With the year fast coming to a close this is the first in a series of posts wrapping up what happened this year. In this post I’m just going to look at the changes we’ve seen with Public Transport.

While 2013 was very much a lull year while many projects ticked on in the background, 2014 has arguably been one of the biggest years for PT in Auckland for some time. This has largely been thanks to two major projects seeing significant milestones.


The first trains arrived in 2013 but this year saw them carrying paying passengers for the first time starting with the Onehunga line at the end of April. Electric trains then started running to Manukau in August before a full timetable upgrade earlier this month that saw improved frequencies – especially off peak. We don’t yet know the impact the most recent change have made however the earlier changes have shown the sparks effect in action in Auckland with those two lines seeing massive growth compared to last year – in the case of Manukau patronage is up 50% on the same time last year.

The fantastic news about the electrification story is that the biggest impact is yet to come which will happen the Southern and Western lines go electric by the middle of next year.


Integrated Ticketing

After years of delays and issues, integrated ticketing was finally rolled out to all PT services meaning you can now use a single card to pay for any trip across Auckland, regardless of who operates it. That is especially useful for anyone who has multiple options for which service they catch or those who catch transfer between services. It’s hard to say for sure but integrated ticketing is likely to behind some of the spectacular growth we’ve seen this year as from memory, internationally it’s been credited with patronage increases of around 7%.

As with electrification the best is yet to come and in 2015 we will hear more about the real game changer of Integrated Fares. That should simplify the fare structure significantly and mean you pay a single fare for your trip regardless of how many services you catch to get to your destination. It makes transferring much much easier and is needed for the New Network to work. From what I understand Integrated Fares requires some significant changes the HOP system and as such is not likely to roll out till around this time next year so it won’t really start having an impact till 2016. In the meantime Auckland Transport have already started making some positive changes including increasing the HOP discount in July that meant if you were using a HOP card then for most trips (except ferries) fares actually got cheaper.

Hop Card

Other than the two key projects above there’s been a lot of improvement in the PT space. Here are some of the other things we’ve seen this year.


Patronage has grown very strongly this year and has been one of the best years we’ve seen. We’re obviously still waiting for the results for December however for the 12 months to the end of November patronage has increased by 5.685 million (8.2%) to be over 75 million trips. Within that the star performers have been the Rapid Transit Network which is made up of the rail network and the Northern Express which combined have grown by 17% (2.166 million) compared to the same time last year. 2.166 million trips. On the rail network Auckland achieved two milestones at the same time with patronage surpassing Wellington for the first time and also passing the 12 million trips mark. That occurred only occurred in September however growth has been so strong it’s possible we will pass 12.5 million in December. However the regular bus network hasn’t been standing still either with that seeing a 7% increase (3.485 million). By mode the changes are:

  • Bus – 3.817 million (7.1%)
  • Train – 1.835 million (17.8%)
  • Ferry – 32,900 (0.6%)

AK Total Patronage Nov 14

Down in Wellington patronage has had a spurt of growth for the first time in a while with the total number of trips rising above 36 million for the first time.

WG Total Patronage Nov 14 Bus Lanes

This year for the first time in Auckland Transport’s four year history we saw them implement a new bus lane. It occurred on Fanshawe St after a great post from Luke highlighting why it was needed and while small has made a big difference to buses leaving the city towards the North Shore.

In November we learned of a lot more bus lanes that Auckland is planning over the next three years which should really help improve the customer experience for bus users and improve operational efficiency.

City Rail Link

It feels like news has been relatively quiet on the CRL this year although the project has definitely moved forward. Earlier this year the project received approval from the independent commissioners which means for the first time in the projects 90+ year history there is a designation in place. Some groups are challenging that aspects consent and they should be heard by the environment court in the first half of 2015 however that is unlikely to stop the whole project.

In the meantime Auckland Transport have been moving forward with the project and the first section – the enabling works which will see the tunnel dug from Britomart to Wyndham St – should kick off by the end of 2015. AT have already put out a tender for the works and that should be awarded in the next few months. Positively, while the council and government still debate over when to provide funding, it seems everyone is in agreement that the enabling works should kick off now as they are needed for Precinct Properties to build their redevelopment of the Downtown Mall site.

