PT to miss this years targets

Is Auckland Transport doing enough to improve public transport or is it resting on its laurels basking in the glow of the spectacular increases being seen on the rail network and busway. That’s a question asked by Radio NZ the other day in highlighting that patronage on the bus network outside of the busway has actually fallen recently and will mean that AT misses its PT targets for the year.

The number of trips being taken on Auckland’s public transport network looks set to miss targets this year, and a new survey shows public perception of the services is worsening.

There has been strong growth on trains and the dedicated Northern Busway but fewer people are using the general bus network, which carries 75 percent of the city’s public transport users.

With two months to go, patronage is down slightly – despite population growth – and overall bus trips are expected to fall short of the annual target of 51.5 million, by more than 4 percent.

I’m not quite sure where the 51.5 million comes from as buses already carry well more than that so it might be a year to date target but that doesn’t change the fact that patronage has dipped in recent months. The four graphs below show how we’re performing across each of the modes and the targets are based on information from the Council’s Long Term Plan debate last year. As you can see both trains and ferries have already exceeded targets but bus use has tailed off and that’s dragged the overall total down.

2016-04 - Patronage vs target

So what’s causing this drop. AT attribute to a number of factors such as charging for the City Link which they say has seen the biggest change and resulted of around 700,000 fewer trips, something AT seem fairly nonchalant about. But seeing as they’ve been doing a lot of advertising recently including large ads in Britomart and people walking around with the modern day version of a sandwich board it’s obviously trips they want back on the buses.

“If you’re transferring from another bus or another train using the AT HOP card, the service is still free,” AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said.

“But I guess some of those people who were using the City Link for relatively short distances would rather walk a few hundred metres than pay a 50 cent fare. That’s completely understandable and that’s probably a good thing.”

Other factors likely include that people are being put off some buses as a result of the bus stop and route changes made to accommodate the construction of the CRL and possibly even lingering effects of people put off by the bus strike and March Madness a few months ago. But I suspect there are additional factors too.

Over the 18 months or so, AT plan to roll out some of the biggest changes we’ve seen for PT in the form of Integrated Fares (next month) the new bus network (South Auckland in October and the rest of Auckland some-time between then and early 2018). Both of these changes will undoubtedly be positive when they arrive and be the result of countless hours and effort put in by AT staff. Yet at the same time I also wonder if they’re hiding a little behind those projects or perhaps that they’ve just got so much resource tied up in getting those projects over the line that other improvements suffer.

AT said the bus network had suffered years of neglect, but new fares and a redesign of routes over the next 18 months were expected to provide a boost.

“As we change the bus network there may be a localised stagnation, as people get used to the changes, but we certainly expect to see strong growth as a result of those service re-designs,” Mr Lambert said.

One such example which is seemingly languishing on AT’s list of projects includes the roll out of bus lanes on which their latest report says they have under spent for this year.

Bus Priorities and Bus Lanes

Whilst we have received a number of requests from AT Metro in the last few weeks, we are still forecasting to underspend by $1.5m as undertaking any physical works this FY related to those requests will not be possible.

Just one example are the proposed transit lanes along Manukau Rd which would cut journey times for bus users and thereby making the buses along the route much more attractive and efficient. Other routes they’re looking at are shown below from their latest report but it seems the roll out of them is going far too slow.

Bus Lane Rollout

What do you think, are AT doing enough to keep patronage on buses growing or should we just hang around till October when the new network starts rolling out? If you were in charge what would you do to get that growth happening again?

March-16 Patronage

March was definitely mad for many bus and train users with the annual surge in usage resulting in many reporting full services – which in the case of buses often resulting in having to wait for a number to go past before one with enough space to squeeze on came along. Infact it was so mad AT even roped in other operators like Party Bus to help provide extra capacity. However, a number of factors – such as having Easter in March – meant that for buses at least, the month won’t go down in the record books. There were however still some good results on the city’s trains and ferries.

2016-03 - Total Patronage

In total patronage was down slightly by 2.8% however taking Easter and special events like the Cricket World Cup last year in to account it would have been up 1.6%. What isn’t mentioned anywhere in the AT reports is any impact the fare changes at the end of February may have had.

