July 14 Patronage results

The patronage results for July are now available and they show another strong month of growth.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 72,740,387 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +5.9% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. July monthly patronage was 6,268,752, an increase of 343,651 boardings or +5.8% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.4% accounting for additional special event patronage only, same number of business and weekend days in Jul-2014 compared to Jul-2013.

Rail patronage totalled 11,552,643 passengers for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +14.4% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Patronage for Jul-2014 was 1,089,839, an increase of 117,561 boardings or +12.1% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +9.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,460,177 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014), an increase of +1.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jul-2014 was 233,814, an increase of 33,433 boardings or +16.7% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +15.2%.

Other bus services carried 53,653,594 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and +4.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jul-2014 was 4,578,804, an increase of 228,637 boardings or +5.3% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ +5.2%.

Ferry services carried 5,073,973 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jul-2014, a decrease of -0.7% on the 12 months to Jun-2014 and an increase +1.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jul-2014 was 366,295, a decrease of -35,980 boardings or -8.9% on Jul-2013, normalised to ~ -8.9% (no special events).

14 - July AK Patronage table

14 - July AK Annual Patronage

Again it’s the rail network showing the most growth up 13% with the 12 month rolling total up 14.4%. One of the interesting aspects about this result is the Western Line managed a 14.2% increase despite there being no additional services other than half hourly services on Weekends in October last year. The Onehunga line continues to show strong growth since it was converted to using electric trains – although part of the month saw the old diesels return as Auckland Transport and others try to address some ongoing power supply issues. The most impressive result was on Manukau services in the first full month that the new MIT campus was completed. Patronage on those services was up over 26% and it will be interesting to see if that level of growth continues.

14 - July AK Rail Patronage

To highlight the growth that’s occurring this graph shows the average patronage on each weekday which since July last year has risen from just under 37,500 to about 42,000 per day. AT say that on average seven services per day are over the planned capacity ratio of four people standing for every 10 sitting while a further six were very near to that level

14 - July weekday average

While the rail network is increasing the fastest the biggest growth by overall number continues to be the bus network which was up 5.8% when you combine the Northern Express with other bus services. The graph below shows the NEX patronage while the one after shows the average weekday patronage for the other bus services

14 - NEX Patronage

14 - July other bus weekday average

As AT said last month, from now they have finally dropped the self-reported bus reliability and punctuality stats and have instead moved to reporting them using the on-board GPS tracking equipment. A separate report on the stats highlights the reasons why the old self-reported stats were so high.

Under existing contracts, bus operators provided AT with a monthly service delivery report. Two main variants of contract exist: ‘North Auckland Spine’ (~5% of services), and the remainder (~70% of services). Commercial services (~25% services) are exempt from performance reporting. The majority of contracts reported contracted performance rather than actual customer experience, i.e. excluded trips where performance was impacted by factors outside of operator control e.g. adverse weather, exceptional passenger loadings and significant traffic congestion, resulting in artificially high performance reports. Various metrics were used including reliability at within 30 minutes of start of trip.

Reliability and punctuality has been predominantly monitored through manual self-reporting systems. AT has been working with operators to transition to an automated system based on actual performance data generated from new GPS-tracking equipment. Reporting reliability and punctuality using GPS-tracked performance data will commence from 1 July.

New and consistent, PTOM KPIs will be reported – reliability (trips started within 10 minutes of schedule and completed) and punctuality (trips started within 5 minutes of schedule). In future punctuality at points through the trip and at the final destination will also be measured.

This new methodology reports on customer experience with no exclusions or exemptions such as congestion or adverse weather. An expected punctuality is 100% at start of first each duty timetable trip (operator reaching the trip start) and for all other trips, allowing for an element of average statistical non-performance from outlying high congestion, poor weather, accidents, etc, and compounded where successive trips are linked, 95% at trip start for non-right-of-way (mixed with traffic) and 98% for right-of-way (busway) services.

As a result of no exceptions, the GPS-tracked reliability and punctuality will be lower than previously reported, however performance data collected will permit improvements in service delivery through an ongoing iterative programme of six to twelve monthly timetable reviews.

It’s almost unbelievable that operators were allowed to ignore commercial services, services with lots of passengers, services caught in congestion or results when the weather was bad and it’s no wonder they always managed 99% of services on time. Like the self-reported stats this only reports buses based on when they start their run however AT say they are also looking at performance based on certain timing points too. Below is the punctuality results for July compared to December last year which I assume was when AT finalised their tracking methodology.