Perhaps the biggest news about the CRL was that AT have dropped the Newton station in favour of an upgraded Mt Eden station.

AT Metro

Just a few weeks ago AT launched a new brand for PT called AT Metro and to accompany it all buses will eventually have a unified livery rather than each operator having their own brand.

Double Decker

New Network

Three more consultations for the New Network occurred in 2014 following the South Auckland network in 2013. This year there were Hibiscus Coast/Warkworth, Pukekohe and Waiuku and West Auckland. One major issue that has emerged with the new network though is the lack of progress on interchanges with the West Auckland network suffering the most from this.

West Auckland With and Without Interchanges


The first stage of AMETI which will eventually see a busway from Panmure all the way to Pakuranga and then Botany was completed at the beginning of the year with the opening of the new Panmure station and interchange. It is already having a significant impact with patronage at the station up as much as 100% in some months compared to 2013 and that is only likely to continue as more improvements are made.

Panmure Station 1

MIT/Manukau Station

The Manukau station opened back in 2012 however since then it has been a bit hidden away thanks to the construction of the MIT campus that sits above it – which was subject to delays thanks to the collapse of the construction company building it. Those issues are now over and in June the MIT campus opened providing a spectacular entrance to the station.

MIT dyptych

So what did I miss?

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      1. Yeah I was gonna say Beach Road and Grafton Gully cycleways, but I’m sure you’ve got it all under control. Cheers Matt and have a great New Year!

        1. Yeah he did say this one was only to do with PT. Skybridge, cycleways etc aren’t really public transport as such.

  1. Matt
    I think you could add MIT (finally) opening right above Manukau Station, likely to become a big driver of PT traffic on the eastern line and the sort of “TOD” that council needs to encourage elsewhere.

    And also mention the new “clock face” timetable on the Eastern line which is now 6TPH at peak now its fully EMU’ed – which represents the shape of things to come for the other lines next year.

  2. I guess with Newton Station, there is nothing to prevent the station being built in the future if demand requires it.

  3. An excellent summary and 2014 a good year in PT where personally think jumped up a whole star. Electric trains rolling out massive improvement. Could probably add unfortunately Government Policy Statement still placing PT a minority priority with minimal funding increases despite the amazing growth. Still pumping / wasting absolute billions into car mode when to reduce congestion need to do opposite. Increase of 3.5% on practically nothing is still nothing capex wise. Auckland’s buses approx 1000 still under no control both with routes and resourcing, privatisation completely tied this mode in knots strangling system and limiting PT growth overall. AMETI great,guess locked by NZTA funding but feel cart before horse when this catchment doesn’t even have any bus priority yet, but I guess with no buses under control doesn’t matter if we could do bus lane to Howick tomorrow.

  4. I’m puzzled by the Wellington ferry figures, Auckland has Devonport, Bayswater, Birkenhead, Waiheke etc. Wellington has Eastbourne, how do they get 3 times the Auckland patronage?

      1. LOL, you’re right, a combination of slight colour blindness and confusing the ferry line with the zero axis! something like orange might have been a better choice for the ferry line

  5. You really should report the PT patronage as per capita. Auckland is growing at a faster rate than Wellington; both are seeing increases in patronage. Are either of these cities increasing patronage at a rate that is faster than population growth? Which is growing faster per capita?

    Also, while I appreciate that Auckland is our primary city, and far be it from me to criticise the wonderful work of volunteers, but I’ve thought for some time that this blog really ought to be called “Auckland Transport Blog”, and this post exemplifies it. Get some guest writers to write in, there are interesting things happening in transport right across the country—things that Auckland can learn from.

    1. I don’t see anything wrong with reporting total patronage as it is still relevant and this post is more of a recap rather than a detailed post about what’s happening with patronage. Both cities have seen patronage per capita increase recently – although Wellington is still down on where it was in 2006. Auckland is at it’s highest level since 1989.

      The blog used to be caused Auckland Transport Blog however we dropped the Auckland as many people got confused between us and Auckland Transport (despite us being in existence since before AT). The Auckland focus is because that’s were the current writers live so it’s where things are most relevant for us. We have run guest posts from other cities from time to time and would love a lot more but that requires people to send them to us. If you want to write some please feel free to flick them on.

