Late last week Auckland Transport provided me with some fascinating stats related that broke down rail patronage results by station. The data is for the previous financial year -so from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014 – and covers 10.05 million trips out of the 11.44 million that took place. The difference between the two figures is primarily made up of special event patronage and legacy tickets still in use such as child monthly passes. Perhaps the best thing about the data though is that for the first time we can see how many people travelled from each station to each other station on the network. Getting this kind of information is one of the reasons that having customers not just tag on but also tag off with HOP is so useful.
The last time we had some station specific data was back in May which showed monthly patronage from July 13 to March 14 (although it was missing August)
In this post I’m just going to scratch the surface of what insights the data provides so please feel free to dig deeper into it and it would be great to see what kind of interesting visualisations you can come up with (and if you do please share them on here first).
To start with here is a map Kent has put together showing all boardings by station.
The data behind that is in the table below along with the number of people alighting at each station. There are a couple of things I notice straight away from the data.
- There are a hell of a lot of people not tagging off with 5.5% failing to do so. Of course we don’t know where this is happening but I would assume that apart from Britomart and Newmarket which have gates, that it’s fairly proportionate across the network.
- There has been a big surge in use of Henderson. In all previous figures that we’ve seen including the ones up to March this year Henderson has been around 8th to 11th busiest station based on the number of boardings and was 11th in that earlier data. It has now shot up to become the 4th busiest station which is a massive jump and could be one of the big reasons behind the rise in patronage we’ve seen on the Western line. Interestingly it hasn’t had the same sort of increase in people alighting (unless they make up a lot of the unknowns).
- Manukau has been the biggest mover after Henderson which has gone from 34th at the end of March to 38th. Panmure is also continuing to climb the station rankings and I’ve heard suggestions that some month’s patronage has been more than double the same month in 2013.
- The bottom three stations are unchanged although the exact order has shifted slightly. All three combined make up just 0.9% of all patronage. We know Waitakere is set to close once the Western Line is electrified and AT in the past have suggested closing both Westfield and Te Mahia, both of which were being decided on at the AT Board meeting yesterday.
- Britomart dominates patronage but not as much as you would think. Trips to and from Britomart make up just 55% of all patronage which is less than most people would probably think.
The results get more interesting when you start to look at where people are travelling to and from. As an example for my local station – Sturges Rd – I can see just 37% of people boarding a train there go to Britomart.
The two graphs below show the boarding and alighting at each station on a trip towards Britomart (Newmarket boardings are not included).
In the Western Line graph below it highlights that for Western Line passengers, Grafton has now edged out Newmarket as the second most important destination. For the Western line just 40% of people onboard a train bound for Britomart travel all the way.
The profile of the Southern/Eastern lines is quite a bit different with Britomart dominating more and taking 67% of all the trips for trains heading towards the city.
It’s fantastic to final get this level of detail and I look forward to when we’ll be able to see it on a regular basis plus see it for at least the Busway stations too.
As mentioned above it would be neat to see what visualisations of the data you can come up with. The data is here.
The number of people travelling on buses and trains has continued to surge in November resulting in more than 75 million trips over the previous 12 months, the first time that’s happened in over 50 years. That means the number of trips taken in the last year is up by 5.7 million (8%). The Rapid Transit Network comprising of the Northern Express and the trains continues to be the star performer with the annual number of trips increasing by 17%. There has also been solid growth in the bus network which carries the majority of people in Auckland with patronage up 6.8%.
The rail network has the highest annual growth of all modes up 17.5% and patronage is up 12.3 million. Within that the two small lines currently served by electric trains are up 20-30% which perhaps gives an indication of what we can expect once the bigger lines go electric. For the month of November patronage on the Manukau Line services alone was up 50%. I imagine that sort of growth will only continue with the new timetable too. Apart from the electric trains one of the reasons given for the improved patronage is that train punctuality and reliability has improved with November recording the highest result Auckland has seen with 91.9% of all services arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes of their schedule. The Manukau line was the highest at 96% and the Western Line the lowest at 89.3%.
If you recall back to my post the other day and the most recent advice from the Ministry of Transport on the CRL from August where they said
Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date.
