This was highlighted to me earlier in the week and shows one of the big problems we have with getting positive change implemented. It started off with this post by Dick Quax and was quickly jumped on by a couple of his supporters.
So in jumps Luke pointing out that rail has been growing strongly of late and as expected some people question this to which evidence is provided.
Now it’s not that someone doesn’t believe the figures are true that concerns me, but that Quax is a councillor and is meant to be making decisions that have huge impacts on the outcome of the city. Simply ignoring facts is unacceptable. What’s more he points to a single observation at Manukau (which I believe was from a few years ago now) as justification for the entire rail network patronage figures being wrong. Of course on the issue of Manukau what he forgets to mention is the numbers were predicted based on the MIT campus being open (which is yet to be completed) and on the local buses being changed to serve the station, something that hasn’t happened. That anyone is using the station in its current state is probably a bit of a surprise but I would expect that to change radically in the next few years.
But all of this makes me wonder if we would still be having these types of conversations were it not for the major impact caused by the RWC. Sure patronage definitely fell away in parts of 2012 and 2013 but it’s been my view that it appears much worse than it really was due to the big boost the RWC brought about. Auckland Transport said the impact of the RWC was 192,000 trips in September 2011 and 210,000 in October 2011 so 402,000 all up. Adjusting the patronage figures for that bump you can see that patronage still fell but obviously not by as much as it is typically reported.
In addition there’s another key point often forgotten about in this discussion. Just as the impacts from the RWC boost wore off HOP was introduced. That resulted in a number of key changes and impacts to the way patronage was reported. One was that patronage was counted when it happened where as in the past monthly and ten trip tickets were added to the figures based on when the physical ticket sold rather than when it was used. This is important because people often brought a number of paper tickets in advance (especially in advance of a fare increase). In addition there was a two month grace period for people to use up their paper tickets and in November and December 2012. None of the patronage on those tickets was counted towards the figures for those months seeing as they had been counted earlier when the tickets were original purchased. I’m not sure how much impact this had but one report from AT suggested was equivalent to almost 150,000 trips from November 2012 alone. Actual patronage was probably somewhere in the green area below.
So yes patronage probably fell a bit but not as bad as the graphs showing the total figures normally show. The change was been largely exaggerated by impacts at both the peak and peak and trough. What is undeniable now though is that patronage is at an all-time high and growing strongly. Just bring on those EMUS and I think that growth will look even stronger – not that it helps those who want to be blind to the truth.