      1. The issue with total patronage is that in either case the rate of increase could be less than population growth—meaning the mode share of public transport could have decreased while total patronage has increased. That would imply that for the average (say) Aucklander, PT would have decreased in importance. Total patronage is of course still interesting: a system that is growing in absolute terms but not relative terms is still growing: it’d need more trains more often, etc. I probably sound angrier about it than I feel… I’m really just sitting here in the sun with a cup of tea pontificating 🙂

        So you just work on an open-submission basis? Good to know. Invitationals would probably work, too.

        1. When you take into account Auckland’s population growth is estimated to be 1.4% per annum between 2006 and 2031 then the PT trip increases we are seeing is significant.

        2. Richard,
          Absolute numbers of rail users is a key performance indicator for the CRL, so its is critical that this number be reported as an absolute both for showing the.Government decreed trigger point(s) for CRL are met and for train capacity planning purposes.
          It doesn’t matter whether the total PT or rail figures per capita in Auckland are rising or not (which most assuredly all PT figures are rising per capita, on all bus and rail PT modes) – what matters for CRL is the absolute number. We know per capita trips are up as the %age growth of PT use in Auckland is well ahead of the population increase %age – ergo – the per capita figures must be going up.
          Auckland does lag Wellington on Per-capita PT usage currently.

          With all PT planning you have finite buses, trains and ferries, so you need to know the absolute numbers to know where your capacity constraints (and growth) is.

          Also note NZTA do not report traffic “per capita” – other than general “VKT per capita” figures – mostly they talk in absolutes as in “billions of VKT”, or the number of thousands of vehicles on the harbour bridge a day as a way to justify continued spending on roads as the “traffic” by any way you count it is always going up. So to be able to compare like for like between PT and roads, you have to use the same absolute numbers.

          Per-capita is kind of also meaningless, as for all traffic planning, they always size roads and motorways for the peaks – not the averages.

          Also be careful to be clear with PT numbers whether you are talking about trips or boardings – theres a big difference between a “boarding” and a “trip” – boardings is what AT/AC use and is a single passenger using a single mode of transport as all or part of the entire journey.
          A trip can also be used this way, but commonly is used to define the entire journey from boarding the 1st mode, the alighting the last mode – the “trip” being the sum of all the boardings required to complete the journey.
          In places like Auckland where multi-modes are required to complete your journey, you may make 2 or 3 boardings per trip.

          Counting trips (over boardings) requires a fully integrated ticketing system which can deduce from the boardings data the actual trips taken – Auckland has this capability, but Wellington does not,
          And while its possible I’m sure for AT to release these PT usage figures as trips, I gather the information is considered commercially sensitive to the operators (particular bus operators) so is not.

        3. Greg, yes AT has the patronage data but I’m not sure they yet know how many trips there are. They have effectively been swamped by all the new data and my understanding is they simply haven’t put much resource into going through what they have e.g. I heard a few weeks ago that they only just found out how many people use each busway station daily.

        4. They need to take a leaf from the JSK book. Data is everything. They have it. Now they need to get on top of it and analyse it or at least put the data out to public so others can.

        1. Interesting to think where Auckland will be when the CRL opens which is likely 2022/23. Based on current trends it will be at about 60-65 trips per capita compared to 2006 (36) and double the lowest point Auckland’s history of 32 trips per person in 1997.

  6. Okay, the Electric trains should be a vast improvement but they’re not exactly proving reliable and sadly are slower than the diesels they replaced on the Onehunga line and not all that much quicker from Manukau! And this is NOT because they are held up by diesels although I think the new timetable is starting to stretch capacity in Aucklands network going by the long waits at some junctions. And then there is the slow, winding, Western Line and timetable additions there to come. We were promised faster but upon realising that something fitted to these trains took them from 21st century speed machines to 19th century steam power the word “faster” was substituted for “smarter”. Is slower really smarter?? It’s not a win for Auckland.

