It’s a good thing the government might be moving on the City Rail Link because Auckland Transport’s latest patronage report for July shows that there has been no slowdown in the staggering growth of the rail system – or the rest of the PT system for that matter.

Overall the annual patronage across the entire PT rose to 79.7 million trips, an increase of 9.6% on the previous year. Assuming things carry on – and I see no reason why they shouldn’t – then we should pass 80 million trips any day now if we haven’t already. That’s a significant increase from the 50 million trips a decade ago with the last 10 million coming in just 18 months. AT have a target for this year of 84.47 million trips and at current rates that will be considerably exceeded.

2015-07 - Total Annual Patronage

New financial years tend to bring a few changes to the way AT reports on patronage – both in what is covered and in presentation – and this year is no different. The good news is that they are now providing more detail about patronage, the downside being we don’t have any history to compare to. The new information is broken down a few ways:

  • Bus patronage is broken down by the Busway, Frequent buses and Connector/Local and Targeted buses. Splitting out the patronage this way matches the classifications of the new bus network and therefore this reporting structure will give a better indication as to whether the flagship frequent services are performing as expected. This also responds to a new target in AT’s Statement of Intent that patronage on the Rapid and Frequent networks will increase at a faster rate than the network as a whole. Unfortunately at this stage I’m not sure just what routes are counted in the frequent routes.
  • It splits out ferry patronage in into commercial and exempt services. The exempt services are to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke.
  • The Monthly Indicators report now also gives more info about a variety of stats including Farebox Recovery

2015-07 - Patronage Table

Once again the rail network has been the star performer with the annual result up 14.2 million trips, up 22.5% over the previous year. With the electric trains running on all lines for just over a week of that I’m really looking forward to seeing how August patronage stacks up as I think it will be huge. What will also help August’s result is that reliability and punctuality have noticeably improved in recent weeks which will help encourage more people to use trains. Auckland Transport have an annual rail patronage target to the end of June next year of 16 million trips, at current rates we’ll blow that figure out of the water.

2015-07 - Rail Patronage

Another area that continues to have very good results is the Northern Busway combined with rail forms our rapid transit routes. One interesting aspect about this result is that the annual figure of 3.5 million which is much higher than we had last month. I can only guess that they are now including patronage from some of the other buses that use the busway.

While we don’t have anything in the way of history, for the rapid buses one thing we can tell from the information table is that patronage on those services are rising fast and the increase percentage is not far off the busway. As expected the connector and local buses aren’t seen as attractive and therefore aren’t growing at the same rate.

Like the other modes ferries are also growing fast at nearly 10% and leading the charge are the contracted services. I wonder if part of this is due to the issues that have occurred with some of their vessels such as the Kea.


Looking at performance there was significant improvement on the rail network following the introduction of all EMU service on 20 July which AT says justifies their decision to pull the date forward. After falling to a low of just 73.6% of trains arriving at their destination on time in June, July jumped up to 83.7%. In addition AT say for 1-16 August that is up further to 89.3% and some days have exceeded 95%. The eastern line remains the poorest performer at just 73% punctuality.

Since AT stopped relying on operators self-reporting performance and instead using tools like GPS tracking they’ve seen bus performance also improve. It is now approaching 95% after being around 90% last year.


Apart from just moving more people, one other reason the rise in patronage is good is that it should also be helping to reduce subsidies thanks to more fares being collected. The good news is that’s exactly what’s happening as the Monthly indicators report shows that over the last year farebox recovery (how much of the costs are covered by passenger fares) has improved quite a bit going from 45.4% last year to 47.2% this year. That might not sound like much but is a significant improvement. Note: the data is only till June

2015-07 - Farebox recovery

Farebox recovery is only one part of the story though and the next chart shows the amount of subsidy per passenger km. As you can see the cost per passenger kilometre travelled for rail are falling dramatically and seeing as this report is a month behind, as such we should see quite significant improvements once the July data is made available.

2015-07 - Subsidy per PAX km


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  1. We often hear that ferries can’t be included in the hop zonal system because they cost too much. Doesn’t this show that ferry users are getting a poor deal, much less subsidy than other transport modes.

    1. yes ferries are the least subsidized mode. Whether you think they are getting a “poor deal” depends on how you define “poor”.

      And to what degree an increase in subsidy would deliver on your desired outcome (however defined). If we define the desired outcome as patronage maximisation, for example, then it’s not clear to me that the best way to achieve that outcome is to increase ferry subsidies, e.g. through incorporating them into HOP. Indeed, if the price elasticity of demand for ferry services was relatively low, then lowering fares by incorporating them into HOP might not yield much additional patronage. So it really comes down to value judgments on what sort of outcomes people want from PT.

