I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been pretty disappointed with patronage results over the last year or so (longer for rail). After about 7 years of almost constant growth we saw patronage decline and then flat line with it only just starting to show signs of turning around. If there is perhaps one silver lining from all of this it’s that it has hopefully shaken Auckland Transport up and made them realise they can’t just sit back and expect patronage growth will always occur.
There are a heap of big projects happening at the moment which will dramatically improve public transport over the coming years, in particular electrification, the new bus network, integrated ticketing and eventually integrated fares. However these are all big, multi-year projects that we won’t see the full benefit from for a while and I suspect that AT may have been resting on their laurels waiting for those projects to be completed. The patronage problems forced AT to start thinking about PT more and we’re now starting to see some of the early outcomes of this with them starting to improve their marketing – and there is likely to be other improvements to come.
The patronage results were even more concerning as in the Auckland Plan the council set AT a target of doubling patronage over a 10 year period to 2022 with a longer term goal of reaching a PT usage of 100 trips per person per year by 2041 (currently at about 45). A big question has become whether the organisation can actually meet the targets that they have been set and to help answer that Deloitte have been analysing what is planned to estimate just what kind of patronage we can expect. They presented their findings to the AT board last week and the report itself has now been made public. The results are both incredibly interesting and concerning.
All of the various initiatives currently on the list have been summarised into the following groups and there are no surprises from this. What it does help to show is just how much will be happening over the next couple of years.
Deloitte say that even if we manage to fund every PT project currently on the list – including the CRL – and we do it well and on time (i.e. not like HOP so far) then the best we can achieve by 2022 is 101 million PT boardings. That’s a ~31 million increase on what we have now but is 39 million short of AT’s target.
They have also estimated patronage by each mode and say that capacity issues on the bus network could start hurting patronage from 2015 onwards and if not addressed then by 2022 it would mean bus patronage affected by up to 15% (roughly 9 million boardings)
Further they say that if the various projects were to get similar results as seen in other cities that have completed similar projects, then patronage could be as low as ~83 million boardings depending on which comparisons are used. The other cities compared were Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, London, Toronto and Vancouver and they say none of them managed to double patronage in 10 years with it typically taking twice as long as that with the best being Vancouver at about 16 years. They say that the cities that have seen significant patronage growth have also seen sustained network investment and service improvement.
The one thing perhaps in Auckland’s favour is all of these cities did start from a high base and with a more mature PT network which probably makes it harder to double patronage on. However if Deloitte are right then don’t have a hope in hell of reaching the target that has been set.
So what does all this mean for Auckland Transport? Deloitte say there are two primary options to pursue
In my mind cutting the targets should not even be considered to be an option and I would hope our elected officials would feel the same way. That leaves only option 2 which will mean AT will have to rethink what they are doing and helpfully Deloitte have even suggested a few potential options.
1. Operational, network and service initiatives — for example:
- Fare reduction and restructuring
- Increase frequency, coverage, or additional service kms
- Focus on operational improvements including punctuality and reliability
2. Modification of existing planned projects — for example:
- Rescheduling capital projects (i.e. bring forward CRL and potentially other projects)
3. New capital investments — for example:
- Additional investment in busways
- Bring forward the harbour crossing
4. Incentive management initiatives — for example
- Creating a competitive process for operators
5. Structural reform — for example:
- Congestion/road user charges
Basically if AT want to meet the targets then they will have to really invest in improving the PT network. The really big one is 3. where at the meeting Deloitte said we would need one or two additional busways on top of what is currently planned for a capital cost of ~$355 million. Also I must say I have no idea how pulling forward the AWHC does anything to help patronage, if anything it will do the opposite. In addition improving fares, frequencies and/or network coverage as well as other areas of the PT system will be critical and Deloitte estimate that could cost up to an extra $1.5 billion in operational funding (~$150m per year). In addition to the carrots of better services and infrastructure the authors say we also need to consider some stick type approaches by way of road pricing and increasing parking charges.
By in large I couldn’t agree more and of course the need for AT to change their current investment patterns by re-prioritising spending is something we have suggested quite strongly with the Congestion Free Network. We’ve even suggested a number of busways they couple pursue.
Of course my guess is that they will try for option 1 first using the excuse that they can’t afford to invest more in PT without the council giving them more money as to some within the organisation, the thought of cutting the roading budget seems like a concept from a different planet.
At the board meeting the only real question that arose was whether the goal of 140 million boardings was actually worth it and what would it do to mode share. In other words what sort of difference would that extra 39 million boardings make to metrics like congestion, emissions or how the city works. That wasn’t able to be answered at the time so presumably it is a piece of work that will now be happening.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on what unfolds as a result of this report.
The Auckland Transport board meets again on Thursday and as such we now have the patronage results for October. Even better is there seems to be good news all around with all modes improving compared to October last year. Further there were the same number of working days making for an easier comparison – although on the rail network there were two full weekend shut-downs compared to one partial one in October 2012.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,749,658 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.7% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. October monthly patronage was 6,321,771, an increase of 460,631 boardings or +7.9% on Oct-2012. No normalisation is required due to equivalent business days.
