February 2015 Patronage

We’d already heard about the spectacular rail patronage results of passing 13 million trips, an increase of 1 million in just 5 months. Now we’ve got the full patronage information for February and it’s looking good.

2015-02 - Patronage Table

One of the aspects I noticed in the table above is the Western line appears to have dropped however AT say that is just because of the timing of events last year and so if removing special event tickets from the numbers of each year shows patronage growth for the month of 9.8%.

One impressive aspect about the rail growth is that the total patronage in February was higher than any single month last year despite being only 28 days and including a public holiday. Only one month – October 2011 which was the peak thank to the RWC – has higher and the difference is only around 2,000 trips.

The total patronage growth is shown below.

2014-02 - AKL - Total Patronage

Other than the rail results it’s also pleasing to see buses growing so strongly. The Northern Express (NEX) is obviously still up strongly but other buses which carry the bulk of patronage are increasing too. For the 12 months to the end of Feb patronage was 7.6% (around 4 million trips) compared to the same time last year.

2014-02 - AKL - Bus Patronage

With results so strong I’m really looking forward to seeing just how big the numbers are for March. Given what I’ve been seeing and hearing about how full trains, buses and ferries are the results could be absolutely massive. Of course we’ve also been hearing a lot about buses and trains being so full that it’s putting people off using them, especially on the rail network where issues and delays have become an almost daily occurrence.

On issues, this is showing through in the train punctuality stats which have shown a decline in recent months and it can also in part be attributed to services being too full increasing dwell times. I suspect the 78% the western line managed to achieve could go much lower in March.

2014-02 - AKL - Train Performance

We also have Wellington’s patronage results for Feb which have remained flat. The monthly figures for buses and trains were down 0.2% and up 0.1% respectively. Due to growth over the last year they were both up on the 12 month figure though.

2014-02 - WLG - Total Patronage

CRL Design Showcase

Auckland Transport have announced a “Design Showcase” for the three new or improved stations that will be delivered as part of the CRL as well as the public areas surrounding them.

CRL Design Showcase poster

A design showcase for the City Rail Link’s three new stations and their adjacent public spaces will give Aucklanders a peek into the future.

The CRL, which starts construction late this year, will re‐shape the city by bringing Britomart, Aotea and Karangahape Road within three to six minutes of each other and Mt Eden within nine.

Each station, new ones at Aotea and Karangahape and a redeveloped Mt Eden, has been designed in partnership with Mana whenua, who shared their considerable knowledge of the local areas to provide a unique look and feel.

“We think people will be excited when they see these new spaces and what they’ll do for the city,” says Chris Meale, CRL Project Director. “Together they represent the city’s most significant place shaping opportunity in the next decade.”

“Visitors to the design showcase in mid‐April will also find out how the first stage of construction will roll out later this year.”

Auckland’s population is expected to grow by 700,000 in the next 30 years with the CRL considered vital to meet the city’s traffic needs by 2040.

It will double the number of people within 30 minutes of the city, reducing the time and increasing the frequency of most trips, while allowing for more connections between rail, ferry, bus services.

“Auckland’s CBD is the heart of the city’s economy with up to 16,000 employees per square kilometer, accounting for 34 percent of jobs in New Zealand and 37 percent of the country’s GDP,” says Meale.

“Improved access to the city centre is the key to Auckland’s economic growth.” The design showcase is being held in an AT Bus by the No.1 Café in QE11 Square, 10am to 4pm daily from Sat 11 to Wed 15 April.

For more information on the CRL visit: www.cityraillink.co.nz and www.facebook.com/cityraillink

It should be interesting to see what they have planned, however seeing it’s on a bus I also hope they’ll roll it out to show other parts of the region. This is because one of the major issues I continue to have is the reoccurring focus on what the project does for the central city and not the massive benefits it also provides to other parts of the region.

Why are trains failing so much?

With March Madness in full swing it seems that Auckland Transport and Transdev have taken a new approach to dealing with the high demand, driving customers away through rubbish performance.

Train users from across the region – but it seems particularly West Auckland – have been suffering after what feels like daily issues that are putting even more pressure on already stretched services. People can accept one or two issues but when they become an almost daily occurrence the only result will be less people using trains.

