If there’s one thing – more than anything else – that annoys me about the government’s approach to transport, it’s the double standard they apply between state highway projects (particularly RoNS projects) and public transport investment. Getting any public transport funding requires analysis after analysis, proof that the timing of the project is optimal, proof that it’s definitely the most viable and cost-effective option, links with triggers around the level of use or growth in the area the project is located – the list goes on. This would not be a problem if the approach was applied consistently, after all transport projects are expensive and we should be careful when it comes to the use of public funds.
Yet the same level of analysis is never applied to state highway projects, and even less analysis when it comes to the Roads of National Significance (RoNS). Despite major concerns around the cost-effectiveness of many of these projects and a complete lack of analysis when it comes to triggers for timing, the assessment of alternatives or even basic cost-benefit ratios the projects plough on ahead.
This double-standard is carried on through to the latest version of the Government Policy Statement (GPS), which was released recently. The justification for an $11b spend on state highways is fairly general:
Following more than a decade of increasing concern about under-investment in roading infrastructure, in 2009 the Government began a significant improvement programme. With an intention to invest nearly $11 billion in New Zealand’s State highways over the 10 years to 2019, the Government focused on enabling economic growth rather than simply responding to it, providing high quality connections between key areas of production, processing and export.
Continued funding under GPS 2015 (draft) for State highway improvements will bring benefits for national economic growth and productivity, particularly given that State highways carry most freight and link major ports, airports and urban areas.
This clearly leads to a number of questions that could be reasonably asked to check whether this is the best way of spending $11,000,000,000 of public money:
- What proof is there of recent under-investment in roading infrastructure – what’s the major problem the investment is trying to solve?
- To what extent does investing in state highway infrastructure actually boost economic growth – where are the international examples of state highways being a better investment than other transport, or investing in education, or just letting people keep that money and deciding what to do with it themselves?
- How will success of the investment in state highways be measured?
- How do we know we wouldn’t have achieved the same outcomes (or nearly the same) with a much smaller spend?
- What other options for this level of investment were considered and how did they perform on a relative basis?
- Has the investment been working (and how might we measure that), has it achieved its local goals (like reducing congestion) and has achievement of those local goals (if it’s even happened) contributed to greater economic performance to the extent we would hope from an $11b investment?
In some shape or form, these questions have all been asked of public transport investment (either recent or proposed) by government over the past few years – but surprisingly we don’t seem to have seen the same questioned asked of the state highway programme. You’ll also notice the comment about the investment enabling economic growth rather than responding to it. The only vague reference to the impact of billions spent on state highways in recent years comes in the section on Auckland:
Since 2009, the Government has undertaken a major programme of investment in Auckland’s transport infrastructure. By 2017, Auckland will have a completed motorway network and an upgraded and electrified metro rail network. This investment programme is delivering significant results, helping to hold congestion steady despite population growth.
But if we back up a bit, we see the GPS noting that VKT hasn’t grown in recent years:
It seems like the GPS is saying “despite flat traffic volumes and massive investment in state highways, we haven’t managed to reduce congestion at all“. That seems to be a pretty massive elephant in the room signal that the current approach isn’t working. Yet despite some pretty obvious questions about whether we’ve got any value at all from the billions in recent state highway projects, the GPS doesn’t question ploughing billions more into future state highway spending.
Contrast that with the much more cautious approach to spending on public transport improvements:
Considerable investment has been made in the public transport network to build patronage. Much of this investment has been ahead of patronage demand, particularly in metro-rail services. A period of consolidation is needed where the focus is on securing the patronage gains anticipated from measures such as integrated ticketing, reconfigured bus networks, and metro rail investments.
No “period of consolidation” to see whether the gains from state highway improvements are realised though? No checking whether the billions spent on state highways in the past decade has led to improvements in economic performance or even reduced congestion – as per their stated goal? If we were to compare the per capita use of public transport against the per capita use of the roading network in recent years, we find quite a compelling story:
I’m kind of struggling to see how one can interpret the above graph as “we’re not sure whether the PT investment is working but clearly we need to keep spending billions on roads”.
Which is what the GPS does, showing its hypocrisy.