2016-03 - Patronage Table

The fall in patronage was led by buses which in March were down 5.8% compared to March last year, a fairly substantial change. When AT normalise the usage to take into account the unique factors they say it would still have been down 2.2%. But in addition to the normal factors, they say changes to bus stops late last year as part of the first stage of City Rail Link changes also had an impact on usage and had they not occurred, patronage would have been slightly up. They also say they expect to see some recovery in these figures in April. I certainly hope that happens as March is the third consecutive month that patronage has fallen compared to the same time last year.

Despite the factors that negatively impacted on patronage, the solid growth in train use in the past few years has continued – although those factors tempered it a bit. For the month train trips were up 4.7% but AT say taking the other factors into account would have seen it up 13.8%. The underlying growth has remained solid with the average number of trips each business day rising by around 10,000 per day or 17.3%. Given the pattern seen last year with weekday usage, this suggests we should continue to see strong rail growth this year too. As we already know, we passed 16 million trips in early April.

2016-03 - Rail Weekday

One thing that will definitely be helping rail usage is the significant improvement in performance since going all electric in July last year. In March 98.9% arrived at their final destination and of those 95.1% did so within 5 minutes of the timetable.

Ferries are also doing well with the number of trips up 9.2% compared to last March and it would have been up 11.2% without the likes of Easter.


In addition to the overall patronage, there are some other interesting metrics in the monthly stats report.

  • The latest quarterly satisfaction results are available and show a mixed bag with trains up, buses flat and ferries down compared when last measured in December. Buses and ferries are also down compared to March last year.

2016-03 - PT Satisfaction

  • There is a two-month lag on the financial metrics but they show PT and especially rail continuing to improve. Farebox recovery which is mandated by the NZTA to reach 50% by June 2018 reached 49.6% and that is primarily being driven by a relatively rapid improvement in rail performance. As this month’s result won’t be seen till we get the April figures, it will be interesting to see what impact the falling bus patronage and change in fares at the end of February has had.

2016-03 - Farebox

  • HOP usage also improved in March hitting 80% for the first time on trains and buses not far behind on 78%

2016-03 - HOP Usage

There are a number of things that will boost patronage in coming months.

  • According to AT’s journey planner, the Western Line will go to 10 minute peak and 20 minute inter-peak frequencies – matching the southern and eastern line – on May 9
  • At the end of July AT will introduce integrated fares which along with making multiple trips using PT easier, is also likely reduce the cost for many people. AT staff are seeking board approval for the prices in the closed session of the board meeting later this week.
  • HOP usage should continue to improve as all SuperGold card trips will have to be made by HOP card from July onwards (via a concession)
  • AT are also planning to improve the frequency of the Northern Express from Silverdale in late June, shifting from 15 to 10 minute peak frequencies which they say is in response to high patronage growth and insufficient capacity.
  • The new bus network for South Auckland along with the Otahuhu bus/train interchange is still on track to go live in October.

Auckland Rail Passes 16m

Auckland Transport announced we reached a new milestone for train use in Auckland on Wednesday, clocking up more than 16 million trips over a 12 month period. I imagine it would have been close to happening in March had it not been not been for Easter falling fully within the month this year. The milestone comes around 4 months after we passed the 15 million trip mark which is a milestone rate we’ve been seeing for the last year now. It’s a good thing the government agreed to start the CRL on time as delaying it to start in 2020 like the government originally planned.

Months to pass million trips - 16m

AT also chose to make the announcement in quite a unique way because there’s another reason the 16 million trip milestone is important.

AT 16m train trip announcement

It’s worth remembering that the plans from even a decade ago and assumed projects projects like electrification would happen sooner than they did.

By the year 2016 it is envisaged that rail patronage should be around 15.7 million boardings per annum, and by the year 2030 it is envisaged that the rail system could be carrying some 30 million passengers p.a. (with the inclusion of the CBD loop tunnel), up from the current 5 million passengers p.a. These growth figures will obviously be impressive, but even more important is that these journeys will be mostly the long-distance journeys.


And here’s the timeline that was suggested in the plan. As you can see much of the stuff now going in was discussed in April last year.Auckland Rail Plan 2006-16

The growth in rail patronage has also seen rail’s share of patronage climb and now just under 20% of all PT trips take place on a train despite bus and ferry use also increasing.

Share of PT trips to total trips

So when will the next million trips milestone come? Based on recent performance it would suggest August.

