I imagine that there are a few staff not looking forward to the AT board meeting today when it comes time to discuss patronage as the results for Feb certainly aren’t pretty. The highlights, if you can call them that, are:

Auckland public transport patronage totalled 69,516,680 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2013 a decrease of -1,147,482 boardings or -1.6%. February monthly patronage was 5,639,960 a decrease of -360,732 boardings or -6.0% on Feb-2012.

Rail patronage totalled 9,996,066 passengers for the 12-months to Feb-2013, a decrease of -929,032 boardings or -8.5%. Rail monthly patronage for February was 789,077 a decrease of -72,004 boardings or -8.4% on Feb-2012.

Northern Express bus service carried 2,249,079 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2013 a decrease of -49,126 or -2.1%. Northern Express bus service patronage for February was 170,554, a decrease of -13,505 boardings or -7.3% on Feb-2012.

Other bus services carried 51,836,511 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2103, a decrease of -359,936 boardings or -0.7%. Other bus monthly patronage for February was 4,132,765 a decrease of -313,630 or -7.1% on Feb-2012.

Ferry services carried 5,435,024 passenger trips for the 12-months to Feb-2103, an increase of +190,612 boardings or +3.6%. Ferry monthly patronage for February was 547,564 an increase of +38,407 or +7.5% on Feb-2012.

There was one fewer business day in February this year than the same month last year and no major special events during the month. One fewer business day accounts for approximately -4% in patronage on Feb-2012.

Rail patronage has also been affected by the pre-purchase of tertiary ten-trip tickets at the end of Feb-2012 and the allocation of patronage counts at the time of sale compared to the purchase of AT Hop tertiary stored value in 2013 and the count of patronage made at time of travel. This would account for approximately -7.5% patronage reduction for rail in Feb-2013.

So with the exception of the ferries, PT was down across the board. Now to be fair, there was an extra day in the month last year but even so that should only make 4-5% difference. Lets have a look at the graphs:

13 - Feb AK Annual Patronage 1

13 - Feb AK Monthly Patronage 1

The most high profile of the patronage stats these days is the rail network and once again things don’t look good with February even below the same month in 2011. Once again a lot of the blame seems to be targeted at the change in how stats are counted. Previously when you brought a 10 trip the trips on it were counted in the month of purchase where as now trips only get counted when you actually take a trip. The biggest problem with this comes when either fares rise, prompting a lot of people to stock up on 10 trip or monthly passes, or at the start of the year when Uni students start buying their 10 trips. With HOP neither of these happen and AT suggest that this accounts for 7.5% of the drop in rail patronage.

There is also likely to have been an increase in fare evasion as students in particular test out the new system. AT say that they are finding fare evasion as high as 6-10% and anyone who catches the train regularly enough will know that it is definitely still a problem with the high school students being the most common culprits.

Last month at the board meeting, AT staff got grilled about if they actually knew who their customers were and where the biggest opportunities lay. In the other board report on patronage (why do we need two) is some information on customer segmentation and to try and address the questions that came up last month.

2013 - March - Customer Segmentation

Yet despite all of the talk, I still continue to get the feeling that AT are waiting for the next thing just around the corner to help solve the problem. The EMUs will fix reliability but they won’t start running till next year, the new bus network will make PT in general much more attractive again that won’t start rolling out till next year. Integrated fares are still some point in the distant future, as is even just integrated ticketing rolled out to buses and we are told that the real time system is going to be updated but that won’t start happening till later this year. Yet I’m still disappointed that nothing seems to be being done to address some of the long standing problems that are within ATs control right now e.g. we still have only hourly frequencies on the Western line and no services past Henderson on a Sunday.

The only real highlights of the reports are that Ferry patronage and cycling numbers continue to increase although currently both only really play a minor role in the overall picture.

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  1. How long can that 10 trip ticketing anomaly be used for? We’ve heard the same excuses for months and months now, with promises that it’ll sort itself out “next month”.

    Of course “next month” never comes.

  2. The question is, where have these trips gone? Have they gone to another mode or simply vanished?

    That’s why we need every man woman and child fitted with q GPS tracker so where now where and when they travel.:-B

    1. Maybe Australia – to join the other 25%. Don’t worry, some people imports will be on their way soon as we can’t have wages going up.