The patronage results for May are now out and once again they look good.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 71,774,868 passengers for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.8% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +4.6% on the 12 months to May-2013. May monthly patronage was 7,096,277, an increase of 536,470 boardings or + 8.2% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.3% accounting for additional special event patronage and one less business day and one more weekend day in May-2014 compared to May-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +5.2%.
Rail patronage totalled 11,242,610 passengers for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +1.3% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +12.1% on the 12 months to May-2013. Patronage for May-2014 was 1,193,702, an increase of 142,201 boardings or +13.5% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +13.4%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.1%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,403,544 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.9% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +6.1%% on the 12 months to May-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for May-2014 was 249,888, an increase of 20,722 boardings or +9.0% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.8%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +6.0%.
Other bus services carried 53,003,557 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, an increase of +0.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +3.1% on the 12 months to May-2013. Other bus services patronage for May-2014 was 5,245,850, an increase of 376,445 boardings or +7.7% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +10.3%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +3.7%.
Ferry services carried 5,125,157 passenger trips for the 12 months to May-2014, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12 months to Apr-2014 and +3.8% on the 12 months to May-2013. Ferry services patronage for May-2014 was 406,837, a decrease of -2,898 boardings or -0.7% on May-2013, normalised to ~ +2.3%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +3.6%.
And here’s what the graph looks like,
The real star of the show at the moment continues to be the rail network which is seeing significant growth. Rail patronage in May was the highest single month yet with the exception of October 2011 which was during the Rugby World Cup and even then there isn’t much of a difference between the two. Further May last year was also 2013′s biggest single month for that year. Perhaps we need to stop calling things March Madness and start referring to May Madness.
Some of that patronage growth has clearly come from the Onehunga Line which AT say is up 37% (although comparing last year to this year it was up 50%. In the board paper AT have provided this graph to show the change in patronage compared to the average of the same day over the previous three months. You can see significant increases on weekend patronage which is likely to be a lot of people checking out the new trains.
Bus use continues to grow again and was up 8% on May 2013 although the 12 month patronage result is still a little shy of it’s peak from 2012 – but not by much. I suspect we’ll see some new records being set with bus patronage in coming months
There was also good growth on the cycle network with the numbers up 19% on May last year.
In further good news HOP card usage is pushing ahead with it up to 64% in May from 60.5%. That’s a significant jump and means even more people will benefit from the HOP price reductions being implemented on July 6th.
All up a pretty good month for patronage
New Lynn yesterday afternoon. Gating can’t come quick enough not only to combat fare evasion but also to smooth passenger flows. Not at rush hour and only one train disembarking.
The patronage results for April are out and they look pretty good considering the circumstances. To me the main challenge in April to me was that both Easter and Anzac day fell within a week of each other resulting in one week with only three working days. To me Auckland had a bit of a Christmas/New Year feeling to it as it seemed like half of Auckland had taken those three days off. Here’s Auckland Transport’s summary of the results.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 71,238,398 passengers for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.3% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +3.5% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. April monthly patronage was 6,063,413, an increase of 237,810 boardings or +4.1% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +8.2% accounting for additional special event patronage and one less business day and one more weekend day in Apr-2014 compared to Apr-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +4.8%.
An over reporting of ferry patronage between November 2011 and February 2014 has been corrected in this report. The reported 71,238,398 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014 is the highest rolling 12-month result exceeding the previous reported highest results in July and August 2012 with corrected ferry patronage.
Rail patronage totalled 11,100,409 passengers for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of 0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +11.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Patronage for Apr-2014 was 978,839 an increase of 49,429 boardings or +5.3% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +13.2%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +13.0%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,382,822 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +5.5% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Apr-2014 was 214,185, an increase of 11,547 boardings or +5.7% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +10.2%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +5.6%.
Other bus services carried 52,627,112 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +1.7% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Other bus services patronage for Apr-2014 was 4,454,848, an increase of 197,444 boardings or +4.6% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ +8.0%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +3.3%.