14 - Bus Punctuality

So Airbus, the service you probably most want to be on time has the worst performance. This graph shows how the performance has changed since December.

14 - Bus Punctuality graph

The PTOM target is the target that will apply once the new contracts are rolled out as part of the new network. They say that performance above or below the target will be subject to financial bonus or deductions so based on the info above I bet all the operators are happy those contracts aren’t in force yet. The same also applies to bus reliability (whether the bus even starts it’s run) for which there will be financial deductions for results less than 98% with again no operators yet meeting that level.

14 - Bus Reliability graph

It’s great to finally have some proper visibility around this and something we’ve only been calling for for about 3 years.

The biggest downside to Julys results was with cycling numbers which were down 21% on last July for some reason (despite what the text in the report says). If anyone has any reasons they might have fallen so much please let us know in the comments but a quick check shows that July was drier than normal with rainfall in Auckland at only 50-79% of an average July.

14 - July cycling

Wellington and Christchurch Patronage

We keep a close eye on patronage in Auckland – which has been surging in recent months – but what’s happening with patronage in our other major cities? So in this post I’ll look at patronage in both Wellington and Christchurch.


Unlike Auckland which has seen considerable growth over the last decade, the use of the system in Wellington can only really be described as flat. There are probably a number of factors at play including that the number of people employed in the Wellington Region peaked in 2008, the same year as patronage peaked – although I don’t think this is the only reason. On the positive side some recent growth meant that the end of June saw the 12 month rolling as the highest it’s been for potentially decades.

14 - Wellington Total Patronage

While Wellington does have ferries they carry such a small number of people (less than 200k per year) that they hardly register, of the other two modes bus patronage has grown slightly although it it dropped slightly in 2013 the figures are starting to rise again.Monthly patronage in June was up 6.3% on the same month last year which is a good sign and one of the largest single month increases in six years.

14 - Wellington Bus Patronage

The rail network has seen more volatility with a large drop off in the number of trips from mid 2009. Patronage then stayed fairly low until after Wellington’s new Matangi trains were introduced in early 2011. Since then it’s been a slow recovery with the exception of the RWC. However in recent months we’re starting to see some real improvement and 12 month patronage to the end of June was up 2.8% – although that’s also partly because some lines were closed for over a week in June last year due to storm damage.

14 - Wellington Rail Patronage

Overall patronage in Wellington has been flat for some time but the good news is that things seem to be changing with patronage numbers reaching new heights. Let’s hope that growth continues.

It’s also worth noting that traffic volumes on Wellington’s state highway network have also been flat for some time.


Between 2000 and 2010 patronage in Christchurch increased by almost 80% which better than what Auckland achieved over the same period with both cities coming off low base numbers. Then in 2010 and 2011 the earthquakes struck devastating the city – with the CBD suffering some of the most extensive damage. The impact on bus patronage was dramatic and set  use back use by a decade more. Positively patronage in Christchurch is now recovering although still well below the pre-quake levels. Let’s hope the growth can carry on and see us quickly surpass the pre-quake results.

14 - Christchurch Bus Patronage

If anyone has details about patronage results for other NZ cities then I’d love to see it so let me know in the comments or flick me an email with the details.

June 2014 Patronage

The patronage results for June are out and like recent months the results are particularly good for the rail network. The June stats are also significant as they represent the end of financial year results for Auckland transport. The 12 month figure is the highest it has been since 1959 – although of course the city had a lot less people back then.

 Auckland public transport patronage totalled 72,396,155 passengers for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +0.9% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +5.6% on the 12 months to Jun-2013.

June monthly patronage was 6,107,965, an increase of 623,266 boardings or +11.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +6.8% accounting for additional special event patronage and one more business day and one less weekend day in Jun-2014 compared to Jun-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +5.6%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,435,085 passengers for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +1.7% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +13.9% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Patronage for Jun-2014 was 1,039,830, an increase of 194,491 boardings or +23.0% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +9.4%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,426,745 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +6.5% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jun-2014 was 210,069, an increase of 23,201 boardings or +12.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +9.1%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +6.5%.

Other bus services carried 53,424,378 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, an increase of +0.8% on the 12 months to May-2014 and +4.2% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jun-2014 was 4,525,656, an increase of 420,821 boardings or +10.3% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ +7.6%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +4.2%.