  3. Quite, the ‘ten trip ticketing anomaly’ is rather like the endless saga of ‘completing the Auckland motorway system’. Could they perhaps be related? Of course these patronage statistics don’t reflect the fact that only some 78% of western line trains ran within 5 minutes of their scheduled time; that the HOP system, while an improvement on the 19th century paper-based method of collecting fares, hasn’t exactly been a stuff-up free exercise and is still extraordinarily limited and confusing in its application; and that, as Matt observes, we still have a western line weekend timetable that is so deficient as to render it effectively useless. The Herald this morning suggests Lester Levy sees it as a marketing issue. The last thing PT in Auckland needs is more marketing: what it needs is reasonable levels of efficiency, reliability and pricing.

    1. Crap I hope Dr Levy was being a bit more sophisticated than that and go beyond marketing.

      How is marketing going to work on a broken system – it is like putting lip stick on a – no not even a pig – but a cow patt in a paddock. COME ON AT – GET IT TOGETHER

      1. Apologies – got a bit “flustered” there in the last comment. But it just befounds me to the point of banging my head against a wall on low hanging fruit solutions ready to go but are just not being picked

  4. Matt you going to today’s Board meeting and Henderson? I might make the extremely rare trip in heading over to West Auckland today and sit in on the meeting and have a listen rather than wait until the next Transport Committee meeting next month.

    Also 6-10% fare evasion, heck that is being generous in AT’s favour. I have semi official papers that estimate evasion is at 16 to 28% based on a model run last year with AT HOP.

    Any how – highlights? I would say lowlights 😉

    1. On the Southern, Eastern and Manukau Lines Cameron in the peak are no where near capacity except maybe with 2 Pukekohe services. The Southern Motorway at Ellersile is a good indication of that – if full then train trips are down, if empty then the trains are often packed out which they are currently not.

      I could be wrong however

  5. Speaking of HOP, what’s the latest on the April rollout to buses? We’re down to a week away and I haven’t seen anything in this esteemed forum for a while.
    Getting that particular farce nailed will probably help somewhat, as I know a lot of people are becoming increasingly infuriated by what seems like an endlessly-increasing number of transport tickets/passes they have to carry.

    1. I asked the counter staff at the Hop Top-Up/Enquiry desk at AUT about this yesterday, and was told it’s been pushed back to the second half of the year…

    2. April is only going to be the NEX,( as a pilot) the rest will later, given the size and scope of the implementation for the rest of the bus network, I would expect to hear snippets once they start wiring up buses, but so far I dont think there has been any sign of AT HOP readers on any buses?

      1. Wiring up buses shouldn’t take more than a week, and realistically could be done within a weekend for the NZBus fleet since they’ve already got the ducting and cabling for the readers. Other providers may well take longer, but they also mostly don’t have as many buses or existing “HOP” card facilities. NZBus needs to happen as close to simultaneously across the fleet as possible because of the confusion between SNOP and HOP, but other providers can continue to operate their current ticketing systems on unconverted buses for however long it takes.

        Just when I think it can’t get any more ridiculous, something else comes up. We were supposed to have HOP rolled out to buses last November. Now I’m wondering whether it’ll be completed by November next year!

      2. NEX is NOT happening in April, asked the hop staff at britomart and it will be later in the year, so probably 2045 would be a good date to expect it by.

        1. I assume they will still have to change all the Waka Pacific buses (as an example) over one weekend, and also change out the HOP and AT HOP cards at the same time. Doesn’t sound easy to me!

  6. I don’t think rail patronage is noticeably different but what is concerning is the “honesty” fare system that hopes for the best, aka the Hop card and the paper tickets dispensed from those one off machines on platforms Who the hell thought this would work?? I think the numbers of evaders is much higher than publicised. Those passengers out there who have time to digest how unpoliced ticketing is are now riding around for free and encouraging their mates and family to do likewise. AT really really need to put gates on ALL stations urgently and stop bleeding ratepayers dry for fare evaders. That or go back to the old system.

    1. Some of it isn’t even deliberate fare evasion. My other half and father-in-law took the train to the first day of the test at Eden Park. Couldn’t purchase a return ticket so when everyone left at the end of the day, the one ticket machine was swamped and the security guard just waved the hundreds waiting through to the train. Not exactly the best advertisement for PT although I guess no one was complaining about a free ride.I wonder how common this sort of thing is.

      Slightly off topic – I hate those market segment labels (especially “anxious parents” and “flat out families”).

        1. Good grief, I read that and I could not believe what they were saying. What a bunch of tosh. I can’t believe a professional organisation would ever come up with such a bunch of patronising, nonsensical drivel.

      1. Are those market segments for real? How patronising can they get! It reminds me why I so dislike marketers and PR types in general (the occupation, not necessarily the person). And HR too, all make-work, non-productive stuff, which also means that middle managers miss out on learning some of the most important management skills (recruitment and staff development).

