Auckland Transport have released the patronage results for August and for we’ve now passed 80 million PT trips in a year. In total patronage was up 4.9% on August last year and annually it is up 9.4% which remains one of the highest levels of growth the Auckland network has seen in recent decades. Highlighting just how fast patronage is growing, it was only just over 18 months ago that annual patronage was at 70 million trips.

2015-08 - Total Annual Patronage

2015-08 - Patronage Table

Given it was the first full month where all services (except Pukekohe) were run with electric trains it’s not surprise that once again the rail network remains the star of the show. It grew by just over 20% growth compared to August last year bringing the annual patronage up to just under 14.4 million, a 22.7% increase. The main growth remains on the Southern and Eastern lines which both saw patronage increase by over 25% compared to the same month the year before while at the other end of the spectrum the trips between Papakura and Pukekohe were down 0.8%. Another milestone is the average number of trips each weekday on the rail network for the previous year has now passed 50,000.

2015-08 - Rail Weekday use

I believe that by now the government will almost certainly hearing the message about the strong patronage growth and that we are likely to pass the patronage target for the City Rail Link years ahead of the government’s schedule. I note that the Ministry’s 6-monthly report on the progress towards the targets still hasn’t been released and they’ve told me it is with the Minister. Perhaps even the Ministry now believe we’ll easily surpass the target.

One aspect that will be helping improve patronage has been that electric trains have seen reliability improve dramatically. In August over 90% of all services arrived at their destination within 5 minutes of the scheduled time which was up from less than 75% in June. Interestingly the highest performing line was the Pukekohe Shuttle although that will partly be due to the nature of the route i.e it’s much harder to lose 5 minutes on a journey if you’re only going 18km non-stop than it is if you’re going 30km stopping at multiple stations along the way. Interestingly while AT are still reporting on performance to the final destination, they have changed the formal measure to be match buses and be based on whether a service started on time.

2015-08 - Rail Punctuality

Ferry patronage followed next in the growth stakes increasing 6% compared to the same month last year and is up over 10% annually. Of note the growth is happening more on the services contracted to AT rather than the exempt commercial ones of Devonport, Stanley Point and Waiheke.

Bus patronage saw the slowest growth at just 1.5% for the month although it is still up 6.6% annually. Within the bus patronage result the new split between the busway as well as the frequent buses outshone the rest of the bus network with the Rapid and Frequent buses up 5.1% and 3.6% respectively vs other buses at 0.6%. Overall the average number of trips on a weekday on the bus network is now 206,000

2015-08 - Bus Weekday use

Another piece of good news is that use of HOP continues to rise. In August almost 74% of all PT trips in Auckland used a HOP card with rail the highest at just under 78%. It’s good to see that there has been some growth in the number of ferry users using HOP.

2015-08 - HOP use

Also continuing to improve is farebox recovery which as of the end of July was at 47.4% – there’s always a 1 month lag with this measure. If current trends continue could hit 50% within a year which is above to the SOI target of 48% and a significant improvement on what we’ve achieved in the past.

Overall it’s pleasing to see that the trends are continuing to head the right direction, long may it continue.

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  1. Great stuff, can wait to see the central consultation plan in a week’s time. As it covers south and west rail too I will hope we will see improved frequency and some move rail services after 10pm Sun-Thurs

      1. Indeed, they’ve been in since the end of July. Really awkward layout though. The automatic ticket machine has been re-installed in front of the Hop activated gates meaning that cash passengers using it have to exit the building to enter the concourse via the manned gate. Equally, Hop users wishing to deal with Transdev ticket staff, have to follow the same route. It would have been more sensitive to passenger requirements to have located a couple of gates as well as the ticket machine adjacent to the ticket office. AT really need their station designs/layouts audited by passenger advocates before they let building contracts. It’s these annoying ‘minor’ design deficiencies that combine to make travel on the Auckland PT network more frustrating than it should be.

