December-15 Patronage

 

Auckland Transport normally releases their monthly patronage data at their board meetings but as the first one for 2016 isn’t till February they’ve kindly provided me the results for December.

Overall patronage growth has remained strong with trips in December up 7.4% on December 2014. The 12-month result has now topped 81.5 million trips which is up 7.6% on the same time last year.

2015-12 - Total Patronage

One concern though is that the growth is increasingly being driven increases in the rail network and on the ferries. This is due to a slowing on the rate of patronage growth on buses. My guess is this reflects there hasn’t been all that much in the way of service improvements on buses over last year or so and I suspect some of the growth that has occurred has been due to HOP making travel easier. The growth that is occurring on buses is mostly being driven by growth on the Northern Busway.

2015-12 - Bus Patronage

We will hopefully see the slowing growth reverse once we finally get the new network starting to be rolled out which is happening in South Auckland later this year. Integrated fares are also likely to help and we should hopefully know more about that soon.

I was expecting the rail results in particular to be very strong as the network was open for Christmas Day and Boxing day while the Western line and the inner part of the Eastern Line remained open all through the Christmas/New Year period. This has shown through in the numbers with rail ridership in December up a staggering 32.6% compared to December last year reaching 1.1 million trips. That leaves January as the only month that has now carries less than a million trips a month and given many of the same factors are at play I’d expect that to change once we get the January results next month. The chart below shows how patronage has changed for each month since 2002 and you see just how big the jump in 2015 was compared to previous years.

2015-12 - Rail results by month 2

The 12-month result is up 22.9% or 2.9 million trips to 15.4 million. Related I remember when the case for electrification was being made about a decade ago they touted it as delivering 15.6 million trips by June 2016. It looks like we’ll surpass that despite the actual roll out happening a few years later than predicted.

2015-12 - Rail Patronage

The last year has seen good growth on ferries on the back of service improvements on a number of routes. Patronage for the month was up 9.6% compared to December 2014 to around 580,000 trips and the 12-month result is up 10.7% or just over half a million to 5.7 million trips.

2015-12 - Ferry Patronage 2

All up December was a continuation of many of the trends we saw throughout 2015. It will be interesting to see if those same trends carry on through to 2016 or if things slow down. Rail likely has a bit of strong growth left yet, especially if AT improve frequencies and move the rail network towards a proper raid transit service with decent frequencies off peak too. The roll out of Integrated fares is likely to help patronage too and the big unknown will be the new network which rolls out in South Auckland in October.

 

Related, last week Patrick posted results of the latest rail station boardings. I thought it would be interesting to plot the change in rankings over time based on data I’ve collected over the years. In the end I’ve only done it from 2011 onwards as prior to that the movements were too erratic which will be in part due to the how station usage was counted. It might look like a mess of lines now but was worse with pre 2011 data included.

To be clear this only looks how the stations rank compared to other rail stations so isn’t looking at the size of growth but there are a couple of notable points.

  • The impact of Manukau is very clear and between mid-2014 and mid-2015 rose substantially and is currently the 13th busiest station.
  • Panmure is also seeing strong growth, moving from 14th to 5th busiest.
  • New Lynn shifted from 7th to 3rd.
  • Given the stations above along with Otahuhu and Henderson will also have bus interchanges in the New Network then I’d expect them to keep seeing them with an upward trend in coming years.
  • Sylvia Park shifted up 7 places to 8th.
  • Onehunga moved up 8 places to 21st.

Station Rankings Change to Dec 15

On the same topic we’ve long wanted to see station growth from the Northern Busway and many readers expressed the same thing too. AT have now provided us with some data on this and I’ll post this in the next day or two.

Station HOP Data 2015 v 2014

AT have kindly sent us the Train Station HOP data for for the last two calendar years. Note that these data are incomplete, not including those travelling on legacy paper tickets, transferring, or on special event services. See here for Matt’s mid year post where on these data were then.

BRITOMART JULY 15_3388

As expected these are great numbers; there’s spectacular growth across the network. Highlights include:

  • Manukau City takes off now MIT is open: 118% growth jumping in rank from 24th to 13th. Strong growth is likely to continue once the Bus Interchange there opens.
  • Panmure is the next big mover, leaping up 52%, from 12th to 5th. I guess we can expect a similar burst at Otahuhu too once the new Interchange is up and running.
  • Britomart adds a million new movements each way. The top 10 stations are now over 400k, last year only 3 were.
  • Next year should see Britomart over 5mil, Newmarket 1 mil, and most of the rest of the top 10 over 500k.
  • Grafton still the most asymmetrical station other than Britomart; 69k more alightings than boardings, showing that downhilling is still strong there. This is people heading to the city via Grafton but returning via another route, many likely using Britomart, which shows more some 169k more boardings than alightings.