If growth continues at 1.4 million trips per year, annual patronage would hit 20 million trips around 2019/20. We expect patronage growth to continue at a similar rate as for the year to June 2014 until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. After 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow and at this stage do not anticipate it is likely that the threshold of 20 million trips well before 2020 will be met.
Well patronage is now up over 1.8 million trips and not showing signs of slowing down.
The Northern Express is also seeing fantastic growth this year with annual patronage now up 14.4% and rising above 2.6 million trips.
What’s also notable about this is that over the same time period the number of vehicles that cross the Harbour Bridge every day has dropped by 2%. Of course the NEX doesn’t include all bus trips across the harbour bridge and it would be fascinating to see just how many there are in total.
Well for Christchurch Bus and for Auckland Rail users it is. Christchurch is launching its New Bus Network today:
PDF here. We are very keen to hear back from users about they think of this. In fact we’ed be very keen to run a guest post or two from interested PT users in Christchurch. Here’s what Christchurch Metro say about it:
Our city has changed, and so must we. Public transport is a valuable asset to a modern, vibrant city. It helps to keep us, and our economy, moving, and so this new network has been developed to cover our emerging city. The core of the new network features five high-frequency, direct services running across town.
Also today the new Auckland Rail timetables, especially for the Eastern and Southern lines in Auckland begin, as Matt described last month here:
This means the beginning of an all EMU service on the Eastern Line, and the beginning of our much more legible and frequent turn-up-and-go Metro-style rail Rapid Transit running pattern. This is the next step in the great upgrade of rail services for Auckland that is already being met with enthusiasm by Auckland travellers. Early next year the Southern Line with get its Electric Trains, followed by the Western Line towards the end, which will also come with frequency increases. Next year will also see the beginning of the roll out of the radical upgrade of the Bus system that is the New Network. Today will also see the beginning of regular use of electric six car sets on the network.
Again we are keen to hear from users how the new services are going.
Auckland’s public transport patronage has been on a tear as of late and patronage is not only at its highest point in over 50 years but is currently up 7% on the same time last year. Included in that figure is the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – which comprised of the rail network and the Northern Express – is up a massive 17%. The fact that patronage is growing so strongly got me thinking about how it compared to the targets that have been set. This is also important as the council will today be debating PT targets as part of their long term plan discussions.
Targets for public transport come from a number of places and don’t always line up with each other. We have:
- The Auckland Plan (AP) agreed to in 2012 set an aspirational target of doubling patronage to 140 million by 2022.
- The Long Term Plan (LTP) which sets targets over a 10 year period (updated 3-yearly). The current LTP was set in 2012 and the council will soon be consulting on the 2015 LTP
- The Annual Plan set targets for a single year based factors such as recent performance and funding available (which is often different to what was originally predicted in the LTP).
- Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent (SOI) which is an annual document outlining the councils expectations of AT and lists three year’s worth of targets.
The SOI targets are arguably the most important as the SOI “sets out Auckland Transport’s strategic approach and priorities for the next three-years and how they contribute to the longer-term outcomes Auckland Council seeks to achieve“. In other words the SOI targets the ones that AT care about achieving (although generally they will match the council’s targets anyway although oddly not for this financial year). The targets are initially suggested by AT based on that they think is achievable based on current trends, projects and funding that is available. Council have a chance to change them before signing them off but generally what is suggested is what goes ahead.
Earlier this year we were quite critical of AT for suggesting, and at the Councillors for signing off the targets in this year’s SOI. The reason for this is AT wanted to reduce their PT targets compared to what had been set for this financial year in the 2013 SOI. The justification for doing so seemed to be that AT didn’t think it would meet its 2013/14 targets and extrapolated that forward to this financial year. This was despite the fact that patronage results had already started turning positive again and there are major changes that were about to flow through the PT system that would drive patronage such as electrification.
One example is rail patronage which had flat lined in 2012/13 (it looks like a decline due to impacts of the RWC and the HOP rollout) had it’s target for this year slashed from 13 million to 12.1 million despite the imminent arrival of electric trains. The predictions which fed those lowered targets had been created a few months prior to year end when it appeared we would miss the 2013/14 target by a wide margin however the surge in patronage meant AT was just 5,000 (0.04%) trips short. The fact that rail targets had been dropped the year before was also used by the Ministry of Transport as part of their justification for delaying the start of the CRL till 2020, suggesting that if AT don’t think rail use will grow as strongly as previously predicted then the CRL isn’t needed as soon either.