Here are a just couple of examples from the last week or so of what we’ve seen happening from AT’s text message service. It is by no means an exhaustive list of issues that have occurred and is only on the western line. There have also been issues on other lines too (the am times are based on services at my local station – Sturges Rd, pm times based on Britomart).

13 March

7:43am train running at reduced seating capacity – a later text states it was full from Avondale

5:36pm train running at reduced capacity

16 March

4:36pm train delayed 10 minutes due to an earlier train fault

5:06 train delayed 20 minutes due to an earlier train fault

5:36 train delayed 15 minutes due to an earlier train fault

5:50 train delayed 25 minutes due to an earlier train fault

17 March

4:36pm train cancelled from Kingsland due to a train fault

4:50pm train delayed 10 minutes due to an earlier train fault

19 March

6:59am train cancelled due to vandalism

5:20pm train running at reduced seating capacity

20 March

7:43am train delayed 10 minutes due to a train crew matter

5:50pm train delayed by 10 minutes due to an earlier train fault

23 March

7:43am train cancelled due to an earlier train fault

The reason these are so bad particularly on the western line is any cancelled train means the next train is at least 15 minutes away. Depending on what station you use that might be only the delay as trains that have been so full thanks to the surge in patronage mean that following services simply can’t cope. As such people from inner stations have been unable to even get on some trains meaning potentially they could be experiencing a 45 minute or longer wait. Even if you’re lucky enough to get on a train in these situations it is going to be a cramped affair.

Of course this wouldn’t be quite so bad if frequency was every 10 minutes like first promised for the western line in 2010 but AT have managed to find a constant stream of excuses as to why it can’t happen.

So what’s causing these delays and cancellations? My understanding – although I’m happy to be corrected by AT and/or Transdev is that it’s a combination of few things. Maintenance is understandably being reduced on the aging diesel trains ahead of the roll out of the electrics that is leading to more of them failing. They also are extremely stretched with their staff numbers and don’t really have enough drivers to run the timetable properly.

At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the reasons are for the delays, what’s clear is that all those involved need to get this issue addressed extremely quickly otherwise the great patronage gains that we’ve seen in the last 1½ years will plateau again or even fall away. This is because the two most important aspects of any PT service regardless of mode or what city it is in are always frequency and reliability

The Demographics of Travel to Work

The last census was two years ago and there’s already been a lot of analysis of the results of it. In terms of transport the census asks about Journeys to Work and while it is a fairly flawed metric due to it ignoring other trip generators like journeys to education – a large component of the morning peak in particular – it still has shown some interesting results. From it we know that in Auckland the number of people commuting to work by car increased, however it has partially come from fewer people carpooling and even more importantly it was eclipsed by the number commuting by PT. Add in the strong growth in people using active modes and there’s been the below shifts in modeshare.

modeshare-change-percent

PV = private vehicle

 

I just happened to be looking at Stats NZ a few days ago and came across data giving a demographic break down of the results which is something I haven’t seen before and the results are fascinating. In particular the results that caught my attention the most were those by age and gender and how that had changed over time.

First up the total number of people who said they worked on Census day and you can clearly see from this the aging of the baby boomer generation.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Total

Unsurprisingly the number of people driving a private vehicle to work looks fairly similar to the graph above. What is interesting are the other private vehicle categories of driving a company vehicle, driving a motorbike or scooter and being a passenger in a car.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Private Vehicle

Moving on to public transport I’ve only shown bus and train below because ferries are included in the Other category. What’s remarkable about the changes is that it so clearly shows that the growth in PT is being driven by the younger generations. The question is what the people in these younger age groups will do once they start getting older and having families etc. The changes in the older age groups suggest that the numbers using PT won’t drop off as much as they have in the past which will have big implications for mode share in the future.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Public Transport

I’ve also looked at the data for Wellington and while most categories have a fairly similar profile to Auckland, the one that stands out as being dramatically different is in train use. I suspect that as Auckland’s network matures it will start to look more like Wellington’s does now.

Census Journey to Work by Age - AKL & WLG- train

Next up are the active modes of walking and cycling with two very different trends. For walking its young people driving the change whereas for cycling it’s older generations making the shift.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland - Active

Lastly it’s the Other – which is likely to primarily be ferries – and those who worked from home. The latter is primarily made up of people who live in rural areas and the wealthier coastal areas places within the urban area.