AT HOP Station Data 2014-2015

Here’s the top 15 ranked by 2015 boardings. The positive movers are all on the Eastern Line, which has had the new trains the longest, and biggest upgrade in frequency. And the biggest two movers have shiny new stations: Manukau City with the new MIT above, and Panmure with a new bus interchange. The Eastern Line also has very good bones; it has no level crossings, is fast, straight and direct and now some good attractors to unlock those advantages. As well as the two stations mentioned above, the mall at Sylvia Park is clearly drawing customers by train, which adds to the long strong destinations of Papatoetoe, Middlemore, and GI. Even the minor stations on the line improve well over the year: Puhinui the 3rd highest proportionate change at 43.9%, Meadowbank; 5th, 33.0%, and Papatoetoe, by no means minor; 6th, 31.3%. Papatoetoe still the forth busiest station in 2015, but will it be overtaken by Panmure this year? Which would be impressive as Papatoetoe has twice the number of services. It is clearly time that businesses took advantage of all those people at Panmure station; it’s still sitting in a land-use desert.

STATION BOARDINGS 2015

 

It’s pretty clear what works; investment in stations and interchanges [Panmure], alignment with land use [Manukau City], and improved service. I think it is likely that the Eastern Line still has more growth in it, as the results of improvements to frequency and capacity on the Western Line planned for this year may not fully come through until next year. If we have learnt nothing else from the changes to places like Sylvia Part and Manukau City is that it can take a little while for these changes to be reflected in pax numbers. Although the lower growth percentages from Western Line stations does suggest they are being held back by capacity and frequency constraint [exception: Avondale; jumping 29.3% up one place to 16th busiest].

PANMURE_8614-2

What else can we learn from these data?

 

2015 – Auckland’s Watershed Year

The more I look at the events and data of 2015 the clearer it becomes that this has been a profoundly significant year for Auckland. It is my contention that this year the city reached a critical turning point in its multi-year evolution back to true city pattern. I have discussed this change many times before on this forum, most notably here, as it is, I believe, an observable process that has been building for years. Generally it has been gradual enough, like the growth of a familiar tree, as to easily pass unobserved, but now I think it has passed a into a new phase of higher visibility. The group who see it most clearly are people returning from a few years overseas. Many ex-pats express surprise and wonderment at the myriad of changes in quantity and quality they find here on returning.

HOPETOUN_6234

Changing City: New apartments with views over the city and harbour, a Victorian school and park, 20thC motorways, and the new LigthPath.

Below is a summary of evidence for 2015 being the year Auckland returned as a city, in fact the year it crossed the Rubicon onto an unstoppable properly re-urbanising path. Later I will add another post on how 2016 and beyond is certain to see the city double-down on these trends, and why this is very good news. This transformation is observable in all five keys areas:

  • Demographics
  • Transport
  • Development
  • Economy
  • Politics

DEMOGRAPHICS. New Zealanders returning in big numbers are one of the key metrics of 2015. Along with new migrants and natural growth, the other change driving Auckland’s demographic strength is fewer people leaving, all of which, of course, are a vote of confidence in the city as a place to want to live and to likely fulfil people’s hopes for a better future. Population growth for the year was at 2.9%, the strongest rate since 2003, the strongest in the nation, and biggest raw number on record. See here for Matt’s [Population Growth in 2015] and Peter’s [Why is Auckland Growing?] posts on these issues.

Auckland LB Population Change - 2015 2And importantly for my thesis many more people are moving into the centre, particularly into new apartments. This is a evidence that the The Great Inversion is happening in Auckland as it is all over the developed world; the return of vitality to centre cities all over. Auckland’s urban form is reverting to a centred pattern; with proximity to a dense centre as a key determinant of value.

City Centre Population - 1996-2015 2

TRANSPORT. The huge and sustained boom in rail ridership way in advance of population growth is the headline transport news of 2015, and is the result of the upgrade in quality, frequency, and reliability of the service brought by the new electric trains. Sustained growth of over 20% is very strong; this year every four months an additional million trips have been added to the running annual total; 13 million in March, 14 million in July, 15 million in November. I am not overstating it to say that these numbers change a great deal: They change the argument for further investment in rail systems in Auckland, and significantly they change growth and development patterns across the city:

2015-11 - Rail Patronage

BRITOMART JULY 15_3388

Elsewhere on our Public Transport systems the news is great too; The New Bus Network is just beginning, and is already showing huge growth in the few areas it is in effect. This year we have also seen new ferry services, including a new private Waiheke service that means there is much more like a real turn-up-and-go service there [started late 2014]. Ferry modeshare is holding its own at 7% which is a strong showing given the explosion in rail and bus numbers.

Importantly AT is now routinely rolling out long overdue bus lanes across the city. And now that they are doing this confidently and more consistently, surprise and anguish about this more efficient re-purposing of roadspace by car drivers has fallen away to nothing- there surely is a lesson there.

