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.

Dick Quax Facebook 1

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.

Dick Quax Facebook 2Here’s where the problem is. Despite being shown what the actual figures are people like Quax simply ignore them and claim they’re made up.

Dick Quax Facebook 3

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.

Rail impact from RWC and HOP

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.

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  1. Also in the last few years there’s been a lot of network construction activity while electrification infrastructure has been implemented. While certain parts of the network, especially the Western Line also had infrastructure work stopping the rail service for periods before electrification started, it wasn’t the whole network. Most months in the last two years have seen at least two shutdowns a month. That has to have had an effect on patronage even though most times rail-bus services operated.

    1. Indeed, weekend and summer shut downs, shutdowns of the Southern in the evenings, and add to that the fact the whole system is running on old trains that frequently break down, it’s hardly surprising growth hasn’t be able to simply grown exponentially. Let’s see what the next few years bring with modern trains that will be able to keep to their timetable and won’t constantly breakdown.

  2. That’s the thing that bugs me the most is an unwillingness, by councillors and LB members like Quax, to properly research anything or accept figures when put in front of them. The same thing happened during the Draft Unitary Plan submission period.

  3. Just goes to show what I have always suspected about Dick Quax he’s just an ideologue and is not interest in facts if they don’t back his blinkered world view. In his mind he’s right and if the numbers don’t back this up they have to be wrong because… well just because he knows damn it!

    I remember when him, George Wood and Cameron Brewer went to down to Manukau station shortly after it opened to count how many people were boarding so they could declare the station a waste of money and a failure. The biggest waste of ratepayers money in all of this is those three fools.

    1. AT don’t help themselves much here by clearly providing statistics for Manukau station passenger growth.

      They say they can’t show Manukau Line patronage growth separately from Southern Line patronage yet due to the fact that Manukau opened in April 2012 and they reclassified/changed some former southern services to Manukau ones at the same time, so previous year on year and rolling 12 month comparisons are not possible.
      So they merge the patronage growth %ages in their reporting of the Southern lines passenger counts.

      See this report – Page 5 Table 1.

      They do break out the raw numbers for month, rolling 12 months and Financial year to date figures for passenger number for Manukau, so this anomaly will go away soon I hope as April 2012 is nearly 2 years ago now..

      The rolling 12 month figures show that 1.1 million trips were made on Manukau services in the 12 months to March 2014.,which is about 10% of the overall total trips.
      Now not all of those people will come from or go to Manukau as all but Manukau station on that service are common to other Southern and Eastern services , so I am quite sure that even today Quax can go to Manukau station and count passengers on or off a particular train and find a mere 20 people using the Manukau train on some services.
      But does this one outlier case somehow make the entire story of peak train he’s concocted true?

      I think the voters in his local body ward deserve a better representative but as I don’t live in Quax country (or fantasy land as its also known) I can’t vote him out.

      1. Well no one has been helped by the critically poor placement of the Manukau Station. It is just far enough from everything to be shite. However, by getting that bus station built and not building anymore parking buildings there AT could go a long way to ameliorating this major Manukau City Council f**k-up.

        1. Ah but in Quax’s mind all thats throwing good money after bad. And thats why Quax and co voted for the station being short changed in the first place.

          Didn’t the Bus station design have some major problem with saw tooth bus platforms and needed a redesign?
          Has that been done or are we going to get a sequel to the original i.e. “The Manukau PT f*ck-up: Part 2 – “The Bus Station” ?

          1. Working on the Manukau Bus Station cock up Greg – working on it.
            I have already presented to the Auckland Development Committee in November last year ( ) calling for a redesign of that bus station. Earlier this year after calling AT out on it they refused to budge so I am going to try something more direct to try and get a redesign.

            Some help would be appreciated from the heavy hitters in here as well please 😉

        2. Manukau Station – I like Jeff Speck’s words on Page 155 of his “Walkable City”

          “Urbanity means locating all significant stops right in the heart of the action, not a block away and God forbid,not across a parking lot. This is the problem of the last one hundred yards that haunts so many a bus or train station.

          And this awful mistake with the location of the Manukau station was so immediately evident the first time I visited the area about a year ago – absolutely unbelievable !

  4. If Dick Quax doesn’t believe AT’s figures, it is surely his duty as a Councillor to ask that Auditor General to investigate. These are part of the AT Annual Report and so must have been audited.

  5. Could the real reason for the hostility of Cr Quax et al to public transit be that they think trains will bring the Mongrel Mob and Black Power to their doorsteps?

    “Since it was established in the 1960s, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority was jokingly referred to as ‘Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta’. […]

    Coverage of transit debates in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed how deeply race mattered. In suburban Cobb County, the chairman of a local anti-tax organization declared that ‘MARTA-style mass transit would lead to an increase in crime and the construction of low-income housing in Cobb County’ (Atlanta Constitution, 1998).”

  6. Urgh. They somehow remind me of the some of the idiots on Faux News. Trying to claim things without actually knowing anything.

  7. Scarely, Quax is a climate denier as well – he’s clearly immune to evidence. He’s entitled to his opinion but not his own facts.

  8. AT have admitted with this months reports that they have found problerms with ferry boarding numbers over the last 2+ years and have admitted they overcounted trips in the past as a result.
    So they have now had to restate the ferry trips figures downwards as a result.
    These sorts of mistakes that AT make only serve to give Quax ammunition to bolster his fight that the “numbers are bad”.

    1. woah hold on – the ferry figures were “over-reported”. I can’t be sure, but reading between the lines that sounds more like Fullers screwing-up than AT. Just saying …

  9. It will be interesting to see how Dick handles any reporting that AT provides for the how passenger numbers increase along the new busway improvements through his ward. If AT have any sense they will track that carefully and provide some decent information in time of the next local elections; the numbers are only going to go one way and I doubt they will support Dick’s last-century theories.