Rail patronage totalled 10,309,102 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.9% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Patronage for Oct-2013 was 964,380, an increase of +91,309 boardings or +10.5% on Oct-2012.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,295,587 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Sept-2013, a record 12 month performance for the Northern Express service. Northern Express bus service patronage for Oct-2013 was 206,265, an increase of 9,041 boardings or +4.6% on Oct-2012. A promotional campaign to areas around the Northern Busway contributed to the growth.
Other bus services carried 51,527,830 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, a 0.6% change on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Other bus services patronage for Oct-2013 was 4,654,739, an increase of 298,591 boardings or +6.9% on Oct-2012. The implementation of AT HOP on further bus services has contributed to growth, along with promotional campaigns and improving service and on-time performance on the North Shore. Attachment 2 provides an overview of bus and Northern Express patronage growth marketing activity for the remainder of the financial year within the context of the over-arching public transport marketing approach.
Ferry services carried 5,617,139 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Sept-2013. Ferry services patronage for Oct-2013 was 496,387, an increase of 61,690 boardings or +14.2% on Oct-2012.
Summary performance against SOI targets is provided in Table 1
There are some pretty decent increases in there. For rail it’s the second month in a row with double digit growth and also finally reflects us being able to shed the RWC patronage boost from the 12m comparisons. Once again the increases are being driven by the increases in both average weekday usage as well as increased usage on the weekends – the latter of which was substantially higher than the year before and that only included one day of the finally improved weekend services on the western line.
The ferry increase is also extremely substantial, especially after a number of months where patronage growth had appeared to be slowing down. Even the buses saw increased patronage compared to Oct 12 although the 12m figure is still down. Overall some pleasing results and what’s more the graphs now show that the worm is really starting to turn once again.
The one downside as pointed out in the first chart is that with the exception of ferries, AT are already quite far behind their targets for the year. For each mode, the patronage report also highlights some of the initiatives being undertaken by AT. There are two buses ones I really like. The first one is this which is a retention campaign talking about the benefits bus users get or provide.
The second one is some neat and quirky art work being used to promote buses in the inner western area. You can see all five posters here.
Personally I think it’s great that AT are trying stuff as for a long time there was little to no advertising. All up some positive signs continuing to emerge.
Moving on to the main board report, as usual there is some interesting information in there. On integrated ticketing they say
Metrolink Inner and LINK went live on 10 November 2013 and is averaging 27,000 passenger trips a day. There is customer feedback on having to carry two cards Snapper HOP and AT HOP but otherwise the rollout went as planned. AT HOP card usage on Metrolink Inner and LINK has continued to grow during this week (see table below) and AT HOP card usage is expected to grow during the next week and a half.
Metro Inner & LINK AT HOP card Usage
Sunday 10/11/2013 – 21%
Monday 11/11/2013 – 28%
Tuesday 12/11/2013 – 32%
Wednesday 13/11/2013 – 35%
Based on the comments the other day I don’t think AT can really say that there was customer feedback on carrying both cards as if it was just a minor point.
On the EMUs they suggest that train testing is going well and over in Spain that CAF are cranking into the production with them already working on parts of trains 14 and 15. Things don’t look so good on the electrification side though with it noted that Kiwirail are asking for the Newmarket to Britomart section to be closed for an extra week over the Christmas shut-down so they can get work finished and it also mentioned that they are preparing an updated electrification programme. The project was already meant to have been finished by now but we found out that it had slipped with completion being pushed back to sometime in the first 3-4 months of next year. I wonder if this has slipped further.
Fare evasion is noted as being 7% (was 7.1% last month) which is based on ticket checks of just 15.3% of all trips. 7% is a similar level to what we saw prior to HOP rolling out to trains.
Over at Panmure, AT say that the new station building is coming along well and they are already starting to plan for an official opening. This will be one of the first tangible benefits from the AMETI project towards PT. After the station has been completed it will become even more critical that AT focus on how they can get the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and beyond.
On CBD spaces the report mentions that there is/has been a tender for the upper part of Khartoum Pl with works starting early next year and that they will be going out to tender for O’Connell St in December. It’ll be good to have a few more improved public spaces.
There are a few other reports that look quite interesting but unfortunately I don’t have time to go into them right now.
Patronage results for September are out and the news is mixed with rail doing much better and starting to achieve strong growth once again while on the other side of the coin, the bus network (which carries the most people) appears to be flailing around a bit. Ferry patronage also declined.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,277,456 passengers for the 12-months to Sep-2013 an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Aug-2013. September monthly patronage was 5,853,318 an increase of 107,445 boardings or +1.9% on Sep-2012, normalised to ~-2.1% accounting for one more business day in Sep-2013 compared to Sep-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 10,217,793 passengers for the 12-months to Sep-2013, an increase of +1.0% on the 12-months to Aug-2013. Patronage for Sep-2013 was 925,014 an increase of +102,143 boardings or +12.4% on Sep-2012, normalised to ~+8.4%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,280,688 passenger trips for the 12-months to Sep-2013, an increase of +0.1% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Sep-2013 was 187,738, an increase of 2,708 boardings or +1.5% on Sep-2012, normalised to ~-2.5% accounting for one more business day in Sep-2013.