So total PT ridership cleared 80 million annual trips this year, for an overall growth of 8.1%, a rate running at nearly 3x population growth, evidence of a strong shift to public transport at the margin. Growth that is certain to continue despite capacity issues becoming pressing at peak times on both buses and trains.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

HOP card use also became strongly embedded this year [except on the ferries] which is another sign of a maturing system.

2015-09 - HOP Use

More population and a growing economy of course means more vehicles and more driving on our roads, [see: What’s Happening to VKT?] but because of the powerful trend to Transit outlined above the per capita number is flat to falling. This is a historic shift from last century when the two tended to move strongly in lockstep.

2014 VKT - AKL VKT + Pop

Another discontinuity from last century is that GDP and employment growth have also separated from driving VKT, as shown in the following chart from Matt’s post linked to above. Another sign that the economy too is shifting on the back of public transport, and not driving as much as it was last century:

2014 VKT - AKL Econ 2

So whereas investment in the rail network has been answered by an extraordinary boom in uptake the multi-year many billion dollar sustained investment in driving amenity has not led to massive uptake. It is hard to not conclude from this that 1. We are far from discovering the latent demand ceiling for quality Transit; only the degree of investment will limit it. And 2. Driving demand in Auckland is saturated; this mode is mature, well served and not the area to invest in for new efficiencies or growth.

2015 also saw the launch of the Urban Cycleways programme; a multiyear government led investment in infrastructure for walking and cycling. This, like the Transit boom is another shape changing departure from the past. Although the active modes are not well counted [what a culture counts shows what it values] it is clear that the shift back to the centre is also accompanied by a growth in active mode transport. This is one of the great powers of Proximity; the best trip is the one that isn’t need because the potential traveller is already there, or near enough to use their own steam:

LightPath_5971

DEVELOPMENT. All over the city investment is going into building projects of various kinds, the retirement sector is particularly strong, as is terrace house and apartment buildings, all three at levels not seen for a decade and together support the argument that Auckland is not just growing but also changing shape into a more more city-like pattern, as John Polkinghorn has kept us up to speed on all year on the Development Tracker:

Auckland Dwelling Consents to Sep 2015

Significantly there is also renewed investment into commercial projects especially in the City Centre, led by Precinct Property’s 600 million plus Downtown rebuild and tower, and Sky City’s massive Convention Centre and Hotel project between Hobson and Nelson. Additionally Wynyard Quarter is also moving to a new level soon with a mix of Hotel, Residential, and Commercial buildings. Somewhere in the region of 10 billion dollars of projects are underway or close to be in the City Centre. And as Peter clearly illustrated recently this is in no small part due to improved regulatory conditions [The High Cost of Free Parking].

ECONOMY. Cities exist simply because of the advantages for humans to be in close proximity to each other for transactions of all kinds; financial, cultural, social, sexual. And Auckland is beginning to show real possibility of opening up an agglomeration advantage over the rest of the country now that it is really intensifying. The latest data on Auckland’s performance shows a fairly consistent improvement over the last five years

GDP Growth Dec 2015 AKL

POLITICS. Two major political programmes begun this year will have profound impacts on Auckland for decades to come. The first is the Auckland Transport Alignment Process. Something we haven’t discussed on the blog because we are involved in it and are awaiting the first public release of information which will be soon. Then we will certainly be discussing the details of this ongoing work. But the importance of this process is already clear; it is a reflection of a new found acceptance but the government that Auckland’s economic performance matters hugely to the nation and that transport infrastructure investment is, in turn, critical to that performance. We are of course striving to make the case for a change in the balance of that investment in Auckland away from a near total commitment to urban highways now that motorway network approaches completion [post Waterview and Western Ring Route] and that the evidence of success from recent Transit improvements, particularly to the Rapid Transit Network, is so compelling. There are hurdles here in the momentum and habits of our institutions and politics but also huge opportunities to really accelerate our cities’ performance across a range of metrics through changing how they are treated.

The other political shift is another we are yet to cover in depth but soon will, and that’s the agreement in Paris on Climate Change. This does indeed change a great deal. The city and the nation will have to ask the question of all decisions around urban form and transport how they fit with the new commitment to reduce our carbon intensity. This will clearly lead to a further push for higher density and greater emphasis on Public and Active Transport, as these are current technology and long term fixes to this global challenge. Unleashing further the urban power of proximity and agglomeration economies. So much of the conversation around New Zealand’s carbon intensity is around the agricultural issue and this tends to ignore the opportunities our cities offer, particularly Auckland, and particularly the Auckland transport systems, to this problem.

Cities are emerging as the key organising level that are most able to react to this problem as discussed here in The Urban Planner’s Guide to a Pst-COP21 World:

In many ways, Melbourne’s experience represents a coming-of-age of the urban sustainability movement. The private sector is listening to cities and responding. Now it’s up to cities and national governments to continue the conversations that began at COP21 and continue the evolution.