  10. Balance argument: Have a look at the latest VMT data from the States. Note the grey band showing the recessions. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the GFC is not playing a part in this structural shift. But how long should we wait for Business as Usual in your mind?
    “The population-adjusted all-time high dates from June 2005. That’s 104 months — over eight-and-a-half years ago.”

  11. I see Jonny Knox has proved a point – if anyone uses the word “leftist” in a sentence the rest of what they say is from the star system of Bollox. Still don’t quite why hopping on a train is a partisan act one way or the other.

    1. has johnny knox actually ridden on any on of the trains in auckland recently I wonder. From all the biz people and office workers I see now using the train I doubt they’re all lefty partisan students etc! johnny would be shocked to hear that conservative govts all around the world have and are engaging in developing and supporting rail networks LOL! Don’t be too hard on poor Dick. It’s a hard time to be a PT naysayer with the EMus starting service, the bus lane on Fanshawe extending and even a NZ Herald editorial being largely positive about the new EMUs. That last one must have been hard to stomach for Quaxie 😉

  12. Matt, perhaps it would pay to also add a couple of this things to the chart, i.e. when regular closures started for electrification, when HOP changed the counting method.

  13. You can.’t win an argument with these people, so be careful how much energy y spend trying . Fight the middle ground. Congestion free network. Transit that benefits motorists. Motorways that are bad economics. Keep at it!

    1. +1. The fight to be had is in persuading rational and influential people that good PT (and “green” business and living in general) is good economics, bad motorways are bad economics. A good number of those ‘rational and influential people’ may sit on the same side of the fence in broad political terms as Dick Quax, but don’t necessarily share all his beliefs.

      …..and PS – have a great day tomorrow with the launch of our new electric trains 🙂

      1. I’m so jealous of the new trains.
        Will be spending Monday rush hour on the chch northern motorway being envious and probably pissing the Missus off so much we stop car pooling.

  14. I’ve had a curious thought, and perhaps someone who knows how HOP works can advise the answer if its known.

    How does AT HOP counting software separate passengers on the Eastern line (and also similarly on the Onehunga line) from the Southern Line services
    i.e. how can/how does it determine these passengers used the “Onehunga” or “Manukau ” services over the “Papakura”/Southern Services – when there are Southern trains running over the the same routes/stations so a passenger could use either train to get to their destination?

    I’d agree that if someone comes from or end their journey at Penrose 3, Te Papapa or Onehunga station you know they are on the Onehunga service in all probability,
    Same for Manukau if they tag on/off at Manukau you know they used (at least some of) the Manukau Service to get there..

    All other Manukau service stations could use either the Southern or Manukau Services to get to where they went. And Onehunga has the same issue with Southern services on the other stations too.

    Does AT simply assume that based on the time your tag on and or tag off it finds the most recent train (service) that could have picked you up and delivered you there e.g Southern and/or Manukau or Onehunga service and then assume thats how you got there? Or does it do some fixed allocation between services based on assumed passenger loads over each service?

    Or are those Manukau and Onehunga service numbers truly only for those who actually tag on or off at Onehunga/Te Papapa/Penrose 3 or Manukau?
    If so this has 2 corollaries:

    1. The Southern Services number then actually a mixture of Onehunga/Manukau and Southern services – and in which case won’t that always be an issue of not being able to separate these 3 lines passenger load wise ever?

    2. Doesn’t that actually provide hard evidence of the popularity of the Manukau services at 1.1m rolling 12 month total, that is a lot of people a day who must go through that station.

    Remembering of course that HOP can only do this for the 50% or so of journeys made with a HOP card, the remainder using paper tickets you have no way of tracking/apportioning the service used.
    For the Fare Evaders (who are now counted as passengers), you know what trains ervice they were on, so you can accurately know the service they were on

    Anyone know how this passenger load splitting thing works on the Southern lines?

    1. Hop records trips from station to station. I don’t think they do allocate those trips to a particular service or line. If they do, my guess it is some guy in front of a spreadsheet doing it.

      1. So to fairly answer Quax’s original “complaint” AT don’t really know the true patrongage level of the Manukau Service at all?
        All they can know is many tag on or off at Manukau Station itself.
        Do we have any HOP or other Passenger data from AT to confirm the actual level of usage of Manukau Station?

  15. I believe Quax has brain damage from oxygen deprivation brought on by to much running. My evidence for this is a similar blog post I wrote on this person two years ago, and that I happen to believe it to be true. So I pass the Quax truth test for facts.

  16. Seriously have to wonder how someone with such wilful denial of fact can get elected. Still denying climate change? Really? Thousands of scientists and thousands of peer reviews – yet he chooses to believe Leighton Smith.

  17. If I recall correctly Quax’s claim to fame was that he came second in some significant event, somewhere. After all these years Dick has lost none of his form and he is coming second in this very significant argument. If he continues to make comments such as that referred to above he will continue to comfortably hold that second spot. The sad thing is that second spot is also last

    The thing that I find strange is that Quax has travelled extensively. One assumes that he has seen cities like Vienna that are criss-crossed by Metro and inhabitants can move easily and quickly across the city. Vienna has a metropolitan population of about 2.4 million people and the last figures that I could find for the Metro showed 395 million passengers carried per year. Does this sound like the sort of economic efficiency that even the ACT party would be proud of?

    And what is the impressive number that our rail is carrying at the moment? Room for growth? You betcha, but the bits of the jigsaw need to come together. Electric trains are a good step.

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