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Comparing Auckland and Wellington rail patronage

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.

14 - Feb Auckland vs Wellington Patronage

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

When will Auckland rail patronage pass Wellington

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20 by 2020

With the news that Auckland Rail ridership hit 11 million for the year to March 2014 it is time for some quick back of the envelope math:

Readers will recall that when PM Key announced support for the City Rail Link in June last year it was coloured by a disagreement with the Council over the timing of the need for the project. The Council wants it to be operational by 2020 and the government doesn’t think construction should start until that date. However he said that if ridership was heading to 20mil in 2020 that [along with Centre City employment growth] would support the case for the Council’s view on timing.  Matt considered both these metrics at the time here.

So where are we at now? Ridership at the end of June 2013 was almost exactly 10mil: Less than a year later and it is now 11 mil. 3 months to go and already 10% growth. To reach 20mil by 2020 a rate of 10.4% is sufficient.

So what do you say Mr Key? How about we wait till June just to be sure then you can send a note to Treasury to ringfence the funding over the construction period?

Good to have that sorted then…

OK, I can hear the cynics out there saying that you can’t just extrapolate ridership growth from one year out indefinitely and that is indeed true, almost as absurd as assuming traffic growth will leap upwards from a flat line; well almost. So we must ask are there good reasons to believe that ridership growth will continue at this rate? Well no, but there are three good reasons to be confident that it will in fact accelerate from this year even more strongly;

1. The vastly more attractive, higher capacity, and able to be more frequently run New Trains

2. The new integrated ticketing and fares system

3. The New Bus Network that is focussed on coordinating with the Rail Network to help speed and improve many journeys, from new transfer stations like the recently completed Panmure, New Lynn, and coming Mangere and Otahuhu.

Ok what else? Are there any precedents elsewhere for this confidence? Well, again no, because to our knowledge no other city has improved so much at once, but there is the example of Perth, where they did both electrify and extend the existing rail network in the 1990s then add an underground inner city link and a new line in the 2000s, both investments rewarded with the big jumps in ridership visible in the chart below. And interestingly they started with both a similar population to Auckland [a bit higher, but more dispersed] and a similar rail ridership at the start [10mil]:



So because of these already underway changes we consider it highly likely that ridership will hit 20 million well before 2020, although that will be inhibited by the constriction caused by the deadend at Britomart, which will continue to restrict AT from responding to higher demand with the really high frequencies, the very problem which of course the CRL will address, elegantly and efficiently, as well as improving reach and speed. It is clear that the Council’s plan to stage the construction in order to spread the works disruption and their understanding of its near term need is compelling and necessary.

We should also remember that rail ridership has grown by some 400% since the opening of Britomart [annualised: 18% pa, so this has been a consistent grower since even simple improvements were added to what was a completely under invested in system. Build it and they will indeed come.

It is also worth noting that no motorway network shows or is required to show anything like a 10% demand growth in order to get even 50% funding from government. In fact the government had to invent an abstract and novel category of road -The Road of National Significance- in order to get around the low traffic demands all over the nation and overcome their often appallingly low business cases. For example traffic demand in and around Wellington is going backwards, actually falling, but NZTA can’t stop drawing lines down every fault-line for new motorways there. How about 10% demand growth hurdles for investment all transport systems?

Anyone looking for a sure-bet infrastructure project certain to return a transformational shift then here it is: the CRL.

Here’s a chart for the more visual among you, spot the outlier? Off the chart at +384%:



Auckland Rail hits 11 million

The day after the letter from John Key saying that the government still doesn’t support the CRL, Auckland Transport announces that the rail network has reached another milestone. Over the last year there have been more than 11 million trips on the rail network and it’s the first time we have reached that mark. That’s significant for a few reasons:

  • It continues the recent trend of strong patronage growth and shows that March Madness is living up to its reputation.
  • It finally ends our almost two year post RWC patronage hangover, something that helped fuel the arguments of those opposing the CRL like Cameron Brewer.
  • It has come in advance of the electrification which will only make services even more attractive.

Here’s the press release.

Thanks Auckland – you’re one in 11 million 

Aucklanders are getting on board with trains in record numbers – making a record 11 million trips in the past year.

