Auckland Transport have released the May 2011 public transport statistics report, and the results patronage-wise are pretty spectacular. Here are the highlights:

These are particularly strong increases, as compared with April’s numbers we see all patronage increase by 10.3% (compared to 3.9% in April) and rail patronage grow by 21.5% (compared to 12.7% in April). It’s a bit unfortunate that we couldn’t have had another 15,000 rail trips on the network to crack the magic one million mark, but it seems likely that getting more than a million passengers a month on the rail network is likely to become fairly commonplace over the next year or two.

Looking at the more detailed statistics, we see a really solid increase in general bus patronage (over 8%) and spectacular growth on the Western Line rail patronage (almost 30%). The investment in improving the Western Line over the past few years is really starting to pay off. Sneaking in at the bottom there is ferry patronage, which grew by an excellent 8%. Ferry patronage has been pretty static over the past few years so it’s good to see some growth there. Once the Hobsonville and Beach Haven ferries are up and running (some time next year I think) it seems likely that ferry patronage will grow once again.

The longer term patronage trends are shown in the graph below. What’s of particular note is that May was the third highest total (only beaten by March this year and last year) and the second highest month for rail patronage (even higher than March last year):

Once again the most significant growth in patronage is on the Rapid Transit Network (the rail network plus the Northern Busway). RTN patronage was up 20% on May last year: Helpfully, bus patronage on “normal routes” (by that I mean excluding the Northern Express) also increased by 8.2% – the biggest increase since October/November last year (and those results last year were the rebound from the bus lockout the year before). With around 4.7 million of the 6.3 million public transport trips in May occurring on ‘normal’ bus routes, it’s crucial that we continue to improve those services if we really want PT patronage to boom: Looking at the bus numbers in a bit more detail, once again it seems that the highest growth rates are in the north and south – generally the areas where we have seen service improvements over the past few years. One can only hope that Auckland Transport will eventually learn from this and embark upon comprehensive bus service improvements elsewhere in the region: The rest of the report is fairly stock standard. Rail reliability improved, although is still below the 90% level that many overseas cities would cancel contracts over if it was not achieved. Most of the delay minutes seemed to result from “operations”. By that I guess it is meant the age that it often takes for the doors to open and close at each station?

One useful thing that’s mentioned in upcoming PT improvements is a reworking of bus routes in south Auckland to feed into the Manukau Station when it opens in February next year. Let’s hope that might lead to a reduction in the 73 million bus routes from Manukau to Britomart.

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  1. And with results like this becoming more and more common the government continue to the ostrich approach by sicking its head into they sand saying all we need is a few more roads.

    The western line has really taken off since double tracking was finished and extra capacity added which shows there was and probably still is plenty of demand for a good quality alternative.

  2. When does ten minute frequency begin?

    Manukau with cost free transfers and bus coordination should go off! 2012 should be just as hot.

      1. My guess is that in Feb the overall capacity won’t really increase that much at the height of the peak hour. At the moment we have four 6 car trains and I suspect they will be split up into six 4 car trains to provide the extra frequency. Even so the better frequencies will generate more patronage.

        1. Aren’t there a half-dozen extra carriages due *checks the date* this month, to increase passenger capacity?

        2. 4 x 5-carriage trains for the southern or eastern line from July 17 iirc.

          From what I’ve heard, the western line will retain some of the 6-carriage trains next year, although there is a persistent rumour that they may be split to make more 5-carriage trains. Allegedly AT now accept the DFT locos aren’t really suitable, and Kiwirail are quite keen to have them back in freight service.

  3. This is brilliant news. Especially promising to see the sustained growth on rail and northern busway. Makes me wonder if they are now driving some form of land use changes that are creating their own demand.

    As I mentioned on an earlier post – economic benefits (e.g. travel time savings) for existing users are worth twice as much as benefits to new users, so this continued growth in patronage will make subsequent public transport projects easier to justify.

    I wonder if the introduction of HOP will push growth on non-RTN bus services, which have previously suffered the most from the lack of integration. With HOP you can now wander down to any major arterial road, e.g. Khyber Pass, and catch any bus that goes by, whereas previously you had to wait until your “main” operator came along.

    So HOP will have increased the effective frequency for people living close to major bus routes where several operators are present. It will also mean that these bus services can be used to feed into train stations – creating linked trips that further grow patronage.

    Growth of 8.4% is, in the scale of things, extremely high. If this keeps up then Auckland’s future looks very bright indeed. Perth will be comparing themselves to us … 😉

    1. With HOP you can now wander down to any major arterial road, e.g. Khyber Pass, and catch any bus that goes by, whereas previously you had to wait until your “main” operator came along.

      Not quite yet. HOP is only on NZ Bus services for now. We’ll have to wait until the middle of next year for it to be accepted on all buses.

      1. Yeah good point, I was getting ahead of myself there – but main point was that I would expect the roll out of HOP to see growth shift back towards LCN/QTN services a little, because it makes them relatively more useful.

        1. I think a major outcome of full integrated ticketing will be people using the bus network to get from their place to the Rapid Transit Network (whether that be rail or the Northern Express). Helpfully, all those connecting trips are likely to be counted as individual trips meaning that measured patronage should skyrocket as many people take 4 unlinked trips a day.

        2. I suspect there will be pax going in both directions (i.e. pax previously using rail only starting to use a buses as well; and pax previously using bus only starting to use rail as well) so it will be interesting to see if these flows will cancel each other out or if one direction will have more flow. However this all depends on HOP having integrated ticketing — it could be that the end of the year will see HOP being used for rail/bus 10-trips and e-money only — while the ‘true’ integrated passes would be rolled out next year.

