The number of people travelling on buses and trains has continued to surge in November resulting in more than 75 million trips over the previous 12 months, the first time that’s happened in over 50 years. That means the number of trips taken in the last year is up by 5.7 million (8%). The Rapid Transit Network comprising of the Northern Express and the trains continues to be the star performer with the annual number of trips increasing by 17%. There has also been solid growth in the bus network which carries the majority of people in Auckland with patronage up 6.8%.

14 - Nov AK Patronage table

14 - Nov AK Annual Patronage

The rail network has the highest annual growth of all modes up 17.5% and patronage is up 12.3 million. Within that the two small lines currently served by electric trains are up 20-30% which perhaps gives an indication of what we can expect once the bigger lines go electric. For the month of November patronage on the Manukau Line services alone was up 50%. I imagine that sort of growth will only continue with the new timetable too. Apart from the electric trains one of the reasons given for the improved patronage is that train punctuality and reliability has improved with November recording the highest result Auckland has seen with 91.9% of all services arrive at their final destination within 5 minutes of their schedule. The Manukau line was the highest at 96% and the Western Line the lowest at 89.3%.

If you recall back to my post the other day and the most recent advice from the Ministry of Transport on the CRL from August where they said

Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date.

If growth continues at 1.4 million trips per year, annual patronage would hit 20 million trips around 2019/20. We expect patronage growth to continue at a similar rate as for the year to June 2014 until around 2017/18, as the full electric train fleet comes into service and the new bus network is rolled out. After 2017/18, we expect the rate of patronage growth to slow and at this stage do not anticipate it is likely that the threshold of 20 million trips well before 2020 will be met.

Well patronage is now up over 1.8 million trips and not showing signs of slowing down.

14 - Nov AK Rail Patronage

The Northern Express is also seeing fantastic growth this year with annual patronage now up 14.4% and rising above 2.6 million trips.

14 - NEX AK NEX Patronage

What’s also notable about this is that over the same time period the number of vehicles that cross the Harbour Bridge every day has dropped by 2%. Of course the NEX doesn’t include all bus trips across the harbour bridge and it would be fascinating to see just how many there are in total.

AHB Nov - 14

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  1. So the RTN network is likely to 20m in just a couple of years… the CRL delay is going to bite very hard by 2020, more buses clearly on the Shore route will be added, but perhaps we’ll need more trains too to help bridge that gap, so more 6 car sets can be run at once?

    1. Exactly what I’ve said all along – you need more trains to make up for the lack of timely CRL delivery.

      How many we need is something to be decide, but I also think a complete rethink of running routes will be needed to minimise the limitations of Britomart **well before** the next LTP comes into force.

    2. What are the lead times on ordering more trains and when will the decision need to be made?

      Could under investment limit capacity in public transport?

        1. We’d lose all of the advantages of running one fleet and having a mix of DMU and EMU would result in timetable chaos. Unless you ran DMU on the western line only which would slightly defeat the purpose of electrification.

          My opinion is that the real key to electrification is the acceleration of the EMU which makes it feel like you are getting there faster, which hopefully you are. These perceptions are what users of the service base some of their decisions on which method of transport to use and shouldn’t be underestimated.

      1. I’m sure CAF would be delighted to help the moment we find the funding. The next order will be easier to fill as all design work is done. It would, however probably be wise to get a little more experience in revenue service from the first fleet in order to be able to tweak any details for order 2.0.

        A good idea would be to formally mention to CAF that such an order is likely at some stage and suggest they let us know if they have a gap in their production programme which could usefully allow them to keep the unit cost down by efficiently managing production….

  2. So when private vehicle traffic growth undershoots, MoT predictions are that its growth will take off any day now. But when public transport overshoots predictions MoT claim growth will imminently slow down. Modal bias anyone?

  3. It would be increasing to see what is the rate in growth change in both real terms and as a relative percentage. Would that be possible? If the rate of growth is generally trending up or remaining relatively constant. I wonder what effect the new time table will have on passenger numbers. I guess it will be difficult to tell until February because of the Christmas shutdown plus many commuters being on holiday. The less crowded and more frequency trains on the southern line are certainty more attractive travel option for me, but will it put some people off who want to travel to GI or Sylvia Park from Papakura- Homai ? I guess most of those people will be students…so maybe the overall impact on ridership numbers will not filter though until March/Apirl.