Ferry services carried 5,109,947 passenger trips for the 12 months to Jun-2014, a decrease of -0.3% on the 12 months to May-2014 and an increase +3.1% on the 12 months to Jun-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jun-2014 was 332,410, a decrease of -15,247 boardings or -4.4% on Jun-2013, normalised to ~ -7.3%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +3.1%.

AKL Patronage - All - Jun 14

AKL Patronage - Table - Jun 14

So rail patronage for June is up 23% on the same month a year ago while the 12 month rolling figure is up 14%, both are massive numbers. If we were able to keep up that rate of growth it would see us hitting the 20 million rail patronage target set by the government for the City Rail Link by the end of 2018. With the upcoming improvements from rolling out the electric trains to the majority of the network, the new bus network, integrated fares and other enhancements I think this rate of growth (or more) is eminently possible.

One of the important results is also to see the impact on patronage to Onehunga which has been the first to get electric trains – despite the recent hiccup. Patronage to Onehunga is up a staggering 37%. It seems the public are already responding the the improved quality of services and it’s something I’ve seen first hand with Onehunga Line trains often full in the mornings despite having significantly more capacity than the trains  they replaced.

You may also remember the patronage targets for the next few years were recently reduced after AT said the already reduced targets were basically impossible. Here’s how the rail patronage result looks compared to the target.

Rail Patronage vs SOI target 2013-14

In the end the result was only a few thousand short of the target. With only an extra 700,000 trips a year now needed to reach the newly lowered target for 2014/15 I expect it will be surpassed early. Someone should also tell Manurewa Local Board Chairperson Angela Dalton that patronage is rising as she is busy trying to say the opposite.

People will continue to abandon the trains in favour of cars until such time as there is attention focussed on security issues at suburban train stations instead of committing rate payers money into the City Rail Link,” Angela Dalton said.

Along with rail it’s also pleasing to see that bus patronage continues to grow too. This is quite important as it shows that all PT use is rising and that the increases in rail patronage aren’t simply a result of people shifting from bus to train.

All up a good result for PT and in other good news Cycling continues to grow strongly at the sites monitored by ATs automatic cycle counters. For June the result was up 11.4% while the 12 month rolling figure was up 10%

AKL Cycling- Jun 14

Considering the heightened discussion surrounding the traffic on the Harbour Bridge it’s also worth highlighting what’s happening with traffic on the bridge. As you can see vehicle volumes continue to struggle to get above 160,000 trips, something that was a regular occurrence  before 2007

AHB - All -2013-14


The hypocrisy of the GPS

If there’s one thing – more than anything else – that annoys me about the government’s approach to transport, it’s the double standard they apply between state highway projects (particularly RoNS projects) and public transport investment. Getting any public transport funding requires analysis after analysis, proof that the timing of the project is optimal, proof that it’s definitely the most viable and cost-effective option, links with triggers around the level of use or growth in the area the project is located – the list goes on. This would not be a problem if the approach was applied consistently, after all transport projects are expensive and we should be careful when it comes to the use of public funds.

Yet the same level of analysis is never applied to state highway projects, and even less analysis when it comes to the Roads of National Significance (RoNS). Despite major concerns around the cost-effectiveness of many of these projects and a complete lack of analysis when it comes to triggers for timing, the assessment of alternatives or even basic cost-benefit ratios the projects plough on ahead.

This double-standard is carried on through to the latest version of the Government Policy Statement (GPS), which was released recently. The justification for an $11b spend on state highways is fairly general:

Following more than a decade of increasing concern about under-investment in roading infrastructure, in 2009 the Government began a significant improvement programme. With an intention to invest nearly $11 billion in New Zealand’s State highways over the 10 years to 2019, the Government focused on enabling economic growth rather than simply responding to it, providing high quality connections between key areas of production, processing and export.

Continued funding under GPS 2015 (draft) for State highway improvements will bring benefits for national economic growth and productivity, particularly given that State highways carry most freight and link major ports, airports and urban areas.

This clearly leads to a number of questions that could be reasonably asked to check whether this is the best way of spending $11,000,000,000 of public money:

  • What proof is there of recent under-investment in roading infrastructure – what’s the major problem the investment is trying to solve?
  • To what extent does investing in state highway infrastructure actually boost economic growth – where are the international examples of state highways being a better investment than other transport, or investing in education, or just letting people keep that money and deciding what to do with it themselves?
  • How will success of the investment in state highways be measured?
  • How do we know we wouldn’t have achieved the same outcomes (or nearly the same) with a much smaller spend?
  • What other options for this level of investment were considered and how did they perform on a relative basis?
  • Has the investment been working (and how might we measure that), has it achieved its local goals (like reducing congestion) and has achievement of those local goals (if it’s even happened) contributed to greater economic performance to the extent we would hope from an $11b investment?

