It has been a long time since we have seen any PT patronage numbers but with the AT board meeting next week, they have finally been released. December saw a continuation of the same trends from late last year with total patronage down 7% compared to December 2011 (bus -8%, rail -7% and ferry -4%). January finally saw patronage start to bounce back, increasing by 4.6% over Jan 2012 (bus +5%, rail +2% and ferry +6%). Hopefully this is the start to some more positive results. Here are the overall results:

13 - Jan AK Annual Patronage

13 - Jan AK Monthly Patronage

AT have made a big change to the way they report on patronage which has unfortunately meant we don’t get anywhere near the same level of information as we used to. No longer do we get a breakdown of rail patronage by line, no longer do we get a breakdown of bus patronage by region, no longer do we get any information on the reliability of either rail or bus services and no longer are we getting any information on cycling numbers.

We do get a bit more info into what is affecting patronage numbers and the author says that the report will now present initiatives to improve patronage for the rest of the financial year.  Starting with rail they have an image showing what is impacting both positively and negatively on patronage.

AT Jan Board meeting Rail positive and negative

Looking at some of the more detailed commentary on what is affecting rail patronage, perhaps the most interesting one is about the change in methodology.

The introduction of the AT HOP ticketing system on rail from October 2012 has seen a change in the way in which patronage is recorded. Under AT HOP, patronage is recorded at the time the trip is made. This is a significant change to the traditional recording method used on rail. Under the legacy paper ticket system, passenger journeys could not accurately be counted as a trip at the time it was made for multi journey tickets. The historic method of accounting for passenger trips was based on calculating the equivalent number of trips for the ticket type and accounting for these at the date of purchase. This has now ceased. As a consequence, for the months October 2012 to December 2012 there were trips made on the rail system using legacy 10-trip and monthly tickets which would have previously been recorded during the month these tickets were originally sold. This will have an artificial negative impact on the reported patronage during the transition phase, with the greatest impact being recorded in November.

The report also talks about the experience in Perth, a city we compare ourselves with regularly, and from whom we brought some of our existing trains. During their transition to electrification they also saw a drop off in patronage due to shutdowns and poor infrastructure reliability however once that finished, patronage took off and more than doubled within just a few years.

AT Jan Board meeting Perth Experience

Looking forward there is talk of a few campaigns which AT might undertake to help build rail patronage in the short term. Looking at that last one in particular, I wonder if they will introduce higher frequency off peak and weekend trains as well as group discounts to actually give it a chance of working.

AT Jan Board meeting rail campaigns

Moving on to buses, AT are thankfully still separating out the patronage of the Northern Express services. For the first time we get some acknowledgement that busway patronage is actually much higher than what is reported as there are 20 other routes that currently use the busway for parts of their journey. While the NEX itself accounts for around 2.4 million trips per year, the busway as a whole is estimated to account for 5.8 million trips. Like rail we have some information on upcoming activities. One of those is that AT plan to open customer service centres at Northern Busway stations in the middle of this year.

AT Jan Board meeting NEX positive and negative

Another addition to the report is a look at other measures which are likely to be affecting patronage including changes to employment levels, new car sales and petrol prices. One thing the report didn’t include is traffic volumes. Data from the , NZTA data shows that vehicle trips over the harbour bridge continue to increase, a trend that has been occurring for some months now, although it should be pointed out that it is still some way off its peak in 2006.

AHB Jan -13 - 2

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  1. Grumble. The lack of cycle stats does stick in my craw a bit, seeing how hard we (CAA) had to fight to get this reported on in even the very basic fashion they have done during recent months. Have dashed off a request to the relevant account manager to please get that added back in, by Monday’s board meeting, if at all possible.

  2. Something of interest in the report is the “Meet the Timetable” section. It says that the review of the Outer Link timetable was done in December 2012 (or at least that’s what I understand from the report). How come that, nearly two months later, we have not heard about the timetable update? Would be quite awesome to see a timetable for the Outer Link.

    1. The outer link technically runs without a timetable but just a minimum headway. That means that any changes would not result in an actual timetable going out to the public but a change behind the scenes.

    2. As Matt said, it’s more an internal scheduling thing about running times between timing points than a public thing about an actual timetable. The idea is to give the buses enough time that they don’t need to hurry while not giving them so much time that they either drive like snails or drive normally (to keep concentration levels up) and have to wait for ages at the next timing point (by which point they’ve normally caught up with the bus in front which was driving like a snail …)

  3. I guess the reliability statistics were just getting too embarrassing. However, if AT want to increase weekend and off peak user numbers on the western line they sure as hell are going to have to do something about improving the frequency and reliability of the current service. But it’s good to see that, finally, AT seem to be recognising that not every train journey is about going back and forth to work

  4. With their intention to increase the fare penalty for not tagging off from what is now to $10.40 later this year, then $20, does that mean that your HOP card will get stung with a $20 fare “charge” every time you tag on – and then the difference from the actual fare is credited back when you tag off? (currently the tag on amount is $5 as I found out earlier this week).