“The commentary for a long time has been ‘nations talk and cities act.’ We’ve been part of that dialogue too. That’s changing now,” said Seth Schultz [director of research at C40 Cities]. “National governments are coming to organizations like ours and saying ‘help us. We get it.’ I want to change the trajectory of the conversation. Cities are a vehicle and everyone should be getting in that vehicle and joining in for the ride.”

So in summary 2015 has seen:

  • Completion of Electrification of the Rail Network and the New Trains
  • The start of the New Network
  • New Interchange Stations
  • New Buslanes
  • Improvements to Ferry services
  • Start of the Urban Cycleways Programme
  • CRL start
  • ATAP
  • Paris COP 21

I will follow this post with another looking ahead to what is going to be a huge 2016/17. Here’s a short list to start with:

  • Fare Integration
  • Further Interchange Stations
  • Western Line frequency upgrade
  • New Network rollouts
  • Queen St Buslanes [so overdue]
  • More Cycleways
  • SkyPath underway
  • CRL seriously underway
  • Huge city developments begin
  • ATAP concludes
  • Council elections
  • Progress on Light Rail [it could be closer that many expect]

For all the frustrations and compromises that we’ve highlighted over the year I think it’s very clear that there are many very hard working and dedicated people in AC, AT, NZTA, and MoT and their private sector partners and it is their collective efforts in a very fast moving and changing field go a long to making Auckland the dynamic and exciting city it is fast becoming. I am keen to acknowledge their efforts. Onward.

I also want to personally thank my colleagues here at the blog, as it has been another big year for us, Matt, Peter, Stu, Kent and John, from whom I continue to learn so much, it doesn’t look like we are going to be able to give this up anytime soon…

Also I would like to shout out to colleagues over at Bike Auckland, our sister site, they’ve had a fantastic year, so cheers to Barb, Jolisa, Max, Paul, Kirsten, Ben, Bruce and the rest.

And of course to y’all, the reader, you are what really makes this thing work, so if what we do here makes any kind of difference, ultimately that’s because of you.

Kia ora tatou…

WIRI DEPOT JULY 15_6623

November-15 Patronage

Auckland Transport released patronage results for November yesterday and once again there were some great numbers – helped a little by there being one extra business day and one less weekend day. Even so it was another spectacular month for rail – which wasn’t particularly surprising given the strong growth we’ve been seeing and that near the end of November it was announced that Auckland had passed 15 million rail trips within a 12 month period.

 

For rail November was the third busiest month we’ve ever had, up 23.9% compared to the same month last year (adjusted to 21% when adjusting for the extra day) which itself was a 21% increase on November 2013. The growth increased the 12 month rolling total to 15.1 million – up 22.6% on a year earlier. One big contributor that I mentioned a few days ago is likely to be the improvements in reliability of services which reached a new monthly record in November of over 95%.

2015-11 - Rail Patronage

Given that some of the rail network remains open over the Christmas/New Year period – for the first time in probably more than a decade – and the shutdown that does occur in places is only for a week, I’m expecting patronage in both December and January to be very strong compared to what we’ve seen before.

Another aspect to remember is that based on current trends Auckland is on track to be about three years ahead of the government’s target for the CRL. On that topic yesterday Mayor Len Brown said “discussions with the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Transport were going well”. My guess is the government will make an announcement on their share of funding for the project within the first half of new year.

At a more detailed level there are some interesting results for the individual lines.

  • Growth on the Western Line has kicked up a gear again and was up 20% for the month – I suspect growth will be even stronger once Auckland Transport finally move to 10 minute frequencies next year.
  • The Eastern Line is still growing strong like it has all year. It is up 33.8% for the month and up a massive 40.5% for the year showing the value of frequent, fast electric trains on the line.
  • There is remarkably good growth on the Pukekohe shuttle with usage up 53% on the same month last year although I suspect some of this is from the Pukekohe V8s that were in November.

Of course there’s more than just rail and the other modes saw increases too – just not quite as extreme. Bus patronage was up 4.1% for the month and 4.8% for the year although there is a noticeable difference with the results of the busway which was up a massive 28.4% compared to the same time a year earlier.

Ferry patronage did grow but only just with it increasing by just 1.7% for the month and 10.5% for the year. As I’ve highlighted before one aspect I’m keeping an eye on is the difference in between the commercially operated ferries (Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke) and the ones contracted out by AT covering all the other routes. Interestingly the commercial ferries actually had a slight fall in patronage but that was covered by and a little more by the growth in contracted services that’s been occurring

2015-11 - Patronage Table

One of the features you can see from the growth of all modes is that rail patronage is definitely making up an increasingly large share of the patronage pie. Now almost 19% of all PT trips are made on a train.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

 

Oct-15 Patronage and Rail to 15 million

Rail patronage continues to soar to new heights and yesterday passed 15 million trips within a year for the first time. That marks also the third million trip milestone we’ve seen this year after passing 13 million trips in March and 14 million trips in July. This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert says rail patronage in Auckland has grown by 22% over the past year. “Just four months ago we marked 14 million passenger trips. And if we go back 10 years we had just 4 million trips a year.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says when he became AT chairman in November 2012 rail patronage was just 10 million. “What Aucklanders have wanted for decades is reliable, frequent and safe public transport options and we have a very clear focus on delivering to those wants and needs.”