In some shape or form, these questions have all been asked of public transport investment (either recent or proposed) by government over the past few years – but surprisingly we don’t seem to have seen the same questioned asked of the state highway programme. You’ll also notice the comment about the investment enabling economic growth rather than responding to it. The only vague reference to the impact of billions spent on state highways in recent years comes in the section on Auckland:

Since 2009, the Government has undertaken a major programme of investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure. By 2017, Auckland will have a completed motorway network and an upgraded and electrified metro rail network. This investment programme is delivering significant results, helping to hold congestion steady despite population growth.

But if we back up a bit, we see the GPS noting that VKT hasn’t grown in recent years:


It seems like the GPS is saying “despite flat traffic volumes and massive investment in state highways, we haven’t managed to reduce congestion at all“. That seems to be a pretty massive elephant in the room signal that the current approach isn’t working. Yet despite some pretty obvious questions about whether we’ve got any value at all from the billions in recent state highway projects, the GPS doesn’t question ploughing billions more into future state highway spending.

Contrast that with the much more cautious approach to spending on public transport improvements:

Considerable investment has been made in the public transport network to build patronage. Much of this investment has been ahead of patronage demand, particularly in metro-rail services. A period of consolidation is needed where the focus is on securing the patronage gains anticipated from measures such as integrated ticketing, reconfigured bus networks, and metro rail investments.

No “period of consolidation” to see whether the gains from state highway improvements are realised though? No checking whether the billions spent on state highways in the past decade has led to improvements in economic performance or even reduced congestion – as per their stated goal? If we were to compare the per capita use of public transport against the per capita use of the roading network in recent years, we find quite a compelling story:

VKT-vs-PT-Trips-per-Captia-2I’m kind of struggling to see how one can interpret the above graph as “we’re not sure whether the PT investment is working but clearly we need to keep spending billions on roads”.

Which is what the GPS does, showing its hypocrisy.

May 2014 Patronage

The patronage results for May are now out and once again they look good.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 71,774,868 passengers for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.8% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +4.6% on the 12 months to May-2013. May monthly patronage was 7,096,277, an increase of 536,470 boardings or + 8.2% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.3% accounting for additional special event patronage and one less business day and one more weekend day in May-2014 compared to May-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +5.2%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,242,610 passengers for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +1.3% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +12.1% on the 12 months to May-2013. Patronage for May-2014 was 1,193,702, an increase of 142,201 boardings or +13.5% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +13.4%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.1%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,403,544 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.9% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +6.1%% on the 12 months to May-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for May-2014 was 249,888, an increase of 20,722 boardings or +9.0% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.8%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +6.0%.

Other bus services carried 53,003,557 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +3.1% on the 12 months to May-2013. Other bus services patronage for May-2014 was 5,245,850, an increase of 376,445 boardings or +7.7% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.3%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +3.7%.

Ferry services carried 5,125,157 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +3.8% on the 12 months to May-2013. Ferry services patronage for May-2014 was 406,837, a decrease of -2,898 boardings or -0.7% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +2.3%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +3.6%.

14 - May AK Patronage table

And here’s what the graph looks like,

14 - May AK Annual Patronage

The real star of the show at the moment continues to be the rail network which is seeing significant growth. Rail patronage in May was the highest single month yet with the exception of October 2011 which was during the Rugby World Cup and even then there isn’t much of a difference between the two. Further May last year was also 2013’s biggest single month for that year. Perhaps we need to stop calling things March Madness and start referring to May Madness.

14 - May AK Rail Patronage

Some of that patronage growth has clearly come from the Onehunga Line which AT say is up 37% (although comparing last year to this year it was up 50%. In the board paper AT have provided this graph to show the change in patronage compared to the average of the same day over the previous three months. You can see significant increases on weekend patronage which is likely to be a lot of people checking out the new trains.

14 - May AK Onehunga Line daily comparison

Bus use continues to grow again and was up 8% on May 2013 although the 12 month patronage result is still a little shy of it’s peak from 2012 – but not by much. I suspect we’ll see some new records being set with bus patronage in coming months

14 - May AK Bus Patronage

There was also good growth on the cycle network with the numbers up 19% on May last year.