  2. Excellent summary Matt. And good changes to AT’s reporting methodology; separating out different service qualities so their effectiveness can be tracked.

    Interesting to note that rail ridership was at 10m in June 2013 at the beginning of this sustained growth period as Project Dart, electrification, new trains, and HOP, upgraded stations all started to bear fruit. It’s running at around 20% which means a doubling in four years, we are half way through that four year period and at around 14m. So can this growth be sustained to mid 2017 and 3m more trips be added in each of the next two years? That’s pretty ambitious.

    With the western heading for 6tph by March next year, plus interpeak service additions perhaps there are still improvements to come even if the New Bus Network seems forever to be in the future. Perhaps the best bet is reductions in off-peak fares; would be very interesting to see how that might affect ridership at those times with plenty of spare capacity….

  3. Good improvement in punctuality, but no better than when we had the diesels running to a faster timetable. What would punctuality have been like back then if the extra timetabled dwell time was added?

    1. Much higher frequency now though. But the dwell times must come down, and is being worked on. Also Aucklanders are learning how to use a real Rapid Transit system for the first time, this will come with sharper performance by the operator and a bit of time for people to adjust from our old dozy ways….

      1. I’ve seen a few complaints recently about bus drivers driving away before people have sat down. Some from people with mobility problems (or kids) but a couple seemed to be from the able-bodied. Hopefully just newbies who will eventually work things out.

        1. Depends on the bus driver as well I think. Some drivers drive more smoothly than others. Can make some difference when leaving.

          Some drivers seem unable to cruise properly. Instead of just pushing the accelerator slightly down, every few seconds they push it to the metal for a second. To the point some people get motion sick after a few minutes.

          But well, in every profession there’s people new to the job, and I think we should be a bit tolerant to that too.

        2. The bus waiting until people sit down? Really? I think that is ridiculous for 90% of people. I’m 67 and I certainly don’t need to have the driver wait for me to sit down.
          Aren’t we trying to reduce dwell times? Granted, there is driving off smoothly and accelerating hard but if the driver goes off correctly there is absolutely no need to wait for everyone to sit down; pregnant women, frail elderly yes, but not for the majority.
          I’ve caught buses in London for many years, also Paris, Tokyo, New York, Sydney. Passengers there would be bemused if this were suggested.

          1. One problem is how to you judge who is “fine” and who is not. I look fine but have a rotator cuff problem so really do not like having to grab tightly or quickly. Some buses have signs do not get up until bus stops completely so would seem reasonable to wait till seated. Of course if all seats are full it would be until pepeopleare standing still.

  4. Good to see. Roll on the new bus network as non-rapid buses seem to be the weak point in PT growth (albeit from a larger base than other modes). Expect the NEX to grow dramatically with double-decker buses and services to Silverdale.
    I do think that the Govt will use the CRL as an election bribe so expect a start on that in 2018 (2 years earlier than Govt planned) which will tie in with the council’s first stage works.

    1. It is interesting to see what the definition of the Busway (Rapid) Bus is-

      “All boardings on the busway proper (i.e. Akoranga to Constellation inclusive)
      All Northern Express patronage”

      I presume all people who travel the length of the busway on the 76x,85X, 86x,87X, 881, 89x and 962 buses that board before constellation ( At Albany or in the East Coast bays suburbs) are not included.
      Which means the Northern Busway carries a lot more people than represented in this line of the report.

      Also remember that the bus way did not exist before February 2008. So its component is kind of still coming off no base.

  5. Interesting that the western line was the star performer as far as passenger numbers were concerned – 485,788 for an annual total of 4,930,631, In second place was the southern line with 456,788 for a total of 4,413,116 and in third place the northern busway with 326,703 for a total of 3,518,265. However, because the Onehunga trains also pick up passengers from Penrose north, maybe its figures could be included in the southern line figures (I doubt if all those passengers were boarding at Onehunga) then the southern line total jumps to 94,644 for the month for an annual total of 5,514,320.