Other bus services carried 51,223,526 passenger trips for the 12-months to Sep-2013, a 0.0% change on the 12-months to Aug-2013. Other bus services patronage for Sep-2013 was 4,365,633, a decrease of -951 boardings or 0.0% on Sep-2012, normalised to ~-4.0%.
Ferry services carried 5,555,449 passenger trips for the 12-months to Sep-2013, an increase of +0.1% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Ferry services patronage for Sep-2013 was 374,933, an increase of 3,545 boardings or +1.0% on Sep-2012, normalised to ~-3.0%.
The rail network result is obviously outstanding considering what we have seen over the last few years. We noted that things seemed to be starting to turn around a few months ago and so if we can maintain the growth until the EMUs start rolling then I think we will be in a superb position to see excellent growth and push towards the 20 million trip target the government set to bring forward the construction of the CRL. This will be further boosted by Auckland Transport saying they will bring forward the consultation of the new bus network out west to take advantage of the improved rail network.
Following on from the South Auckland consultation, we had planned to consult North Auckland next. However, in order to tie in with improvements to rail and the introduction of electric trains, the next consultation will be for the rest of West Auckland and will commence mid-2014.
We still have a way to go to catch up to the highs seen during the RWC though.
The patronage worm starting to turn
A couple of additional interesting/concerning points about the rail network and ticketing from the report or in the business report.
- Usage of HOP for tickets was 71% in September. From memory it was in the 50-60% range before so a good sign.
- However fare evasion was also up. It has been tracking around 5% however in September there was a “greater focus on peripheral stations” which saw evasion increase to 7.1%. AT have been quick in the report to point out that Melbourne is currently seeing 9.9% but that doesn’t mean our result is should be particularly applauded.
However as mentioned the really disappointing aspect has been the bus network which when adjusted for the extra business day in September this year saw patronage down on September 2012. It was down on regular bus services and on the Northern Express. Further the breakdown by sector showed that west and south performed the worst perhaps suggesting a little bit of patronage has moved back to the rail network which has been much more reliable over the last few months than it has been for a few years (although I suspect October won’t look so great). I also wonder if all of the drama’s surrounding HOP are having a negative impact on people’s perceptions of buses.
Of course if we believe the figures provided by
Auckland Transport the bus and ferry operators, both of those modes manage to achieve 99% punctuality meaning all of you complaining about buses running late are just in the unfortunate 1%. Of course we all know this is rubbish as for starters it is self-reported and also buses/ferries are counted as being on time providing they start their journey on time, not when they finish their trip like how they are counted on the rail network. AT say they are developing an independent system to report bus performance based on the real time data however we first heard this back in March and based on the screenshot the project was fairly advanced so who knows what has happened to it.
We have mentioned a few times over recent months the impact that the SH16 works are going to have on buses and positively AT and the NZTA have started to implement some solutions to improve the situation. The business report also suggests that there might be some further improvements to come suggesting a medium term solution will likely come into effect in January with a longer term solution happening mid-2014.
A joint AT and NZTA team is working to monitor and resolve bus impacts. The outputs of this work has fallen into 3 categories – quick wins (September / October 2013), medium term options (by January 2014) and longer term options (early to mid-2014). A number of quick win solutions are being implemented at the time of writing including:
- A bus//T2 lane on the Great North Road Westbound onramp – this will replace the left hand traffic lane and will not be impacted by the ramp signal
- A complimentary priority lane on Great North Road approaching the onramp
- SH16 westbound lane loss at Great North Road off-ramp – and lane gain at great North Road onramp. This eliminates merge delays on the on-ramp
- Improving flow through and off the Lincoln Road off-ramp
- Constant speed limits on the motorway
- Sections of bus shoulder lanes will be reinstated on the motorway (Rosebank to Partiki Road)
Longer term solutions including improving flow and throughput on Te Atatu Road and the investigation of bus lanes on the motorway are being fully investigated.
When it comes to cycling numbers, they also appear to have started to flat line a little bit after seeing good growth over the last few years that we have been tracking them.
Lastly from the business report AT have highlighted a campaign to attracted ferry passengers from the upper harbour. I think it’s great that they are pitting the ferry experience off against the mundaneness of driving on a motorway where you need to be paying attention to other vehicles.
Auckland Transport has released the patronage figures for August and the great news is that positive signs of patronage growth are continuing. Compared to August 2012 there was one less business day in August which generally accounts for a roughly 4% difference in patronage and on top of that there were less special events and more rail network shutdowns. Taking all of these situations into account it is estimated that patronage increased by 2.5% compared to August 2012 while rail patronage increased by ~8.8%. The ferry network has also remained strong, most likely helped along by the much more settled weather we experienced this year. I think we still have a way to go to get back to the great growth we saw a few years ago but as mentioned, signs are positive we are back on the right track.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,170,011 passengers for the 12-months to Aug-2013 a decrease of -0.4% on the 12-months to Jul-2013. August monthly patronage was 6,535,601 a decrease of -34,831 boardings or -0.5% on Aug-2012, normalised to ~+2.5% accounting for one less business day in Aug-2013 compared to Aug-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 10,115,650 passengers for the 12-months to Aug-2013, an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Jul-2013. Patronage for Aug-2013 was 1,004,630 an increase of +17,104 boardings or +1.7% on Aug-2012, normalised to ~+8.8%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,277,980 passenger trips for the 12-months to Aug-2013, a decrease of -8,761 boardings or -0.4% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Aug-2013 was 214,172, a decrease of -8,185 boardings or -3.7% on Aug-2012, normalised to ~+0.3% accounting for one less business day in Aug-2013.