14 - May AK cycling annual

In further good news HOP card usage is pushing ahead with it up to 64% in May from 60.5%. That’s a significant jump and means even more people will benefit from the HOP price reductions being implemented on July 6th.

HOP ticketing usage May 2014

All up a pretty good month for patronage

Photo of the Day: Tagging post congestion

New Lynn yesterday afternoon. Gating can’t come quick enough not only to combat fare evasion but also to smooth passenger flows. Not at rush hour and only one train disembarking.



April Patronage Results

The patronage results for April are out and they look pretty good considering the circumstances. To me the main challenge in April to me was that both Easter and Anzac day fell within a week of each other resulting in one week with only three working days. To me Auckland had a bit of a Christmas/New Year feeling to it as it seemed like half of Auckland had taken those three days off.  Here’s Auckland Transport’s summary of the results.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 71,238,398 passengers for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.3% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +3.5% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. April monthly patronage was 6,063,413, an increase of 237,810 boardings or +4.1% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +8.2% accounting for additional special event patronage and one less business day and one more weekend day in Apr-2014 compared to Apr-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +4.8%.

An over reporting of ferry patronage between November 2011 and February 2014 has been corrected in this report. The reported 71,238,398 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014 is the highest rolling 12-month result exceeding the previous reported highest results in July and August 2012 with corrected ferry patronage.

Rail patronage totalled 11,100,409 passengers for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of 0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +11.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Patronage for Apr-2014 was 978,839 an increase of 49,429 boardings or +5.3% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +13.2%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.0%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,382,822 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +5.5% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Apr-2014 was 214,185, an increase of 11,547 boardings or +5.7% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +10.2%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +5.6%.

Other bus services carried 52,627,112 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +1.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Other bus services patronage for Apr-2014 was 4,454,848, an increase of 197,444 boardings or +4.6% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +8.0%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +3.3%.

Ferry services carried 5,128,055 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, a decrease of -0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +4.3% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Ferry services patronage for Apr-2014 was 415,541, a decrease of -20,610 boardings or -4.7% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ -1.2%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +4.1%.

These increases flow through to the overall graphs, showing that we really have fully recovered from the post World Cup ridership dip.

14 - Apr AK Annual Patronage14 - Apr AK Rail Patronage 14 - Apr AK Bus PatronageAuckland Transport’s board papers also note that rail boardings on the Onehunga Line during early May (not captured by the April data above) were much higher than usual as people checked out the new electric trains – which first ran on Monday April 28. Last year May had higher rail patronage than March, it will be interesting to see whether that’s repeated this year leading to a new record month.

Lower the Ridership Targets: Really?

Yesterday we posted about the strange drive by Auckland Transport to be allowed to lower Ridership Targets for both the bus and rail networks. Of course what we struggle most with about this is that it follows on from a record March and all reports suggest that April was very busy too, and that this is continuing now into May. And sure enough yesterday our Twitter feed was full of Tweets like these:




And these are just from the rail network [one from each main line]. We are also used to plenty of complaints about over-full buses driving past stops leaving people stranded. So you have to ask if some at Auckland Transport are really aware what is happening out there? It doesn’t seem that the problem is one of trying to persuade people to take Transit but more that the services often just aren’t there to meet the demand.

Our view has long been that once the frequency and speed of services lift that demand will grow fast, that people are largely rational and will choose to use quality Transit services if they are there, yet it doesn’t seem that the culture of AT is ready for this at all. Perhaps there are too many old hands there holding on to that old saw about ‘people loving their cars’. When really for so long in Auckland it’s been an uneven contest between shabby, infrequent, indirect, and plodding Transit services versus underpriced parking and ever-widening motorways incentivising Aucklanders into their cars at all times.

Yet it could be that we have reached some kind of tipping point between these forces: Right now it looks like a perfect storm is brewing between ‘pull factors’ like improvement in services, and Transit use no longer being considered declassé, and ‘push factors’ such as the rising costs of car use, and the inevitable result of that road building; just too many cars everywhere, causing a surge to the stations and stops.

AT really ought to be more concerned about serving the current volumes of Transit customers better and planning how to serve ever more, better still, than lobbying to expect a lower growth rate.

After all this city has the potential to have an amazingly attractive and successful Transit system that can compete with any city anywhere; the potential is there now, but it will be unable to attract the necessary investment without strong ridership growth and a confident CCO in charge.