Fast forward to now and we’ve seen both bus and train numbers rising rapidly so how do they compare with the targets that have been set. With the exception of ferries all of the patronage targets for this financial year have already been met and are even on track to meet the 2013 SOI targets. On top of this every few months AT update their predictions for where patronage will end up for the year. The last predictions were in September so that doesn’t take into account Octobers strong growth and I’ll highlight those predictions below too.
Total patronage has already passed this year’s target thanks to the patronage growth that we’re experiencing. I’ve also included the draft 2015 LTP targets as from now on they only apply to the total patronage. More on the LTP targets at the end of the post.
Has continued to increase strongly. The current SOI target of 12.1 million trips was passed in October with patronage reaching 12.124 million. The last projection suggested that by the end of June patronage would reach over 12.9 million trips however it will now potentially be over 13 million which happened to be the figure from the 2013 SOI.
Busway (Northern Express)
Based on its performance against its target the NEX is doing the best having not only already beaten the 2014/15 target of but is only 8,000 trips off passing the 2013/14 target too. Further at it’s current rate it will hit the 2012 target as well and it has even surpassed it’ end of year forecast made just last month.
Like the busway, the rest of the bus services have showing decent growth with patronage likely to hit (or get very close to hitting) the target set for 2012
While buses and trains are doing well, as mentioned Ferries aren’t. Here’s the ferry graph.
So overall we’ve met almost all of the patronage targets already and for some modes it looks like they may hit the 2013 or even 2012 versions of their targets which is fantastic news. However it also highlights that the council need to do a better job of setting targets rather than being dictated to on them by AT.
Latest figures from AT: September 2014
In March this year I wrote a post called 20 by 2020 assessing the Prime Minister’s challenge for rail ridership in Auckland to do be heading to 20 million passengers pa by what I understood to be 2020 to justify a partial investment in the CRL by the report .From a PwC Patronage Report I have found what he said:
“We will 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.
Which is a fairly ambiguous sentence. Here’s how the kind folks at the MoT interpret that:
“MoT interprets the rail patronage target as meaning that “patronage will reach 20 million trips a year around 2018″
PwC then tabulate this as follows:
So 13.5% average growth is all that is needed to meet the MoT’s pretty sharp 2018 interpretation of this barrier. And it looks like we’re on the way more for the 2017 rate. Here’s what I wrote in March:
So where are we at now? Ridership at the end of June 2013 was almost exactly 10 mil: Less than a year later and it is now 11 mil. 3 months to go and already 10% growth. To reach 20 mil by 2020 a rate of 10.4% is sufficient.
Oh how things change. Just six months further on and we’ve already hit 12 million. Rail ridership is running at around 16% – 21% pa [As is the Northern Express- Rapid Transit Investment works]. If this can be sustained over the next few years things will become rather awkward for those relying on this particular hurdle to delay the government’s commitment to Auckland. The magic of compounding growth means that this kind of rate leads to a rough doubling of the figure in just four years. From 10 million in 2013 to 20 million in 2017 or thereabouts.
Is that growth likely to continue, on grounds other than mere extrapolation? Well here’s what I wrote back in March. Events since have not made a fool of me yet:
OK, I can hear the cynics out there saying that you can’t just extrapolate ridership growth from one year out indefinitely and that is indeed true, almost as absurd as assuming traffic growth will leap upwards from a flat line; well almost. So we must ask are there good reasons to believe that ridership growth will continue at this rate? Well no, but there are three good reasons to be confident that it will in fact accelerate from this year even more strongly;
1. The vastly more attractive, higher capacity, and able to be more frequently run New Trains
2. The new integrated ticketing and fares system
3. The New Bus Network that is focussed on coordinating with the Rail Network to help speed and improve many journeys, from new transfer stations like the recently completed Panmure, New Lynn, and coming Mangere and Otahuhu.
