Auckland’s public transport patronage has been on a tear as of late and patronage is not only at its highest point in over 50 years but is currently up 7% on the same time last year. Included in that figure is the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – which comprised of the rail network and the Northern Express – is up a massive 17%. The fact that patronage is growing so strongly got me thinking about how it compared to the targets that have been set. This is also important as the council will today be debating PT targets as part of their long term plan discussions.
Targets for public transport come from a number of places and don’t always line up with each other. We have:
- The Auckland Plan (AP) agreed to in 2012 set an aspirational target of doubling patronage to 140 million by 2022.
- The Long Term Plan (LTP) which sets targets over a 10 year period (updated 3-yearly). The current LTP was set in 2012 and the council will soon be consulting on the 2015 LTP
- The Annual Plan set targets for a single year based factors such as recent performance and funding available (which is often different to what was originally predicted in the LTP).
- Auckland Transport’s Statement of Intent (SOI) which is an annual document outlining the councils expectations of AT and lists three year’s worth of targets.
The SOI targets are arguably the most important as the SOI “sets out Auckland Transport’s strategic approach and priorities for the next three-years and how they contribute to the longer-term outcomes Auckland Council seeks to achieve“. In other words the SOI targets the ones that AT care about achieving (although generally they will match the council’s targets anyway although oddly not for this financial year). The targets are initially suggested by AT based on that they think is achievable based on current trends, projects and funding that is available. Council have a chance to change them before signing them off but generally what is suggested is what goes ahead.
Earlier this year we were quite critical of AT for suggesting, and at the Councillors for signing off the targets in this year’s SOI. The reason for this is AT wanted to reduce their PT targets compared to what had been set for this financial year in the 2013 SOI. The justification for doing so seemed to be that AT didn’t think it would meet its 2013/14 targets and extrapolated that forward to this financial year. This was despite the fact that patronage results had already started turning positive again and there are major changes that were about to flow through the PT system that would drive patronage such as electrification.
One example is rail patronage which had flat lined in 2012/13 (it looks like a decline due to impacts of the RWC and the HOP rollout) had it’s target for this year slashed from 13 million to 12.1 million despite the imminent arrival of electric trains. The predictions which fed those lowered targets had been created a few months prior to year end when it appeared we would miss the 2013/14 target by a wide margin however the surge in patronage meant AT was just 5,000 (0.04%) trips short. The fact that rail targets had been dropped the year before was also used by the Ministry of Transport as part of their justification for delaying the start of the CRL till 2020, suggesting that if AT don’t think rail use will grow as strongly as previously predicted then the CRL isn’t needed as soon either.
Fast forward to now and we’ve seen both bus and train numbers rising rapidly so how do they compare with the targets that have been set. With the exception of ferries all of the patronage targets for this financial year have already been met and are even on track to meet the 2013 SOI targets. On top of this every few months AT update their predictions for where patronage will end up for the year. The last predictions were in September so that doesn’t take into account Octobers strong growth and I’ll highlight those predictions below too.
Total patronage has already passed this year’s target thanks to the patronage growth that we’re experiencing. I’ve also included the draft 2015 LTP targets as from now on they only apply to the total patronage. More on the LTP targets at the end of the post.
Has continued to increase strongly. The current SOI target of 12.1 million trips was passed in October with patronage reaching 12.124 million. The last projection suggested that by the end of June patronage would reach over 12.9 million trips however it will now potentially be over 13 million which happened to be the figure from the 2013 SOI.
Busway (Northern Express)
Based on its performance against its target the NEX is doing the best having not only already beaten the 2014/15 target of but is only 8,000 trips off passing the 2013/14 target too. Further at it’s current rate it will hit the 2012 target as well and it has even surpassed it’ end of year forecast made just last month.
Like the busway, the rest of the bus services have showing decent growth with patronage likely to hit (or get very close to hitting) the target set for 2012
While buses and trains are doing well, as mentioned Ferries aren’t. Here’s the ferry graph.
So overall we’ve met almost all of the patronage targets already and for some modes it looks like they may hit the 2013 or even 2012 versions of their targets which is fantastic news. However it also highlights that the council need to do a better job of setting targets rather than being dictated to on them by AT.