Other bus services carried 51,224,477 passenger trips for the 12-months to Aug-2013, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12-months to Jul-2013 Other bus services patronage for Aug-2013 was 4,902,264, a decrease of -54,718 boardings or -1.1% on Aug-2012, normalised to ~+2.9%.
Ferry services carried 5,551,904 passenger trips for the 12-months to Aug-2013, an increase of +0.2% on the 12 months to Jul-2013. Ferry services patronage for Aug-2013 was 414,535, an increase of 10,968 boardings or +2.7% on Aug-2012, normalised to +6.7%
On the rail network and now the bus network (excluding the Northern Express) we are now getting average weekday and weekend day patronage. What the two graphs below show is that average weekday and weekend day patronage in August 2013 was higher than August 2013. However with weekday patronage so much higher it illustrates why one less business day can have so much impact on overall patronage numbers.
One of the areas that has bound to have been helping rail patronage in recent months has been the vast improvement in on time performance with it once again being over 89%. At the AT board meetings Mike Lee often questions the total figure seeing as the three lines that have the most services (South, East and West) are all less than 89%. This month AT have included a table that the numbers are based off which should hopefully help answer that as Mike and others who might question it will be able to work it out for themselves. One key point to note is that punctuality is based on services that are completed so cancelled trains don’t count against the on time performance metric.
Of course the bus and ferry services are still self-reported and based of ensuring the bus left the start of the run on time rather than when it reached its destination meaning we still get silly figures saying some bus companies managed 99.98% punctuality.
On the cycling front there is more good news with cycling counts continuing to increase.
In the board report AT say that the issue that has been affecting the roll out HOP to other buses is due to intermittent technical problems with some of the ticket machines. I understand it might have been bad batch that has been causing the fault so hopefully we should start to see the roll-out restarted again soon. They have also provided this graph which I find really interesting showing HOP usage on the two bus companies currently using it. The percentage of people using HOP has been increasing on both buses but it is at a much greater level on Birkenhead. But perhaps the most fascinating part is just how much the percentage of HOP use drops off on the weekends.
Other interesting comments in the board report include these excellent pieces of news
Concept design options for the Fanshawe/Customs Corridor are underway, with priority for a bus rapid transit corridor to extend the Northern Busway into the city centre.
Site options are being evaluated for locations and circulation for new Downtown and Wynyard Quarter PT Interchanges, prior to engagement with affected landowners.
Procurement of design of roading and infrastructure for Wynyard Quarter South will commence in September, including the extension of the Daldy St Linear Park.
Hopefully the first point means buses from the north shore will no longer have to crawl along Sturdee St as I’ve heard stories that that section alone can double trip times.
Elsewhere AT say they focusing on initially getting the Dominion Rd parallel cycle routes designed first so that they can be built in advance of the more expensive road upgrade. Lastly at Mt Albert there is good news as the council have finally come to an agreement with the owner of the carpark close to the intersection of New North Rd and Mt Albert/Carrington Rd. That will enable the land to be turned into a public square with a new walkway connecting into the recently upgraded station.
Every year Auckland Transport sets a new Statement of Intent (SOI) which sets out their strategic approach, priorities and targets for the following three years. Yesterday they released their SOI for 2013-2016. To me the most interesting parts tend to be the targets that get set after taking into account what has happened in the previous year.
While there is a high level statement about what the transport system should be, that gets broken down into 6 outcomes that Auckland Transport are aiming to achieve. These are:
- Better use of transport resources to maximise return on existing assets
- Increased customer satisfaction with transport infrastructure and services
- Auckland’s transport network moves people and goods efficiently
- Increased access to a wider range of transport choices
- Improved safety of Auckland’s transport system
- Reduced adverse environmental effects from Auckland’s transport system
It is from these outcomes that the various targets are derived. Most of the targets seem to carry over from year to year but there always seems to be some little changes in reporting. The ones I’m most interested in tend to relate to public transport patronage – which as regular readers will know, has been struggling over the last 18 months or so. The targets are set for total PT trips, rail trips, busway trips, Other bus trips and Ferry trips. Due to the poor patronage performance some of the targets have actually dropped this year and here is the explanation given as to why:
Patronage targets were amended to take account of underlying growth over last seven years, 2011/12 RWC2011 patronage spike, 2012/13 patronage count methodology change from manual to electronic ticketing transition, lower 2012/13 starting point, recent leveling of growth. Further amendments to targets approved in June 2013 have been made at the request of the shareholder.
2013/14 rail and bus growth rates are considered stretch targets due to the difficult change environment in 2013/14 with the implementation of two transformational change projects: (a) for rail, completion of electrification programme by April 2014 will reduce the rail service offering on 2013/14 due to service disruptions and closures necessary for the infrastructure works and limit service development opportunities; and (b) for bus, the rollout of HOP electronic integrated ticketing on bus in the first half of 2013/14, which will have a disruptive effect on operators and customers
On to the targets themselves, while the table in the document is useful, to help explain what targets have been set I have created the graphs below which also include the previous targets back to the formation of AT.