Census Journey to Work by Age - Auckland -  Other

 

Overall there are some very interesting changes happening with how we travel and those are primarily occurring in non-car modes. If the younger generations continue to keep the current trends up then it’s likely to have big implications for how people get around in the future. The question is whether what we’re building is going to support that change or hinder it.

The other piece of demographic information available is mode usage based on gender. Unlike age the gender split over each mode doesn’t seem to be changing much over time but what the data does highlight is that there is quite a lot of variance between the two based on which mode is looked at. Overall 54% of those who said they were working are men versus 46% women.

In the graph below are the total numbers of each gender for each mode – with the exception of Driving a Private Car as it’s so large it makes it difficult to see the other results. The first thing you notice is how over represented men are in driving a company vehicle. This is also the case for riding motorbike or cycling. In the other modes more women than men are likely to be a car passenger, use PT, walk or work from home.

Census Journey to Work by Gender & Mode - Auckland

To highlight the degree of over or under representation the graph below shows this for females (the opposite can obviously bee seen for males). Of these the quickest and easiest I think that we could change would be cycling and to do that it is essential we make our roads safer through far greater use of cycle infrastructure.

Census Journey to Work Female Over-Under Representation - Auckland

If anyone wants to look into this deeper this info is also available by local board level which I’m sure would show some interesting results between different parts of Auckland.

Metamorphosis: The Return of the City

The Auckland City Centre is entering a phase of profound change. The rest of this decade it’ll be undergoing a more extensive and disruptive renovation than your average Ponsonby villa. The designers and financiers are at work and the men and machines are are about to start. The caterpillar is entering that difficult and mysterious chrysalis phase; what kind of butterfly will emerge?

Some of the probable additions to AKL’s skyline [image: Luke Elliot]

If even half of what is proposed gets underway almost every aspect of the centre city will be different.

The Skyline

Precinct Property’s 500 million dollar total rebuild of the Downtown centre and a new 36 storey commercial tower is confrmed to start next year. The 39 storey St James apartment tower is also all go [with the re-opening of the ground floor to the public soon]. An apartment tower on Albert and Swanson has begun. There are a huge number of residential towers seriously close to launching some of which are 50+ floors. These are on Victoria St, Customs St, Commerce St, Greys Ave and more. The biggest of them all Elliot Towers is rumoured to underway next year. Mansons have bought the current herald site and said to looking at residential there. On the same block 125 Queen St is finally getting refurbished bringing much needed new commercial space in the city [+ about 1000 new inner city workers]. Of course the Convention Centre and its associated hotel will start too. Waterfront Auckland have announced new mid rise apartment developments and a new hotel beginning as well. This list is not by any means exhaustive. Auckland is now a builders’ boom town. And it will resemble nothing other than an enormous sand pit for the next few years.

The Street

Regardless of the forms of these buildings they are going to have profound impacts at street level; flooding the footpaths with people, stimulating more and more retail and especially hospitality services. Add to this the disruption of the works themselves, for example later this year the first stage of the CRL is going to start. Digging up everything from Britomart through Downtown, up Albert St to Wyndam St. If the proposed Light Rail system goes ahead that will mean the [no doubt staged] digging up of the whole length of Queen St and other places, Dominion Rd, Wynyard Quarter. Street space is becoming more and more contested. Driving in the city is going to get increasingly pointless, most will avoid it. But unlike last century that won’t mean people won’t come to the city. One, because it’s become so attractive with unique retail offers, unrivalled entertainment attractions, and a fat concentration of jobs. Two, because people are discovering how good the improving Transit options are becoming, so why bother driving. And three, because increasing numbers are already there; it’s where they live anyway.