    If so, you’ll end up forcing folks who use auto-top up to have a minimum $20 balance + their auto top up level on their HOP cards at all times or the auto-top up will get triggered too early as soon as they tag on with less than the maximum fare on their HOP card balance. Which is in my opinion a joke to do this. (and/or ensure your auto-top up amount is kept low to avoid too much money ending up on your card).

    And does it also mean the minimum top up amount has to be raised as well or leave it at $10?


    1. I thought the $20 was just the fare if you didn’t have a ticket? It’s a bit unfair to charge people more than just the maximum fare for failing to tag off. The penalty for failing to tag off is just a result of the system not knowing how far you went, rather than a punishment for trying to get a free ride.

    2. The $20 “on board fare” is the price charged if you are found to be travelling without a paper ticket or tagged-on hop card. This change doesn’t affect Hop card usage.

  5. Greg, i don’t believe you need an immediate credit, if i got the system, what i read about it not totally wrong you can overdraft it once but cannot ride with overdraft anymore. I fully support higher fees/fines for riding without proper ticket. Even 20 penalty is low compared to many other cities. Most European Cities, charges something between 40 – 150 Euro if you get caught, or even fail tagging off.

    Now that the Hop Card was rolled out, actually more data should be available, so reduction of the report is quite disappointing.

      1. Yes. In Germany or Austria it works in that way the transport company charges you a processing fee and therfore not sues the person. If not paid the person gets taken to the court (what is much more expensive) and it is literally speaking stealing.

    1. Pretty much correct. The Green Link debits your card as you get on, presumably the Red Link does too, all other services just record on the card where you tagged on then debit the card when you get off and it knows how much to charge.

      Apart from the fixed fare Links things happen in this order after you tag on. (1) If the card has a negative balance you’ll be told to pay the driver. (2) If there is money on the card (even 1 cent is enough, it just has to be not negative) and the card is still tagged on from another bus then a penalty fare is charged. (3) If there is still money on the card, the point you tagged on is recorded on the card and you’re good to go.

      The important point to note here is that whether you have a positive balance and can get on the bus is checked AFTER penalty fares have been deducted.

  6. Good to see a return to patronage growth, hopefully a sign of things to come in the year ahead. 100 million trips p.a. by 2016 would be nice!

  7. Integrated transport programme (I assume this means the AT Hop bus rollout) to be “tabled at the meeting”. There is nothing in the Agenda on a $100m project! How is this going and why doesn’t it feature on the “positive intervention activities”? Are we still on for an April rollout?

    1. No my understanding is the Integrated Transport plan is a transport plan between all the agencies involved (AT, NZTA, Kiwirail etc.). I believe the idea is to ensure works are done in a co-ordinated fashion rather than each agency doing their own thing in isolation.

      1. yuss.

        The integrated ticketing project that Cam is interested in must be rolling-out on buses in April, because we have not heard anything to the contrary have we? It’d be extremely unusual for a HOP timetable to be delayed, nigh on unthinkable.

          1. It’s a blurry line between paranoia and enthusiasm – there’s many people who will breathe a massive sigh of relief once integrated ticketing (and then fares) has been implemented.

          2. “there’s many people who will breathe a massive sigh of relief once integrated ticketing (and then fares) has been implemented.”

            Yep. The long-suffering patrons of the services, to start with!

  8. At least the impact of poor rail punctuality performance is being acknowledged as a contributing factor to declining rail patronage.

  9. As I read it from the papers, HOP is supposed to emerge on the NEX at the end of April and then will be implemented gradually with a possible total network roll out by November 2013. Somewhat less than what was anticipated but, hey, progress of a sort.

  10. Regarding Northern busway remember in 2012 the busway had 2-3 sets of lights on it due to underground wiring work.
    I feel patronage could be a little higher than 5.8 million per year if the busway had not had this inconvenience.
    Also worth noting the 881 bus had it own mention in Northern busway actions. This service increased in March 2012 and useage went up in a year when overall patronage decreased. I think this shows value of some unusal services tailored for users.

  11. No longer do we get a breakdown of rail patronage by line, no longer do we get a breakdown of bus patronage by region, no longer do we get any information on the reliability of either rail or bus services and no longer are we getting any information on cycling numbers.

    Disappointing to see this step away from transparency. Some OIA requests are in order.

  12. With the reliability statistics removed, how will we know if the buses are 99.98% reliable or 99.99% reliable? It’s an important difference.

    More seriously, that’s a massive decline in bus patronage being shown above. It should concern those who run these things.

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