        And I see that AT has resorted to americanisms such as “dependents” when they mean “dependants”. Yes I know there’s a move towards the alternative spelling even in English, but it most likely reflects the writer’s illiteracy.

        Rant over. Time for a cup of tea and a lie down.

  7. Great to see cycling is up so strongly (8% on last year, with morning peak up 18%). I guess the weather has been perfect for it. A bit of investment in this most cost-effective of modes could see it become more than an after-thought in local transport discussions.

  8. I agree with Waspman RE fare evasion: experience travelling on the Western line suggests to me a much higher rate of evasion than 6-10%. For example, a wiley evader can see the ‘revenue protection officers’ – who wear HI VIZ VESTS – through the windows of an approaching train, and if they do, they wait for the next one (watched this last night). Also, the deployment of the officers just seems bizarre given that you would expect smart ticketing to reduce staff costs per passenger-journey (and help keep ticket prices down). They board a ~1/3 full Western train in groups of 4. Why not have pairs (in the standard Veolia outfit) spread across more trains? Or am I just missing something?
    RE The Western timetable in the weekends: Incredible. Again, there must be some good reason for this, can someone please enlighten me? Cheers!

    1. I made the same observations on the western line add on note here: Recently the train managers started to announce if the checkers are on board. They should do the same as most European cities. The officer sits just among the crowd in the train or bus. Puts suddenly on a tag and starts checking. Another solution would be that they position staff at all entrances and exits of stations and check lets say 2-3 services. And move on to the next station.

      Furthermore, it is of course no excuse but maybe an explanation for Feb patronage. Unis started this year not in the last week of Feb.

      1. Going incognito would help a bit, but the other options have major pitfalls. Checking the exits won’t accomplish anything, since people have already arrived where they want to be – there’s nothing the revenuers can do at that point, unless the person without a ticket is dumb enough to stand around and wait for the cops. Checking people entering the station is more promising, but if it’s only done sporadically, people who enter without getting checked know that they now don’t need to pay.

        Auckland Transport seems to have done the obvious thing – admitted that there’s always going to be some fare evasion and that it’s not a huge amount of money compared to the cost of enforcement.

        1. When people leaving the station without a valid ticket, this is basically theft. Thus it could be done like charging persons a fee, and otherwise sue them.

        2. Travelling without buying a ticket is not basically theft, it is theft. The thing is that’s a very minor theft – at most $10.30, and usually a lot less. This is not the sort of thing the police are going to investigate. Let’s think about how much effort the police spend tracking down a stolen car worth $10,000, and then divide that effort by a thousand.

          I don’t know what you mean by “charging persons a fee”, but suing someone over $10.30 is not a worthwhile use of resources, if you can even identify the person in the first place. The Disputes Tribunal is probably the best option for really minor amounts of money, and it has a minimum fee of $36.30, plus the cost of actually presenting the case, so even if you win, you’ve lost money.

        3. It’s not theft, it is fare evasion. Theft is a crime and it doesn’t apply to fare evasion.

        4. “It’s not theft, it is fare evasion. Theft is a crime and it doesn’t apply to fare evasion.”

          As Steve D correctly noted, the distinction is practical, not moral. Riding for free when everyone else has to pay IS very much theft from a moral perspective, just as stealing someone’s $3 lunch is theft. Neither is likely to put you into prison (that’s the practical distinction), but both are theft from others nonetheless.

        5. If someone steals a $3 thing, they may well end up before the courts charged with theft. If someone avoids paying a $3 fare, they won’t because it is not theft. It’s a legal thing, right?

          Also, it is morally different. If someone takes my lunch, I am deprived of it. If someone gets on the train without paying, the cost to the operator and others is virtually zero.

          That’s not to say I think fare evasion is ok — things fall apart when there are too many freeloaders.

    2. Not paying or making any attempt to pay for a fare is a fraud offence, if the person gets on with no intent to pay for the service or has no intention to pay full fare, such as going on as a child or student or gold card holder, so therefore its a crime. Same as doing a runner from a taxi, getting a hair cut and leaving without payment etc etc

  9. Went to get the train home, car being serviced, so had to buy a paper ticket. Wait time was 30 mins. What a joke. Deliberately having long delays to force uptake of HOP is not customer focused Service Delivery. After that experience I will not taking the train again.

    1. Hey, you don’t need to be buying a paper ticket to get to enjoy a 30 minute wait on the Auckland rail network. In fact, if you’re out west on the weekend, you can wait for a full hour, HOP card or no.