And that Transit boom is going to continue, or even accelerate. Britomart throughput is now running at 35 000 people daily, when planned it wasn’t even expected to reach 20 000 until 2021 [see below; the blue line is still growing at that angle; it is now literally off the chart]:

Britomart Projection Numbers Graph

Why is this happening? A lot of people in wider Auckland still think the city is unappealing or unimportant. Aren’t we spreading new housing out at the edges? Aren’t new businesses building near the suburbs in those business parks? Well ironically one of the reasons so much growth and investment is happening in City Centre is because those same people, the ones that prefer their suburban neighbourhoods to the city, don’t want any change near them. The City Centre is one of the few places that it is possible to add new dwellings or offices at scale, and because it is a very constrained area with high land value this can only be done with tall buildings. The more suburban people refuse to have growth near them the more, in a growing city, investment has to concentrate where it can, and in Auckland that means downtown.

Auckland's first electric  tram 1902

Auckland’s first electric tram 1902

Auckland is still spreading outwards and businesses are growing in suburban centres, but these areas are not appealing or appropriate for all people and all businesses, and nor are they sufficient; the City Centre is growing by both these metrics too, and at a greater pace. The 2013 census showed that AKL city is the fastest accelerating place to live in the entire country, growing at over 48% between 2006-2013, and currently the city is experiencing a new shortage of office space and an interesting reshaping of the retail market. The education sector is also still strong there, with Auckland Uni consolidating to its now three Central City sites and building more inner city student accommodation. City growth is strong and broadly based: residential, commercial, retail, and institutional.

There are risks and opportunities in this but what is certain, outside of a sudden economic collapse, is that the City Centre will be a completely different place in a few years, in form, and in terms of how it will operate. And the signs are promising that what we are heading to is an almost unrecognisably better city at street level than it has been in living memory.

What is happening is simply that it is returning to being a city of people. Ten of thousands of new inner city residents, thousands of new visitors in thousands of additional hotel beds each night, hundreds of thousands of workers and learners arriving daily from all over the wider city each day too. All shopping, eating, drinking, and playing within the ring of the motorway collar. Auckland is moving from being one of the dullest and most lifeless conurbations in the world to offering a new level of intensity and activity. Well that is certainly the possibility in front of us now.

Auckland has had boom times before, and each of these leave a near permanent mark on the built fabric of the city [the Timespanner blog has examples in great detail].  So it matters profoundly what we add to the city this time. We are at the beginning of the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the postwar outward boom that came with such a high cost for the older parts of the city. By forcing the parts of the city built on an earlier infrastructure model to adapt to a car only system we rendered them unappealing and underperforming, and the old city very nearly did not survive this era. Only the persistence of some institutions, particularly the Universities, enabled it to hang on as well as it did. The car as an organising device is ideal for social patterns with a high degree of distance and dispersal. It is essentially anti-urban in its ability to eat distance but at the price of its inefficient use of space; it constantly fights against the logic of human concentration that cities rely on to thrive. It not only thrives on dispersal, it also enforces it.

Queen St 1960s

Queen St 1960s

But now the wheel has turned and cities everywhere are booming on the back a of model much more like the earlier one [see here for example: Seven cities going car-free]. This old-new model is built on the understanding that people in numbers both already present in the city and arriving on spatially efficient Transit systems providing the economic and social concentration necessary for urban vitality and success.

This seems likely to lead to a situation more or less observable in many cities world-wide where there is an intense and highly walkable and Transit served centre surrounded by largely auto-dependent suburbs. Melbourne, for example, is increasingly taking this form. And, interestingly the abrupt physical severance of Auckland’s motorway collar might just make ours one of the more starkly contrasting places to develop along these lines. A real mullet city: one made up of two distinct patterns.

Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014

Bourke St Transit Mall, Melbourne 2014

Frankly I think this is fine, it could make for the best of both worlds. Those who want to live with the space and green of the suburbs can continue to do so but are also able to dip into a vibrant city for work, education, or especially entertainment, on efficient electric Transit, ferries, and buses when that suits. A vibrant core of vital commercial and cultural intensity sustained by those who choose to live in the middle of it 24/7. The intensity of this core plus any other growing Metro Centres [will Albany really become intense? Manukau City?] meaning the sprawl isn’t limitless and the countryside not pushed so far away that it is inaccessible. Auckland as Goldilocks; not all one thing or the other; neither all suburb nor all city. People will use or ignore which ever parts they want, and soon members of the same households will be able to indulge their different tastes without some having to leave the country.