Inner Eastern Line Station Catchment

Along with the important issue of local point to point access of new cycling and walking infrastructure, as discussed in this cross-post with Bike Auckland [remember to submit by Thursday, especially if you are local] there is also the issue of increasing access to important Transit stops, especially RTN Stations, to improve their value. Below is a screen grab from MR Cagney’s excellent ‘Catchies’ work on Auckland’s existing RTN Station catchments. The shaded circles describe a 1km ‘as the crow flies’ diameter from each station, the coloured blobs show the actual 1km reach once street and walkway patterns are added. These then are a sort of visual description the difference between catchment theory and practice on the Auckland RTN.

Both Meadowbank and Orakei Stations exhibit some of the most limited catchments on the whole network [comparable to ferry wharves, which are by nature only half a circle] both are particularly severed from their potential local catchments by natural and artificial phenomena. In Orakei’s case development immediately around the station, much better and more frequent bus services, and increasing local road suitability for cycling and walking, are the answer to increasing its reach. For Meadowbank however, only one of those options is available; it will never have a major bus service because it is in a secluded valley away from the road network, and nor is the surrounding land able to be developed. The only way to improve its performance is to improve its walking and cycling connections, and here with the GI to Tamaki cycleway there is surely the opportunity to do just that.

Catchies Pourewa Valley

Orakei, Meadowbank, and Glen Innes Stations on the Eastern Line

Especially to reach across the valley to Selwyn College in particular.


The Pourewa Valley section of the GI-Tamaki Shared Path. The Selwyn College playing fields are visible above the Path as it kinks away from the rail line.

The new shared path does offer potential connections up the valley and even though they will be beyond the classic Station 800-1000m catchment range, I have little doubt they would be used as the experience of starting and ending the work or school day with a walk or ride through the verdant Pourewa Valley is pretty attractive. Additionally the bus or driving alternative can be subject to congestion especially through the natural pinch points of our folded topography. The utility of network will of course increase dramatically once the CRL is open too; what a great way for people in this neighbourhood to get to Eden Park for example.

The Eastern Line is a tremendously fast and competitive option as shown by the modal comparison chart for Panmure below, but the reach of its stations certainly need work. Panmure itself has now got great bus connection and Glen Innes is currently in a walking and cycling improvement work programme.

Pete Clarke Panmure

Sylvia Park pretty much only serves the mall and desperately needs new connections to the east:

Sylvia Park catchies

With work all these stations could add even greater value to the network, now that the train service, at least at the peaks, is frequent and high quality. The Eastern Line has been a star improver since electrification, but it still has capacity for more of its stations to push up the leader board. This can only be achieved with detailed work to remove the very real barriers to entry all along the network. Even a secluded and arguably poorly placed station like Meadowbank can be improved when an opportunity like this Shared Path comes along.

Station Rankings Change to Dec 15


February Patronage and March AT board meeting

Auckland Transport hold their monthly board meeting next week and the papers for it have now gone up.


February was quite unique when it comes to patronage. Being a leap year there was an extra day in the month however due to the way public holidays fell, the number of work days and weekend days actually remained the same. As PT public holidays often have less usage it means the impacts from the extra day aren’t all that great. In addition to all of this February was also impacted by a strike by NZ Bus and some Howick & Eastern drivers. This had the effect of removing most buses from the roads forcing people to change their travel or not make it at all. I’ll get to the impacts of that shortly.

For the positive news, once again the star of the patronage show is the rail network. For February patronage was up 21.2% on February last year although when you take into account factors like the extra public holiday, special events and the bus strike patronage was up 17.2%. For the 12 month rolling total, patronage was up to 15.8 million, 21.6% higher than the same point last year. What’s impressive is we’re seeing strong compounding growth at over 20% per annum. To highlight the growth that’s occurred, in Feb 2014 annual patronage was less than 10.9 million, two years later it’s 15.8 million, a 45% increase in just two years.

2016-02 - Rail Patronage

Each month I keep wondering if growth will start slowing down but it hasn’t yet and with frequencies due to increase on the Western Line in May we should keep seeing growth for some time yet.

One other interesting factor is we’ve also now passed the patronage projections that were made for electrification back in 2006. Those projections also expected electrification to occur sooner than it did so that makes the results even more impressive.

By the year 2016 it is envisaged that rail patronage should be around 15.7 million boardings per annum, and by the year 2030 it is envisaged that the rail system could be carrying some 30 million passengers p.a. (with the inclusion of the CBD loop tunnel), up from the current 5 million passengers p.a.