Ferry services carried 5,128,055 passenger trips for the 12 months to Apr-2014, a decrease of -0.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2014 and +4.3% on the 12 months to Apr-2013. Ferry services patronage for Apr-2014 was 415,541, a decrease of -20,610 boardings or -4.7% on Apr-2013, normalised to ~ -1.2%. Year to date ferry patronage has increased by +4.1%.
These increases flow through to the overall graphs, showing that we really have fully recovered from the post World Cup ridership dip.
Auckland Transport’s board papers also note that rail boardings on the Onehunga Line during early May (not captured by the April data above) were much higher than usual as people checked out the new electric trains – which first ran on Monday April 28. Last year May had higher rail patronage than March, it will be interesting to see whether that’s repeated this year leading to a new record month.
Yesterday we posted about the strange drive by Auckland Transport to be allowed to lower Ridership Targets for both the bus and rail networks. Of course what we struggle most with about this is that it follows on from a record March and all reports suggest that April was very busy too, and that this is continuing now into May. And sure enough yesterday our Twitter feed was full of Tweets like these:
And these are just from the rail network [one from each main line]. We are also used to plenty of complaints about over-full buses driving past stops leaving people stranded. So you have to ask if some at Auckland Transport are really aware what is happening out there? It doesn’t seem that the problem is one of trying to persuade people to take Transit but more that the services often just aren’t there to meet the demand.
Our view has long been that once the frequency and speed of services lift that demand will grow fast, that people are largely rational and will choose to use quality Transit services if they are there, yet it doesn’t seem that the culture of AT is ready for this at all. Perhaps there are too many old hands there holding on to that old saw about ‘people loving their cars’. When really for so long in Auckland it’s been an uneven contest between shabby, infrequent, indirect, and plodding Transit services versus underpriced parking and ever-widening motorways incentivising Aucklanders into their cars at all times.
Yet it could be that we have reached some kind of tipping point between these forces: Right now it looks like a perfect storm is brewing between ‘pull factors’ like improvement in services, and Transit use no longer being considered declassé, and ‘push factors’ such as the rising costs of car use, and the inevitable result of that road building; just too many cars everywhere, causing a surge to the stations and stops.
AT really ought to be more concerned about serving the current volumes of Transit customers better and planning how to serve ever more, better still, than lobbying to expect a lower growth rate.
After all this city has the potential to have an amazingly attractive and successful Transit system that can compete with any city anywhere; the potential is there now, but it will be unable to attract the necessary investment without strong ridership growth and a confident CCO in charge.
The view from my bus yesterday
Yesterday afternoon I had a couple of meetings one after the other, in the city then Takapuna. Leaving my bike in town I caught an 8-something-something along with about 30 other people from outside the Civic and once through Albert St and onto the new Fanshawe St bus lane it was a fantastic express service to Takapuna, I was there in a flash and with no parking issues and able to check my emails en route. Other than an over long wait for the return bus [18 mins- two turned up at once] the trip back was even better, fast, mostly on proper priority, and with that fantastic view from high up on the bus.
Of course it won’t be too long now and I’ll have the option of savouring this view by making this journey at a gentler speed on the SkyPath! The quality of that route will definitely be in all the world’s magazines and website and help put Auckland on the must visit map.
On Thursday the Council will make some final key decisions on the Annual Plan for the 2014/15 year. Quickly skimming through the documentation (27MB) it doesn’t seem like there’s likely to be huge changes from the Draft Plan in terms of what the money gets spent on (hopefully the somewhat strange numbers in that draft have been fixed up). Perhaps the one exception is a brief mention of Auckland Transport deferring around $50 million of capital expenditure – which appears to be CRL property acquisition but it’s hard to tell for sure. This might be as a result of them no longer needing to buy the Downtown Shopping Centre site but once again it’s difficult to tell for sure.
What the Annual Plan report does highlight is a bizarre request from Auckland Transport to lower their patronage targets over the next three years – particularly the rail patronage target. The current targets which were already lowered last year and the proposed targets are shown in the table below:
I touched on the proposed change in patronage figures in a post a while back on the AT Statement of Intent, which we haven’t heard much of since then. Presumably the targets all need to match up so whatever ends up in the Annual Plan will end up being the SOI targets.