What are the threats to this vision? Well we do actually have to build the Transit, this means completing the CRL soon as is possible, and ideally replacing a good chunk of the buses with higher capacity and more appealing Light Rail. To connect these two halves; the success of both the centre and the region it serves depend on it. But also we have deliver a much better public realm on the streets and especially at the water’s edge. We have to retain and enhance the smaller scale older street systems to contrast with the coming towers, like we have at Britomart and O’Connell St. All these moves require leadership and commitment and an acceptance that the process of getting there will be contested and difficult.

I have no fear that people in the wider city won’t be happy to choose to leave their cars at home for some journeys, especially into the city, then jump back into them for others across the wider city or out of town. After all it’s happening already. This is not then a bold prediction, merely the extrapolation of current trends. And it is the trend that tells us more about the future than the status quo. More of this:

CBD Transport Change

than this

CPO Lower Queen St 1960s

CPO Lower Queen St 1960s

or this

AKL m'ways 70s

AKL Grafton Gully 70s

A Day on the London Undergound

A neat visualisation of actual passenger journeys on the London underground

A visualisation of 562,145 journeys on the London Underground network, from a 5% sample of Oyster-card journeys during a week in 2009

He explains more behind the visualization here.

Wouldn’t it be great if Auckland Transport released HOP data in a similar way so something similar could be done here. I imagine that among other things it would great for seeing where the system is being used.

Tomorrow is transit driver appreciation day

Tomorrow is “Transit driver appreciation day“:

“Consider this… For hours on end, transit drivers manage to keep a schedule, check fares, give directions, announce stops, remember stop requests and more, all while safely maneuvering an extra-large vehicle through unpredictable traffic, adverse weather conditions and some really tight spaces! The fact is, transit drivers don’t have an easy job, they just make it look that way. On March 18th, join us in celebrating the contributions of our hard-working bus drivers and rail operators! That could be as simple as a smile and a wave when you board the bus or train, and a “thank you” when you leave. You can also print out and personalize any of the thank-you cards below to show your appreciation in person, and you can help spread the word using the sharing links provided. And, don’t forget to submit an official commendation for a job well done, so your drivers can be formally recognized for their efforts.”

At times, I find the discourse around public transport can be rather negative.

This is somewhat understandable in a city such as Auckland, where many people are aspire for better service. Most of the issues with our current system, however, reflect decades of neglect and under-investment by central, regional, and local councils (representatives and public servants). Many of these representatives and public servants got inculcated in the cult of motordom, and subsequently “strategically misrepresented” the benefits/costs of private vehicles versus public transport.

None of this, however, is the fault of our drivers.

Nor are they usually at fault for running late (who would want to run late?), or for their bus being full, or for running out of change because too many people by cash.

Indeed, my personal experience is that drivers are almost universally decent people, if not downright pleasant. One Ritchies driver I was talking to told me that the best part of his job was driving over the Harbour Bridge with a bus load of people in the morning peak. He said it gave him immense pleasure to know that he’d made a positive contribution to so many people’s lives. Many of whom he recognised as being regular customers.

Yes there’s the odd bad experience, e.g. I have been left flailing at a stop as a bus drives past in the middle of the night. But in my experience these are the exception not the rule.

They also seem more likely to result in a bus system characterised by inaccurate timetables operating in mixed traffic. In our current system, drivers tend to be the people left carrying the can for systematic issues arising from the aforementioned neglect and under-investment.

For these reasons, if you’re using transit today then please spare a thought for your driver. Try employing your kiwi accent to its fullest by bellowing a “thanx drivah!” as you exit the bus. Or if you feel so inclined, then consider going to this website to print one of these cards to give to them when you board.

Thanks to all the drivers out there.

Cards

Auckland PT fare changes for 2015

Auckland Transport have announced the results of their latest review of public transport fares which should be the last before integrated fares are introduced early next year. They have said that some of the changes are being made now in advance of integrated fares to make that transition easier later on. The changes really depend on how you pay, how far you travel and whether you use ferries or not.

Auckland Transport says the focus of this year’s public transport fare review is to better align short and long distance fares in preparation for a change to a simpler zone based system (integrated fares) next year.