Given the growth we’ve seen will we hit 16 million in March or will the reduction in working days due to Easter throw a spanner in the works? due to fall of weekends it only results in one less weekday. Trains have certainly been busy

Packed Train

On the water, ferry patronage grew in Feb up 1.8% however after taking into account the various factors it was actually down 1.1%. On a 12 month rolling basis patronage is still up a decent 6.6% but that level has been falling in recent months having been over 10% not long ago. Has ferry use hit a new ceiling until more service improvements happen.

Bus numbers are interesting because as already mentioned the bus strike caused a significant impact on usage. It resulted in patronage being down 3.1% on February last year thanks to 150,000 fewer trips taken or 2.5% of all trips so if the strike hadn’t occurred. AT say that adjusting for special events and the leap year patronage would have been down 0.6%. The impact is shown well on the graph below from AT. Like ferries it feels like patronage may have hit a new ceiling until further improvements are made – although with the bus craziness we’ve seen in March so far, perhaps this month will look good.

2016-02 - Bus stike impact

Overall patronage has increased by 1.7% for the month while the 12 month rolling result is up to 81.7 million (+5.9%) but at this point the results are being driven almost exclusively by the surging rail use. March numbers will be interesting to see as not only will Easter be having an impact but the end of February also saw some fare changes.

2016-02 - Total Patronage

AT Board Report

This month a lot of the information in the board report is not new or things that we’ve covered before. Here are a few aspects that caught my attention.

It seems May 8 is the date we can expect a new timetable for the Western Line which will finally see it having 6 trains per hour at peak times – something originally promised for 2010 when the New Lynn station opened.

Works are progressing to improve the speed of the trains

Work is continuing on a number of track infrastructure speed improvements initiatives as part of the Rail Performance Improvement Plan communicated to the Board during the latter half of 2015. Vector curve speed review is underway. Improvements to driver rule change has resulted in 15-29 seconds improvement at key junctions. Line speed points and signalling works are programmed for Easter and will provide additional robustness for the propose 8 May timetable improvements on the Western line

This will result in a new timetable although I’ve heard it may not be till next year. One of the concerns with this is it seems likely this is when off peak frequencies are improved and that’s an issue as the new bus network in South Auckland goes live in October so there will be a gap where a core part of the new network isn’t up to standard.

The next Timetable following mid-2016 will focus on quicker run times and the resultant benefits for ‘freeing up’ train units to support the increased patronage being experienced across the network. This review will be a full timetable recast capturing the benefits of signalling, interlocking and line speed changes, including through curves, which have been completed and validated prior to that timetable being implemented. This timetable will also factor in the closure of Westfield station in late 2016.


  • Train punctuality in February was 94.3% which a little down on the 95.9% achieved in January but still remains one of the better results Auckland has had.
  • Bus punctuality – which is measured differently – was also down in Feb from January. It was 95.2% in Jan but has fallen to 90.7% in Feb. With all of work and disruption in the city centre it wouldn’t surprise me if the result in March doesn’t look too flash.

2016-02 - Bus stike performance

  • Ferries did the best in the punctuality stakes achieving 96.2%. Of the routes the two worst performing ones (other than Rakino Is) was Half Moon Bay (91%) and Birkenhead (92.5%)

On the trains, AT say they are going to start testing on-board digital information screens in March and April.

AT have a review of bus lane and special vehicle lanes has been underway to develop a more consistent approach and there is a paper to the closed session of the board about it. Let’s hope this will see bus lane times extended as many end far too early, especially on Mt Eden Rd.

Closed Session

The closed session is where the most interesting discussions take place. On the agenda for the next meeting

Strategy Session – Rail Development

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CE/TCC Delegations
  • Road Stoppings
  • Mill Road NoR
  • Bus & Special Vehicle Lane Operating Times
  • Integrated Fares Pre-PTOM – Commercial Framework
  • LRT update
  • CRL Procurement update

Items for Noting

  • PTOM Ferry RFT
  • Future Planning – Parnell Station
  • CRL Gateway


You know March Madness is really mad when …

From the files of: You know March Madness is really mad when:

And here it is in action courtesy of Christopher Dempsey from the Waitemata Local Board.

Party Bus - 881

Party Bus - 881 2

These buses are complete old dungers and in no way meet today’s bus standards but I guess they’re also better than no bus at all. Other than when being used as party buses they are also commonly found on the North Shore running school bus services (so they have HOP readers). The sooner we can get more double deckers the better.