    And the Hop Card. Yes its early days, but somewhere in the mists of the $100 million + spend up someone forgot to gate the railway stations. And fare evasion is as prevalent now as it was when it dawned on the good public that they could ride for free, practically untroubled by authorities as long as they got off before Britomart or Newmarket or at least only paid for a stage if they were so remiss to get off at either of the latter. When is this subject going to be taken seriously for the ratepayers sake?

    1. Waspman, substitute “rail fare evasion” for “parking meter evasion” and the same arguments apply.
      Its not more unfair for people to ride trains for free than it is to park for free at metered locations. The costs of enforcement are probably similar and both involve stealing from ratepayers.

      The same cost v benefits arguments apply too. Gating comes at a cost, not least the need to man the gates or people will just jump over them.
      So the levels of evasion have to be quite high to justify gating as the answer.
      In Sydney the transport police do spot checks and make a spectacle of hauling up fare evaders they catch – partly as a deterrent to others I’m sure, even if the revenue raised is minimal.

      AT does want to minimise the level of evasion, as allowing evasion stunts the true level of rail patronage and lowers farebox recovery percentages, both are areas which AT is no doubt keenly focussed on these days.

      AT have counters on the EMUs that can count the passenger loading, so from that I am sure they can deduce pretty accurately the likely level of fare evasion by comparing tag on/off data with the estimate of passengers recorded by the EMUs at each station along a route. (after the fact), and from that know which locations have the biggest levels of evasion.

      Of course, since the Western (and southern) lines are not fully EMU’ed yet, that is a 2015 type exercise.

      As for new trains not being faster – the Onehunga trains seem to go very slowly between Penrose and Onehunga stations, Whether thats track issues, or ETCS issues I don’t know, but that won’t help the timetable.
      The trains have only been in operations for some 8 months, there have been issues, but Wellingtons new electric trains and OLE in the 30;s had similar issues for some time too.
      So a lot of this is just part of the “bathtub curve” any new system that beds in faces.

    2. Combating fare evasion is a case of diminishing returns. Gating all stations is a sure fire way to spend heaps but not gain that much back in return e.g. fare evasion might cost about 2m per year in lost fares. It would cost a lot more than that in OPEX alone to gate all stations. Gating the most used destination stations (like what is planned) is the best option and no matter what happens there’ll always be a small portion who fare evade.

      As for the EMUs. I understand there are still tweaks being made to signalling and operations of them that will provide time savings.

      1. Then another solution must be found if gating stations is price inhibitive. You can’t run a business like this, on near enough is good enough, hope for the best, if some people pay well then that will do. Dear God!! Try that on in a supermarket, as long as some customers pay then we’ll tolerate the thieves and see how far we get. Its easy come easy go with public money isn’t it?

        1. No one is saying we shouldn’t be reducing fare evasion but the point is to minimise it as much as possible and that should be the focus. The last few percent will always be very cost prohibitive to address just like supermarkets will never fully stop theft.Spending $5m (or whatever it would cost) to eliminate $500k of fare evasion isn’t a good use of public money.

        2. In your analogy: a supermarket could in principle pay staff to follow each and every person around to ensure they don’t steal things. They don’t, because the cost of that would far exceed how much they’re losing to theft.

        3. That is exactly how supermarkets operate. They tolerate a small amount of shoplifting because it is cheaper than trying to catch every single last one. It’s not near enough is good enough, it’s a very precise calculation of cost and benefit, built into their profit model.

          Why spend $100 to prevent the theft of a $1 chocolate bar?

        4. If fare evasion was 1 in 100 who cares but its far from that and don’t quote official statistics, they are there for political reasons.

        5. The supermarket analogy is a good one, because it indicates one area that needs fixing.

          With a supermarket, the onus is on the shopper to pay. If you don’t you’re guilty of theft. But with PT, the onus is on the operator to collect the fare, and if they don’t, no offence is committed – the passenger can just walk away, scot free.

          In countries like Germany and Switzerland it’s illegal to travel without a valid ticket or other authorisation, and if you get caught you pay a large fine – here it’s just paying the fare, so you’ve nothing to lose. The deterrent effect of the fines is such that fare evasion is low, even without gating.

          I believe AT was looking at pursuing a law change – the sooner the better!