Harbour Bridge Bus View

The view from my bus yesterday

Yesterday afternoon I had a couple of meetings one after the other, in the city then Takapuna. Leaving my bike in town I caught an 8-something-something along with about 30 other people from outside the Civic and once through Albert St and onto the new Fanshawe St bus lane it was a fantastic express service to Takapuna, I was there in a flash and with no parking issues and able to check my emails en route. Other than an over long wait for the return bus [18 mins- two turned up at once] the trip back was even better, fast, mostly on proper priority, and with that fantastic view from high up on the bus.

Of course it won’t be too long now and I’ll have the option of savouring this view by making this journey at a gentler speed on the SkyPath! The quality of that route will definitely be in all the world’s magazines and website and help put Auckland on the must visit map.

Lower the Patronage Targets – are you crazy?

On Thursday the Council will make some final key decisions on the Annual Plan for the 2014/15 year. Quickly skimming through the documentation (27MB) it doesn’t seem like there’s likely to be huge changes from the Draft Plan in terms of what the money gets spent on (hopefully the somewhat strange numbers in that draft have been fixed up). Perhaps the one exception is a brief mention of Auckland Transport deferring around $50 million of capital expenditure – which appears to be CRL property acquisition but it’s hard to tell for sure. This might be as a result of them no longer needing to buy the Downtown Shopping Centre site but once again it’s difficult to tell for sure.

What the Annual Plan report does highlight is a bizarre request from Auckland Transport to lower their patronage targets over the next three years – particularly the rail patronage target. The current targets which were already lowered last year and the proposed targets are shown in the table below:

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 6.26.29 PMI touched on the proposed change in patronage figures in a post a while back on the AT Statement of Intent, which we haven’t heard much of since then. Presumably the targets all need to match up so whatever ends up in the Annual Plan will end up being the SOI targets.

Rail patronage isn’t the only target that Auckland Transport are trying to get reduced. Page 221 of the Budget Committee’s agenda highlights a few other patronage targets that a change is suggested to. These include reducing the overall target from 78 million boardings down to 74 million, bus (excluding Northern Express) from 56 million down to 53 million (the biggest suggested reduction) as well as a smaller decrease for the Northern Express and a small increase for ferries.

But of course the focus is on the rail patronage numbers because the government has set a requirement that these number track towards 20 million before they consider bringing forward their support of beginning construction of the CRL before 2020. Signalling a 2.7 million trip reduction for the 2016/17 year seems to suggest that Auckland Transport have little confidence in the ability of electrification, integrated ticketing and the new bus network (which will focus much more on feeding people into the rail network rather than competing against it) to deliver a catalytic change in the level of rail use in Auckland. This is particularly strange when Lester Levy is talking about how historic electrification is, and the Mayor is highlighting that electrification is a key step towards reaching the patronage goals.

What’s even weirder though is that rail patronage is tracking really well in recent months. March was a record month for rail (if you exclude the Rugby World Cup) while February also performed way above last year’s totals and I’d heard April was tracking well. In fact, Auckland Transport look like they might actually reach their 2013/14 rail patronage target of 11.4 million boardings – when it seems the main justification provided for lowering the future targets is that a lower baseline is expected. If the current target is met then it would leave Auckland Transport only needing to increase patronage by around 700k yet by the end of June next year all but the Western line should be plied by electric trains (running at better speeds).

You can see the blue line tracking back up towards hitting the red line of the current targets:

Lowering the targets is a sure fire way of the councillors telling the government that the city isn’t really serious about the CRL or about improving PT Patronage in general. We also know this is a message that the Ministry of Transport will pick up on. The recent performance and the impact of all the improvements proposed to the rail network over the next few years means that the current targets are highly achievable and quite possibly on the low side.

Hopefully the Councillors on Thursday tell Auckland Transport to bugger off with this attempt to lower the patronage targets.

There’s another side effect to all of this. Less projected patronage also means Auckland Transport have projected they will get less fare income and that has contributed to $15.6 million funding shortfall. The other big culprit in the shortfall is lower than expected parking revenue. Partially mitigating this, Auckland Transport have come up with $10.5 million in savings/revenue from

  • the deferral of capital expenditure mentioned earlier
  • improved contracting
  • changing the way they fund asset replacement for the electric trains
  • and most interestingly increasing parking charges in the CBD which will raise about $5.5m more.