Mayor Len Brown says this is another outstanding achievement for public transport in Auckland. “At this rate we will pass the next big milestone – 20 million – at the start of 2017. Aucklanders love their trains and compared to this time last year, they’re taking around 10,000 extra trips every day across the suburban network.”

Since the rail network went all-electric in July, from Papakura to Swanson, there has been a marked improvement in reliability and on-time performance. In October 93% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time and the previous month 94.9% of services arrived on time, a new record for Auckland trains.

Mr Lambert says “Our customers are liking the improved level of service and the comfort and convenience of the new trains. We’re also working on a timetable improvement which will see services on the Western Line go to six trains an hour at peak like the Southern and Eastern Lines.”

Overall public transport patronage in Auckland across rail, bus and ferries now exceeds 80 million passenger trips a year.

The result also marks us being halfway to the government’s patronage target for the CRL of 20 million trips by 2020 just over two years after it was set.

2015-10 - Rail vs Govt Target

If current trends continue we will hit 20 million trips in mid 2017 however the Ministry of Transport have continued to claim that patronage growth will taper off. There’s no sign of that happening yet and in fact patronage has continued to grow at increasing rates with it currently increasing by over 22%. There are also a lot of improvements still to come. As AT say in the press release above they are working on increasing frequency of trains on the western line which last I heard was expected to occur around April. That will both help address capacity constraints and make the service much more useful at the same time. In the middle of next year we will also get integrated fares which will make most journeys cheaper and in the South the new bus network will be rolled out which should see more people transferring to trains. The changes to will happen after that. All of this means that patronage is likely to continue to grow strongly for some time yet.

One aspect I will be watching is to see how it takes us to reach the next million milestone. We’ve seen the last two taking just four months. There’s been a distinct downward trend although I’d be surprised if it went lower. One aspect likely to help keep the current trend up is that this year will see the shortest rail closure over Christmas so we should see some decent increases in patronage in the December and January months.

Time between Rail Millions

The patronage results for October have also been released ahead of the AT board meeting next week. Other than rail which reached 14.8m to the end of October both bus and ferries also saw patronage increase despite there being one less business day this October compared to the last one. Buses were up 0.5% for the month while ferries have continued strong growth over the last six months or so up 8.2% for the month.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

2015-10 - Patronage Table

September-2015 Patronage

Patronage results for September are out and once again there are some spectacular results, especially on the rail network which continues to be the star performer when it comes to growth. Total patronage for September was up 5.6% on the same month last year however included in that figures is a massive 21.7% increase in rail patronage. That has raised the rolling annual total to 14.6 million trips, over 700,000 more than there were just three months ago which is the data the Ministry of Transport used in their analysis of the City Rail Link. As you can see in the table below all modes are growing which is great to see.

2015-09 - Total Annual Patronage

2015-09 - Patronage Table

In a few ways I was a little shocked the rail growth is as large as it has been and that’s because September last year was one of the high months at that time and was up 21% on September 2013. Combine those results and you can see that rail patronage in the month of September was up 47% on the same time two years ago – a very impressive increase.

2015-09 - Rail Patronage - AT

One aspect bound to be having an impact on patronage is the rapidly improving punctuality. In September AT say that 94.9% of all trains arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which I think is a record for Auckland. Perhaps it’s time to tighten up that five minute window to three minutes like many other cities.

2015-09 - Rail punctuality

A good news story from the business report is that the strong growth is likely to continue over the upcoming December and January months with the smallest rail shutdown we’ve seen for a long time with the western line remaining open all the way through.

Christmas 2015 rail closure has been confirmed for maintenance and upgrade works. Closures in 2015 are limited to between 27th December and 4th January Eastern Line Sylvia Park to Manukau, Onehunga Line and Southern Line with services operating Eastern Line Britomart to Sylvia Park and Western Line. Rail services will operate on Christmas Day for the first time and Boxing Day across the full network for the first time in many years. Closure permits NZTA works at Ellerslie and Takanini, KiwiRail maintenance and AT works for the new Otahuhu Station

The other fast growing mode right now happens to be the ferries. Annually they are up over 10% with the non-exempt services increasing the fastest. Both the exempt and the contracted services (contracted services are Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke) are bound to see some growth after the announcements recently about new ferries for the harbour.