      Personally I’d rather AT focused on maximising patronage rather than minimising differences in subsidy by mode. And if maximising patronage right now is best achieved by deferring the entry of ferries into HOP, then that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. There’s a much stronger need to integrate bus and rail services, so agree if that’s the priority.

      1. If your desired outcome was reducing congestion on Lake Rd then you might want to include the Devonport ferry in Hop

    2. Potentially, although if it’s including the unsubsidised Waiheke ferry it would skew the results downward. It’d be more appropriate to show two lines, one Waiheke inclusive and one which is only subsidised, tendered fares.

  2. Matt can you clarify whether the subsidy per passenger kilometre is real or nominal? I.e. is it adjusted for inflation? If not then it will real overstate costs. That’s OK, it just means the system is performing even better than shown here. Of course, inflation has been fairly low in this period so the difference will be small. But something to keep an eye on over longer time periods and/or when inflation is higher.

  3. So great to leave those diesels behind!

    Now I hear that electrifying the Puke line is already Net Present Value positive because of the lower operating costs of the EMUs and rising ridership. I had assumed that the time to do that would be when the southern SHAs start to be built to get the new stations along the line in good and early. But now there’s another problem, in that looks like every EMU and more is needed on the current network at the peaks. I guess all track work and station establishing work ought to precede wiring up, so there’s a reasonable lead in. Perhaps it would be better to spend any diesel rehab money on additional EMUs or track and station prepwork Drury south….?

    1. And the NN and PTOM *should* (fingers crossed) cause patronage to rise and costs to fall, thereby resulting in the subsidy per passenger to fall further.

      The rail services re-tendering could also play a role here. Hopefully it results in costs being less than the current one, which seems very inefficient by international standards.

    2. “But now there’s another problem, in that looks like every EMU and more is needed on the current network at the peaks.”
      And that’s today with 14 million boardings. With the best will in the world, its hard to see the CRL being operational inside six years, and with 20% annual growth in patronage, annual boardings will be up round the 40 million mark. Auckland needs an additional 1 or 2 EMUs every month just to keep standing still.
      Good news on the reliability/punctuality front. If the CRL is to work, then the trains will need to operate within time slots about 150 seconds wide, given that the CRL is to handle 24 trains/hour/direction. Toss in dwell times, and there is not a lot of room for faffing round. Time then for AT to start practicing their accuracy, which is probably more important than outright speed.

      1. very soon when reliability increases you may find station staff issuing tickets like those in Japan giving late slips if the trains are late

    3. The Pukekohe Line carries 156,000 passengers over 18.2km (8,600/km). At that rate, the Wairarapa line (58.6km from UPPE to MAST) would need to carry 504,000 passengers to justify electrification – last time I checked the figure was 705,000!

  4. 8.15pm bus to Kingsland last night. Full to the doors by Symonds St. Lots of Quaxing also, Luggage space full of supermarket bags.

    1. Expect a post from Matt soon, but there’s good news for the Shore; looks like the good people at NZTA have got the Busway extension to Albany back on the programme in the SH1-SH18 intersection works…

      1. That’s good news Patrick! It currently takes about the same amount of time to get from the Albany bus station to Constellation Bus Station as it does from Constellation to Akoranga in the mornings!

        1. Yes it’s a no brainer and I know NZTA agree, but they were set back by the previous minister’s ‘vision’.

          And it will also simplify the general traffic lane planning not to have to accomodate buses on the shoulders merging etc..

          It costs to keep building crap systems (looking at you NW!).

  5. Very good news all around. In case anyone missed it: rail has grown by 40% in two years!

    We’ll need a lot more buses and EMUs if we’re to sustain this growth. One of those rare cases of too much of a good thing.

  6. Any way you could add the subsudy line for walking (probably the x-axis), cycling and driving? The last one might require a bigger scale if you include indirect costs.

  7. This is all great news! I hope the relevant people get the accolades they deserve for this. Len Brown, and I don’t know who else.

  8. Hello? Ricardo? Where are you?
    Oh, off smelling diesel fumes.
    The northern busway is going to save New Zealand billions: no need for a third harbour crossing.

  9. The low western line growth compared to southern and eastern line growth. I wonder why that is ? Is it lack of services and capacity ? With new housing developments occurring in New Lynn in the next few years plus additional services by January maybe this time next year we will see 30%+ growth on the western line.

    With Otahuhu opening late 2016, the current network will hit peak capacity in 2017 unless something is done to increase capacity.

