avoiding congestion. PKT is also useful as it more accurately allows us to compare with Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) as in the past some people have criticised us for comparing VKT and the total number of PT trips.
One aspect I’m not sure about is how PKT has been calculated in the past, I can only assume it’s an extrapolation of some combination of ticket sales, passenger counts and other measures. The total VKT graph looks similar to overall patronage results so I’ve skipped that and instead will focus on the average distance people are travelling. This is shown below:
There are a number of fascinating insights we can take from this as all modes are showing some change. The first thing you will notice is that VKT is quite different for each mode, on average train users travel the longest distance while bus users generally have the shortest trips. The overall distance travelled is a reflection of the changes in each mode:
- Bus – For a decade the average trip length of bus users remained almost unchanged at less than 6.5-7km per trip. Since 2011 thought it’s rocketed up to be just over 9km per trip in 2014. To put that in perspective 9km in a straight line from the city centre covers almost all of the old Auckland City Council area. I suspect the reason for the increase is twofold, longer trips due to increased patronage on services like the Northern Express and probably better data from Hop (and formerly Snapper on NZ Bus).
- Train – Train journeys are bucking the trend and seem to be getting shorter over time as more people use them for a wider variety of trips. While most people travel on train to the city, the station stats we saw at the end of last year highlighted there are also a lot of shorter local trips, especially on the western line.
- Ferry – The ferry result is the one that surprises me a bit. Around 80% of all ferry patronage comes from either Devonport or Waiheke Island. The increase since 2011 might be a reflection of more trips from Waiheke plus ferries from Half Moon Bay, Gulf Harbour and Pine Harbour.
Patronage in Wellington has seen much less change over the last 15 years thanks to its more mature system and that is reflected in the PKT stats. Like Auckland trains generally have much longer trips over buses or ferries. Again this isn’t surprising considering how far out of Wellington the rail network extends.
The next graphs show how buses and trains compare between Auckland and Wellington. For buses Auckland and Wellington are remarkably similar until recently while the rail networks is considerably different thanks to the longer network e.g. the Wairapapa trains.
Lastly I mentioned that this allows us to more accurately compare measures against changes in VKT. The next graph looks at the PKT compared to VKT for Auckland. Due to the disparity in the number of trips I’ve indexed the results to show where the change is occurring. This is just based on the total VKT however it looks pretty similar if compared on a per capita basis with the primary difference being that the blue line is flatter.
Clearly one mode of transport is growing much faster than the other
AT have got in touch to say that since the full roll out of HOP in March it’s allowed them to get a more accurate picture of bus PKT and that the average distance travelled on buses is 7.6km
Looking through the NZTA website recently I managed to find some data I’ve wanted to see for some time about our PT system. In particular information is about fare revenue, the amount of passenger kilometres travelled and the number of kilometres services travel. I’ll cover it all off over a few posts but to start with I’ll just look at fare revenue.
Fare revenue is the total amount that passengers pay to use PT services and can be affected by a number of factors such as
- The number of trips taken – more people will generally mean more revenue
- The distance people travel – i.e. if users start taking longer trips revenue will grow
- The age of passengers – e.g. a higher proportion of younger people will likely mean more concession/child fares and therefore less revenue
- The fare structure – reducing fares, like what happened last year for most users, could mean less revenue
- The number of people paying by cash – cash fares are more expensive than passes or multi trip/HOP fares
- The mode people used – e.g. ferries re more expensive than buses or trains
Unfortunately we don’t know what’s changed with all of those factors over the years so for this analysis I’m going to assume most (such as the age of passengers) has stayed fairly constant. Usefully the data is also broken down by mode allowing us to see the changes at that level.
In Auckland fare revenue has almost doubled over the last decade from $85 million in 2003/04 to $162 million in 2013/14 while at the same time patronage climbed from 52 million to 72 million trips. An interesting fact I noticed while looking at this data – and that highlights the factors listed above – was that despite patronage on trains and buses falling during 2012/13 fare revenue from passengers actually increased slightly. I was also surprised at just how similar both ferry and train revenues have been for most of the last decade.
That means the average fare Aucklander’s pay has also increased and risen from $1.64 per trip in 2003/04 to $2.24 per trip in 2013/14. The average ferry fare stands out as being well above the other modes reflecting the fact that ferry services cost more to use. I’m not sure why ferry revenue dropped so much in 2003-2007 period, patronage on ferries were certainly growing.
At this stage it’s looking like we’re paying quite a bit more for many of our PT services but before we declare that I’ve also made a version of the graph above where the average fare has been adjusted for inflation. Doing so shows that on average for buses and trains, fares have actually decreased while ferries remain volatile.