  10. My observations on the Western line are similar to Alastairu’s above. More ticket machines at stations would help, especially Kingsland. If there is a queue for the machines, or one is broken (seems to be often) I think people just jump on the train rather than wait for the next one.
    Nor am I sure the ticket inspectors time their inspections well, or are frequent enough. Coming into the city people start alighting at the inner stations, Kingsland through Grafton, which are ungated. Inspectors should be targetting these in the mornings. Also, I think they should not wear vests or uniforms, rather be on the train incognito, and have ID on a lanyard they put on when they start the inspection.
    Finally, I think they are too soft with ticket evaders – I have seen many a let-off with a warning. This is understandable in the first couple of months of the Hop system, but it is now 5 months from launch – time to get tougher, surely?

    1. I think the number of people who are going to miss their train so they can give a couple of bucks to a faceless consortium of quangos is pretty much nil, especially when said faceless quango consortium routinely doesn’t hold up its own end of the bargain. In fact, the customers are a lot more reliable at paying than Veolia-AucklandTransport-KiwiRail-Uncle-Tom-Cobley-&-all are at running trains on time.

      Most stations could do with a lot more machines and tag posts. The major cost is servicing the machines, but there’s not a lot more cost in servicing two right beside each other rather than one. Single tickets are still a huge fraction of the market, and always will be.

  11. I have noticed a significnat number of fare evaders on the southern line, but I think it is getting better. In recent months there has been alot more ticket inspections on the trains I am riding (I usually end up getting my ticket checked 2 or 3 times a week at the moment). In Janaury, a person I know told me about an interesting way of getting around the ticket inspectors using the old pass they gave out for unused 10 trip tickets (I think that they have been all used up now but they were able to get 4 or 5 trips out of each one).
    However, I still think the evasion is much higher than AT is saying as there is usually 2 or 3 people the inspections in the same carriage as me which have caught either not having a ticket or not swiping on.
    In saying that I also think people using trains are less than last year as the trains are not as packed as before and the park and ride facility at manurewa is not as packed.The quenes on the ticketing machines may be one of the reasons for this. At always takes more than 10 minutes to get a ticket during peak times and it makes taking a train a pain if you have to do it. I don’t know why this system was choosen because I have used other ticketing systems in China and US where everyone has to go though a gate (card holders or paper tickets) and the gate can read both type sort of tickets (no more checking of the paper by AT staff). the paper tickets are very similiar to paper parking tickets used at Auckland Airport and the machine verifies that they are valid. I am guessing it would cost too much to install them now but why was the current system choosen as it seems very difficult to enforce?

  12. Half the problem with ticket enforcement is that Veolia’s ticket inspectors don’t have the power to do anything other than request fare evaders to either pay the $20 onboard fare or to leave the train at the next stop. That’s because the Ministry of Transport has been sitting on the necessary enabling legislation. The ministry either doesn’t have the personnel (National’s cutting out ‘unnecessary back room staff’) or they’re too involved in dreaming up more motorways for the minister. This state of affairs also means that revenue protection staff can’t travel incognito. While there’s a lot that AT can be blamed for (frequency, reliability, communications, etc, etc), the issue of revenue protection can be blamed fairly and squarely on Mr Brownlee’s department. This is one of the many, many consequences of a transport policy that focuses on motorways and marginalises everything else.

    1. The report says that 50 ticket check staff only do about 6000 checks a day. Does that strike anyone as LOW? 120 checks per staff / day???

      1. Oh, and yes, having them wear high-viz so they are visible from far away to fare-dodgers is a good one too. Maybe they should also provide an app for mobile phones. “Fare checks on the 4:15 today… please have your ticket ready.”

  13. Surely if they gate the busiest stations then anyone going to or from those stations has to buy a ticket/ tag off so they have to pay, is it really that hard or do AT’s staff just not look at successful overseas models.

    1. Well, even that only works if you have STAFF at the fare gates. Otherwise people will just HOP over the gates. Punny.

      So you are looking at every fare-gated station being a major investment in capex and opex.

      1. @Starnius
        It is not for jumpers you need to staff the stations,
        Because you cannot use paper tickets in the gates you need to be let through manually at a staffed gate…so they really need to move to rfid paper tickets that gates can read

        1. Okay, got you on the paper tickets issue now.

          I still believe though, that gates without staff are pretty useless for reducing fare evasion. We may not have levels of tenacity like in Paris, where they sneak past/through even fence-type barriers to not pay, but seriously, a gate that is about as high as a writing desk is no big barrier if there’s no consequences for ignoring it.