Rail patronage isn’t the only target that Auckland Transport are trying to get reduced. Page 221 of the Budget Committee’s agenda highlights a few other patronage targets that a change is suggested to. These include reducing the overall target from 78 million boardings down to 74 million, bus (excluding Northern Express) from 56 million down to 53 million (the biggest suggested reduction) as well as a smaller decrease for the Northern Express and a small increase for ferries.
But of course the focus is on the rail patronage numbers because the government has set a requirement that these number track towards 20 million before they consider bringing forward their support of beginning construction of the CRL before 2020. Signalling a 2.7 million trip reduction for the 2016/17 year seems to suggest that Auckland Transport have little confidence in the ability of electrification, integrated ticketing and the new bus network (which will focus much more on feeding people into the rail network rather than competing against it) to deliver a catalytic change in the level of rail use in Auckland. This is particularly strange when Lester Levy is talking about how historic electrification is, and the Mayor is highlighting that electrification is a key step towards reaching the patronage goals.
What’s even weirder though is that rail patronage is tracking really well in recent months. March was a record month for rail (if you exclude the Rugby World Cup) while February also performed way above last year’s totals and I’d heard April was tracking well. In fact, Auckland Transport look like they might actually reach their 2013/14 rail patronage target of 11.4 million boardings – when it seems the main justification provided for lowering the future targets is that a lower baseline is expected. If the current target is met then it would leave Auckland Transport only needing to increase patronage by around 700k yet by the end of June next year all but the Western line should be plied by electric trains (running at better speeds).
You can see the blue line tracking back up towards hitting the red line of the current targets:
Lowering the targets is a sure fire way of the councillors telling the government that the city isn’t really serious about the CRL or about improving PT Patronage in general. We also know this is a message that the Ministry of Transport will pick up on. The recent performance and the impact of all the improvements proposed to the rail network over the next few years means that the current targets are highly achievable and quite possibly on the low side.
Hopefully the Councillors on Thursday tell Auckland Transport to bugger off with this attempt to lower the patronage targets.
There’s another side effect to all of this. Less projected patronage also means Auckland Transport have projected they will get less fare income and that has contributed to $15.6 million funding shortfall. The other big culprit in the shortfall is lower than expected parking revenue. Partially mitigating this, Auckland Transport have come up with $10.5 million in savings/revenue from
- the deferral of capital expenditure mentioned earlier
- improved contracting
- changing the way they fund asset replacement for the electric trains
- and most interestingly increasing parking charges in the CBD which will raise about $5.5m more.
Increased parking charges in the CBD for both on-street and off-street parking. This will bring the charges for council owned parking buildings more into line with prices currently charged by private operators.
Pricing carparking more in line with what the private operators charge is a very good thing as AT have essentially be holding the market down for some time. Parking costs can also have a big impact on patronage with higher prices encouraging more PT use. I wonder if that impact was factored into AT’s lower projected patronage.
In addition Auckland Transport received a paper on the annual fare review at their last closed board meeting, I wonder if the outcome of that is related?
We know rail patronage is now at alltime highs having passed 11 million trips in March however there’s an interesting question as to which stations are those trips are coming from.
It’s been a long time since we last saw data that showed how many people board trains at each station and in the past Auckland Transport obtained the information by sending out people to stations for one day a year and manually counting everyone who turns up to catch a train. From memory that day was/is sometime in May. The last data we saw gave us the table below.
One of the big advantages to HOP is that it provides Auckland Transport with massive amounts of data on people’s trips which can be used for all sorts of interesting analysis. One of those things is to provide them with more frequent information about how many people are using rail stations.
AT have now provided me with some of that data allowing us to see the number of tips per station. The data is different to above in that instead of just showing the patronage for a single day it shows the total for an entire month i.e. all of March. It shows the number of HOP card tag-ons, tag-offs and the number of paper tickets issued for each station on the network however it doesn’t include travel made on legacy tickets & passes, special events, group travel, incomplete HOP transactions or transfers, it also won’t include any patronage where there is fare evasion. The data AT provided is for each month back to July last year (although the August data appears to be incorrect so I’ve ignored that. It’s important to point out that each month has a different number of working days, weekends, public holidays and rail network shutdowns it’s impossible to compare changes at a station month to month but rather only how each station compares to the others on the network.