Interestingly 18% has been the average growth rate ever since the Council built Britomart Station back in 2003. It’s probably then a number those well paid and highly numerate apparatchiks at the MoT can reliably hang their hats on. From the previous post:
We should also remember that rail ridership has grown by some 400% since the opening of Britomart [annualised: 18% pa, so this has been a consistent grower since even simple improvements were added to what was a completely under invested in system. Build it and they will indeed come.
It is also worth noting that no motorway network shows or is required to show anything like a 10% demand growth in order to get even 50% funding from government. In fact the government had to invent an abstract and novel category of road -The Road of National Significance- in order to get around the low traffic demands all over the nation and overcome their often appallingly low business cases. For example traffic demand in and around Wellington is going backwards, actually falling, but NZTA can’t stop drawing lines down every fault-line for new motorways there. How about 10% demand growth hurdles for investment all transport systems?
And because every post needs plenty of images and because this never gets old, here’s the Perth story, the one we are most clearly going to emulate, in fact are emulating, here in Auckland once we can get the tarmac out the eyes of those who control our money:
The news recently that Auckland had surpassed Wellington for rail patronage as well as passed the 12 million trips mark was good however as we and many others have noted, on a per capita basis Wellington is still well ahead. The per capita result got me thinking about how we measure it and whether the population figure used is ideal. It’s generally measured by dividing the number of trips taken by the population of the region
- Auckland – 12 million trips with 1.53 million people = 8 trips per person
- Wellington – 11.9 million trips with 0.49 million people = 24 trips per person
As you can see based on this Wellingtonians use trains 3 times more than Aucklanders do and for Auckland to have the same per capita rate patronage with it’s current population it would need to have around 37 million trips, something not likely possible without the City Rail Link (the modelling I’ve seen suggests Auckland won’t get patronage above ~25 million trips without the CRL).
While the residents of the capital definitely use trains more, the calculation is a very broad one as it uses the regional population. Both regions have large areas with a lot of residents that don’t live anywhere near a rail line that are extremely unlikely to use a train, for example the North Shore in Auckland or much of Wellington City except the parts near the Johnsonville Line.
For Auckland you can see this in the map below from the census Journey to Work data where train use is unsurprisingly concentrated around the rail network.
So it got me thinking about what the per capita results would look like if we based it just on the population that lives near a rail line. Reader Steve D helped me out and looked at the population numbers within all meshblocks that have some point within either 1km or 2km of a rail line.
This is only a close shot of Auckland to give an idea
And here’s Wellington
Based on the looking at meshblocks 1 or 2km from a train station the results are below.
So based on this Aucklanders still use the train less than residents of Wellington but the it’s not quite as bad as it appears when just looking at the regional level data.
Perhaps once Auckland gets the new network rolled out with integrated fares we might start to see per capita rail use in Auckland approach that of Wellington.
Auckland’s Transport’s patronage results for September are now out and they show that the city is experiencing spectacular PT growth, growth which is also setting a number of records. The big news was earlier in the week was that when it was announced that over the last year there had been more than 12 million rail trips on the rail network and that for the first time more trips than the rail network in Wellington. As it turns out the 12 million trips milestone has actually occurred some-time in October rather than in September. Here are the highlights according to AT.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 73,957,488 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +7.6% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. September monthly patronage was 6,612,702, an increase of 782,718 boardings or +13.4%on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +11.0% accounting for special event patronage, one more businessand one less weekend day in Sep-2014 compared to Sep-2013. Financial year to date patronage has grown by + 8.5%.
Rail patronage totalled 11,923,347 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.7% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +16.7% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Patronage for
Sep-2014 was 1,119,230, an increase of 194,217 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +21.2%. Financial year to date rail patronage has grown by +16.8%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,540,018 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +1.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and + 11.1% on the 12 months to Sep-2013.Northern Express bus service patronage for Sep-2014 was 234,282, an increase of 40,686 boardings or +21.0% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +20.8%. Financial year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +18.6%.
Bus services excluding Northern Express carried 54,387,408 passenger trips for the 12 months to an increase of +1.0% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and +6.2% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Bus services excluding Northern Express patronage for Sep-2014 was 4,887,764, anincrease of 516,418 boardings or +11.8% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.8%. Financial year to date bus services excluding Northern Express patronage has grown by +7.1%.