    1. good question. I believe Matt’s calculations have assumed a constant amount (1.4 million) is added each year, i.e. linear rather than compounding growth. I think that’s the best approach, although it’s possible some non-linear stuff kicks in for a time due to the cumulative positive impacts of multiple, over-lapping effects e.g.
      – Electrification/EMUS
      – HOP/Integrated fares
      – New bus network
      – Wider locational/land use changes, e.g. more intensive development around station.
      – Rapid population growth

      What is especially heartening is that all of this patronage growth is happening as fuel prices are falling.

  4. I think these results are amazing and the bus network yet to be launched. What is going to happen when that takes patronage vertical and rail full to the brim.Do we put a bus lane on the motorway and try and make it useful perhaps?Then maybe separated cycle?Then maybe a footpath?then maybe a botanical garden?

    1. Has the Parnell station been canned? The last I heard was that it was being delayed because it needed the electric trains for some reason. I thought part of the reason for the two week shut down was to allow the Parnell station to be built (as well as building otahuhu station upgrade).
      My understanding was that it was part of some kind of condition that kiwi rail and the council agreed to to preserved the old newmarket station. Perhaps I have my facts wrong.
      I thought the enabling works have already been undertaken as well as all the consulting and consenting.
      I am a little annoyed if it has been canned

      1. Looking at AT’s website today it says that in Sept 2014 funding for the Parnell station has been deferred and project milestones are to be re-forecast. Looks like the station has become a victim of the budget cuts, despite it being projected as one of the busiest on the network.

        I also notice that the great majority of the projects are roading based with very few for rail. Looks like no roading projects have been affected by the budget pressures. And we’re all paying for those as much as any rail projects.

          1. There is also the problem that for every extra station that you put in, you add around two minutes to each journey time. At some stage, the added time will require an extra train to maintain frequency on the route, so the case for an extra station has to be really compelling. The station at Parnell would be on pretty well the most congested leg of the network, and an extra complication to add to the critical constraints at Britomart and the Newmarket junction.

          2. Conversely, Eric, Parnell Station is a much better place to hold trains if there is a problem at Britomart or Newmarket, than just on the line with doors closed. And would add a safe place for detraining if that became necessary between those points.

            Because of the slope the station will not open until the line is running 100% electric trains, so certainly not till 2016 at the earliest.

  5. This is astounding. What if we add bus priority lanes, extend the Northern Busway, build a NW busway etc? AC,AT and NZTA had better be ready to throw their current plans in the bin at this rate.

  6. If we ended up with a more right leaning council how much of the work that is currently underway i.e. new bus network etc. would be curtailed? Is it a matter of get as much put in as possible so it can’t be dismantled, does anyone have an insight on this

  7. NZTA Quote: “Growth of 1.4 million trips for the year to June 2014 is the highest annual growth in Auckland rail patronage achieved to date.”

    Since July 2014 (the start month of the current AT Financial year), we’ve added nearly 900 thousand more boardings to the network in just 5 months, which means that 1.4m “(unlikely to be beaten) record” for last year will be easily smashed for 2014/15 year that ends on June 2015 – a mere 7 months away.
    And we have not yet really seen the full sparks effect of the EMUs in those figures- as the timetable and frequency changes specifically for the EMUs only started last week.

    By this time next year, we will have added at least 2 million more boardings over the 12.3m achieved to date, That growth puts us well ahead of the target for “20 by 2020” – and thats assuming the current (modest) 18% growth rate continues for 2-3 years. Which means we’ll hit 20m before the end of 2017 – possibly even before the end of the FY 2016/17 year in 30 June 2017 – which a mere 30 months away.

    While its a nice problem to have, the realities on the ground for all RTN (and bus) users won’t be pretty.

    Still the next looming issue is the PTOM rollout starting in South next year, then the bottlenecks in BM which kick in need to be sorted.

    Only short term fix for the BM bottleneck is to make all (or most) EMUs “6 packs” – but we need a few more 3 car EMUs in the fleet to allow that and it will be needed especially for the AM peaks.