2015-09 - Ferry Patronage

A good news story across all modes is the continued improvement in farebox recovery and therefore lower subsides per passenger km. If the current trend continues Auckland will be over 50% soon which is unprecedented for the city – at least any time recently.

2015-09 - Statement of Intent result

On the subject of rail ridership growth variability reader and occasional poster Greg N has sent us the follow chart highlighting the trend since 2005, including the RWC/HOP blip [green]:

AT Rail Patronage with Trend

He writes:

As you can see with the RWC 2 month blip shown in green, the “major dip” in patronage Post-RWC is revealed for what is was – back to normality for a few months and then the upward trend continued as per usual.

Its been pretty much a linear trend since 2005 of upwards month by month (allowing for the seasonal variations of patronage).
And we surpassed the RWC blip in patronage over a year ago. So where is this “patronage variability” crap MoT talk about coming from.

Oh and to make it Crystal clear what is going on at Christmas with patronage, I marked up the annual Xmas shutdown in the chart so you can see their impact too.
And given that post RWC we had endless, ongoing nightly shutdown on the rail network past 8pm with rail buses for Monday-Thu and Weekend network shutdowns almost every weekend, it amazing that the 2012/13 patronage is as strong as it was.

 

 

July-15 Patronage

It’s a good thing the government might be moving on the City Rail Link because Auckland Transport’s latest patronage report for July shows that there has been no slowdown in the staggering growth of the rail system – or the rest of the PT system for that matter.

Overall the annual patronage across the entire PT rose to 79.7 million trips, an increase of 9.6% on the previous year. Assuming things carry on – and I see no reason why they shouldn’t – then we should pass 80 million trips any day now if we haven’t already. That’s a significant increase from the 50 million trips a decade ago with the last 10 million coming in just 18 months. AT have a target for this year of 84.47 million trips and at current rates that will be considerably exceeded.

2015-07 - Total Annual Patronage

New financial years tend to bring a few changes to the way AT reports on patronage – both in what is covered and in presentation – and this year is no different. The good news is that they are now providing more detail about patronage, the downside being we don’t have any history to compare to. The new information is broken down a few ways:

  • Bus patronage is broken down by the Busway, Frequent buses and Connector/Local and Targeted buses. Splitting out the patronage this way matches the classifications of the new bus network and therefore this reporting structure will give a better indication as to whether the flagship frequent services are performing as expected. This also responds to a new target in AT’s Statement of Intent that patronage on the Rapid and Frequent networks will increase at a faster rate than the network as a whole. Unfortunately at this stage I’m not sure just what routes are counted in the frequent routes.
  • It splits out ferry patronage in into commercial and exempt services. The exempt services are to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke.
  • The Monthly Indicators report now also gives more info about a variety of stats including Farebox Recovery

2015-07 - Patronage Table

Once again the rail network has been the star performer with the annual result up 14.2 million trips, up 22.5% over the previous year. With the electric trains running on all lines for just over a week of that I’m really looking forward to seeing how August patronage stacks up as I think it will be huge. What will also help August’s result is that reliability and punctuality have noticeably improved in recent weeks which will help encourage more people to use trains. Auckland Transport have an annual rail patronage target to the end of June next year of 16 million trips, at current rates we’ll blow that figure out of the water.

2015-07 - Rail Patronage

Another area that continues to have very good results is the Northern Busway combined with rail forms our rapid transit routes. One interesting aspect about this result is that the annual figure of 3.5 million which is much higher than we had last month. I can only guess that they are now including patronage from some of the other buses that use the busway.

While we don’t have anything in the way of history, for the rapid buses one thing we can tell from the information table is that patronage on those services are rising fast and the increase percentage is not far off the busway. As expected the connector and local buses aren’t seen as attractive and therefore aren’t growing at the same rate.

Like the other modes ferries are also growing fast at nearly 10% and leading the charge are the contracted services. I wonder if part of this is due to the issues that have occurred with some of their vessels such as the Kea.

Performance

Looking at performance there was significant improvement on the rail network following the introduction of all EMU service on 20 July which AT says justifies their decision to pull the date forward. After falling to a low of just 73.6% of trains arriving at their destination on time in June, July jumped up to 83.7%. In addition AT say for 1-16 August that is up further to 89.3% and some days have exceeded 95%. The eastern line remains the poorest performer at just 73% punctuality.

Since AT stopped relying on operators self-reporting performance and instead using tools like GPS tracking they’ve seen bus performance also improve. It is now approaching 95% after being around 90% last year.

 

Funding

Apart from just moving more people, one other reason the rise in patronage is good is that it should also be helping to reduce subsidies thanks to more fares being collected. The good news is that’s exactly what’s happening as the Monthly indicators report shows that over the last year farebox recovery (how much of the costs are covered by passenger fares) has improved quite a bit going from 45.4% last year to 47.2% this year. That might not sound like much but is a significant improvement. Note: the data is only till June

2015-07 - Farebox recovery

Farebox recovery is only one part of the story though and the next chart shows the amount of subsidy per passenger km. As you can see the cost per passenger kilometre travelled for rail are falling dramatically and seeing as this report is a month behind, as such we should see quite significant improvements once the July data is made available.