      1. That would be good if it is true. Is there any official list of the stations to be gated? I understand that gi, penrose, Grafton, otahuhu were slated to be gated. But I have not heardany rumours of other stations

    1. I wonder if Parnell is going be gated from day one. If not it will leave a huge open hole for fare evasion as some people will start getting off there instead of Britomart, or even Newmarket.

      1. Parnell is expected to be one of the busiest station… but doubt they will have gates when they open up since the station they’re building is pretty basic and still got Stage 2 to go.

  6. Time to start ordering more EMU’s or as an interim measure; enough unpowered centre cars to convert 3-car EMU’s into 4-car EMU’s (which would take around a year to arrive and provide capacity before the powered units arrive around 2020 – if ordered in the next few years).

      1. It won’t likely wouldn’t be slowing them down by any noticeable amount (if at all and then only for acceleration as our EMU’s are over-powered and have extra traction to cope with the CRL gradients and aren’t launched off at full acceleration as it is, for braking that will remain the same as will cruising speed). The thing that is slowing EMU’s down is the long dwell times with the slow door opening, and then the slow closing due to having a pointless train manager who operates the doors unlike 99% of the western world.

  7. Local bus service patronage seems relatively flat, but I wonder what it would look like if we could drill into the numbers further.

    For example, the Green Bay/Titirangi area had it’s network redesigned in August 2014 – along the new network principles. I wonder what this has meant for patronage in the area.

  8. So assuming sustained growth of a few more years which is surely reasonable, be it at the current rapid rate or even only half as fast, the rail AKL network will be doing some useful work at around 20m+ trips per annum, this decade. And of course remembering that a lower percentage increase now is likely to still mean higher growth in actually numbers of trips, because it’s from a higher base. The question becomes what next?
    We are likely to hit a wall pre CRL at some point, especially with peak time trips, because of capacity constraints, but that will likely mean that the opening of the CRL will unleash a huge amount of suppressed demand plus new uptake because of the radically improved utility of the whole network. So I predict an even faster acceleration from a higher base post CRL and another rapid doubling of ridership to 40-50m trips pa well before the end of the 2020s.

  9. We’re going to need more buses, more trains, more ferries, more station upgrades and gating, more bus-lanes, more third and fourth rails, more cycle-lanes.

    That’s investment, but it’s investment in the future that we want and need. What isn’t investment is allocating billions to static parts of the transport system, like passenger cars.

  10. Now that Pukekohe Line numbers are shown separately from Southern Line numbers, are they double-counting passengers travelling from Pukekohe to points north of Papakura (they were counted once when Pukekohe was included in Southern Line numbers), or are those passengers excluded from the Southern figure?

    1. Once, HOP card data would show who tagged on for the shuttle only and who tagged on for the whole journey. Quite simple to delineate what’s what with the HOP tag on/off data.

    1. Nah – i think itd be good to keep increasing farebox recovery if possible. Two reasons:
      – lower opex subsidies frees up budget for more capex.
      – political interference is directly proportional to subsidy. Less subsidy therefore makes pt more independent from poltical machinations on a day to day basis.

  11. What I find interesting is the if The Busway figures included all the passengers that travel along the Northern Busway (not just all the NEX passengers and the people on other buses that board on the actual busway) the figures could be close to the Southern and Western railway lines.

  12. your comments about the Pukekohe train and it punctuality are interesting. it also help the stats if the train leaves before all passengers have been able to transfer from the electric trains. ie they get left behind running to the train and have to weight for the next train. after the peak period trains, the weight time is 60minutes for the next train. this is one of the reasons the numbers have dropped, as some people need to get home on time and missing connecting train is not an option. they are now driving to papakura so they don’t get left behind at papakura station. the connecting Pukekohe train should weight for the main train to connect to it. there is about a 7 minutes period to change trains but if the main train is 6 minutes late, the Pukekohe train should wait until the passengers have been able to board, not leave with some people still running to catch it. very poor service.

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