Ferry services carried 5,106,715 passenger trips for the 12 months to Sep-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2014 and an increase +2.0% on the 12 months to Sep-2013. Ferry services patronage for Sep-2014 was 371,426, an increase of 31,397 boardings or +9.2% on Sep-2013, normalised to ~ +8.1%. Financial year to date ferry patronage has decreased by -0.3%.
At 73.96 million trips to the end of September represents a massive jump in usage compared to last year and even from last month when the total was 73.14 million trips. Importantly it’s not just from the growth of rail but increased bus patronage too that’s causing this surge. The Northern Express along is up 21% on the same month last year. It definitely appears that AT’s major projects such as integrated ticketing and electrification are starting to pay off and with so much positive change to go the tend is only likely to accelerate. One little milestone that did occur is that per capita we crossed 48 trips per person which is the first time that’s happened since 1989.
The rail patronage growth has been stunning for months and is really highlighted on the Onehunga and Manukau lines – the only two running electric trains so far – which respectively saw a 32.6% and a 50.6% increase for the month compared to the same time last year. I’ve personally really been noticing of late that both buses and trains have been getting very full, even if travelling against the peak flow such as from the North Shore to the city in the afternoon suggesting that we’re likely to see this strong patronage growth continue in October and be hopefully beyond.
Crucially the growth of PT is also happening faster than the population growth in Auckland with the latest results showing Auckland increasing at 2.3% per annum. With PT having grown as 7.6% over the last year it shows the growth is coming from many existing Aucklanders.
Moving on to other modes, for Ferries one thing that did catch my attention was this patronage graph. Significantly they have split out ferry patronage by whether the service is subsidised (contracted) or not. As I understand it only the Devonport and Waiheke runs are exempt and the graph shows how significant the patronage from those two locations compared to the rest of the ferry destinations.
Lastly after a few lower months (possibly due to a faulty counter) cycling numbers are up 6.3% on September last year and 11% on a 12m basis (despite what the Monthly Cycle Monitoring Report says). Partly because we’re now in spring but it certainly feels like in seeing a lot more people out and about on bikes, even compared to previous years.
This week we should learn about the patronage results for September and with this post I want to explore whether Auckland Transport are delivering the results to the public in the best way that they can.
Currently we get patronage results a couple of reports that go to the AT board each month. There is the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Monthly Transport Indicators, the Statistics Report and even some details about HOP usage in the Chief Executive’s Report. Each offers the same high level information but there are variations between them. I tend to use the Statistics Report as that generally has the more detailed information than the other reports. The fact there are multiple reports to begin with is odd and at the very least the Public Transport Monthly Patronage Report, the Statistics Report and the HOP reporting from the CEO’s report should be combined together in a single report.
Other than the number of them, there are a couple of other issues I have with the reports. The primary one is that they are only available as a PDF report. That means each month I have to go through the report and pull out all of the details manually if I want to keep track of them (which I do and I know some others do too). This opens up the chance of data entry errors with the information or incorrect numbers if a figure is revised which happens from time to time and happened recently with the ferries. You also have to know that the patronage results are included in the board reports and where those reports are buried on the AT website. Other issues relate to what information is available compared with what other cities provide.
So with that in mind here are some examples of what some similar organisations provide to the public.
Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) through Metlink recently improved the level of information they provide and importantly do so in an easy format for anyone wanting to look at it. They provide a range of graphs showing the monthly results for the current financial year or the annual results as far back as 1999/2000 and most of the data is available in a spreadsheet that can be downloaded. The data provided includes many of the same types of areas that AT provide but there are some important additions. In particular
- Annual peak and off-peak patronage – this shows how much patronage occurred during the peak and off peak and in the spreadsheet is also available by mode.
- Annual passenger kilometres by year and mode – This shows how far people have actually travelled on each PT mode which is useful for seeing how commuting trends are changing. As an example on average bus trips are getting longer while rail trips are getting shorter.
The one downside to how GWRC produce their PT information is there is no context able to be given, for example patronage that is impacted by special events or holidays etc. The results are updated approximately 1-2 months after they occur.