This milestone comes just weeks before Auckland’s new electric trains are introduced and is the highest number of passengers ever on the current rail network.

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says Aucklanders are using public transport more than ever as improvements to services make it a more attractive option. “We are now seeing 5,000 additional passenger journeys each business day compared to a year ago. People are responding to initial improvements such as integrated ticketing, better on-time performance and improved facilities like the new transport hub at Panmure and there’s a lot more to come.”

When Britomart Transport Centre opened in 2003, just 2.5 million trips were made on trains.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says the milestone is very welcome.

“One thing is is certain with regard to public transport in Auckland. If you build it people will use it. I am confident that now integrated ticketing is in place and as our new electric trains go into service, this won’t be the last patronage record we will break.

The implementation of the New Network and the City Rail Link will also boost numbers.”

Transdev operates the trains for Auckland Transport. It says it is pleased to see that its major focus on performance over the past 12 months is translating to improved patronage.

Transdev Managing Director Terry Scott says “We are working hard with our partners at Auckland Transport and KiwiRail to improve network performance and we are striving every day to achieve excellence in the customer experience.”

Dr Levy says the upward trend in numbers is pleasing given that during the past year rail services have been regularly disrupted due to electrification works on the network. “We are making strides with an ageing fleet of diesel trains which are now 60 years old, just imagine what we will do with new trains.”

Based on the announcement my guess is we’re on track to set a new monthly record too which is great. It even makes me wonder if we could finally pass Wellington for patronage sometime this year.

Bring on the electric trains.

EMU Newmarket from AT

February 2014 Patronage

The patronage results for February are out and overall they’re looking pretty good. It was helped in part by some of the major events that occurred like the Eminem concert and the NRL 9′s however even accounting for those the results were positive.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 70,824,030 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +0.6% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. February monthly patronage was 6,070,570, an increase of 430,610 boardings or +7.6% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ +5.1% accounting for additional special event patronage in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013. No normalisation required for business days due to equivalent business days in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Rail patronage totalled 10,879,359 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +2.0% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. Patronage for Feb-2014 was 1,005,372 an increase of 216,295 boardings or +27.4% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ +15.2% after adjusting for special events in Feb- 2014 compared to Feb-2013.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,339,952 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Jan-2014. Northern Express bus service patronage for Feb-2014 was 196,539, an increase of 25,985 boardings or +15.2% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~+9.8% accounting for special events in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Other bus services carried 52,060,766 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, an increase of +0.5% on the 12-months to Jan-2014. Other bus services patronage for Feb-2014 was 4,408,736, an increase of 275,971 boardings or +6.7% on Feb-2013, normalised to ~ + 6.6% accounting for special events in Feb-2014 compared to Feb-2013.

Ferry services carried 5,543,953 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2014, a decrease of - 1.6% on the 12 months to Jan-2014. Ferry services patronage for Feb-2014 was 459,923, a decrease of -87,641 boardings or -16.0% on Feb-2013. Ferry patronage on the Commercial Waiheke ferry service is showing a sharp decrease when compared to the same month last year. This anomaly is being investigated and will be reported back at the next board meeting.

The increase in rail is spectacular and continues a trend we’ve seen in recent months of strong rail growth – although some of it may be attributed to fare evasion being counted in. Even so my personal experiences combined with comments I’ve seen from others is that the trains do feel busier than they did in the past. The bus results are also pleasing as the annual figure appears to have turned a corner. It had been declining each month compared to the same point the previous year since Feb 2013. The big disappointment is of course the ferries which had been performing so strongly for quite some time. Let’s hope they can improve for the rest of 2014.

14 - Feb AK Annual Patronage

With a total patronage for the last 12 months of 70.8 million trips, it is just over 1 million trips short of the peak reached after the Rugby World Cup and almost 2 million more than the low in June last year of 69.1 million. Similarly on the rail network patronage is is only 100k short of the peak set post RWC in April 2012 of 10.98 million. I made a comment in January to a senior AT manager that I thought we would reach 11 million  rail trips by the end of the financial year (30 June) and his response was that while he hoped that would happen, he wasn’t confident. It’s now looking more and more likely and I think it might possibly even happen in April.

