Back in early September the council’s transport committee looked at three important reports: the annual screenline study of trips into the isthmus and CBD, a study of congestion levels and a benchmarking study which compared Auckland to various cities overseas. Quite rightly, most of the focus was placed on the bench-marking study, which highlighted how comparatively poor our public transport system is (not that surprising) and also how expensive it is for users (a bit more surprising).
The screenline study, while based on a single day’s data (and therefore impacted on by one-off issues such as what the weather was like), provides some really useful longitudinal data of how Auckland’s PT system has worked over time – particularly in terms of the number of people entering the city at peak times. It allows us to create graphs like this one: Perhaps a bit more helpfully, it also enables us to look a bit deeper, comparing how each entrance point to the city centre has performed over time:
You can see that the most dramatic increase has come along Fanshawe Street, reflecting the Northern Busway making public transport travel for those on the North Shore much more attractive over the past five years. The decrease for Symonds Street is due to many buses being rerouted via Grafton Bridge.
What’s particularly interesting is to start combining passenger numbers with service numbers. Short of spending hours digging through timetable information to find the exact number of services entering the CBD along each route at peak times, the best way of getting a rough guide is using some very handy work that NZTA had done for them as part of the Waitemata Harbour crossing project – which tells us the number of services per peak hour (not the whole AM peak). A general rule of thumb is that the peak 60 minute hour contains around 60% of the whole AM peak numbers, so we can start to formulate some interesting data: What we can see is a surprisingly large difference between the average number of passengers per bus along the different main routes. Amazingly, on average buses that enter the city centre via Fanshawe Street have more than twice the number of passengers as those entering the city centre across Grafton Bridge!
The obvious reason behind the huge difference is to look at where buses that travel northbound along Albert Street and come in along Grafton Bridge have travelled for most of their journeys, which (generally) includes places where these bus routes duplicate railway lines. Grafton Bridge is the main entry point for buses from south Auckland, while Albert Street (northbound) is generally used by buses from west Auckland. By contrast, there is obviously no rail on the North Shore, while many buses that come in along Upper Symonds Street have come from routes like Mt Eden Rd, Dominion Road and Sandringham Road – which generally don’t duplicate the rail corridor (New North Road being the obvious exception).
This is clearly a legacy of us not adapting our bus network to the fact that we now have a rail system. It means that we don’t have enough buses on North Shore routes (meaning they’re overcrowded) while providing far too many buses from the south and west, even though people aren’t bothering to use them anymore because the train is so much faster. Fixing this wouldn’t cost any money, and in fact could save money and provide a much better service level where it’s most needed.