For the purposes of this post I’m just going to focus on total boardings so I have combined the tag-on and paper ticket issued data. I’ll look at the breakdown of these figures in a separate post as there is some quite interesting results within that. I’ve ordered the stations by their patronage in March and the colours represent the main line that serves the station with Britomart and Newmarket as purple as they serve many lines.
There’s a couple of things I’ve noticed from looking at this.
- Completely unsurprisingly Britomart is by far the biggest station for patronage and has 4-5 times more boardings than the next best of Newmarket.
- A few years ago New Lynn was consistently about 5th or 6th for patronage. Now it is firmly in the number three spot and significantly above Middlemore and Papakura, the latter of which used to hold the number 3 spot.
- December is a short month for patronage due to less school trips, Christmas and the other network shutdowns. Yet despite this Sylvia Park saw a huge increase in patronage. Guess it shows people will catch a train to go shopping.
- The tag-off data is generally fairly similar (but not the same) as the tag on data. The most significant place where there is a difference between the two occurs is at Grafton and I hear it’s due to something called “downhilling”. Basically people (often with bikes) will get the train to Grafton, ride along Park Rd and Grafton Bridge then ride downhill to their destination in the CBD. To get home they will continue riding downhill to Britomart. As an example of the of this, in March 17,000 people tagged on at Grafton yet 22,000 tagged off. At the same time Britomart had nearly the same difference in reverse with more tagging on than off. No other station has such a discrepancy.
- The bottom 3 stations, all of which are slated to be closed, remain with stubbornly low patronage. Combined they probably account for only about 1.5% of all trips
- While all stations saw increases in March compared to the other months, the station with the biggest change is Panmure. This is positive to see at the newly upgraded interchange. I suspect in coming months/years this trend will continue and we will see the station rise much higher in the ranks
I’ve also put together this map with the size of the circle (area) representing how many boardings the station has.
As mentioned earlier there is more to look at with this data and I’ll do that in a separate post. I also hope that this data is something that Auckland Transport start providing on a regular (monthly) basis.
I’ve also been looking at how a number of other cities produce their patronage data and my favourite that I would love to see AT emulate is the BART system in San Francisco. They produce monthly reports in an excel file that is generally published by the 5th of each month. What’s really neat is they provide the data as the average weekday/Saturday and Sunday boardings separately and do so in a matrix that allows you to see how many people travelled from each station on the network to each other station. I know AT already have this data so hopefully they can start releasing it publicly. I would also love to compare the train stations with those on the busway.
This was highlighted to me earlier in the week and shows one of the big problems we have with getting positive change implemented. It started off with this post by Dick Quax and was quickly jumped on by a couple of his supporters.
So in jumps Luke pointing out that rail has been growing strongly of late and as expected some people question this to which evidence is provided.
Here’s where the problem is. Despite being shown what the actual figures are people like Quax simply ignore them and claim they’re made up.
Now it’s not that someone doesn’t believe the figures are true that concerns me, but that Quax is a councillor and is meant to be making decisions that have huge impacts on the outcome of the city. Simply ignoring facts is unacceptable. What’s more he points to a single observation at Manukau (which I believe was from a few years ago now) as justification for the entire rail network patronage figures being wrong. Of course on the issue of Manukau what he forgets to mention is the numbers were predicted based on the MIT campus being open (which is yet to be completed) and on the local buses being changed to serve the station, something that hasn’t happened. That anyone is using the station in its current state is probably a bit of a surprise but I would expect that to change radically in the next few years.
But all of this makes me wonder if we would still be having these types of conversations were it not for the major impact caused by the RWC. Sure patronage definitely fell away in parts of 2012 and 2013 but it’s been my view that it appears much worse than it really was due to the big boost the RWC brought about. Auckland Transport said the impact of the RWC was 192,000 trips in September 2011 and 210,000 in October 2011 so 402,000 all up. Adjusting the patronage figures for that bump you can see that patronage still fell but obviously not by as much as it is typically reported.