This has dropped slightly on the previously financial year however patronage is looking very flat. We will need to start seeing some overall growth starting to happen soon if AT want to have any chance of meeting this target.
This is where one of the biggest drops has occurred although it isn’t as large as AT originally wanted. It was increased to its current level by the council yet still represents a big change. You can see that to meet the current 2016 targets there are going to need to be fairly sizable increases in patronage in the coming years (which should hopefully happen with electrification). We do appear to have started to see patronage growth occurring again so hopefully this will continue and accelerate to enable AT to achieve this target.
My understanding is that this is really just the NEX services due to AT not currently being able to tell where people on other buses like the 881 actually boarded. The target actually dropped but only by 1000 trips a year which is why the line looks flat. Currently it looks like growth is happening but it will be interesting to see the outcome from changes to HOP.
Other Bus Patronage
This is probably my biggest concern among the graphs as the target has increased but patronage has been going in the opposite direction. Further as covering the largest amount of PT trips, it also has a massive impact on the total patronage figure.
Ferries have actually been doing fairly well recently and was the only mode to actually meet it’s target in the last financial year
Quite a few of these targets look like they are going to be very difficult for Auckland Transport to meet as while there is a lot going on behind the scenes, much of it like the new electric trains and new bus network don’t really start to be seen until sometime next year.
The other interesting aspect in the SOI is the summary of capital projects which AT are undertaking (so the NZTA stuff isn’t included). The really big costs come from road renewals, AMETI, electric trains and the CRL land acquisition.
Auckland Transport has released the patronage figures for July and there are some signs emerging that we are starting to exit the slump that has occurred over the last year or so. There was an extra working day in July 2013 compared to 2012 which is estimated to impact results by ~4% however even taking that into account there was growth on the trains, Northern Express and ferries. The other bus services which carry the majority of PT patronage were down on July last year when you take into account that extra business day which is still disappointing however there has still been a small amount of growth in the 12 month rolling total. Here are the highlights from the report:
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,197,289 passengers for the 12-months to Jul-2013 an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Jun-2013. July monthly patronage was 5,952,687 an increase of 122,349 boardings or +2.1% on Jul-2012, normalised to ~-1.9% accounting for one more business day in Jul-2013 compared to Jul-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 10,090,993 passengers for the 12-months to Jul-2013, an increase of +0.5% on the 12-months to Jun-2013 increasing the 12-month rolling total above 10 million passenger trips. Patronage for Jul-2013 was 964,725 an increase of +52,187 boardings or +5.7% on Jul-2012, normalised to ~+1.7%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,286,165 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jul-2013, an increase of +0.3% on the 12-months to Jun-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jul-2013 was 200,381, an increase of 7,580 boardings or +3.9% on Jul-2012, normalised to an equivalent patronage level.
Other bus services carried 51,279,195 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jul-2013, an increase of +0.1% on the 12-months to Jun-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jul-2013 was 4,350,167, an increase of 27,864 boardings or +0.6% on Jul-2012, normalised to ~-3.0% to -3.4%.
Ferry services carried 5,540,936 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jul-2013, an increase of +0.6% on the 12-months to Jun-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jul-2013 was 437,414, an increase of 34,718 boardings or 8.6% on Jul-2012, normalised to ~+4.6%
While the total bus numbers are down I do really get the feeling that the worm has started to turn and that we are starting shifting back into a growth phase – especially on the rail network, although it should be remembered that significant growth is not likely to occur until we really get the electric trains rolling around the network in decent numbers.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the improving results on the rail network has to do with far more trains being on time. In July just under 90% of all trains were on time to their destination within 5 minutes while at the AT board meeting today Transdev mentioned that for the month to date, the figure was at over 91% – if the month finished with that result it would be the best result we gave ever seen. This is coming about due to an increased focus by them on train performance through initiates like ensuring trains actually leave on time, that trains aren’t being held up waiting for people who are late. Also helping are improved reliability of the trains themselves and of the infrastructure through less track or signal faults. Further the results have been audited by Deloitte to ensure they are accurate. I have certainly seen an improvement of late so long may it continue. Of course even 91% doesn’t come close to the bus and ferry companies who continue to self-report that they achieved on time percentages in the high 90s.
It will be very interesting to see what happens with bus patronage in particular over the coming months as HOP is rolled out. There is already starting to be a lot of noise around the removal of passes which could have some impacts but AT have promised me some data on just how many people are being affected both positively and negatively by what is happening so I will wait till I have seen that before commenting further.
Cycling is also continuing to do very well, especially with July being so dry (was 2nd driest on record). Cyclist numbers are counted at a few different spots by automated monitoring equipment and the number of cyclists recorded in July was up a massive 33.3% on the same month last year with morning peak movements up 35.7%.