2015-07 - Subsidy per PAX km

s

Notes from Sydney: Light Rail

Last week I had some work in Sydney and while there I was able to grab a quick look at some aspects of that beautiful city. I want to start with Light Rail because Sydney has one line in operation, and is about to start another much bigger project next month, and one that is strikingly similar to what AT is proposing for Auckland. Similar in that it upgrades at capacity bus routes, links significant residential and commercial areas with the heart of the city from areas not covered by other Rapid Transit, links event locations with a major transport hub, serves some big tertiary institutions, and most importantly that it will be the catalyst for pedestrianising the main city street. For like AT’s Light Rail plan for Queen St Sydney’s also comes with the opening up of George St for pedestrians.

Below are some shots from my quick ride on the somewhat curious Dulwich Hill Line. This is mostly on the route of the old Metropolitan Goods Line, extended past the old docks of Darling Harbour for the tourist trade and terminating at the city end at at the busy Central Station. This is where I got on on a weekday morning, so heading against the flow, you’d think.

SYDNEY_5792

It arrives at Central on one-way loop to an elevated stop at the main concourse level of the Victorian train, Sydney’s largest. I assumed this was a built originally for Sydney’s previous trams, and so it was. The earlier system was largely about distributing into the city centre from this terminus station, but as Sydney grew a number of previously terminating lines were extended through to new underground stations in the central city and through to the bridge and across to the North Shore. The logical and very successful upgrade for a terminating city edge station, just like Britomart. In addition to the new Light Rail line they are also now planning the third underground city rail route and second rail harbour crossing: the new Sydney Metro.

SYDNEY_5801

The lovely CAF Urbos 3 arrived full and left full. On this evidence it looks like it could do with additional frequency.

SYDNEY_5812

It runs on city streets till Darling harbour then uses the impressive cuttings of the old Metropolitan Goods Line. So the route was not selected because it is necessarily the best place to run Light Rail, but because it was available. Very much like Auckland’s passenger rail network, and many new or revived urban rail systems globally [See Manchester Light Rail, and the London Overground for example].

SYDNEY_5824

This business of running services where there happens to be an existing route can of course lead to poor results if there isn’t a match with the surrounding land use, and this line at first did not perform as well as hoped. But that all changed with a the extension to a good anchor; Dulwich Hill rail station [opening 2014], and intensification along the route. It is now booming.

SYDNEY_5829

John Street Square Station with apartments and very urban open space above.

SYDNEY_5835

SYDNEY_5839

Heading back, and full again; mid morning on a week day.

SYDNEY_5842

Approaching Central on Hay St, crossing Pitt. Smart bit of kit.

SYDNEY_5783

There are obvious parallels with Auckland everywhere you look in Sydney, it is after all, pretty much just a bigger better version of a similar urban typology: a new world anglophone Pacific harbour city. It can be argued that Auckland is at a comparable point of development that Sydney was at decades ago, and while that doesn’t for a moment mean we should slavishly follow what happened there, there is much that can be learned from this city. There are a number of interesting projects underway in Sydney now, like the new Metro, which is introducing a new separate and fully automated rail system to complement the existing network. This is certainly an option for Auckland in the future, especially for upgrading Rapid Transit to our North Shore. The same universal urban forces are in play here as there, as can be seen with Light Rail in Sydney now: It is is working well simply because it delivers on the classic necessary conditions for this mode:

  • Good land-use match: intensification around stations
  • High quality right-of-way: mostly grade separate or has signal priority
  • Strong anchors at each end of the route: train stations in each case, and destinations along the way.
  • High standard of vehicle and service [sufficient frequency yet?]

The key lesson here is that if any of these conditions are missing steps must be taken to change them, as they did here. And that it is possible to exploit existing rights of way so long as there aren’t other barriers to change, especially to more intense urban land use around stations. Now that in Auckland we are well on the way to fixing the major vehicle and frequency standards on the rail network it is the development around stations that needs work. Especially as we only need to look at the improved performance of stations like Manukau City and Sylvia Park to see, yet again, how closely linked landuse and transport always are.

Looking ahead to the next Light Rail route in Sydney it is pretty certain that this will perform even better because it is designed around need not just route availability. It is hard to disagree with Alan Davies here when he writes:

There are literally hundreds of existing light rail systems in the world. The value of some is questionable, but Sydney’s proposed CBD and South East Light Rail line looks like it’ll be among the best.

And Davies, the Melburbanist, is often skeptical about high capex Transit systems, often questioning the value of ones in his own city.

