We know rail patronage is now at alltime highs having passed 11 million trips in March however there’s an interesting question as to which stations are those trips are coming from.
It’s been a long time since we last saw data that showed how many people board trains at each station and in the past Auckland Transport obtained the information by sending out people to stations for one day a year and manually counting everyone who turns up to catch a train. From memory that day was/is sometime in May. The last data we saw gave us the table below.
One of the big advantages to HOP is that it provides Auckland Transport with massive amounts of data on people’s trips which can be used for all sorts of interesting analysis. One of those things is to provide them with more frequent information about how many people are using rail stations.
AT have now provided me with some of that data allowing us to see the number of tips per station. The data is different to above in that instead of just showing the patronage for a single day it shows the total for an entire month i.e. all of March. It shows the number of HOP card tag-ons, tag-offs and the number of paper tickets issued for each station on the network however it doesn’t include travel made on legacy tickets & passes, special events, group travel, incomplete HOP transactions or transfers, it also won’t include any patronage where there is fare evasion. The data AT provided is for each month back to July last year (although the August data appears to be incorrect so I’ve ignored that. It’s important to point out that each month has a different number of working days, weekends, public holidays and rail network shutdowns it’s impossible to compare changes at a station month to month but rather only how each station compares to the others on the network.
For the purposes of this post I’m just going to focus on total boardings so I have combined the tag-on and paper ticket issued data. I’ll look at the breakdown of these figures in a separate post as there is some quite interesting results within that. I’ve ordered the stations by their patronage in March and the colours represent the main line that serves the station with Britomart and Newmarket as purple as they serve many lines.
There’s a couple of things I’ve noticed from looking at this.
- Completely unsurprisingly Britomart is by far the biggest station for patronage and has 4-5 times more boardings than the next best of Newmarket.
- A few years ago New Lynn was consistently about 5th or 6th for patronage. Now it is firmly in the number three spot and significantly above Middlemore and Papakura, the latter of which used to hold the number 3 spot.
- December is a short month for patronage due to less school trips, Christmas and the other network shutdowns. Yet despite this Sylvia Park saw a huge increase in patronage. Guess it shows people will catch a train to go shopping.
- The tag-off data is generally fairly similar (but not the same) as the tag on data. The most significant place where there is a difference between the two occurs is at Grafton and I hear it’s due to something called “downhilling”. Basically people (often with bikes) will get the train to Grafton, ride along Park Rd and Grafton Bridge then ride downhill to their destination in the CBD. To get home they will continue riding downhill to Britomart. As an example of the of this, in March 17,000 people tagged on at Grafton yet 22,000 tagged off. At the same time Britomart had nearly the same difference in reverse with more tagging on than off. No other station has such a discrepancy.
- The bottom 3 stations, all of which are slated to be closed, remain with stubbornly low patronage. Combined they probably account for only about 1.5% of all trips
- While all stations saw increases in March compared to the other months, the station with the biggest change is Panmure. This is positive to see at the newly upgraded interchange. I suspect in coming months/years this trend will continue and we will see the station rise much higher in the ranks
I’ve also put together this map with the size of the circle (area) representing how many boardings the station has.
As mentioned earlier there is more to look at with this data and I’ll do that in a separate post. I also hope that this data is something that Auckland Transport start providing on a regular (monthly) basis.
I’ve also been looking at how a number of other cities produce their patronage data and my favourite that I would love to see AT emulate is the BART system in San Francisco. They produce monthly reports in an excel file that is generally published by the 5th of each month. What’s really neat is they provide the data as the average weekday/Saturday and Sunday boardings separately and do so in a matrix that allows you to see how many people travelled from each station on the network to each other station. I know AT already have this data so hopefully they can start releasing it publicly. I would also love to compare the train stations with those on the busway.