In other PT news, AT say that there were over 1,100 submissions on the new bus network in South Auckland with around 55% in support and 21% opposed (rest were neutral or didn’t say). That is a fantastic result as these changes have the potential to upset a lot of people and in some cases overseas, upset locals have stopped similar changes. I think it shows that AT did a fairly good job in their consultation and I even had feedback from some of the bus operators how happy they were with how it had gone so a very pleasing result. We will know the final outcome of the consultation by the end of October.
All up this is definitely one of the more positive patronage results we have had for a while which is nice for a change.
Buried deep within the agenda of last week’s Transport Committee meeting is a report on the results of both the annual screenline and congestion surveys. The screenline survey in particular is a very long running (back to the 1980s) survey which counts the number of people crossing various points – most particularly those travelling into the city centre by various modes. In general terms the screenline survey showed a small increase in the number of PT users across most measured points (although a reduced modeshare due to a jump in the number of people driving to the city centre) while the congestion survey showed that congestion in Auckland has been decreasing since 2009 (someone please tell the transport model!).
Public transport modeshare dropped back to just under 50% of vehicular trips into the CBD – still much higher than the other two screenlines at the western and southern edges of the isthmus:
Total PT patronage entering the city centre increased slightly to 34,130 during the morning peak hour. It is worth noting that since 2001 this total has increased from around 21,000 – a 62% increase.
One of the most interesting elements of the screenline survey is the breakdown by street for buses entering the city centre and how this has changed over time:
Fanshawe Street has really asserted itself as clearly the busiest point of entry for bus passenger to the city centre. This is not surprising given investment in the Northern Busway and that for many other areas people have clearly shifted from bus to rail as investment in the rail system has delivered an increasingly attractive travel choice. It’s encouraging to see that Symonds Street has “built up again” in terms of its numbers – after taking quite a hit when a large number of services were diverted to travel over Grafton Bridge. The numbers for Quay Street appear quite strange – big fluctuations up and down in almost every year. Are bus users in the Eastern Beach suburbs just a particularly fickle bunch I wonder?
The rail numbers were down slightly on 2012 – although the report notes that two fewer trains were counted in the 2013 survey (presumably services were slightly late and therefore outside the measurement window), which means that only a small reduction is actually a pretty damn good result.
The ferry information breaks down passengers by the different service they took – which gives us a useful understanding of how dominant Devonport and Waiheke are when it comes to total ferry boardings:
The report also notes key entry point for people walking and cycling – although unfortunately the quality of the table is really poor:
The report doesn’t explain what’s behind the fairly big decline in both walking and cycling between the two surveys in 2012 and 2013 – perhaps the weather was different (this is a once a year survey).
The report also notes results from a survey into congestion and travel time reliability indicators. The overall result is a decline in congestion since 2009:
I’m not surprised that congestion has declined in recent years as traffic growth has stalled while there has been a lot of investment in transport during that time. This reinforces a feeling that we have articulated many times on this blog: that future congestion forecasts are likely overblown. Travel time reliability has also improved in recent times.
This is really interesting and useful information – quite surprising that it was buried so deep.
This is a Guest Post by reader Luke Christensen
There has been much concern regarding stalling rail patronage recently. This was a substantial topic of discussion at both the Auckland Council Transport Committee meeting and the CCO Strategy Review Committee last Wednesday. At the latter Auckland Transport was criticised by the Mayor and the councillors for its attempt to lower patronage targets for 2013/2014 to 10.6 million, from 11.4 million. In the end the council won the battle and the 11.4 million target was retained. There is also of course the longer term issue of the government pushing for 20 million trips a year for the CRL to start construction earlier than 2020.
At the meeting a range of initiatives the Auckland Council transport team presented a range of ways to improve patronage, and issues that might arise.
- Improved Interpeak and Weekend Patronage
The report mentions that weekend frequencies on the Western Line can be improved to half hourly. However there are also some other easy wins, such as increasing Manukau services to half hourly during off-peak periods, and increasing off-peak Western Line frequencies to 15 minutes. Currently there are only half hourly frequencies between about 10am and 2pm.
Parnell station has been delayed until 2015 as it is not suitable for diesel operation.
- Manukau Institute of Technology
MIT campus above the Manukau station will open early 2014. However interestingly enough better than hourly frequency will not commence until the end of 2014 which seems very strange. There should be spare diesels during day, and is much better to get people used to using rail from day one.
The new bus network will not be implemented in South Auckland until early 2015, so will not provide a boost until then. This is due to need for retendering, and building new interchanges at Otahuhu and Manukau stations.
Swanson and Glen Eden Park and Rides will be expanded soon. However this blog has often noted than P&R is not a great long term strategy to improve ridership, and is a very expensive way of doing so.
- Fare Strategy Initiatives
The report highlights the excellent Greater Wellington Regional Council fare proposals. This report recommended family passes and off-peak fares to help boost patronage.
Overall the report highlights it will be difficult to achieve major boosts in the next year. The major areas I think that should be pushed are in increasing off-peak frequencies using the diesel fleet and fare initiatives.