    2. Thales said at one of the CBT meetings that based on their international experience integrated ticketing alone usually led to about 8% growth and I see no reason why it wouldn’t here providing it is not stuffed up. I suspect the real benefit will be once the integrated fares part is done as after that AT will really be able to be a bit more aggressive with improving bus routes and creating rail feeders

      1. Consider the city rail link, which delivers a 15 minute travel time saving. Existing users enjoy the full travel-time savings because they would catch the train with/without the link. New users that are attracted by the time saving do not enjoy the full benefits, because if it’s not build they default to their original travel choice. So we assume the average new user saves 7.5 minutes, rather than the full 15 minutes. Make sense?

        1. Yes and no. What if their original mode took even longer, so the time saving for that new rider is actually even greater?, and this is not unlikely in AK because of the lack of choice on most routes, ie when we put in a RTN it is almost always a whole new service.

          And if the justification is, in part, to reduce road congestion [I know, I know], then won’t the new rider in fact offer a double benefit? Their own quicker journey and a car off the road?

          A commuter from the west to say Aotea Station who used to drive, as Britomart was too far from their office and the indirect western line too slow to make enough difference now has two new incentives to ride the train. This is a much more valuable improvement for this person than an existing rider, and clearly to other road users, [and other collective measures, air quality, climate change, FF depletion]…. yet economists half the value? Go figure.

        2. Don’t focus on the time saving per se, instead just step back and consider any generic project that makes public transport more attractive (which is a shift in the supply curve).

          All the rule of half concept says is that the benefits to new users from the project are less than the benefits to existing users, because if the project were not built then the new users would just keep doing what they were previously doing – which must be better than the “base case” public transport situation.

          The “double benefit” you point out is actually a different type of benefits altogether – congestion benefits do not accrue to the user, but to other people who keep driving.

          So to break it down more clearly:
          1. Travel-time benefits: Existing users get full benefit of project, new users get half benefit; and
          2. Congestion reduction benefits: New users that would otherwise drive reduce congestion for someone else.

          Hope that helps? The DfT has a more technical explanation here:

        3. That demand curve is ridiculously simple, and contains a great number of assumptions. I’d say every single one of them could be questioned or disproved.

          I’d be interested to know if there’s significant evidence of it performing in real conditions.

  4. Are you able to get similar statistics for Wellington? I know this is an Auckland transport blog, but it would be interesting to compare the two cities.

    1. The metlink website only lists up to June 2010 however one of the frequent commenters on here got up to Feb by doing an OIA request.

    2. There was post here a while ago that Auckland had just taken over from Wellington as having the largest gross PT useage in the country. Of course Wellington has a quarter of the population so we still have a long way to go.

      1. Overtaking Wellington for per-capita PT use will be the work of decades. That said, overtaking them in nominal terms is a big achievement, as was breaking the 60m boardings/year benchmark that had been Auckland’s previous record. In the 1950s!

        When one considers how far we’ve come in the space of a decade it’s quite incredible, especially when you think about the very limited capital expenditure that has gone into achieving the current results. Looking entirely at the “if we didn’t do this, then there would have been no capacity to grow” figures, the money spent is well south of a billion dollars – double-tracking the Western Line, and re-opening Onehunga. Newmarket, Britomart and New Lynn make the network much nicer, but the growth could have happened without them.

        1. Once Auckland gets CBDRL and one of the other big three (Airport, shore, eastern) lines, they will overtake Wellington on per-capita use if Wellington continues its dreary business as usual progress.
          GW seem to be lacking vision, and seem to have a superiority complex, like “we’re so much better than Auckland, we don’t need to do any better”.
          All there recent upgrade were effectively just replacing life expired equipment, only a a 7km extension in services, not even any frequency increases. The Western line will soon have far better frequencies than Wellington.
          PS I have OIAed GW for patronage data from MArch 2011 to present day.

  5. Just shy of a million train boardings.

    We’ve got another couple of years growth just with integrated ticketing, Manukau line, and rail – bus alignment. Hopefully that will ride us out long enough that when we get rid of National the next government can fast track other needed improvement (the network will be right at capacity by then, and I’ll bet no significant further investment before 2014)

    1. Except that we’ll not get the CRL for at least three years beyond 2014, if National win in November, and probably more like six. If National get the flick this year, we could potentially have the tunnel for 2015 assuming a very aggressive approach to getting it started – get the engineers onto the physical tunnel requirements immediately, tender for the borer(s) once those’re determined, be ready to get the cutting under way before the ink dries on the final signatures designating and consenting the route.

      Obviously that’s hopeful in the extreme, but the PT patronage trends are only going in one direction – up. I can’t help but think that Joyce is looking at the graphs in a mirror.

      1. Joyce knows what you and I know, that PT use jumps when you invest in it. That’s why he is not investing in it into the future [see the GPS]. Excuse the pun but it is already a runaway train with the recent improvements so that’s just got to stop.

  6. most of the Britomart – Manukau services go through Otara or Mangere, so aren’t really designed for through passengers, and are of use for those travelling from Otara/Mangere to Manukau.
    Interestingly Google transit tells me the quickest way from Britomart to Manakau is train to Puhinui, then walk 24mins!
    The key thing for Manukau rail serivces to ensure rail feeders from Clover Park, Goodwood Heights and Chapel Road.
    Especially the 466, 580, 497.

  7. The monthly stats are always interesting, and good to see they are still very positive.

    It would be interestinf if they aslo included peak time passenger numbers at Britomart. Could show the MoT/Treasury how wrong they were with the CBDRL analysis.

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