The Public Transport Authority runs PT in the Perth through their Transperth brand. The authority provides monthly and annual patronage information via an online interactive table by mode and for trains by line. It’s not clear how frequently the information is updated however as the image below shows, it’s not as frequent as Auckland or Wellington. There are no graphs or any contextual information however. There’s also no information on other metrics
PT in Portland is run by TriMet and they provide a number of ways for the public to get patronage information. Firstly there is a Performance Dashboard which shows graphs about the average weekly boardings per month (instead of total patronage) but most interestingly they also provide financial information including the average cost per trip and revenue. Reporting revenue monthly is particularly interesting as in most cities you have to delve through dull Annual Reports to find the information hidden in the financials – although even this isn’t possible with Auckland Transport as it isn’t specified in their annual report.
In addition to the Performance Dashboard also publish monthly reports which includes all of the figures from the dashboard plus a few others and to top it off the data is also available back to mid-2008 in one file.
One of the more interesting aspects about all of the TriMet data is how they break the bus data down by whether the bus is a frequent route (at least 15 minutes all day) or a local connector route. In Portland frequent buses carry over 50% of all bus patronage. As Auckland Transport roll out frequent buses as part of the new network here I hope they differentiate between the frequent and non-frequent services too.
It would be great if AT could also provide operating cost information regularly
San Francisco (BART)
San Francisco is unusual in that the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system is run completely separately from the rest of the PT services in the Bay area. The patronage information BART release doesn’t show the total number of trips, instead it shows the average daily ridership for a weekday, Saturday or Sunday. One of the advantages of using an average weekday result is it more easily accounts for the variations of the calendar and is something Auckland Transport have recently started doing. Instead of just showing the overall result the monthly data goes a step further by using an Entry/Exit Matrix which shows the average daily ridership from each station to each other station on the network. The image below is from last month and as an example it shows that on average for a weekday 852 people catch a train from El Cerrito Plaza (EP) to Berkeley (BK). This is a level of detail is likely to only be practical to provide for a rapid transit system and something I think AT should definitely do for both the rail network and the Northern Busway.
In addition to the level of detail the files are updated quickly and are usually available by the 5th of the next month (compared to almost one month later in Auckland). Lastly one extra feature is that a spreadsheet is available with the annual patronage information back to when the system opened in 1973
So what could AT learn from these cities to improve how it provides information on patronage to the public.
- At the very least:
- consolidate the various reports into a single report that contains all the relevant information
- a page on the AT website with links to each of the monthly patronage reports to the board.
- Should have:
- A page on the AT website with some graphs explaining the key PT results
- Provide a downloadable file with historical patronage results
- Would be nice to have:
- An Entry/Exit Matrix for the Rapid Transit network (rail and busway)
- Data updated automatically earlier in the month
- Operating Cost and Revenue information
- Would be ideal but won’t hold my breath for:
- An Entry/Exit Matrix for the entire PT network that the data wizards out there can use to create new insights into our system.
Is there anything else you would like to see?
2011 saw the release of a study led by Ian Wallis Associates into Auckland’s public transport performance. It is a sober and restrained report that simply sets out to describe the performance of Auckland’s PT systems on comparative terms with a range of not dissimilar cities around the region. A very useful exercise, because while no two cities are identical, all cities face similar tradeoffs and pressures and much can be learned by studying the successes and failures of other places. The whole document is here.
The cities selected for the study are all in anglophone nations around the Pacific from Australia, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, with Auckland right in the middle in terms of size. And as summarised by Mathew Dearnaley in the Herald at the time, it showed Auckland to be the dunce of the class by pretty much every metric. Although the article is called Auckland in last place for public transport use it’s clear that the headline it would have reflected the report’s findings more accurately if the paper had simply said; Auckland in last place for public transport. Because it showed that the low uptake of public transport in Auckland cannot be separated from the low quality, slow, infrequent, and expensive services available.