In addition there’s another key point often forgotten about in this discussion. Just as the impacts from the RWC boost wore off HOP was introduced. That resulted in a number of key changes and impacts to the way patronage was reported. One was that patronage was counted when it happened where as in the past monthly and ten trip tickets were added to the figures based on when the physical ticket sold rather than when it was used. This is important because people often brought a number of paper tickets in advance (especially in advance of a fare increase). In addition there was a two month grace period for people to use up their paper tickets and in November and December 2012. None of the patronage on those tickets was counted towards the figures for those months seeing as they had been counted earlier when the tickets were original purchased. I’m not sure how much impact this had but one report from AT suggested was equivalent to almost 150,000 trips from November 2012 alone. Actual patronage was probably somewhere in the green area below.
So yes patronage probably fell a bit but not as bad as the graphs showing the total figures normally show. The change was been largely exaggerated by impacts at both the peak and peak and trough. What is undeniable now though is that patronage is at an all-time high and growing strongly. Just bring on those EMUS and I think that growth will look even stronger – not that it helps those who want to be blind to the truth.
We already knew that rail set a new record in March by rising above 11 million passengers for the first time. What we didn’t know is just by how much it had passed and how the other PT modes fared. We do now seeing as the patronage results have finally been released and it turns out there were some new records from the other modes too.
Auckland public transport patronage totalled 71,108,511 (adjusted to 71,000,588 to account for a patronage reporting anomaly on the Waiheke Ferry service¹) passengers for the 12 months to Mar-2014, an increase of +0.7% (adjusted to +0.8%¹) on the 12 months to Feb-2014.¹ March monthly patronage was 7,305,925, an increase of 510,826 boardings (adjusted to 573,994¹) or +7.5% on Mar-2013 (adjusted to +8.5%¹), normalised to ~ +3.9% accounting for additional special event patronage and one more business day and one less weekend day in Mar-2014 compared to Mar-2013.
Notable is the 12 month cumulative record patronage recorded on rail, Northern Express and the Rapid Transit Network (RTN), and record single month results for rail Southern / Eastern Line, Northern Express and Other Bus (excluding Northern Express) services.
Rail patronage totalled 11,050,980 passengers for the 12 months to Mar-2014, an increase of +1.6% on the 12 months to Feb-2014 and +11.0% on the 12 months to Mar-2013. Patronage for Mar-2014 was 1,174,588 an increase of 171,621 boardings or +17.1% on Mar-2013, normalised to ~ +7.3%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +14.0%.
The Northern Express bus service carried 2,371,275 passenger trips for the 12 months to Mar-2014, an increase of +1.3% on the 12 months to Feb-2014 and +6.4% on the 12 months to Mar-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Mar-2014 was 262,431, an increase of 31,323 boardings or +13.6% on Mar-2013, normalised to ~ +8.5. Year to date Nortern Express patronage has grown by +5.6%.
Other bus services carried 52,429,668 passenger trips for the 12 months to Mar-2014, an increase of +0.7% on the 12 months to Feb-2014 and +1.9% on the 12 months to Mar-2013. Other bus services patronage for Mar-2014 was 5,374,783, an increase of 368,902 boardings or +7.4% on Mar-2013, normalised to ~ +3.8%. Year to date other bus patronage has grown by +3.1%.
Ferry services carried 5,256,588 (adjusted to 5,148,665¹) passenger trips for the 12 months to Mar-2014, a decrease of -1.1% (adjusted to +0.04%¹) on the 12 months to Feb-2014 and -4.1% on the 12 months to Mar-2013 (adjusted to +5.0%¹). Ferry services patronage for Mar-2014 was 494,123, a decrease of -61,020 boardings or -11.0% (adjusted to +2,148 or +0.4%¹). Year to date ferry patronage has decreased by -5.9% (adjusted to +197,678 passengers or +5.3%¹).
You’ll notice some a reference when talking about the total and ferry passenger figures. If you remember there was a lot of question as to why they had fallen so much and Auckland Transport had said they were looking into it. Here’s what AT found.