Increased parking charges in the CBD for both on-street and off-street parking. This will bring the charges for council owned parking buildings more into line with prices currently charged by private operators.

Pricing carparking more in line with what the private operators charge is a very good thing as AT have essentially be holding the market down for some time. Parking costs can also have a big impact on patronage with higher prices encouraging more PT use. I wonder if that impact was factored into AT’s lower projected patronage.

In addition Auckland Transport received a paper on the annual fare review at their last closed board meeting, I wonder if the outcome of that is related?

Rail Station boarding stats

We know rail patronage is now at alltime highs having passed 11 million trips in March however there’s an interesting question as to which stations are those trips are coming from.

It’s been a long time since we last saw data that showed how many people board trains at each station and in the past Auckland Transport obtained the information by sending out people to stations for one day a year and manually counting everyone who turns up to catch a train. From memory that day was/is sometime in May. The last data we saw gave us the table below.

2003-2012 station boardings-800px

One of the big advantages to HOP is that it provides Auckland Transport with massive amounts of data on people’s trips which can be used for all sorts of interesting analysis. One of those things is to provide them with more frequent information about how many people are using rail stations.

AT have now provided me with some of that data allowing us to see the number of tips per station. The data is different to above in that instead of just showing the patronage for a single day it shows the total for an entire month i.e. all of March. It shows the number of HOP card tag-ons, tag-offs and the number of paper tickets issued for each station on the network however it doesn’t include travel made on legacy tickets & passes, special events, group travel, incomplete HOP transactions or transfers, it also won’t include any patronage where there is fare evasion. The data AT provided is for each month back to July last year (although the August data appears to be incorrect so I’ve ignored that. It’s important to point out that each month has a different number of working days, weekends, public holidays and rail network shutdowns it’s impossible to compare changes at a station month to month but rather only how each station compares to the others on the network.

For  the purposes of this post I’m just going to focus on total boardings so I have combined the tag-on and paper ticket issued data. I’ll look at the breakdown of these figures in a separate post as there is some quite interesting results within that. I’ve ordered the stations by their patronage in March and the colours represent the main line that serves the station with Britomart and Newmarket as purple as they serve many lines.

Station Boardings - Mar 14 (1)

There’s a couple of things I’ve noticed from looking at this.

  • Completely unsurprisingly Britomart is by far the biggest station for patronage and has 4-5 times more boardings than the next best of Newmarket.
  • A few years ago New Lynn was consistently about 5th or 6th for patronage. Now it is firmly in the number three spot and significantly above Middlemore and Papakura, the latter of which used to hold the number 3 spot.
  • December is a short month for patronage due to less school trips, Christmas and the other network shutdowns. Yet despite this Sylvia Park saw a huge increase in patronage. Guess it shows people will catch a train to go shopping.
  • The tag-off data is generally fairly similar (but not the same) as the tag on data. The most significant place where there is a difference between the two occurs is at Grafton and I hear it’s due to something called “downhilling”. Basically people (often with bikes) will get the train to Grafton, ride along Park Rd and Grafton Bridge then ride downhill to their destination in the CBD. To get home they will continue riding downhill to Britomart. As an example of the of this, in March 17,000 people tagged on at Grafton yet 22,000 tagged off. At the same time Britomart had nearly the same difference in reverse with more tagging on than off. No other station has such a discrepancy.
  • The bottom 3 stations, all of which are slated to be closed, remain with stubbornly low patronage. Combined they probably account for only about 1.5% of all trips
  • While all stations saw increases in March compared to the other months, the station with the biggest change is Panmure. This is positive to see at the newly upgraded interchange. I suspect in coming months/years this trend will continue and we will see the station rise much higher in the ranks

I’ve also put together this map with the size of the circle (area) representing how many boardings the station has.

Station Boardings Map - Mar 14 (1)

As mentioned earlier there is more to look at with this data and I’ll do that in a separate post. I also hope that this data is something that Auckland Transport start providing on a regular (monthly) basis.

I’ve also been looking at how a number of other cities produce their patronage data and my favourite that I would love to see AT emulate is the BART system in San Francisco. They produce monthly reports in an excel file that is generally published by the 5th of each month. What’s really neat is they provide the data as the average weekday/Saturday and Sunday boardings separately and do so in a matrix that allows you to see how many people travelled from each station on the network to each other station. I know AT already have this data so hopefully they can start releasing it publicly.  I would also love to compare the train stations with those on the busway.