Of course as mentioned the NRL 9′s played a big part in the boost to rail figures however it’s noted that even without that and other events, patronage growth was strong at over 15%. This can also be seen in the average weekday passengers figure which shows a growth of around 5,000 trips a day over Feb 2013.

14 - Feb AK daily rail patronage

The event figures also show that over 50% of all people attending the NRL 9′s did so via PT which is a fantastic result.

14 - Feb AK NRL 9's patronage

All up there are some fantastic results were some fantastic PT results in February and I have a feeling that March will be good too.

Lastly on to cycling and again February saw a slight decrease in cycling numbers compared to Feb 2013 although the AM peak numbers has continued to increase strongly. Not sure if there is any particular reason for this. Perhaps the attention on cycling safety following the horrific accident in January has had an impact on casual cyclists.

14 - Feb AK cycling annual

PT use rising internationally

We know that there are some major ongoing trends in transport use not only in New Zealand but also in many of the countries we like to compare ourselves to, especially those closest to NZ in culture and history i.e. Australia, Canada and the US. We’re continuing to see the numbers of people driving (or the distance they are travelling) fall or at least flat line – something traffic projections are mostly still ignoring. We’re seeing more and more people choosing to live in areas closer to cities that enables them to walk or cycle which is also being aided in many places by vastly improved walking cycling facilities. And of course we’re seeing a lot more people choosing to use public transport.

On the issue of PT use, news came out a few days ago that in the US ridership across the entire county reached its highest point in 57 years.

In 2013 Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a report released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation. As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

Some of the public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Pompano Beach, FL; Riverside, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Carlos, CA; Tampa, FL; Yuma, AZ; and New York, NY.

Since 1995 public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

Before the drop of in patronage last year, we also saw similar news from Auckland with patronage reaching highs not seen since the 1950′s so it  got me thinking as to how relative history’s in patronage compare. Now I’m comparing the patronage history of a single city with the aggregated patronage of an entire nation so it’s a little bit of an apples and oranges type comparison however as the graph below shows the trends have been remarkably similar. Both lines peak at or just after WW2, before declining to a low point in 1972. the downward fall was ended by the 1973 oil crisis. Recovery in patronage then jumped around for a period of time until the early 90′s. Then since the mid 90′s there has been a general upward trend in patronage, albeit with a few bumps along the way.

US Patronage trend vs Auckland 1

I was also then interested in how other the other countries I mentioned have changed over time. The data I could find doesn’t go back as far as the US or Auckland data but does show some similar trends. Of note the Canadian data is total trips not boarding’s so is slightly different from Auckland, Australian and US data. I also don’t have the most recent data for these two countries.

Long Term Patronage Aus vs Can

Of all of these, Canada is perhaps the most interesting. Its post WW2 patronage drop had obviously mostly happened prior to 1955 and it is the only one of the four examples that has higher total patronage now than the mid 1950′s. This is not surprising, when looking at the cities similar to Auckland that tend to perform the best the Canadian cities almost always tend to come out on top regardless of the measure used for example they tend to have higher number of trips per capita and better farebox recoveries than cities from NZ, Australia or the US.

The next question is often why the Canadian cities do so much better, after all the people who live in those cities aren’t all that different from us. There’s probably a whole number of posts that could be written about why the Canadian cities do so well but in short there’s a couple of key things I’ve noticed when looking at them.

  • Investment in proper high quality rapid transit systems like the Skytrain in Vancouver, light rail in Calgary and Edmonton, Busways in Ottawa or the Subways of Toronto and Montreal. This is something that Auckland is only now starting to really do with the Northern Busway and the rail upgrades. The Congestion Free Network we’ve proposed would put us on par or even ahead of many of those Canadian cities when thinking about Rapid Transit (but of course they aren’t standing still either).
  • A focus on connected bus networks. When looking at the bus networks of the Canadian cities you don’t see the spaghetti mess of routes like we do currently in Auckland. Instead their networks tend to consist of frequent routes that create a grid across the city. This is of course the same style bus network that Auckland Transport is going to be rolling out here starting with South Auckland next year.

I guess the good news from that is we’re at least heading in the right direction.

