September 14 Patronage

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%.

14 - Sep AK Patronage table

14 - Sep AK Annual Patronage

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.

14 - Sep AK Rail Patronage

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.

14 - Sep AK Ferry Patronage

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.

Improving AT’s Patronage Reports

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.

Wellington

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.

Wellington Patronage Spreadsheet

Perth

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

Perth Patronage Tool

Portland

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.

Portland Operating Cost per Ride

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.

San Fran patronage matrix

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

Conclusion

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?

The Great Auckland Transit Revival: Theory and Practice

Einstein

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:

Comparator cities

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:

Fares and ticketting Benchmark Study

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:

Service qual. Benchmark Study

Oh dear.

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:

Rapid Transit benchmark study

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:

CFN 2015

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:

August 2014 Ridership

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:

CFN 2030 South-Grafton

 

 

The Last Decade

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.

Population

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.

Governance

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.

Public Transport

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.).

Aug - 14 - Total by mode

PT RESOLUTION EMU_6484

Electric Trains for Auckland were just a pipe dream a decade ago – Photo by Patrick Reynolds

Private Transport

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.

Auckland VKT - 2013

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.

AHB 1960-2013

Wynyard Quarter

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.

Shared Spaces

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.

O'Connell Opening

EYELIGHT LANE_9158

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-best-shot

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.

August 14 Patronage

Patronage results for August have been released and they are once again spectacular, especially for the rail network. The results are even more impressive when you realise there was one less weekday in August 2014 compared to August 2013.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 73,174,770 passengers for the 12 months to Aug-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2014 and +6.6% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. August monthly patronage was 6,934,914, an increase of 434,383 boardings or +6.7% on Aug-2013, normalised to ~ +9.3% accounting for additional special event patronage, one less business day and one more weekend day in Aug-2014 compared to Aug-2013. Year to date patronage has grown by +6.3%.

Rail patronage totalled 11,729,130 passengers for the 12 months to Aug-2014, an increase of +1.5% on the 12 months to Jul-2014 and +16.0% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Patronage for Aug-2014 was 1,181,117, an increase of 176,487 boardings or +17.6% on Aug-2013, normalised to ~ +19.0%. Year to date rail patronage has grown by +14.9%.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,499,332 passenger trips for the 12 months to Aug-2014, an increase of +1.6% on the 12 months to Jul-2014 and +9.7% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Aug-2014 was 253,328, an increase of 39,155 boardings or +18.3% on Aug-2013, normalised to ~ +19.9%. Year to date Northern Express patronage has grown by +17.5%.

Bus services excluding Northern Express carried 53,870,990 passenger trips for the 12 months to Aug-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Jul-2014 and +5.2% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Bus services excluding Northern Express patronage for Aug-2014 was 5,119,656, an increase of 217,396 boardings or +4.4% on Aug-2013, normalised to ~ +7.4%. Year to date bus services excluding Northern Express patronage has grown by +4.8%.

Ferry services carried 5,075,318 passenger trips for the 12 months to Aug-2014, no change on the 12 months to Jul-2014 and an increase +1.4% on the 12 months to Aug-2013. Ferry services patronage for Aug-2014 was 380,813, an increase of 1,345 boardings or +0.4% on Aug-2013, normalised to ~ +2.0%. Year to date ferry patronage has decreased by -4.4%.

In many ways the results are completely unsurprising for regular users of PT as services have definitely been busy in recent months and my own personal experience is many of the services I catch are full to bursting – both train and bus. I wonder how much of the increase is coming as a result of the introduction of HOP which has made in considerably easier for people to use PT, especially on routes which are served by multiple operators. Even more impressive is we still have many major changes to go including the full roll-out of electric trains and the new bus network.

14 - Aug AK Patronage table

14 - Aug AK Annual Patronage

As mentioned the rail network continues to see spectacular growth with the August result one of the highest individual months Auckland has ever seen. Further it appears to not just be the result of the electric trains as some of the strongest growth has been on the Western line despite there having been no changes to the weekday timetable for about two years. The growth and lack of change to the timetable explains why on average 15 services a day are over or very close to being considered over capacity based on the number of people standing vs sitting. The growth also means that Auckland Transport only needs around an extra 370,000 trips by July 2015 to reach its recently lowered State of Intent target.

14 - Aug AK Rail Patronage

If the rate of growth was to continue at its current level then we would hit 20 million trips some time in early 2018. This is well ahead of the patronage target the government set for an early start to the CRL of being on track to hit 20 million trips by 2020.

Of course it’s not just the rail network growing strongly as the bus network is also seeing good growth, particularly on the Northern Express. Again this is a service I regularly use and many times the buses are completely packed to the point of leaving people behind – and I’m travelling counter peak (to the North Shore in the morning and to the City in the evening). There are also regular reports of huge queues for NEX services even later at night. I do think AT need to seriously look at bumping up off peak and counter peak frequencies. The later would be quite easy as there are a number of the buses travelling counter peak out of service so they can do a peak service run. The large increases on the rail network and Northern Express also highlight the pull that Rapid Transit services have (frequent largely grade separated routes). Other buses are also seeing good growth too.

14 - Aug AK Bus Patronage

Both rail and bus services are are likely to have been helped by improving punctuality with both modes managing to achieve 90.5% (although rail is based on arrival at destination and bus at departure from start of route).

As with last month the one disappointment in the figures has been the cycling ones which was down 8% compared to August 13 although there was above average rainfall in many parts of the country which may have been a factor.

14 - Aug AK Cycling

July 14 Patronage results

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 - July AK Patronage table

14 - July AK Annual Patronage

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

14 - July AK Rail Patronage

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

14 - July weekday average

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

14 - NEX Patronage

14 - July other bus weekday average

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 - Bus Punctuality

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

14 - Bus Punctuality graph

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

14 - Bus Reliability graph

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

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

14 - July cycling

Wellington and Christchurch Patronage

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

Wellington

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

14 - Wellington Total Patronage

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

14 - Wellington Bus Patronage

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

14 - Wellington Rail Patronage

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

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

Christchurch

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

14 - Christchurch Bus Patronage

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

June 2014 Patronage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AKL Patronage - All - Jun 14

AKL Patronage - Table - Jun 14

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

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

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

Rail Patronage vs SOI target 2013-14

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

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

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

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

AKL Cycling- Jun 14

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

AHB - All -2013-14

 

The hypocrisy of the GPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

vkt-change

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

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

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

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

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

Which is what the GPS does, showing its hypocrisy.

May 2014 Patronage

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 - May AK Patronage table

And here’s what the graph looks like,

14 - May AK Annual Patronage

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

14 - May AK Rail Patronage

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

14 - May AK Onehunga Line daily comparison

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

14 - May AK Bus Patronage

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

14 - May AK cycling annual

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

HOP ticketing usage May 2014

All up a pretty good month for patronage