It will be fascinating to see the impact on these figures from the patronage surge we’re experiencing and from the reduction in fares for HOP users (the majority) in July last year. Overall it seems like Aucklander’s are on average paying the paying slightly less for their buses and trains than they did a decade ago. Can the same be said for our friends down in Wellington.
The overall Auckland and Wellington graphs have a number of similarities, especially with the total figure. What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade.
What’s particularly interesting is that the increases has occurred despite limited patronage growth for most of the last decade. That means like Auckland the average fare has increased.
And here it is inflation adjusted. Unlike Auckland, adjusting for inflation doesn’t change the outcome for rail which in Wellington is still seeing fares increase on average.
So how do these average fares compare with other international cities? I took look at a number of them in Australia, Canada and the US. In most of those cities, but not all, the average fare is somewhere been $1 and $2. That puts Auckland and slightly above average of the cities I compared but not massively so and as mentioned earlier and I think the average will come down thanks to the fare reduction in July. I also hope the current surge in patronage continues and that too is bound to bring the average down.
Lastly I’m going to look at revenues per Passenger Km travelled. I’ll only compare bus and train fares for this one but include both cities. What we can see is that on average Aucklanders catching the train are paying more per km travelled than those in Wellington but Wellington bus users pay more.
With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.
While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.
The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.
The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.
After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.
As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.
Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.
Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:
- Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
- Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
- Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)
Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.
This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.
In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.
City Rail Link
It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.
In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.
Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.
Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.
Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.
The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.
The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.
So what did I miss?
With Christmas upon us tomorrow this is just a few reminders
From tomorrow through to 4 January (and till 11 January for the Northern Express and Western Line trains) a holiday timetable is in effect that will see fewer services available to use.
The holiday season is almost here and that means there are some changes to public transport services over the next few weeks.
From Christmas Day, Thursday 25 December all trains will be replaced with rail buses. We’re putting on replacement buses so we can carry out important improvements on the rail network particularly around Newmarket.
For the first time replacement buses will run on Christmas Day and the other good news is you can now use your AT HOP cards on-board all planned Railbus replacement services as well. You will need to tag-on and tag-off the rail bus like any other bus service.
You can buy a cash ticket for your entire journey on board the rail bus from the driver.
The reduced timetable runs from Christmas Day, Thursday 25 December through to Sunday 4 January. The closure on the Western Line will run through to the following Sunday 11 January.
Most bus services will be operating to a Christmas/New Year Holiday timetable from Monday 22 December to Sunday 4 January, for the Northern Express the holiday schedule will run to Sunday 11 January.
Some additional NiteRider services will be operating prior to and on New Year’s Eve. Please check timetables carefully.
If you’re heading to the airport, Airbus Express and Airporter services will operate as normal over the Christmas and New Year period. They will run on a Sunday timetable on the public holidays: 25 and 26 December and 1 and 2 January.
If you’re using a Fullers ferry, a special timetable will run from Wednesday 24 December to Sunday 4 January.
Other ferry services will be running special timetable, check out our website. All ferries will be back on a full timetable from Monday 5 January.
Christmas rail shutdowns are always a contentious issue and at least this year AT have explained what is being done.
Thursday 25 December 2014 to Sunday 4 January 2015:
Full network closure – a bus replacement service will operate on all lines. This is to allow for significant track maintenance at Newmarket, Penrose, Westfield, Wiri and Papakura, sleeper replacement on the Eastern Line, station work at Otahuhu and NZTA motorway work at Takanini and Ellerslie.
Monday 5 January to Sunday 11 January 2015:
Buses replace trains on the Western Line. Normal train services will operate on all other lines. This is to allow for track upgrades at Morningside and Kingdon Street and sleeper replacement works at level crossings.
The annual resurfacing of a few lanes on the harbour bridge is taking place, this year it will be the Northbound clip-on lanes and the closure of those lanes goes from 7am on Friday through to 5:30am on 8 December.
Around the Te Atatu Interchange there will be a number of disruptions due to work to raise the Te Atatu Rd bridge over the motorway.
- Te Atatu Rd will be reduced to a single lane in each direction over the bridge between Te Atatu South and Te Atatu Peninsula 4am Saturday 27 December to 5am Monday 5 January
- The Northwestern motorway will be reduced to a single lane each way under the Te Atatu Bridge during the day, and then closed under the bridge from 10pm each night. All lanes on the motorway will be open on New Year’s Eve night (31 December) and New Year’s Day (1January)
- The Te Atatu city bound loop onramp will be closed from Saturday 27 December to Monday 5 January
And let’s not forget the annual “don’t drive north on Boxing Day” reminder. What’s more even the NZTA are saying the road is only busy because of holiday periods
Traffic on Boxing Day (26 December) will be heavy on regional highways and roads and the NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists to plan for a safe journey and to avoid delays.