Auckland Transport seem to be taking a highly conservative approach to rolling out any new products on the AT HOP card. This is causing trouble as some people are losing very helpful discounts, such as the Northern Pass. Another example is the Discovery Day Pass will be scrapped in a couple of months. This cost $16 for unlimited travel on bus, train and some ferries. It should be very easy to add a $16 day cap to the AT HOP card, but this is not being done for some reason in the short term. Discounted weekend travel should also be very easy to roll out. A blanket fare reduction on weekends could be a interesting idea, parking is often cheaper on weekends so need an extra incentive to get people on public transport. Some things such as accompanied children travelling free can be done totally outside the AT HOP system, although it is best to ensure these are done as part of the HOP card, so the extra patronage can be counted!
Of course we should keep in mind it is just the short term picture that is concerning. Some election candidates are being very mischievous with there use of the ‘patronage is dropping’ phrase. In 1991 Perth had about the same patronage we do now (10 million). After electrification there was a huge jump, and they are now at 60 million, and there is no reason we can’t follow suit with Electrification, the City Rail Link and of course the Congestion Free Network.
Edit: The comments in this post have gone way off track. Skypath or other topics have nothing to do with the patronage targets that Auckland Transport have to achieve. If this discussion continues it is likely to lead to argument and frustration for everyone involved. Phil and Richard – we are sick of you hijacking threads arguing minute points as for one it puts many people off reading what others have to say – Matt
The June PT patronage results have been published on Auckland Transport’s website – with the headline results being a bit of a mixed bag.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,074,940 passengers for the 12-months to Jun-2013 a decrease of -0.1% on the 12-months to May-2013 and -2.8% compared to the previous 12-months to June-2012. June monthly patronage was 5,518,233 a decrease of -95,449 boardings or -1.7% on Jun-2012, normalised to ~+ 2.3 to +3.3% accounting for one less business day Jun-2013 compared to Jun-2012.
Rail patronage totalled 10,038,806 passengers for the 12-months to Jun-2013, an increase of +0.1% on the 12-months to May-2013 maintaining the 12-month rolling total above 10 million passenger trips. Annual change on the 12-months to Jun-2012 was a decrease of -7.9%. Patronage for Jun-2013 was 845,339 an increase of +11,076 boardings or +1.3% on Jun-2012, normalised to ~+10%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,278,585 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jun-2013, an increase of +0.6% on the 12-months to May-2013, with a -0.1% decrease on the 12-months to Jun-2012. Northern Express bus service patronage for June was 186,868, an increase of 13,337 boardings or +7.7% on Jun-2012, normalised to ~+11.7% to +12.7%. A promotional campaign in Apr-2013 including trial tickets has contributed to this monthly result.
Other bus services carried 51,251,331 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jun-2013, a decrease of -0.3% on the 12-months to May-2013, with a -2.3% decrease for on the 12-months to Jun-2012. Other bus services patronage for June was 4,104,835, a decrease of -136,418 boardings or -3.2% on Jun-2012, normalised to ~+0.8% to +1.8%.
Ferry services carried 5,506,218 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jun-2013, an increase of +0.3% on the 12-months to May-2013 and an annual increase of +1.1% on the 12-months to Jun-2012. Patronage for Jun-2013 was 381,191 an increase of +16,556 boardings or +4.5% on Jun-2012, normalised to ~+8.5% to +9.5%.
On the up side, it seems that the decline in rail patronage that we’ve seen for much of the past 12 months has halted. Northern Express and ferry services were up a little bit too – something of a turnaround for Northern Express which hasn’t really seen much growth for a while. On the down side, “other bus” (all buses aside from the Northern Express) were down a bit (the whole “normalising” process notwithstanding), which dragged down total patronage slightly.
Here are the numbers:Of course June signals the end of the 2012/13 financial year, so we can start to look back and see what an incredibly disappointing year for patronage 2012/13 was – with total boardings declining by over 2 million from the year before – including a decline of more than 800,000 trips on rail and 1.2 million fewer bus boardings. In fact ferries were the only mode to see numbers grow – albeit by a fairly small 58,000.
While there was always going to be a bit of a reduction in September and October – due to the Rugby World Cup in 2011 – Auckland Transport certainly didn’t expect what’s happened over the last year to eventuate, as the statement of intent they agree to had targets for total patronage of above 74 million and rail patronage above 12 million. On a brighter note, it seems that the poor results of the past year may turn out to be a blessing in disguise by kicking Auckland Transport out being complacent over future patronage growth and focusing attention on improved marketing and (coming in the next few months) improved rail services off-peak and at weekends.
On a brighter note, results for the past couple of months – especially if normalised for working days. For rail, we can see that in the last couple of months the daily average patronage for weekdays and the overall average has been significantly higher than the same months last year:
For “other bus”, which is the most important in its impact on the total patronage figure, aside from May (which was a very wet month weather wise) the average totals in the past few months have tracked much closer to what happened in 2011/12 than was the case in the second half of last year – once again indicating that the ‘drop’ seems to have stopped:
Probably the biggest worry is what’s happened to isthmus buses in the last couple of months – I wonder what’s going on there?With the AT Hop Card (finally) rolling out onto all buses over the next few months and weekend train services looking like they’re finally going to be boosted, we really should start to see some steady growth in patronage levels by the end of the year.
As I’m sure you can imagine with the transport announcement yesterday we will have heaps to talk about over the coming weeks. It is going to take us some time to fully go through everything so please bear with us as we do that however if there is a particular topic you would like to see on the blog please feel free to provide a guest post.