Even these extra buses might not be enough though. This is the bus stop at Victoria Park a few days ago in the afternoon peak.

PT results across NZ

We keep a close eye on what’s happening with public transport patronage in Auckland and to a lesser extent in Wellington. Other than the fact that these are the two biggest PT regions in New Zealand it’s also because they are the ones with relatively easy monthly data available. For other regions across New Zealand we rely on data from the NZTA and Ministry of Transport, however due to delay with the results from one of the regions, 2015’s data has only recently become available.

Across all of New Zealand there were over 144 million PT trips up to the end of June 2015, up from 137 million the year before. The results show than when it comes to PT in NZ, Auckland dominates with around 55% of all trips occurring in the region. Further, the growth in Auckland during the last financial year made up about 95% of all PT growth that occurred in NZ (6.9 million of the 7.3 million increase). Of course if Auckland was performing more like peer cities overseas it would have a much larger share of the overall pie.

NZ PT Patronage 2015

But we know PT is has been growing strong in Auckland for some time, reaching over 79 million by June 2015. We also know that PT usage in Wellington has grown much slower and has been hovering around the 35-36 million trip level. But what about the other regions?

In many regions patronage is very low with less than 1 million trips per year – in fact most are less than half a million. These regions are below along with the most recent patronage result.

  • Northland – 0.31 million
  • Gisborne – 0.14 million
  • Hawkes Bay – 0.74 million
  • Taranaki – 0.59 million
  • Marlborough –  0.03 million
  • Nelson – 0.42 million
  • West Coast – 0.02 million
  • Southland – 0.25 million

Moving on to regions with more than 1 million trips, these are shown below along with how they’ve changed over time.

NZ PT Patronage - 1m regions 2015

There are a couple of interesting things you can notice fairly immediately.

The most glaring is Christchurch which was obviously significantly impacted by the earthquakes over 5 years ago. We’ve started to see some good changes in Christchurch like the new central bus interchange, a new bus network and quite nice suburban bus interchanges, but given when they opened/were implemented we’ll really need to wait till this year’s results to see if they’ve had any impact. Hopefully they will have, but I suspect it will take a while to get back to the level it was at before the quakes, especially given the change in urban form that’s occurred.

Perhaps the next most interesting result is actually the Bay of Plenty. In 2001 there were only around 100,000 PT trips in the region but that has now risen to over 3.1 million trips, the largest percentage increase of any region over that time. One reason for this is likely to be that it appears the region has some fairly well designed bus networks providing relatively simple connective routes, such as Tauranga’s network which is below.

Tauranga Bus Network

The last thing worth noting is the drop off in patronage in the Waikato in recent years. I’m not sure what has caused it, but if current trends continue it appears likely that in a few years’ time the Bay of Plenty could surpass its western neighbour too.

Given there are also wide differences in population between different regions it’s also useful to look at things on a per capita basis. For this I’ve also included Auckland and Wellington for comparison.

NZ PT per captia 2015

The trends are pretty similar to the graph above although interestingly Otago does better on a per capita basis which is probably due to having a comparatively lower population outside Dunedin and Queenstown compared to regions like the Waikato or Bay of Plenty. This is one of the limitations of only having data at a regional level and it would probably be good for the Ministry to collect the data at a city/urban area level if possible in the future.

In my view all cities have fairly low per capita results – even Wellington should really be higher than it is. In Auckland’s case it has improved but based on peer cities we should probably have around twice the number of PT trips, so still a lot of improvement to go.

AT’s added PT capacity

Following on from my post last week about March Madness, Auckland Transport provided me with the following table showing how much capacity has been added to the PT system since April last year and showing how much is planned to be added by the middle of this year. As you can see there’s quite a significant amount of capacity that’s been added, although obviously only on specific corridors at specific times. Still, that we are still having capacity issues are a testament to just how much pent up demand there is from Aucklanders for better PT. In this regard I imagine AT are playing a constant game of catch up while also having to balance the costs that come with increasing services.

PT Capacity increases since April 15

Maddest March yet?

We’re now in March and as expected the transport madness is in full swing.

The annual battle for a spot on the bus has kicked off with commuters left standing in the rain waiting for a bus with room and journeys taking up to 1.5 hours.

Known as “March madness”, the phenomenon kicks in every year as students head back to university and workers are back in full force while the region’s traffic hits its peak for the year.