January 2014 Patronage

Patronage for January is out and there’s (mostly) positive news.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 70,391,404 passengers for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. January monthly patronage was 4,653,153, an increase of 157,453 boardings or +3.5% on Jan-2013, normalised to ~ +3.3% accounting for one additional weekday and two less weekend days for rail in Jan-2014 compared to Jan-2013 (due to track closures). No normalisation required due to equivalent business days for bus and ferry.

Rail patronage totalled 10,661,048 passengers for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of + 0.5% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. Patronage for Jan-2014 was 588,574, an increase of 50,087 boardings or +9.3% on Jan-2013, normalised to ~ +7.6% accounting for one less rail operational day in Jan-2014 compared to Jan-2013.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,313,967 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Dec-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Jan-2014 was 146,740, an increase of 9,636 boardings or +7.0% on Jan-2013.

Other bus services carried 51,784,795 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, an increase of +0.3% on the 12-months to Dec-2013. Other bus services patronage for Jan-2014 was 3,410,157, an increase of 154,385 boardings or +4.7% on Jan-2013.

Ferry services carried 5,631,594 passenger trips for the 12-months to Jan-2014, a decrease of -1.0% on the 12 months to Dec-2013. Ferry services patronage for Jan-2014 was 507,682, a decrease of -56,655 boardings or -10.0% on Jan-2013.

Perhaps the most pleasing aspect is that the 12m rolling figure for total patronage grew for the first time in over a year (although it may have done so in December but AT haven’t released those figures). This is pleasing as we’ve been seeing rail patronage recovering but bus patronage still has a way to go.

On rail patronage, we’re still not quite back to the peak (which was in April 2012) but we are getting closer to it and with the first electric trains just over two months away I’m guessing we might see it met/surpassed by the end of the financial year (June) and we may even crack the 11 million trips on rail mark.

The biggest disappointment was that compared to Jan 2013, ferry patronage was down 10% although with some strong growth over the last year or so the 12m rolling figure is still positive. Here are the graphs.

14 - Jan AK Annual Patronage

As mentioned rail patronage is climbing again and you can see it in this graph.

14 - Jan AK Rail Patronage

For some time now the AT reports have also been including bus patronage by sector being divided into North, West, South and Isthmus. The isthmus will definitely have some cross with the west and south as many routes of the routes from west/south pass through the isthmus and pick up passengers along the way, that patronage would be counted based on the sector the bus route assigned to. However when combined with patronage on the rail network it does provide an interesting proxy for patronage by area.

Unsurprisingly the Isthmus has the highest patronage (12m rolling total is 25.8 million) which will likely reflect it both having a higher population but also generally a more direct and higher frequency bus network, particularly along routes like Dominion Rd, Mt Eden Rd etc. This is followed by the south (17.4 mil), north (13 mil) then west (8.7 mil). What’s interesting is when you index the results back to the earliest date the data is in the reports which is Aug 2010 – just before AT came into existence. The west stands out due to the massive jump from the RWC but otherwise seems to generally follow the north and south areas in terms of growth. By comparison the Isthmus seems to do its own thing to a much greater extent. I’m not sure why it is different.

14 - Jan AK Sector Patronage index

Lastly cycling numbers were down slightly on Jan 2013 however there has been continued strong growth in cycling numbers over the last year so the trend is still pointing up.

14 - Jan AK Cycling

2013: A year in review – Part 1

Over the next few days I’ll be doing a series of posts recapping the year before beginning the new year by looking at what we can expect in the year ahead. For me when it comes to transport, 2013 was always going to be a bit of an “in progress” year. By that I mean that a heap of projects (both PT and road) would be advanced throughout the year however there would be nothing major completed that would fundamentally change transport in Auckland – that will change in 2014. For this post, I’m just going to be recapping public transport.



Wires are now a familiar sight across much of the rail network with primarily just the Eastern Line and the inner parts of the Western Line still to be completed however this was originally meant to have been completed by September. Back in May we revealed that the project was running late and is unlikely to be fully completed till March/April with Kiwirail saying it will be all done by the time the first electric trains are running in April. Britomart and the Eastern line are the focus over the Christmas shutdown and as I was in town yesterday I popped into Britomart which was a hive of activity and flashing lights with crews and vehicles working on each track.