        2. You would be amazed how well it does work, a lot better than no checking and a lot cheaper!

          Also, train travel in Auckland should be hop only.

  14. The biggest problem with this comes when either fares rise, prompting a lot of people to stock up on 10 trip or monthly passes, or at the start of the year when Uni students start buying their 10 trips. With HOP neither of these happen and AT suggest that this accounts for 7.5% of the drop in rail patronage.

    Still no acknowledgement from AT that fare rises themselves depress demand, which continues to drop until a new equilibrium is reached.

    Of course, deliberate fare evasion is a problem too. However, fare evasion is also sensitive to price, and higher transport prices cause an increase in evasion.

    1. Yes and AT’s own research show cost sensitivity. Duh. Off peak should be about 1/3 of the peak fare, at least half. Probably revenue neutral if properly supported by a marketing campaign and as new riders at off peak cost nothing to add…. But make it HOP card dependent. Grow those HOP users.

  15. Interestingly at the AT board meeting today they stated that to have a ticket inspector on each train would cost an extra $7m a year in opex.

    1. Ah yes, but the deterrent effect will be to ensure over $7m worth of ticket purchases are maintained by users as those who see others doing it and try to evade themselves, see the inspectors and have second thoughts about doing it themselves.

    2. What happened to all the veolia staff who used to be ticket sellers? Can’t they now be inspectors? Why would it cost us more when there are now many free staff? Had we started to pay veolia less?
      If veolia is the operator, shouldn’t they be part of the solution?

  16. This is no surprise.

    My experience (my wife and I used to account for 4 trips a day between us) is we found new ways of getting to work when the Christmas Shutdown happened, which was driving, we have found it as cheap as the train, and probably more convenient, in terms of time it takes us 20 -25 mins door to door, the train was 15 mins on a good day 30 on a bad one, so no real time saving. This is leaving at 7.20 in the morning, coming home at 5. If the Christmas shutdown had been so ridiculously long this year we wouldn’t have found another way to get to work, and would still be using the train. I suspect there are several people in the same position

    Fare evasion is huge, you just need to stand at GI station at any time to see the number of people who just walk past the tag posts, this is on trains to and from the South. I am sure this scene will be repeated at many other locations.

    Talking to train users at work, they use monthly tickets, and get frustrated at the costs if you don’t tag on or tag off at the start of journeys, because there are not enough tag on/tag off posts. End result, they are stopping using the train as the costs are becoming too high.

    At the end of the day, Auckland Transport have stuffed up the introduction of the hop card, they honesty system was s stupid idea, and until they fix the ticketing they numbers will only go one way. They also need to find a way to entice back people like my wife and I, whose habits were broken by the summer shutdown.

  17. Had a reply from Auckland Transport to my suggestion of increased services from North Shore to Auckland University as the buses leave patrons behind as the buses are full. Sometimes 50 (fifty) people at one stop are left behind.
    Quote from a section of AT’s reply is

    “As you may be aware, February through to April are the busiest months of the year for public transport as the schools and universities reopen and the number of new users on the network increases. After April, we will see a drop in the patronage figures and the situation improve.”

    It is a little worrying that less people using PT can be viewed as a situation improve.

    1. I agree, a drop in patronage after the initial hump should not be an improvement. Is the drop in patronage due to the buses (and possibly trains although I am not a user) being too overloaded at peak times. From our experiences people could easily be put off using them. The buses have been so busy recently that my partner can’t get to work on time. But we love the public transport system and want to use it and don’t want to be put off using it because it’s too busy.

      We flat on Mt Eden Road and my partner catches the bus every day at 7.15-7.20 into the city (he then does a 15 minute walk to Westhaven). The buses have been crammed full and going past without being able to pick up anyone at our stop over the last couple of months and has meant he is getting later and later to work. The options for him are to get up earlier (tried that and buses no better), driving (there is free parking near work so this is cost effective), and biking (appealing at the moment but not mid-winter). We don’t want to be forced to use our car to commute!

  18. AT need to be much more proactive in getting people onto HOP cards. Need to be available at more than just Auckland, Newmarket, New Lynn and Papakura. Thats just totally hopeless. Maybe need stalls set up on the morning at random stations trying to catch everyone, or even a few people roving at Britomart with mobile eftpos machines.
    Good to see they are running a $5 promotion at the moment, but need to include other promotions as above. Things will approve when they get the buses on AT HOP as alot more people will have cards, but seems as though the date keeps slipping back for this though….

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