On Monday, 10 buses drove past Ravi Kaniyawala at his stop near Bellevue Rd, Mt Eden, before he could get on a bus where he had to stand.

Yesterday, he tried another option and caught the bus from earlier up its route in Three Kings. But even this backfired.

“It took me one and a half hours from Three Kings to Britomart.”

Mr Kaniyawala plans to drive to the Mt Eden station today and get into the CBD by train from there. The technical analyst said he’s been working in the city for three years but this is the worst March madness he has seen.

As mentioned in the article the whole thing is entirely predictable and yet it happens every year without fail. The good news is that more services will be put on from Sunday which should hopefully ease the pressure although the question remains why it didn’t start this week.

  • Mt Eden Rd – 24 trips = 1056 seats
  • Dominion Rd – 16 trips = 736 seats
  • New North Rd – 18 trips = 720 seats

Unfortunately the new double deckers will be too late to have an impact this year although it may help a little next year.

The buses aren’t alone in being busy. The trains are also feeling busy and despite having greater capacity than the same time last year, it feels like that extra space has already been used up. Platforms also feel busier than ever.

Packed Train

What would the impact be if all of these people drove instead?

What does concern me though is that AT seem continue to treat this an annual event.

Mark Hannan, Auckland Transport spokesman, said it was too early to say if complaints had increased this year as tertiary students had only just started back.

“The numbers travelling on buses and trains does increase but settles back again as students work out their schedules. The best advice is to plan ahead and try to travel outside peak times.”

Yes, things do settle down again after Easter but I also believe that a lot of people simply give up. After all there are only so many days you’ll put up with standing at a bus stop or squeezed on a bus or train before you try something else. How much higher would patronage be through the rest of the year if enough services were put on and people had a better experience? As well as more services, one big thing AT should be doing to help address the issue using off peak pricing to encourage those that can to travel later.

To show just how much busier March can be, here’s the monthly patronage results up to the end of January. The March results are shown in red. If the rest of the months were closer to what we see in March, it could add 10 million or more trips a year to the results.

2016-01 - Monthly Patronage

And some of the many tweets I’ve seen of full buses

While on buses our friends at Generation Zero are running a campaign calling for better buses

Does your bus kinda suck? We want to know if your bus is always overcrowded, if you have to wait while buses go past already full, and anything else about your bus journey that just isn’t quite up to scratch. If we hear from everyone who is annoyed at their bus this week, we can show Auckland Transport there’s a problem.

Today, tomorrow, anytime your bus is crappy in the next few weeks. As often as it happens. Let us know. What we want to identify is where and when we most need to add more buses. Then we can present all your complaints to Auckland Transport and make them do something about it.

Head over to here for it.

How are you finding March Madness so far?

Edit: AT have informed me the extra buses on isthmus routes won’t start till the 14 March.

January-2016 PT Patronage and Bike Counts

Today’s bus strike is expected to have a significant impact on the city. It will also likely have a significant impact on patronage with some estimates suggesting that more than 130,000 trips will be impacted. To put that in context last February there were just under 6.7 million PT trips in February so this could impact patronage in the month by as much as 2%.

While we’ll likely have to wait till next month to find out just how much impact the strike caused, the reports to AT’s first board meeting of the year along with the data they now publish give us information on the results from January. It’s fair to say there are certainly a mixed bag of results.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the patronage results is that overall compared to January last year patronage was down by 0.7%. It’s still up 6.6% on a 12m rolling basis but this is the first time we’ve seen a drop in a monthly result since August 2013. The drop was driven by reduced patronage on both buses and ferries. Train patronage is still growing strongly at over 19% compared to last January but given the growth in recent months and that we saw the least disruptive summer shut down in probably over a decade I had expected it to be much higher.

2016-01 - Total Patronage

AT believe the primary reason for the fall in patronage was due to the timing of the Christmas/New Year break this year which likely saw more people push holidays into early January than in the past – I know I certainly did. They note that this also ties in with stronger patronage at the end of December. They also highlight that some routes have been much more affected than others. I’ll come back to those later in the post.