        6. Waspman – the first step to deal with it is to quantify the problem.

          You say the official stats lie, so can’t be trusted, so what is your unofficial figures of the scale of the problem then and what is your source? Or are you just going by gut feel of what you see on the Western or Southern Lines with school kids?

          Supermarkets, actually deal with a lot of theft issues on the basis that many of the goods in the supermarket are owned by the supplier until sold – the supermarket only pays for what is sold (scanned through the checkouts).
          Spoilage, stealing, too much stock – are all the suppliers problem, not the supermarkets. So they deal with it by making it someone elses problem.

          Bread is like that and I’m sure milk is too.

    3. Your bang on the mark on all points. So much promise but badly used tech for metro trains and basically running a free train service for those that should pay!

  7. I have no official stats, only what I see every trip as a passenger. But I do talk to the Ticket inspectors, quite friendly some of them. I have been told by one about 3 months ago about 50% of passengers don’t pay or by another recently that 20 passengers per ticket inspector per trip on average don’t pay. Now that is a lot of people. Watch as the Inspectors go through a carriage, its not hard to spot the non payers and the same old excuses. Watch for the non retired people with Gold Card tickets, another scam. And look out the window as you come into a platform. Those who are hurrying, past the tag on machine and don’t tag on and then board have not spent 30 seconds to a minute purchasing a ticket from the machine somewhere further down the platform. Its regular as clock work.

    And the supermarket was just an example, try drive offs without paying for petrol then, and as we found out the big corporations make their staff pay for the loss. Try being a small business and being laissez fare about theft, you won’t last long. Fare evasion and the lack of real action is indefensible.

    1. No one is saying that we should ignore fare evasion and improvements do need to be made but I don’t think it’s as bad as you make out. Most times I see ticket inspectors they go through the carriage without finding anyone and even school kids seem much better than they used to be. It is definitely still a problem at some stations, for example I see it quite a bit at Henderson, but that changes as AT/Transdev get better at working out where it’s occurring and focusing their efforts there, something the data from the EMUs will eventually help with too. Last figures I heard were that it was at about 7% while an senior AT staff member two weeks ago told me it wasn’t that high anymore. In my view with a combination of gating key stations such as Henderson, New Lynn, Mt Albert, Grafton, Ellerslie, Panmure, Otahuhu – which are the ones that will be major interchanges anyway – plus more specific targeting of remaining trouble spots, fare evasion is likely to reduce to 1-2%. I think if it got to that level it would be a pretty good result.

      1. Matt L I take your word. Maybe I am on the rif raf trains. I do think peak passengers do mostly pay their way. And fare evasion is a fraud offence otherwise taxi drivers would struggle.

        1. Waspman – refusal to pay a fare when requested is illegal, so taxi drivers are covered, but fare evasion (not paying a fare unless requested) isn’t. So you’re OK not paying if nobody asks for your ticket/fare, and even then all you have to do is pay the fare you would otherwise have evaded.

    2. “Try being a small business and being laissez fare about theft, you won’t last long. Fare evasion and the lack of real action is indefensible” – yes, but theft is illegal and fare evasion isn’t – a huge difference.

  8. Matt,
    I think it would be good to acknowledge the roll out of the new bus network and services in the Green Bay / Titirangi area. There is now a bus service between New Lynn and Titirangi operating at least every half hour, between 7am to 7pm seven days a week. This is probably the first actual implementation of the New Network within Auckland.

  9. AT should drop fares down to Calgary $110 monthly pass max, $10 all day pass. Need to get a fleet of buses under control and implement bus lane on all future rapid routes like 2030 congestion free network plan and run at 5 minutes intervals to turbo boost network. Congestion practically gone. PT up to 4 star. Utilising paint, signal tweaks and some buses going in the right direction. Are you afraid of fixing the problem? and just cotton wool around car mode and let the monumental waste of resources continue.

  10. If AT did this, you could possibly use waterview tunnel for a bus depot, not sure about the rest of it. Time to show what bus can do in high gear unlimited by traffic? and fare very reasonable, double teaming with rail. Reducing cars from the grid, 1 in 3 for free flow. Western ring great work fellas but you have missed the boat or is that rail and bus.

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