Wires about to go up at Britomart

While the case for extending electrification to Pukekohe came out in 2012, the new development that is now expected to occur along the rail corridor thanks to the Unitary Plan is likely to help bring forward the need and justification for it. At the other extreme of the network Auckland Transport announced this year that the Waitakere station would close due to a combination of stubbornly low patronage and high costs to run a diesel shuttle service. The outcomes of two more stations – Westfield and Te Mahia – are still under review after it was suggested they would be closed too.

At Wiri the new state of the art depot to maintain our new electric trains was completed in time for the arrival of the first train.

Electric trains

The first of our new electric trains arrived at the end of August and staff have been busy testing it. Since then it has been joined by three others with more due to arrive soon. The trains are arriving at a rate of two every month till December when they increase to four per month. From my personal experiences of riding on them, I think they’re fantastic and people will be surprised when they first get to try the out next year.


City Rail Link

The City Rail Link perhaps provided the biggest surprise of the year when in June the government suddenly turned around and agreed that it was needed and said they would help fund half of it. This was quite a change from the position they had previously taken, especially their earlier responses including to the City Centre Future Access Study which even Ministry of Transport officials had been a part of. It is believed a large part of the reason the government had such a change of heart was that their polling was showing a lot of unhappiness amongst Aucklanders about the lack of support towards the regions preferred transport and housing solutions.

While the announcement saw the government finally support the project it doesn’t mean they agree with everything about it as the government don’t want to start the project till 2020, roughly the time the council want it finished. They have set some aggressive but potentially achievable targets for starting early. Regardless some parts of the project will actually start next year (or in 2015) following an agreement between the council and Precinct Properties (who now own the Downtown Mall) for part of the tunnel to be built when they redevelop their site. That removed potentially one of the biggest issues from the consenting process which has been proceeding fairly quietly in the background. We should hear the results of that in the new year.

We here at the blog had been getting pretty frustrated with the way the project was being sold by AT (and others). Finally in November we saw a decent effort by AT with this video.

Integrated Ticketing and Fares

Integrated ticketing has one of those projects where if something can go wrong it will, frequently stumbling from one issue to the next with deadlines frequently missed as a result. The project had already been delayed multiple times in the lead up to 2013 and this year showed no sign of that changing with more deadlines missed. This year we were told the roll-out of AT HOP to buses would be completed by the end of the year however issues with the change overs pushed that back again. Birkenhead, Urban express and NZ Bus buses have now all been converted to AT HOP and fingers crossed the rest will be complete within the first few months of 2014. It will mean that for the first time people will be able to get around the city on PT with a single ticket (which is different to a single fare).

While getting integrated ticketing is a good step, integrating fares will be one of the keys to unlocking the system and making it more usable. While it has always been mentioned that integrated fares would come sometime after integrated ticketing, many at AT had previously given off the impression that it was more of a nice to have and there had been no real push. From what I have heard there has be finally been a shift and realisation within AT that integrated fares are desperately needed, especially to support the new bus network and as such work has been going on behind the scenes on this so it should become a reality.

New Bus Network

Early in the year we saw that there was a hugely positive response to the Regional Public Transport Plan of which one of the key features was the new bus network. This enabled AT to go out to the first detailed consultation which was in South Auckland. Once again there was a overwhelmingly positive response to the proposed changes. Auckland Transport deserve a lot of credit for this result as wasn’t just that the new network was good but that AT took their time to explain the reasoning behind it. Despite consultation now being complete in the South, we won’t actually see the changes made till 2015 as AT still need to work though significant issues like contracting with the bus companies. The video below is one AT put together to help accompany the consultation and explained excellently much of what is happening.


Patronage growth was fairly stubborn throughout 2013 after a poor few years partially exaggerated by the Rugby World Cup. However there have finally been signs of improvement in the last few months, especially on the rail network. I suspect we will start to see some decent growth occurring once again in 2014.

Dec 13 Total Patronage


Along with some of the big projects mentioned above, below are some of the other important things that have happened over the year:

Anything major PT wise I’ve missed? Upcoming posts will look at and recap what’s happened with road network, walking/cycling, development/planning and finally the blog itself.