I reckon that this is probably true for the proposed Auckland Light Rail programme too, with two provisos: That land around the stops is zoned for more intense use, and like in Sydney, that the through-routing of the current terminus station is at least funded and underway first. That’s the first fix.

2015 Station Boarding Results

Auckland Transport announced yesterday that annual rail patronage has now passed 14 million trips after reaching 13.9 million by the end of June. While it’s great to see the growth that’s occurring overall, it’s also interesting to know where it’s coming from – and by that I mean which stations are people coming from and going to. Recently Auckland Transport kindly provided me with the the station boarding stats for most recent financial year – 1 July 2014 through to 30 June 2015. This follows on from them providing the same data for the previous year meaning we can now start to compare the changes.

Before delving into the results it’s important to note that they don’t cover every single trip. Not included are trips from the likes of special events, missed tag on/offs and a small number of pass options e.g. the child monthly train pass which still uses a paper ticket. That means for the last year the data covers 12.4 million trips out of the 13.9 million in total that were taken (89%).

As expected Britomart dominates the results with trips to or from the station accounting for 60.2% of all rail trips. What’s more the percentage of trips to or from Britomart is increasing as it accounted for 57% of trips in 2013/14. By comparison the next busiest station is Newmarket with just 12.6% of trips. Note: as there are a large number of trips just between these two stations, the total trips involving both of them is 68.2%.

The map below shows comparatively how many boardings occurred at each station across the network. The orange is where the Southern and Eastern lines combine and the purple where the Southern and Onehunga lines combine.

Station Boardings 2015

Things get more interesting when you compare how stations have changed from one year to the next. As the 2013/14 data only covered 83% of trips I’ve adjusted it to make a more fare comparison. Some of the interesting things to note from it are:

  • Manukau has had massive growth of well over 120% more boardings compared to last year – this is likely due to the opening of the MIT building above the station and the increase in services thanks to the introduction of electric trains.
  • Panmure has also had a big year growing 71% over the last year and like Manukau it’s likely related to the station upgrade and better, more frequent services.
  • The average growth across the network was 22%, Other than the two above, the stations that grew faster than the average were (in descending order):
    • Newmarket
    • Britomart
    • Newmarket
    • Papatoetoe
    • Puhinui
    • Sylvia Park
    • Onehunga
    • Penrose
  • Conversely at some station boardings actually fell. These were:
    • Waitakere – which is now closed
    • Te Mahia
    • Fruitvale, and
    • Swanson
  • The Eastern line Stations of Glen Innes, Panmure and Sylvia Park are now all in top 10 stations
  • New Lynn has remained the third busiest station despite having much less frequency than all the other stations in the top 10, imagine how busy it would be with 10 minute frequencies like those Eastern Line stations.
  • It appears the idea of downhilling is still growing. This is where people from on the Western Line get off at Grafton and bus/walk/cycle from there to Uni or other places in the city then carry on down hill to Britomart to catch the train home.

The table below shows the boarding and alighting data for each station. You should be able to filter the columns to get different views of the data.

Like last year the data also breaks information down further allowing us to see just how many trips went from each station to each other station on the network. I’ll look more closely at that in a separate post and reader Aaron Schiff who made this fantastic visualisation of the data is already working on updating it with the latest results.

From what is above, what do you make of the results?

Lastly I hope that one day we can get the Northern Busway stations included in here as well.

Do we have enough trains – part 2

Late last week I asked the question of whether we have enough trains. The post has resulted in a lot of discussion however some of the answers I received from Auckland Transport left me asking more questions. In particular

CAF has committed to supplying 46 EMUs for weekday operations. That number is sufficient for 12 of the 34 train sets required to operate the timetable to be doubled as 6-car trains.

So I sought some clarification around why only supply of 46 EMUs. AT have now have now provided that clarification confirming that the 46 was just to implement the services we have now and an additional six sets will be available for service once the roll-out has been completed.

The 46 sets is what CAF has confirmed they can supply to daily service as at 20 July. This does not include two additional EMUs that are held on standby ready to inject into service operations to smooth service recovery following disruption. A further three EMUs are not available as they are waiting for replacement ETCS equipment which has long lead times. These are expected to be released for service over the next few weeks. Three EMUs are “maintenance spares” which allow CAF to take the trains out of service for lengthy periods for major maintenance.

Capacity will be increased from the three trains currently out of service plus the three to be delivered next week. Once the accelerated delivery schedule is complete and all 57 EMUs have been accepted into service, up to six existing 3-carriage trains could be increased to 6-carriage trains (based on the current timetable).

I guess only time will tell if the extra six trains will be enough to cover the capacity constraints at the peak and shoulder peak periods.

Full EMU

My 6-car train was pretty full last night

Note: the comments of first post contained a lot of discussion around buying extra carriages or bringing back the old diesels. There is no need to rehash those arguments again.