December increases occurred primarily towards the end of the month. The January 2016 decrease in bus and ferry occurred primarily in the first half of the month as illustrated in the patronage chart below compared to January 2015 and corresponds with the lower rate of growth for rail. Underlying trends are likely to be a result of holiday alignment between Christmas 2014 (main two week of holidays falling between 19 December to 5 January) and Christmas 2015 (December 24 to January 11); however, there are specific areas of decrease in January year-on-year for bus and ferry above the underlying trend on Great North Road (-50,000), Manukau Road (-12,000) and Waiheke Bus (-12,000). A major decrease has been seen on the CityLINK (-73,000 or -33%), which is considered to be a result of removal of free travel from March 2015.

2016-01 - Daily Patronage comparison to prev year

The biggest impact was on the buses which carry the bulk of patronage and were down 4.7% on January last year. As noted above it’s interesting that the Gt North Rd buses are down so much. While the information suggest other factors were at play I also wonder if the bus changes in the City Centre to accommodate the CRL works have had an impact. I know it’s certainly made it more difficult for people like me to transfer between bus and train to get to the North Shore.

Ferries use was also down with them 4.3% lower than Jan last year bucking a trend of strong growth. AT reference the downturn on other modes and also note that the reduced use of ferries to Waiheke aligned with reduced Waiheke bus use.

Despite being less than I had expected train growth remained very strong up 19.1% on January last year. That saw patronage for the month surpass 1 million trips meaning that for the first time every month in the previous 12 has been over the 1 million mark. The first ever time we surpassed 1 million trips within a calendar month was in March 2011 and back then there were just over 460k trips in January. Overall rail patronage is now over 15.5 million over the last 12 months which is another solid increase representing a 21.6% growth compared to the same time last year.

2016-01 - Rail Patronage

One last interesting bit on PT patronage, within the business report AT have commented on the impact of the changes they made to Titirangi/Green Bay services in late 2014. Those changes effectively saw the new network implemented in this area with 24 infrequent routes replaced by 9 simpler services with a “more consistent service pattern operating at higher frequencies”. One full year on AT say that patronage from this area is up 35% which is very impressive. Perhaps they need to try and push harder to get the entire new network rolled out sooner.

It wasn’t only PT that saw usage down on last year. Bike numbers across many of the counters also showed a decline in January although a few counters showed some good growth. Perhaps the most interesting is that there was a large spike in usage of Grafton Gully (+29.9%) and Beach Rd (+23.5%). Looking at some daily data it’s not from any one day so it appears to be a general increase that’s occurred. Monthly data suggests that while numbers had been improving, growth rates really picked up from December and that coincides with the opening of Lightpath. Perhaps we need more data to confirm but it suggests that more connected routes are helping drive usage (who would have thought). Also telling is that the only other route to grow is also connected – the NW Cycleway at Kingsland.

  Jan count Jan ADT % change from previous year
Beach Rd 9741 314 23.5%
Carlton Gore Rd 5402 174 NA
Curran St 9041 292 NA
East Coast Rd 4384 141 -5.7%
Grafton Bridge 14078 454 -1.8%
Grafton Gully 10680 345 29.9%
Grafton Rd 1969 64 NA
G Sth Road 2725 88 -10.1%
Highbrook 1348 43 -10.3%
Hopetoun St 4046 131 NA
K Rd 14328 462 -7.1%
Lagoon Dr 4970 160 -13.5%
Lake Road 8497 274 -5.8%
Mangere Bridge 15750 508 -3.6%
Nelson St cycleway 10711 346 NA
Nelson St Lightpath 24693 797 NA
NW Cycleway (Kingsland) 18112 584 8.8%
NW Cycleway (Te Atatu) 12501 403 -8.7%
Orewa 13302 429 -7.4%
Quay St 34501 1113 NA
SH20 Dom Rd 3639 117 -4.0%
Symonds St 10295 332 -5.6%
Tamaki Dr 41598 1342 -4.5%
Te Wero Bridge 18382 593 NA
Twin Streams 4967 160 -19.2%
Upper Harbour 5674 183 -11.4%
Upper Queen St 3952 127 NA
Victoria St West 3097 100 NA

One other potential factor is that January was considerably wetter than last year and the historical average. This may have affected PT use too.


What is very helpful is that a few days ago AT publicly released the cycleway data for each automated counter allowing us to see back to November 2010 for some of them. This is far more useful that reporting on just nine counters across the region – Thanks AT. I’ll look at the results from the counters more in a future post but for the meantime here is the 12 month rolling number of bikes recorded as going past the NW cycleway counter at Kingsland.

2016-01 - Bikes - Kingsland