November 2013 Patronage Results

The patronage results for November are out and they are an interesting mix. Here are the highlights according to Auckland Transport.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,912,987 passengers for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +0.2% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. November monthly patronage was 5,905,112, an increase of +163,329 boardings or +2.8% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +5.2% accounting for one less business day in Nov-2013 compared to Nov-2012 and AT HOP
transition on rail in Nov-2012.

Rail patronage totalled 10,482,330 passengers for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +1.7% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. Patronage for Nov-2013 was 918,708, an increase of +173,228 boardings or +23.2% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +9.0%. This increase in part reflects the downturn in recorded patronage through Nov-2012 as legacy paper tickets transition to AT HOP.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,292,434 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12 months to Oct-2013. Northern Express bus service patronage for Nov-2013 was 182,775, a decrease of -3,153 boardings or -1.7% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +3.0%.

Other bus services carried 51,482,310 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, a decrease of -0.1% on the 12-months to Oct-2013. Other bus services patronage for Nov-2013 was 4,316,087, a decrease of -45,520 boardings or -1.0% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +3.7%.

Ferry services carried 5,655,913 passenger trips for the 12-months to Nov-2013, an increase of +0.7% on the 12 months to Oct-2013. Ferry services patronage for Nov-2013 was 487,542, an increase of +38,774 boardings or +8.6% on Nov-2012, normalised to ~ +13.8%.

As noted in the highlights there was one less business day in 2013 v 2012 so that has had a decent impact on patronage results. In addition for rail patronage there is quite a difference in numbers which is largely due to the fact that HOP was introduced to the rail network at the end of October 2012 changing the way patronage was counted. This meant that a heap of people were still using up their old ten trip or monthly tickets in November and December but which weren’t being counted. This would have artificially reduced November 2012 results however AT have estimated that even without the change in ticketing systems that patronage would have been up.

The graph below shows the 12 month rolling average for each mode.

Dec 13 Total Patronage

Even excluding the change in ticketing systems, less working day and without the special event (in the form of a Coldpay concert), AT estimate that rail patronage increased by 9% on November 2012 which is a pretty good result. The graph below shows that patronage definitely seems to be starting to turn upwards again which has been driven largely by better peak time usage.

Dec 13 Rail Patronage

While there are good results for the rail network, the results on the bus network are definitely concerning and it makes me wonder if part of the problem has been that people were put off using buses as a result of the HOP roll-out.

Perhaps the most concerning of the bus results is the Northern Express which has seen little growth for some time despite investment like extra park n ride at Albany. Patronage on the Shore in general has also been flat suggesting it isn’t just that people catching other services.

Northern Express Dec 13 Patronage

Dec 13 Sector patronage

Lastly there continues to be good results for cycling with cycle counters continuing to show growth.

Dec 13 Cycling

Deloitte Patronage Growth report

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve been pretty disappointed with patronage results over the last year or so (longer for rail). After about 7 years of almost constant growth we saw patronage decline and then flat line with it only just starting to show signs of turning around. If there is perhaps one silver lining from all of this it’s that it has hopefully shaken Auckland Transport up and made them realise they can’t just sit back and expect patronage growth will always occur.

There are a heap of big projects happening at the moment which will dramatically improve public transport over the coming years, in particular electrification, the new bus network, integrated ticketing and eventually integrated fares. However these are all big, multi-year projects that we won’t see the full benefit from for a while and I suspect that AT may have been resting on their laurels waiting for those projects to be completed. The patronage problems forced AT to start thinking about PT more and we’re now starting to see some of the early outcomes of this with them starting to improve their marketing – and there is likely to be other improvements to come.

The patronage results were even more concerning as in the Auckland Plan the council set AT a target of doubling patronage over a 10 year period to 2022 with a longer term goal of reaching a PT usage of 100 trips per person per year by 2041 (currently at about 45). A big question has become whether the organisation can actually meet the targets that they have been set and to help answer that Deloitte have been analysing what is planned to estimate just what kind of patronage we can expect. They presented their findings to the AT board last week and the report itself has now been made public. The results are both incredibly interesting and concerning.

All of the various initiatives currently on the list have been summarised into the following groups and there are no surprises from this. What it does help to show is just how much will be happening over the next couple of years.