“This is one of the busiest times of the year on our highways,” says the Transport Agency’s Highway Manager Brett Gliddon. “We’ll have all our teams working to help manage traffic flows and keep everyone as safe as possible and informed about traffic and road conditions.”
He says one of the busiest highways will be the Northern Gateway Toll Road on State Highway 1 north of Auckland. “Last Christmas holiday, there were an average of 20,600 trips a day – the busiest day being 2 January when there were more than 24,600 trips.
“This tremendous increase in holiday traffic on the toll road indicates just how busy the highways will be in Auckland and Northland and why we need everyone to plan their trips, allowing plenty of time for a safe journey.”
Expect to see an image like this in the Herald at some stage
Most importantly if you are out on the roads please be drive safely and I hope you all have a great Christmas.
As Patrick so eloquently described in his Metro article – and post yesterday – Auckland is experiencing an unseen revolution in transport. While the pace of the change is becoming increasingly evident, what many people don’t realise is that this revolution isn’t new, instead it’s been slowly building up a head of steam for over a decade. Nowhere is this more evident than in the central city where the sure but steady change has now become so dramatic that it’s now challenging the stereotype of Auckland being a drive everywhere city. Despite the frustrations we see from time to time one shift is that public transport and active modes are increasingly becoming normalised and not solely for those not able to drive.
We can see this change quite clearly from the data collected annually since 1986 by Auckland Transport and prior to that the Auckland Regional Council. The data comes from a screenline survey which counts all vehicles and people crossing a certain location. In the case of the city centre that screenline survey takes place on all roads that cross the motorway moat that rings the city.
The backdrop to the change has been growth in employment and education coupled with vastly improved retail and hospitality offerings. It’s difficult to get figures for some of those areas however for employment Stats NZ figures show there are now over 100,000 jobs within the screenline boundary mentioned above. That’s up from around 80,000 in 2001 – an almost a 25% increase despite a few bumps along the way such as the Global Financial Crisis. In addition there were only around 10,000 people living in the central city whereas now there are over 31,0000 helping to bring energy and vitality to the urban environment – and all/most without needing to drive to get to work or play.
For people who have to travel to the city for, not all are doing so during the morning peak but it’s certainly when the largest number are of 7am to 9am and this is what the Screenline Survey captures. What the data astonishingly shows is that increasingly the change in the transport use over the has exclusively come from modes other than driving more. This screenline data was presented to the AT board last week.
Back in 2001 some 39,000 people or 64% of everyone arriving in the city centre via motorised transport during the morning peak via did so by way of a private vehicle. That means either they were driving or were a passenger in a car. The remaining 21,100 came by bus (23%), train (5%) or ferry (8%).
In 2014 38,000 people entered by private vehicle representing a slight fall in numbers compared to 2001. That in itself is interesting as during that time we’ve made it easier to get to the city thanks to numerous road projects such as the Central Motorway Junction upgrade. However the big story is that the number of people arriving by public transport share has risen dramatically to over 34,400 (48%). The change is shown on the graph below.
If we throw active modes in to the mix (not including those already in the city centre) then the number of people not driving to the city outweighs the number who do
The graph above is a great result but what’s powering it? Is it just lots more people using PT in general or some parts of the PT network doing much more work. The graph below shows the growth rate by mode. *It’s worth noting that it appears from some of the other data I was sent that the Northern busway refers to people and travelling from the North Shore, not just those on the busway.
And the numbers compared to 2001.
Looking to the future we can only expect the current trends to continue, not least because there is nowhere else to squeeze in additional roads/lanes.
The number of people travelling on buses and trains has continued to surge in November resulting in more than 75 million trips over the previous 12 months, the first time that’s happened in over 50 years. That means the number of trips taken in the last year is up by 5.7 million (8%). The Rapid Transit Network comprising of the Northern Express and the trains continues to be the star performer with the annual number of trips increasing by 17%. There has also been solid growth in the bus network which carries the majority of people in Auckland with patronage up 6.8%.
The rail network has the highest annual growth of all modes up 17.5% and patronage is up 12.3 million. Within that the two small lines currently served by electric trains are up 20-30% which perhaps gives an indication of what we can expect once the bigger lines go electric. For the month of November patronage on the Manukau Line services alone was up 50%. I imagine that sort of growth will only continue with the new timetable too. Apart from the electric trains one of the reasons given for the improved patronage is that train punctuality and reliability has improved with November recording the highest result Auckland has seen with 91.9% of all services arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes of their schedule. The Manukau line was the highest at 96% and the Western Line the lowest at 89.3%.