Auckland Transport’s General Manager Public Transport, Mark Lambert, says, “As we continue to pick up the pace of transport changes in the city, improving the fare structure with integrated fares will allow the introduction of the New Network which will see more frequent services on key routes at a minimum average of every 15 minutes, 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

“This is along with the introduction of the AT HOP card, electric trains on the rail network, the first step towards the construction of the City Rail Link and an investigation of the benefits of light rail. All of these initiatives are designed to give Aucklanders choices that will offer them the freedom to most effectively use that valuable commodity, time”.

The changes to public transport fares through the 2015 review will see:

  • Small increases of between 5 and 10 cents for short distance (stage one and stage two trips) for those using the AT HOP card
  • No increases on longer AT HOP trips on buses and trains, other than for stage five journeys which receive a tertiary concession
  • Stage six and seven child fares, using AT HOP, reduce by 5c and 16c per trip respectively.
  • Some cash fares will increase by 50 cents to increase the incentive for passengers to take advantage of fare discounts that AT HOP provides
  • Some fares on Hobsonville and West Harbour ferry services decrease by between 24c and 50c a trip.
  • Tertiary and child concession fares will now be available on the InnerLink bus service

There will also be some changes to pricing for the CityLink bus service. This service had received funding from the Heart of the City business organisation and Waterfront Auckland however that subsidy has now ended. Auckland Transport therefore, reluctantly, has introduced a 50 cent (adult single trip), 40 cent (tertiary student single trip) and 30 cent (child single trip) fare for a AT HOP card users. Single trip cash fares will be $1 for adults, 50 cents for tertiary students and 40 cents for a child.

Mr Lambert says that on average fares contribute 47% to the total cost of providing public transport services – the remainder is provided through government (NZTA) contributions and rates subsidies. He says while petrol and diesel prices have fallen over recent months, and fluctuated in recent weeks, fuel prices make up only a small percentage of operator costs and by far the largest expense is wages.

Public transport patronage growth has continued strongly during recent fuel price reductions showing that customers are choosing to use improved services rather than sit in traffic congestion, he says.

Latest figures show that public transport patronage is at an all-time high. Public transport patronage totalled 76,480,955 passenger trips for the 12 months to January 2015, an annual increase of 9.4%.
Rail patronage alone totalled 13,000,000 passenger trips for the 12 months to January, an annual rise of 20.0% a rise of two million journeys in one year.

For more: https://at.govt.nz/farechange

Overall the changes don’t seem too bad and for most people probably won’t have any impact – or at least not too much. For a commuter in the inner suburbs it represents about $1 extra per week. AT say that one of the reasons for the shorter stages going up is that compared to other cities our shorter stage fares are quite cheap but our longer stage fares are expensive so this is a way of helping align those better.

Those that will be impacted the most will be those still paying by cash and hopefully these changes will see even more people move across to using HOP.

For ferries the changes are dictated in part by the commercial services to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke. For the rest of the services the price changes are also about aligning fares hence the increases to Half Moon Bay but decreases to West Harbour and Hobsonville as they are a similar distance.

The changes are below.

image001-3

image002-1

Lastly because it’s often raised I questioned about Fare Evasion. AT say that on average it’s at 6-8% across the network but as high as 40% at some individual stations with some of the worst being Fruitvale Rd and Henderson. They say every 1% of evasion is equivalent to about $300k in revenue so any actions to improve it needs to take that into account. They did say New Lynn will be gated in June which they think will help address some of it. Also any new stations – such as the new Otahuhu station – will be designed to have gates.

Are we failing March Madness?

I asked last week if Auckland Transport were ready for March Madness – a situation that happens every year where public transport usage goes nuts from a variety of factors. Unfortunately it increasingly it seems like PT services simply aren’t coping under the stress of the surge that we’re seeing. It’s not clear whether this is as a result of patronage simply surging ahead what was expected or if there simply hasn’t been enough capacity added to the system but either way the result is the same. Every day now I’m seeing/hearing comments on the blog, on social media, in my emails or even directly to me in person about crowded buses and trains.

Auckland Transport may just think this is a phase which will be over soon however one of the reasons it’s so important they get it right is that the experience customers have can set the tone for how people travel for the rest of the year or longer. I’ve already heard people saying that they’re giving up on PT and going back to battling the congestion behind the wheel of their car.

Below is just a small selection of the comments I’ve seen/received.