Due to a reporting anomaly on the Waiheke Island to Devonport ferry service the previous year’s 2011/12 (July 2011 to June 2012) & 2012/13 (July 2012 to June 2013) annual reported patronage for public transport and ferry totals have been overstated. Similar anomalies in the reporting for this financial year 2013/14 (July 2013 to June 2014) have been corrected. Adjusted figures using corrected data for all years are provided in brackets where relevant throughout this report.
Seeing as the Devonport and Waiheke services are fully commercial and most people aren’t using HOP, I wonder if the reporting anomaly comes from the patronage being self-reported?
The increase in the patronage on the Northern Express in March was substantial, up 13.6% on the year before which was the previous monthly record. The Northern Express is impacted by what happens on other buses from the North Shore and the good news is they were also setting new records.
In fact at least compared to any other time since the beginning of 2002 this was the highest month for bus patronage.
On rail the increase was driven by increases in weekday patronage with the average number of passengers per day almost reaching 50,000. Weekend services were about the same as the year before. In addition Auckland Transport has said that a massive 15 services exceeded the passenger thresholds they have set of 1 person standing for every four sitting. Another 6 were close to exceeding that limit. Note: this is not individual services across the entire month but services per day.
One downside is we still get the tinpot dictator stats for bus and ferry punctuality, which is based off the bus companies self-reporting how they are going – and basing it off when a bus starts its run rather than when it arrives at its destination like happens with rail. AT have been promising for years to change this to a metric they control and showed early versions of it last year some time but yet they still go with the self-reported number.
Back to the good news, lastly we have cycling. Like the other modes it also set a record with over 94,000 cyclists recorded on the handful of automatic cycle counters around the region. That’s the first time it’s reached over 90k.
Note: the cycle counters are at Upper Harbour Drive, Great South Road, Highbrook, Lake Road, North-Western cycleway Kingsland and Te Atatu, Orewa Cycleway, Tamaki Drive (E/bound), Twin Streams path.
So we have a very good news month when it comes to patronage. Buses are up and setting new records, rail is up and setting new records, ferries are up once you adjust for the previous anomalies, and cycling is up and setting new records. By comparison, vehicle volumes on the Harbour bridge declined again, down 2% on last year although a few of the other parts of the motorway network did see some growth.
With patronage on the rise and the first electric trains starting to carry fare paying passengers in just 18 days it once again starts to raise the question of when annual rail patronage in Auckland will pass that in Wellington. It’s a question we’ve asked before after we got very close to doing so a few years ago but after the RWC hangover wore off, patronage fell away again.
The graph below shows the history of patronage on the Auckland and Wellington rail networks since 2002.
To me there are a couple of key things that stand out from the graph.
- Wellington patronage peaked just shy of 12 million trips in the middle of 2009 (although I understand it reached about 16 million in the 1980′s). After that patronage declined to about 11 million about 18 months later. Now that the fleet of Matangi electric trains have been fully rolled out and with reliability improving as a result, patronage is slowly growing again and is sitting at 11.47 million as of February.
- With the exception of the time during the RWC and over Christmas, since 2011 monthly patronage in Auckland has been very similar to that of Wellington, normally just a few thousand trips per month behind.
- There have only been a handful of times when patronage in Auckland has exceeded that in Wellington however those times can usually be explained by an event of some sort e.g. the storm damage last year or the NRL nines/Eminem concert this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Auckland can repeat it in March however it is something that will happen more frequently in coming months.
- The most noticeable difference between the two is the patronage over the Christmas/New Year period. In Auckland the lengthy shut downs for upgrades have clearly had major impacts on patronage. They’ve been a necessary evil while we get the network upgraded and hopefully with Electrification due to be completed this year, they’ll be a thing of the past (at least until the CRL really starts). If the shut downs stop then it suggests that alone may deliver about 300,000 more trips a year. Another good reason why the council shouldn’t let AT get away with lowering their SOI targets.
Before anyone raises it, yes on a per capita basis Auckland will be behind Wellington for some time yet.
Based on just how busy the trains feel this at the moment, my guess is we could pass Wellington by June this year but that do you think? Vote in our poll when you think Auckland patronage will pass Wellington’s