If you recall back to my post the other day and the most recent advice from the Ministry of Transport on the CRL from August where they said
Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date.
If growth continues at 1.4 million trips per year, annual patronage would hit 20 million trips around 2019/20. We expect patronage growth to continue at a similar rate as for the year to June 2014 until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. After 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow and at this stage do not anticipate it is likely that the threshold of 20 million trips well before 2020 will be met.
Well patronage is now up over 1.8 million trips and not showing signs of slowing down.
The Northern Express is also seeing fantastic growth this year with annual patronage now up 14.4% and rising above 2.6 million trips.
What’s also notable about this is that over the same time period the number of vehicles that cross the Harbour Bridge every day has dropped by 2%. Of course the NEX doesn’t include all bus trips across the harbour bridge and it would be fascinating to see just how many there are in total.
The annual Farmers Santa Parade is tomorrow. A few weeks ago Luke put together a great post highlighting primarily the issue of AT and the police rushing to re-open Queen St to traffic – which has absolutely zero need to be there – straight after the parade, he also briefly touched on the transport arrangements from last year. Auckland Transport have now published information about how to get there and it pretty much tells you that you should drive.
Join the fun and take the family by bus, train or ferry to the annual Farmers Santa Parade on Sunday 30 November at 2pm.
The parade is one of Auckland’s most popular Christmas events so public transport and roads in and out of the city will be busier than usual.
To manage the parade and public safety, roads around the parade route will be closed and there will be parking restrictions.
There is a range of transport options to get you and your family to and from the city so you should plan your journey in advance and set-off early.
Check services by using this link: https://at.govt.nz/bus-train-ferry/events/farmers-santa-parade/
Travel to the parade by bus:
Buses will operate to a Sunday timetable and normal fares/passes will apply. Due to road closures a number of city centre bus stops will be relocated and some route diversions will be in place. Auckland Transport Ambassadors will be on site to assist passengers.
Travel to the parade by train:
Trains will be operating to a special timetable with services approximately every 20 to 30 minutes on most lines into the city from 10.30. There will also be special services from Pukekohe.
Rail buses will depart Waitakere between 10.05am and 1.35pm. These services will transfer to trains at Swanson Train Station.
After the parade, passengers can board trains at Britomart to Swanson and transfer back to rail buses operating between 4.30pm and 7pm to Waitakere.
Britomart Station will be busy, ensure you use the Eastern Entrance in Takutai Square and be there early to board prior to departure time.
Event trains will depart Pukekohe Train Station at 10.30am, 10.58am, 11:30am, 11.58am, 12.30pm.
Return services to Pukekohe depart at 3.45pm, 4.15pm, 4.45pm, 5.13pm, 5.50pm and 6.20pm. Use the Concourse Entrance to Britomart in Queen Elizabeth Square.
Travel to the parade by ferry:
The Downtown Ferry Terminal is located on Quay St, normal fares/passes apply for ferry services. Fullers will be operating additional sailings between Downtown and Bayswater, Birkenhead/Northcote Point, Half Moon Bay and Stanley Bay.
Driving to the parade:
If you are planning to drive, please be aware that road closures parking restrictions will be in place. https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/road-works-disruptions/christmas-event-road-closures/
Public parking is free at the Downtown and Victoria St car parks for vehicles exiting between midday and 6pm.
So let me get this right, AT want you to join the fun and take PT to the parade however:
- buses only run to a normal Sunday timetable – which means hourly or worse in some places – and pay for the privilege.
- trains do run more frequently which is good but I note AT don’t make it clear either way as to whether you will pay to use them.
- ferries will have some additional sailings than a normal Sunday but like buses you will have to pay to use them.
Alternatively you can drive and get free parking. I wonder which option most families will choose?
The one major downside to the driving option is that parking is only free at AT’s Downtown and Victoria St carparks which have 890 and 850 spaces respectively. A total of 1740 spaces isn’t going to serve very many families compared to how many people go to the event and is likely to lead to them quickly filling up and families having to find alternative and much more expensive places to park. That will likely help create congestion and unhappy parents. In short what the hell are AT thinking offering free parking in the CBD, this isn’t the 1960’s any more.
What AT should be doing instead is putting on heaps more buses, trains and ferries – perhaps even close to weekday peak levels – and marketing the hell out of them. On top of that make the PT options free and charge for the carparking to further encourage people to shift modes.
The charging option also highlights another failing of our current ticketing system, no family passes. These are currently only available from Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Papakura and Pukekohe and they only for trains so they’re useless for many people. The table below shows what a family of four (2 parents, 2 kids) would pay for a return trip to the city depending on how many stages away they are (I’ve limited the number of stages to 6).