At the moment I am finding the time it takes to catch a bus during peak times to be utterly ridiculous. I catch a bus from Mt Eden Road to Britomart and on Monday had to wait 50mins for a bus that had capacity for more passengers (between 10-15 went past full). There was around 20 people left at my bus stop by the time I caught one, and another 20 or so down the road further. Surely there could be some buses that start partway through the route to pick up the stranded passengers left at the second half of the route for very long periods of time. It is issues like this that put people off public transport – there were several people at my stop who were distressed about being late for work, and some even gave up and went back home!

 and
Caught 224 home at 8.15pm, and we left people behind on Symonds St over bridge as over 20 were standing, also nearby saw a 258 and 471 with bus Full signs.

Hell even these three got on a bus

As mentioned earlier this is just a small sample of the comments I’ve seen in recent days. In some ways I have a little sympathy for AT and the bus companies in that it can be very hard to add capacity just for the peak as that makes for an expensive proposition however some of these comments are also coming in off peak or at a time when there should be a lot of spare capacity available.

The big concern is that full buses and trains are putting people off using PT all together – a case of the system truly becoming a victim of its own success.In my view AT need to come up with a plan for addressing crowding and do so quickly.

One million, five months

I highlighted this yesterday and now Auckland Transport have officially announced that rail patronage has passed 13 million trips which is up from 11 million in March last year. By my calculation that puts patronage for Feb at about 1.2 million trips although unfortunately AT say they don’t have the exact numbers yet as are validating data from the likes of event travel suggesting the results could go even higher.

Patronage vs Target - Feb 15 (2)

 

In a separate press release from Mayor Len Brown he highlighted that it’s only taken 5 months to go from 12m to 13 million trips. Below shows how long it’s taken to reach other patronage milestones and as you can see, with the exception of the 11 million figure – which was partly impacted by the RWC and change to HOP – there’s been a downward trend meaning that in general it’s taking a shorter and shorter amount of time for new milestones to be reached. There’s obviously a limit to that at some point and it’ll be interesting to see just how low that goes.

Months to Milestones

At 5 months for the next million trips it suggests we’re going to hit 14 million at around July which seems eminently likely considering that AT say more six-car trains have started rolling out on the eastern line from this week with more coming soon and Len’s press release it notes

… and that will continue to increase with the Southern Line roll-out complete by the end of this month and the Western Line roll-out completing the transition to electric trains by the middle of the year

I certainly can’t wait for them to be rolled out – although I’m getting increasingly concerned that for the Western Line in particular that it simply won’t be enough until AT eventually get around to putting 10 minute frequencies on the line – something that was promised way back in 2010 and has yet to happen.

Along with that headline figure they also highlighted a few other stats, in particular that the average patronage on a weekday in Feb was 51,500, up 10,000 on Feb last year. In addition, now during the morning peak 12,500 people are using trains to get around. I’m not quite sure how many of them are going to Britomart but likely more than half of them.

The electric trains are definitely driving a lot of patronage. AT say that the number of people using trains from stations with fully electric train services is up 50%. At Panmure patronage has doubled and at Manukau it is up a whopping 176% (from a low base). As a comparison patronage at New Lynn which hasn’t seen any real change in services for years was also up strongly on last year at 24%

However while AT and the mayor are celebrating the rail result – and rightly so given the focus on the CRL – they in some ways have buried the lead a bit. In the very last sentence of their release they say:

Overall total public transport boardings have increased by more than 9% for the twelve months to the end of February, an additional 6.6 million boardings taking the annual total to 77 million.

I suspect most cities would think that a 9% growth in patronage across the entire system is a crazy level of increase. Perhaps more impressively total patronage for the previous 12 months at the end of November just passed 75 million trips and here we are 3 months later and the result is 2 million trips higher. In addition it also suggests we’ve now once again reached the (low) level of 50 trips per person per year. The last time Aucklanders each took an average of over 50 trips on PT was in the late 1980’s (as a comparison Wellington has 74 trips per person).

Auckland total patronage & per capita 1920-2014

I’m quite interested to see what our reader’s views are for when we will hit the next milestones. My guess is July and December for rail patronage and maybe we’ll see total patronage top 80 million in the next few months. Put your guesses in the comments.