Deloitte Report - Initiatives

Deloitte say that even if we manage to fund every PT project currently on the list – including the CRL – and we do it well and on time (i.e. not like HOP so far) then the best we can achieve by 2022 is 101 million PT boardings. That’s a ~31 million increase on what we have now but is 39 million short of AT’s target.

Deloitte Report - Predicted Patronage

They have also estimated patronage by each mode and say that capacity issues on the bus network could start hurting patronage from 2015 onwards and if not addressed then by 2022 it would mean bus patronage affected by up to 15% (roughly 9 million boardings)

Deloitte Report - Predicted Patronage by mode

Further they say that if the various projects were to get similar results as seen in other cities that have completed similar projects, then patronage could be as low as ~83 million boardings depending on which comparisons are used. The other cities compared were Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, London, Toronto and Vancouver and they say none of them managed to double patronage in 10 years with it typically taking twice as long as that with the best being Vancouver at about 16 years. They say that the cities that have seen significant patronage growth have also seen sustained network investment and service improvement.

The one thing perhaps in Auckland’s favour is all of these cities did start from a high base and with a more mature PT network which probably makes it harder to double patronage on. However if Deloitte are right then don’t have a hope in hell of reaching the target that has been set.

So what does all this mean for Auckland Transport? Deloitte say there are two primary options to pursue

Deloitte Report - Gap Options

In my mind cutting the targets should not even be considered to be an option and I would hope our elected officials would feel the same way. That leaves only option 2 which will mean AT will have to rethink what they are doing and helpfully Deloitte have even suggested a few potential options.

1. Operational, network and service initiatives — for example:

  • Fare reduction and restructuring
  • Increase frequency, coverage, or additional service kms
  • Focus on operational improvements including punctuality and reliability

2. Modification of existing planned projects — for example:

  • Rescheduling capital projects (i.e. bring forward CRL and potentially other projects)

3. New capital investments — for example:

  • Additional investment in busways
  • Bring forward the harbour crossing

4. Incentive management initiatives — for example

  • Creating a competitive process for operators

5. Structural reform — for example:

  • Congestion/road user charges

Basically if AT want to meet the targets then they will have to really invest in improving the PT network. The really big one is 3. where at the meeting Deloitte said we would need one or two additional busways on top of what is currently planned for a capital cost of ~$355 million. Also I must say I have no idea how pulling forward the AWHC does anything to help patronage, if anything it will do the opposite. In addition improving fares, frequencies and/or network coverage as well as other areas of the PT system will be critical and Deloitte estimate that could cost up to an extra $1.5 billion in operational funding (~$150m per year). In addition to the carrots of better services and infrastructure the authors say we also need to consider some stick type approaches by way of road pricing and increasing parking charges.

By in large I couldn’t agree more and of course the need for AT to change their current investment patterns by re-prioritising spending is something we have suggested quite strongly with the Congestion Free Network. We’ve even suggested a number of busways they couple pursue.

Of course my guess is that they will try for option 1 first using the excuse that they can’t afford to invest more in PT without the council giving them more money as to some within the organisation, the thought of cutting the roading budget seems like a concept from a different planet.

At the board meeting the only real question that arose was whether the goal of 140 million boardings was actually worth it and what would it do to mode share. In other words what sort of difference would that extra 39 million boardings make to metrics like congestion, emissions or how the city works. That wasn’t able to be answered at the time so presumably it is a piece of work that will now be happening.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on what unfolds as a result of this report.

October 2013 patronage

The Auckland Transport board meets again on Thursday and as such we now have the patronage results for October. Even better is there seems to be good news all around with all modes improving compared to October last year. Further there were the same number of working days making for an easier comparison – although on the rail network there were two full weekend shut-downs compared to one partial one in October 2012.

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,749,658 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.7% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. October monthly patronage was 6,321,771, an increase of 460,631 boardings or +7.9% on Oct-2012. No normalisation is required due to equivalent business days.

Rail patronage totalled 10,309,102 passengers for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.9% on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Patronage for Oct-2013 was 964,380, an increase of +91,309 boardings or +10.5% on Oct-2012.

The Northern Express bus service carried 2,295,587 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +0.4% on the 12 months to Sept-2013, a record 12 month performance for the Northern Express service. Northern Express bus service patronage for Oct-2013 was 206,265, an increase of 9,041 boardings or +4.6% on Oct-2012. A promotional campaign to areas around the Northern Busway contributed to the growth.