Here’s the uptake overview:
So it’s clear that population alone is no determinant of PT uptake. If it isn’t the size of the city what is it? Various people have their pet theories, some like to claim various unfixable emotional factors are at work, like our apparently ‘car-loving’ culture, though is it credible that we have a more intense passion for cars than Americans or Australians? The homes of Bathurst and the Indy 500? Others claim that the geography of this quite long and harbour constrained city somehow suits road building and driving over bus, train, and ferry use. A quixotic claim especially when compared to the flat and sprawling cities of the American West which much more easily allow space for both wide roads and endless dispersal in every direction. Another popular claim is that Auckland isn’t dense enough to support much Transit use. Yet it is considerably denser than all but the biggest cities on the list.
So what does the study say is the reason for Auckland’s outlying performance?
It considers service quantity [PT kms per capita], quality [including speed, reliability, comfort, safety, etc] and cost both for the passenger and society, and easy of use [payment systems]. Along with other issues such as mode interoperability, and land-use/transit integration. And all at considerable depth. The report found that Auckland’s PT services are poor, often with the very worst performance by all of these factors and this is the main driver of our low uptake.
And happily some of the things that stand out in the report are well on the way to being addressed. Here, for example is what it says about fares:
The HOP card is no doubt a huge improvement and has enabled some fare cost improvement. And we can expect more to be done in this area soon, we are told, especially for off peak fares. Additionally the integration of fares is still to come [zone charging].
Here’s what it says about service quantity and quality:
Yet there is one thing that the report returns to on a number of occasions that perhaps best captures what’s wrong with Auckland, and offers a fast track to improvement. And, even at this early stage, gives us a way of checking the theory against results in the real world:
Right, so perhaps the biggest problem with Auckland’s PT system is simply the lack of enough true Rapid Transit routes and services. To qualify as true Rapid Transit it is generally accepted that along with the definition above, a separate right of way, the services must also offer a ‘turn up and go’ frequency, at least at the busiest sections of the lines. And that this is generally considered to mean a service at least every ten minutes, but ideally even more frequent than that.
In Auckland we only have the Rail Network and the Northern Busway that qualify as using separate right of ways, and the busway for only 41% of its route. At least the frequencies on the Busway are often very high, where as on the Rail Network they only make it to ten minute frequencies for the busiest few hours of the day. So to say that Auckland has any real high quality Rapid Transit services even now is a bit of a stretch. However these services have been improving in the three years since the report was released, and will continue to do so in the near future with the roll out of the new trains and higher frequencies on the Rail Network, and more Bus lanes on the North Shore routes especially at the city end of their runs.
Here is a map with a fairly generous description of our current or at least improving Rapid Transit Network:
Even though it is only three years since the report was released, and there is much more to come, there have been improvements, so we can ask; how have the public responded to the improvements to date?
Below are the latest Ridership numbers from Auckland Transport, for August 2014:
SOI: Statement Of Intent, AT’s expectations or hopes. NEX: Northern Express.
So the chart above, showing our most ‘Rapid’ services, Rail and the NEX, are clearly attracting more and more users out of all proportion with the rest, and way above Auckland Transport’s expectations or hopes as expressed by the SOI, is a pretty good indication that both the report authors were right, Auckland is crying out for more Rapid Transit services and routes, and, at least in this case, Einstein was wrong: Practice does indeed seem to be baring out the Theory.
And from here we can clearly expect this rise in uptake to continue, if not actually increase, as the few Rapid Transit routes we have now are going to continue to get service improvements. And 19% increases, if sustained, amount to a doubling in only four years! Rail ridership was around 10 million a year ago, so it could be approaching 20 mil by mid 2017, if this rate of growth is sustained.
But this also means we can clearly expect any well planned investment in extensions to the Rail Network [eg CRL] or additional busways [eg North Western] to also be rewarded with over the odds increases in use. Aucklanders love quality, and give them high quality PT and they will use it.
Furthermore, given that these numbers are in response to only partial improvements even extending on-street bus lanes for regular bus services looks highly likely to be meet with accelerated ridership growth. I think it is pretty clear that Auckland Transport, NZTA, MoT, and Auckland Council can be confident that any substantive quality, frequency, and right-of-way improvement to PT in Auckland will be rewarded with uptake.
Given that Auckland’s PT use is advancing ahead of population growth [unlike the driving stats] I believe we have already improved that poor number up top to 47 trips per person per year. So there’s still plenty of room for growth even to catch up with the next city on the list. So perhaps it’s time to formally update that report too?