Today I’m not going to look at the additional projects announced yesterday but am just going to focus on the further details we received about the City Rail Link yesterday, in particular what is needed to bring the project forward from the governments proposed start date of 2020. In his speech yesterday John Key said:
So, as I indicated earlier this week, the Government is committing to a joint business plan for the City Rail Link with Auckland Council in 2017 and providing its share of funding for a construction start in 2020.
And we will be prepared to consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.
Our current thinking is that an earlier business plan could be triggered if two conditions are met.
The first is if Auckland city centre employment increases by 25 per cent over current levels – that is half the increase predicted in the Future Access Study.
And the second is that annual rail patronage is on track to hit 20 million trips well before 2020.
But that is something we will discuss with Auckland Council.
Employment has to increase by 25% while patronage needs to increase to 20 million trips a year so let’s look at these a bit more closely.
Employment to increase by 25%
Of the two requirements I suspect that this would be the hardest of them. First of all it’s hard to know exactly which area we are talking about. As we have mentioned in the past the description of the CBD is effectively the area ringed by the motorways however many people consider the city centre to include the areas that border on this which includes areas like Ponsonby, Grafton, Newmarket and Parnell. For the purposes of this I am going to stick to the technical definition which is the area surrounded by the motorways. Statistics NZ break this up into three different area units, Auckland Harbourside, Auckland Central West and Auckland Central East. This is shown in the area highlighted below.
Stats NZ keep a close eye on employment across the country and have some fairly detailed data available. As of 2012 there were 89,650 people working in the Auckland CBD so assuming that as the base point, would suggest we need roughly an extra 22,400 jobs to meet the criteria set by the government. That seems like a lot so is it doable? Well here are the employment levels in the City Centre since the year 2000.
As you can see, CBD employment has continued to grow with the exception of a short downturn during the global financial crisis. In fact in the last two years we have seen employment in the area grow by around 10,000 jobs. It is also noticeable that the Auckland Harbourside area has seen the most growth as a lot of businesses have shifted down in this direction, especially in the area around Britomart. This trend is likely to continue as the Wynyard Quarter really starts to develop. The biggest constraint right now seems to be the lack office space with frequent reports that there is not a lot available. Employment growth over the last decade has been 25% while growth in the last 5 years has been 10%, obviously hampered by the GFC.
If we can maintain the growth of the last few years – about 5000 extra jobs per year – then we will see the growth target met in around 2017. To get there though we are likely going to need to see a lot of new building activity going on and a continuation of many of the recent trends of some of our large businesses like banks consolidating large proportions of their employment in the CBD. Personally I think that this target is doable but it won’t be easy.
Note: if you use the city centre definition that I mentioned earlier, employment in in the area increases to over 130,000 which is by far and away the largest employment zone in the region.
Rail Patronage to increase to 20 million per annum
We have talked a lot about rail patronage over the last few years so sorry if this covers old ground. Rail patronage in Auckland was abysmal for decades with it reaching its lowest point in the early 1990′s when the system carried just over 1 million people in a single year. To put it another way, more people were carried on trains last month than all of 1993. Things started to improve with the introduction of second hand trains from Perth and by the time Britomart opened just under a decade ago, patronage was around 2.5 million trips per year, an improvement but still very low. The opening of Britomart and the subsequent investment in improvements around the network saw patronage rise steadily to almost 11 million trips – albeit assisted by the RWC. Since that time patronage has come back down to around 10 million however it also appears that some of the earlier patronage gains might have come from AT and its predecessors over counting some trips. Some of the fall off is also likely to be due to the on-going disruption caused by electrification works and a similar trend was seen in Perth as they electrified their system.
To get the 20 million per annum target I suspect that the government has just taken the fact that patronage is currently about 10 million trips per year and just doubled that. So is that target achievable? I think so.
Over the next three years we are embarking on the biggest change to PT we have seen since ripping out the trams in the 1950s. We will have a brand new fleet of electric trains running with more capacity per train, higher frequencies on and off peak, delivering faster journeys which will all serve to make train travel more attractive. We will have a brand new bus network that among other things will help feed people into the rail network rather than competing with it and we will have integrated fares to ensure there is no financial penalty for transferring between services. These three things combined are likely to cause a massive increase in patronage in the coming years. It is due to these factors that I think it is entirely possible we will reach the 20 million trip target early.
I think that possibly another thing behind the 20m target is that the 2010 business case predicted that we would reach that figure in about 2021/2, about the time the council wanted the CRL to open – and this was without the changes that are being made to the bus network.
So what would patronage growth need to look like to reach this target? The graph below shows what growth would need to look like to reach 20 million trips by 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020. Annual growth rates would need to be roughly:
- 2017 – 18.9%
- 2018 – 14.9%
- 2019 – 12.2%
- 2020 – 10.4%
As I mentioned earlier, I think it is entirely possible that we will reach the 20 million patronage mark early when you consider all of the changes that are happening but it will definitely require Auckland Transport to be on their game and working hard to maximise patronage from every angle.
So overall I think that both targets are reachable but will require a lot of work to reach. To be consistent though the government should really be setting similar targets for the various roading projects.