    Once the “enabling works” for the CRL have been completed by then, we will probably need the “storage” it provides to allow us to stuff the tunnels with EMUs for the outbound evening peak and to allow more in movements into the Britomart station than out movements in the AM peak to get the people into the CBD..

    Even once the CRL is “started” it will take years for the actual tunnelling and station build process to complete.

    Somehow I think this minimum 2 year (but possibly 4) year delay to the CRL start that we have been forced to accept will really come back to bite the Government and the Councils nay-sayers in the next local and central elections held within 3 (Central Government) and 2 years (local Government) time.

    Its a stupid ‘Because I say so” delay which will add cost and impose inconvenience, delays and yet more road congestion burdens on everyone until its opened.

  8. Cynical old me just can’t wait to see the 20m target ratcheted up……or maybe they’ll hope the system reaches capacity before the improvements take effect so riders are turned off and then they can say “see, where’s all this demand you’ve been blogging on about”.

    1. It might be a bit too early to say that, petrol prices have only just started plummeting. But yes it would be interesting what National’s response would be if that indeed happened (they believe PT is only used by people that can’t afford petrol)

  9. Another huge PT boost is coming due to the the drink driving law change. A large number of people used to drive when going out for dinner and a few casual drinks. Some will just cut back the number of drinks (apparently hospitality is really hurting already), but some will start to look at using PT.

  10. We have been arguing here for some time that there is plenty of evidence that factors other than simple cost comparisons are also driving the global resurgence in PT use. Driving, for many, has lost its cool. This appears to correlate well with the rise in widespread use of smartphones.

    However this isn’t to say that costs are not a significant component; fare cost, parking cost, overall vehicle ownership cost, and running costs are all important. Recent analysis out of Calgary shows that parking availability and price can be a significant issue in PT uptake.
    Also changing living or working arrangements to work well with PT can take years so this current surge may involve decisions made by some quite a while ago, and they may include previous fuel prices…

    1. What is this calgary experience? Do you mean reducing parking availabilty in the destinations increases PT use, or increasing parking availability (at the journey start – park ‘n ride) increatse PT use?

  11. What we are seeing is a combination of bent up demand, poor past use of PT, and the fact that Aucklanders want speed and freedom of choice, plus a roading network only setup for one mode. What will happen when we start turning that tap with painted. symbols and making buses go fast and regular able to beat car mode with the use of 1 lane. We are going to see a correction in balance and benefits off the chart. Whatever we do needs to be cheap and flexible as no one really knows what could happen? But guessing it is like Mr bus been in prison for 40 years and now has Victoria secret models. Don’t worry cyclists you may soon have 5m of width to play with for safe family cycling. The sooner we turn the tap the better.

  12. But of course the main driver, as often predicted here, is the improvement in quality, frequency, and availability of PT services… That the Rapid Transit offer is the one being taken up so disproportionately (also predicted here) is no surprise, and must be very gratifying to those that designed, promoted, and are now providing these services.

    There can be no rational excuse for those, especially those in positions of power, that resist the extension of the current Rapid Transit Network in both quality and reach. The theory is well proven in Auckland now.

    1. Agree. Transport heads give Auckland what it needs, stop trying to meet the needs of the petroleum industry it really does look bad. Fire up the bus network so has full speed, concentrate on the rapid transit, numerous other benefits will follow. At the moment it is a choked up mess and probably in most locations there is probably enough width right now. Bus interchanges 2021?East-west what are u modelling on,forget it , how can anybody be sure right now can keep going.Probably the bus interchanges, the CRL are safe as is, even roading needs of AMETI this maybe excessive for all we know as the tap hasn’t been turned yet.Reeves rd flyover doubt it. I think width demand will go in reverse and in places will be too wide. Turning on the bus network can be cheap, fast with road symbols and signal works think you guys are afraid how bad it will make the whole industry look and phasing in slowely to save face as everyone will say why we didn’t do this sooner, what fumes were these guys smelling.

  13. I’m embarking tomorrow on my week long holiday travelling by train to Wellington, ferry to Picton, train to Christchurch and to Greymouth, then flying back (which should count as PT!). PT all the way and I’m very glad I’m not driving.

    We should be able to do more travel around NZ by train.

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