    1. Western line is the last to get new trains and is still only 4 trains an hour. Will leap when capacity and frequency improves to Rapid Transit standard (early next year we are promised).

      1. This might be an impossible answer to ask but how much peak capacity do we have left. I tired doing the calculations myself but the answer I got was none. But I know southern services have capacity but my friends tell me western line services are chocker by new Lynn.

        1. Well increasing frequency by 50% from 4 trains per hour to 6tph is a capacity increase unless they are just taking two 6 car sets and splitting them… We calculate that 20 more 3 car sets are required in order to run 6 car sets on all three main lines at 6tph at the peaks.

    2. Western line has had electrics for only a couple of days in that month, the others have had them for quite some time. The western also hasn’t had any service frequency increases, which the others had.

    3. Will be interesting to see August punctuality stats now the entire fleet in the metro area is electric.
      Maybe now they should start counting Pukekohe diesel shuttle punctuality figures separately from now on?
      Has there been any (noticeable) decrease in dwell times/procedure?

  10. Do the subsidy figures include SuperGold fares paid by central government? That would account for a huge fraction of the total subsidy for ferries.

  11. These numbers come as no surprise.

    Auckland is undergoing a fundamental change in terms of the people living here. There is a mass exodus of people leaving Auckland at the moment, it’s just that they are being more than replaced by returning ex-pats and immigrants. The ex-pats have often lived in big cities for a long period and have adjusted their lives to the transit city. Immigrants on the other hand come from places where driving is on the different side of the road or from places where driving is not necessary. These groups would take up Public Transport regardless of how good it was.

    I note that Aucklanders are not leaving their cars for mass transit. Car usage is largely constant with some data showing a slight upswing in usage (Harbour Bridge for instance).

    We are creating two Aucklands. One for Aucklanders who understand that what makes Auckland special is it’s natural surroundings, the West Coast beaches, the Waitakere ranges and the Hunua ranges. The second Auckland is for the expats/hipsters who want to replicate the design of overseas cities.

    This is creating big division in Auckland. The inevitable high house prices and out of control rates are driving people out of Auckland whilst locking out people who want to secure a future in this city.

    I find the divisive nature of “transport advocates” to be extremely sad as they create a city for themselves without regard to what real Aucklanders want and without regard to where Auckland is and what it stands for.

      1. There was nothing racist whatsoever about my comment.

        Your response is a disgraceful attempt at misrepresenting my view.

        You should be ashamed of yourself

        1. I’d bet 10:1 anyone who described themselves as a ‘real’ Aucklander when talking about migrants is a closet racist.

        2. Matthew I’m sure you aren’t setting out to appear racist, very few do, but what you wrote certainly has all the hallmarks of such talk, albeit in the usual code.

          You divide people into separate categories based on where they are from then claim that those groups from elsewhere ‘immigrants‘, or tainted by foreignness; ‘expats‘ and ‘hipsters‘ are somehow less ‘real‘ [whatever that means] than the group you identify with. This group through some kind of vague folk connection with mountains and beaches has [you claim] a privileged role in defining what ‘Auckland is and what it stands for‘ but is being ‘forced out‘ in a ‘mass exodus‘. So your group is innately superior but now are victims of a biblical-scale injustice.

          Dear oh dear, this is pure Nigel Farage language.

          Perhaps the ultimate irony is that it is you that is so keen on identifying divisions yet you accuse others of ‘divisiveness’. And sadly your only solution to your panic about other people is that Auckland should be keep only for ‘real Aucklanders‘ as defined by you. Others must be shut out. Why so much fear of difference? How are you being forced out? Oh by ‘transport advocates‘: Really?!

          What you call divisiveness I call diversity: Vive la difference!

    1. “One for Aucklanders who understand that what makes Auckland special is it’s natural surroundings, the West Coast beaches, the Waitakere ranges and the Hunua ranges”

      That would be those who want density done well and PT use so that we don’t have to ruin these places with sprawl and roads which are what make Auckland awful.

    2. I think you are wrong with your assessment. I have lived in Auckland most of my life (other locations have been Hamilton and New Plymouth). I used public transport because I am sick and tired of driving in traffic and many people I know fall in this category. I think the lack of public transport availability has been the limiting factor to public transport use ( Look at the transport figures for rail – they have improved once transport infra-structure improvement have been delivered).