Other bus services carried 51,527,830 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, a 0.6% change on the 12-months to Sept-2013. Other bus services patronage for Oct-2013 was 4,654,739, an increase of 298,591 boardings or +6.9% on Oct-2012. The implementation of AT HOP on further bus services has contributed to growth, along with promotional campaigns and improving service and on-time performance on the North Shore. Attachment 2 provides an overview of bus and Northern Express patronage growth marketing activity for the remainder of the financial year within the context of the over-arching public transport marketing approach.

Ferry services carried 5,617,139 passenger trips for the 12-months to Oct-2013, an increase of +1.1% on the 12 months to Sept-2013. Ferry services patronage for Oct-2013 was 496,387, an increase of 61,690 boardings or +14.2% on Oct-2012.

Summary performance against SOI targets is provided in Table 1

Oct - 13 - SummaryThere are some pretty decent increases in there. For rail it’s the second month in a row with double digit growth and also finally reflects us being able to shed the RWC patronage boost from the 12m comparisons. Once again the increases are being driven by the increases in both average weekday usage as well as increased usage on the weekends – the latter of which was substantially higher than the year before and that only included one day of the finally improved weekend services on the western line.

The ferry increase is also extremely substantial, especially after a number of months where patronage growth had appeared to be slowing down. Even the buses saw increased patronage compared to Oct 12 although the 12m figure is still down. Overall some pleasing results and what’s more the graphs now show that the worm is really starting to turn once again.

Oct - 13 - Total by mode

The one downside as pointed out in the first chart is that with the exception of ferries, AT are already quite far behind their targets for the year. For each mode, the patronage report also highlights some of the initiatives being undertaken by AT. There are two buses ones I really like. The first one is this which is a retention campaign talking about the benefits bus users get or provide.

Oct - 13 - Retention Campaign

The second one is some neat and quirky art work being used to promote buses in the inner western area. You can see all five posters here.

Oct - 13 - Pop-art Campaign

Personally I think it’s great that AT are trying stuff as for a long time there was little to no advertising. All up some positive signs continuing to emerge.

Moving on to the main board report, as usual there is some interesting information in there. On integrated ticketing they say

Metrolink Inner and LINK went live on 10 November 2013 and is averaging 27,000 passenger trips a day. There is customer feedback on having to carry two cards Snapper HOP and AT HOP but otherwise the rollout went as planned. AT HOP card usage on Metrolink Inner and LINK has continued to grow during this week (see table below) and AT HOP card usage is expected to grow during the next week and a half.
Metro Inner & LINK AT HOP card Usage
Sunday 10/11/2013 – 21%
Monday 11/11/2013 – 28%
Tuesday 12/11/2013 – 32%
Wednesday 13/11/2013 – 35%

Based on the comments the other day I don’t think AT can really say that there was customer feedback on carrying both cards as if it was just a minor point.

On the EMUs they suggest that train testing is going well and over in Spain that CAF are cranking into the production with them already working on parts of trains 14 and 15. Things don’t look so good on the electrification side though with it noted that Kiwirail are asking for the Newmarket to Britomart section to be closed for an extra week over the Christmas shut-down so they can get work finished and it also mentioned that they are preparing an updated electrification programme. The project was already meant to have been finished by now but we found out that it had slipped with completion being pushed back to sometime in the first 3-4 months of next year. I wonder if this has slipped further.

Fare evasion is noted as being 7% (was 7.1% last month) which is based on ticket checks of just 15.3% of all trips. 7% is a similar level to what we saw prior to HOP rolling out to trains.

Over at Panmure, AT say that the new station building is coming along well and they are already starting to plan for an official opening. This will be one of the first tangible benefits from the AMETI project towards PT. After the station has been completed it will become even more critical that AT focus on how they can get the busway from Panmure to Pakuranga and beyond.

On CBD spaces the report mentions that there is/has been a tender for the upper part of Khartoum Pl with works starting early next year and that they will be going out to tender for O’Connell St in December. It’ll be good to have a few more improved public spaces.

There are a few other reports that look quite interesting but unfortunately I don’t have time to go into them right now.