Imagine just how well a full city wide network of Rapid Transit would be used? Clearly Auckland is ready for it:
The Herald on Sunday are celebrating their 10th birthday by looking at how things were 10 years ago so I thought I’d do the same by from a transport/urban slant.
Just over 1.3 million people lived in Auckland compared to today which is pushing towards 1.6 million. The area with the strongest population growth over the last decade has been in the CBD with last year’s census showing that over 29,000 are now living in the area, up by approximately 14,000 people and which is ahead of earlier estimates.
We’ve seen huge changes in the governance is Auckland with the 8 former councils (7 territorial councils and the regional council) merged into a single body. This has also seen the creation of Auckland Transport to manage all transport across the region. On the whole I think both the council and AT have been relatively successful and will be more so now that they’re really starting to get through the issues of combining and prioritising the multitude of legacy plans and ideas.
A decade ago Britomart had only been opened for a year and there was no Northern Busway and even projects like double tracking the western line or electrification of the rail network were just pipe dreams. Bus frequencies even on the busiest routes left a lot to be desired, especially off peak. Overall Aucklanders made around 52 million trips on PT (approx 39 trips per person).
Today the usage PT has seen significant growth now up to 73 million trips (47 trips per person) and we are on the cusp of even greater growth thanks to a handful of projects that vastly improve services (electrification, new network, integrated fares etc.).
Electric Trains for Auckland were just a pipe dream a decade ago – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
While there has been investment in PT over the last decade it pales in comparison to the investment in the roading network. On the state highway network alone we’ve had the following projects completed.
- Central Motorway Junction Upgrade
- SH18 Upper harbour Highway and duplicated upper harbour bridge
- SH20 Mt Roskill extension
- SH20 Manukau Harbour Crossing
- SH20 Manukau connection
- SH18 Hobsonville Deviation
- Significant progress on the Waterview Connection and the widening and upgrade of SH16 and its interchanges.
- Strengthening of the Harbour Bridge clip-ons
On top of that there has been numerous local road upgrades. All up more than $5 billion has been spent on new or upgraded roads in the region and that doesn’t maintenance or operations costs. Since 2004 the number of kilometres travelled (VKT) on Auckland’s roads has increased from close to 11.1 billion km to just over 12.7 billion km in 2013, an increase of about 15% however crucially that’s about the same as population growth and so on a per capita basis vehicle travel has remained virtually flat.
Data from the NZTA shows that the areas where vehicle volumes are growing strongly are typically the areas that have recently been upgraded, inducing additional trips. In many other areas traffic volumes have been flat or even declined. For example on average fewer vehicles cross the Harbour Bridge now than they did in 2004.
This and many of the other changes could fit into a didn’t exist 5 years ago category if I had one. North Wharf which represents the first stage in the redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter was only opened 3 years ago just before the Rugby World Cup. The area has seen a colossal amount of change from an area dedicated to the storage of bulk liquids and servicing the marine industry into a successful people space that people want to visit. The redevelopment has been so successful it’s won numerous international awards including two just a few weeks ago.
Like the Wynyard Quarter the shared spaces opened just before the RWC but they already feel like they’ve been part of Auckland’s fabric for much longer. We now have shared spaces on Elliot St, Federal St, Fort St (and surrounds), Lorne St outside the library and O’Connell St. Not only do these shared spaces look much better, they’ve also been incredibly successful in other ways. For example as of 2012, spending on hospitality in Fort St had increased by a staggering 400% compared with before the upgrade. Shared spaces have also started to be seen in other locations outside the CBD.
Fort Lane – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
Improved Built Environment
The improvements to the city haven’t just been to the streets but we’re also starting to see improvements to the built environment. The internationally award winning renovation and extension to the Auckland Art Gallery is a fantastic example
Auckland Art Gallery – Photo by Patrick Reynolds
This is of course far from an exhaustive list of the changes that have occurred in Auckland over the last decade but hopefully it serves to remind that the city has change substantially and for the better. This improvement has been despite constant opposition from many quarters. We are definitely on a path to becoming a much more people focused city and it’s been shown that when we put our mind to it we can achieve significant change.
Tomorrow I’m going to look at what the next 10 years may hold.