      Yes, immigrates who are use of public transport in there home countries will use public transport but many JAFFAs are using it too. Most of Auckland Population growth comes from natural increase rather than migration (this includes internal migration from other parts of NZ and from overseas) and to have 20% growth in patronage is more than can be accounted for by immigration. Auckland is becoming more diverse but I doubt that a lot of growth in public transport patronage is because of immigrates. I think this blog has shown that the vehicle kilometers per head of population has dropped and I think that is a sign that Aucklanders are leaving there cars.

    3. “without regard to what real Aucklanders want and without regard to where Auckland is and what it stands for.”

      Poor quality trolling.

      1. I would like to add, Matthew, that this generalisation about immigrants is very poor and not likely to be accurate. You will find plenty of sprawl dwelling car obsessed recent immigrants and many city dwelling and alternative transport mode using long time Aucklanders.

        You tell us nothing about the world but a great deal about your own prejudices.

    4. We are creating two Aucklands. One for Aucklanders who understand that what makes Auckland special is it’s natural surroundings, the West Coast beaches, the Waitakere ranges and the Hunua ranges.

      I don’t get it, the fact I love walking in the Waitak’s means I have to drive to work on the motorway and spend my weekends mowing lawns around my suburban house? I’d rather save the driving to get to the Waitakeres and spend my weekends at the west coast beaches!

    5. This is ridiculous. Just because I love Piha doesn’t mean I want to spend two hours sitting in motorway traffic every day, or live in a three bedroom fix-up in Waiuku.

      I bet that I spend more time actually surrounded by nature while on my bike than you ever do.

    6. This seems like a strenuous effort to put a negative spin on a rather positive phenomenon.

      You note (correctly) that Auckland’s recent rapid population growth has coincided with a rapid increase in public transport use, coupled with flat or slight increases in car travel. This is great news: it means that Auckland’s population growth is happening without drastically worsening road congestion or vehicle emissions.

      As for your (unproven) assertion that new residents and transit advocates are “creating big division in Auckland”: have you actually asked any returning expats or new immigrants how they feel? I’m sure that Transportblog commenters could help out – many of us have lived overseas.

      Here’s my story: my family’s been living in Auckland since the 1840s, but I grew up mostly in California because my parents left in the 1980s. Some of my best childhood memories are tramping in the Waitakeres while on holiday with my family. When I came back to NZ in 2008, it was pretty obvious to me that overseas cities offer some lessons about how to maintain Auckland’s natural beauty. The main one was pretty simple: If you don’t want to fuck up your natural environment, don’t force people to sprawl into it by restricting intensification. Or, as Ed Glaeser puts it, “If you love nature, move to the city.”

      Finally, it’s incoherent to simultaneously argue that Aucklanders leaving the city are “more than replaced by returning ex-pats and immigrants” and that we are “locking out people who want to secure a future in this city”. Those two things can’t simultaneously be true!

    7. I was born and raised in Auckland and my public transport usage has been increasing as it becomes better and more convenient than driving for various trips.
      I’m sure I’m not alone.
      I’m not sure where you are getting your generalisations from. Are there any facts to back up your opinions?

    8. What’s the problem? If ‘real Aucklanders’ want to spend their time out at the beaches, they’re more than welcome to. I like urban living and a mix of private vehicle and trains. The important thing is to give people choice. I’ve lived in Auckland for all but five of my fifty years, am I not a ‘real Aucklander?’ Speaking of creating division..

  12. That’s great for rail. Just gotta get those station dwell times down. Love the new trains although the jerks are already starting to tag them inside. No respect for anything.

    That must be Parnell platforms being built I see everyday on my commute. Can’t wait for that one to be built so I can start including Parnell in my travels. Should be a popular station.

  13. I’m 66 years old and committed to working for another 3 years. I work nights and following a sleep episode on the southern I no longer drive. I am totally in support of the drive to better PT, as advocated on here.

    Sometimes I get annoyed at what I see as an excessively obsessive attitude on here to cycling (it affects a very small percentage of road users) and some of the car hating comments however I recognise that this is a private blog/research outfit that is run by volunteers who are entitled to their opinion as am I and as are all the posters on here.

    1. Interesting bio Chris, thanks for sharing.

      Just one point about cycling. Your very point about low numbers currently using it was and is used by opponents of investment in PT and particularly rail. Less so of course now that the hard won investment is yielding the growth that proponents always said it would if done right.

      That’s where we’re at with cycling in AKL now, at the very beginning. It has the potential to add meaningfully to movement options for many and will, we are certain, if properly invested in. That is the evidence from overseas. Furthermore it is a particularly good ally for Transit of all varieties. And great for place quality and health and safety outcomes in general.

      In short, we advocate on possibilities, not just on current use.

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