Rail patronage continues to soar to new heights and yesterday passed 15 million trips within a year for the first time. That marks also the third million trip milestone we’ve seen this year after passing 13 million trips in March and 14 million trips in July. This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.

General Manager AT Metro, Mark Lambert says rail patronage in Auckland has grown by 22% over the past year. “Just four months ago we marked 14 million passenger trips. And if we go back 10 years we had just 4 million trips a year.”

Auckland Transport chairman Dr Lester Levy says when he became AT chairman in November 2012 rail patronage was just 10 million. “What Aucklanders have wanted for decades is reliable, frequent and safe public transport options and we have a very clear focus on delivering to those wants and needs.”

Mayor Len Brown says this is another outstanding achievement for public transport in Auckland. “At this rate we will pass the next big milestone – 20 million – at the start of 2017. Aucklanders love their trains and compared to this time last year, they’re taking around 10,000 extra trips every day across the suburban network.”

Since the rail network went all-electric in July, from Papakura to Swanson, there has been a marked improvement in reliability and on-time performance. In October 93% of services arrived at their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time and the previous month 94.9% of services arrived on time, a new record for Auckland trains.

Mr Lambert says “Our customers are liking the improved level of service and the comfort and convenience of the new trains. We’re also working on a timetable improvement which will see services on the Western Line go to six trains an hour at peak like the Southern and Eastern Lines.”

Overall public transport patronage in Auckland across rail, bus and ferries now exceeds 80 million passenger trips a year.

The result also marks us being halfway to the government’s patronage target for the CRL of 20 million trips by 2020 just over two years after it was set.

2015-10 - Rail vs Govt Target

If current trends continue we will hit 20 million trips in mid 2017 however the Ministry of Transport have continued to claim that patronage growth will taper off. There’s no sign of that happening yet and in fact patronage has continued to grow at increasing rates with it currently increasing by over 22%. There are also a lot of improvements still to come. As AT say in the press release above they are working on increasing frequency of trains on the western line which last I heard was expected to occur around April. That will both help address capacity constraints and make the service much more useful at the same time. In the middle of next year we will also get integrated fares which will make most journeys cheaper and in the South the new bus network will be rolled out which should see more people transferring to trains. The changes to will happen after that. All of this means that patronage is likely to continue to grow strongly for some time yet.

One aspect I will be watching is to see how it takes us to reach the next million milestone. We’ve seen the last two taking just four months. There’s been a distinct downward trend although I’d be surprised if it went lower. One aspect likely to help keep the current trend up is that this year will see the shortest rail closure over Christmas so we should see some decent increases in patronage in the December and January months.

Time between Rail Millions

The patronage results for October have also been released ahead of the AT board meeting next week. Other than rail which reached 14.8m to the end of October both bus and ferries also saw patronage increase despite there being one less business day this October compared to the last one. Buses were up 0.5% for the month while ferries have continued strong growth over the last six months or so up 8.2% for the month.

2015-10 - Total Patronage

2015-10 - Patronage Table

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  1. That is terrific news. So each day each of the Western line now carries almost as many people as Link Drive in Wairau Park does. The Eastern line carries slightly fewer than Ladies Mile does, John Street carries more people than the Onehunga Line and my local road carries more people than the Pukekohe Line. Rail is just getting better and better.

    1. Lol. Did a toy train roll over your feet when you were a child, or something? The reason roads carry so much more traffic than rail in Auckland is because for decades we have ignored one, while spending our brains out on the other, and claiming all the time that the rail decline was a natural process, and that the roadsfest had no downsides.

    2. I doubt many people start their journey at one end of Ladies Mile and end it at the other. Most of them probably clog up an arterial or motorway at some stage..

    3. I know you’re trolling for sport mfwic but I’m duty bound to point out the errors in your claim.

      Link drive doesn’t carry as many people as the eastern line, that’s link drive plus sunny nook Rd, Wairau Rd, the northern motorway, and thousands of other streets and driveways that those people must use to complete their journeys.

      Meanwhile the rail line carries the trips entirely, or almost entirely.

      The eastern line carries approximately 55 times the person-kms as Link Dr.

    4. To put this into perspective you can look at the motorways and arterials. According to a post here a while ago, the harbour bridge carries about 60 million car trips per year.

    5. So are you saying that the capital investment in the purchase of cars that daily traverse Link Drive and the cost of importing of petrol to propel them is a significant contributor to the balance of payments deficit that the country has?

  2. Great news, despite what the troll above says.

    I have one question. How will they count transfer trips in future? For example if I live in Howick and get the bus to the city each day, it’s counted as 1 (bus) trip. If I start transferring at Panmure to train, will that now be counted as 2 trips or still the 1 trip? If it’s still counted a single trip/journey, does it go towards the bus or train stats or both?

      1. Yes, I understand that. But for statistical purposes, it’s going to artificially inflate the numbers. In a lot of cities, if you transfer to another mode/service in a certain period of time (say 1hr), then they still count it as just the one journey.

        1. Is it artificially inflating mode figures? You rode a bus. You rode a train. 1 + 1. To know how many trips were made on each mode, it’s still a trip on each. How many full journeys that might be isn’t really relevant when working out how many buses and trains must be available on the network.

    1. At consciously calculate trips not journeys. Even though HOP knows you have made two linked trips, and can discount the second trip accordingly by 50 cents in some cases they still count them as two trips.

      Another reason why the new network will cause a massive ramp up in trips via rail.

      1. Yes, if they’re going to count them as two separate trips when the new network comes into place, it’s going be difficult to see if real numbers are actually increasing (although I’m sure they will) and by how much, or just people breaking a previously single journey into two.

        1. It will already be happening with people who used to travel into town on the bus from the eastern suburbs now transferring onto the train at Panmure. I think you make a valid point, they would probably ideally report on both metrics for total figures, as they are each relevant for for different purposes.

          1. Stu, I’m suggesting that measuring or framing *the success* of a transit system in terms of passenger-km runs the risk of driving investment into things that increases passenger km.

            Likewise, it also runs the risk of favoring opex on long distance routes over short ones. Say, investing in a commuter rail line instead of local frequent buses because people on the former happen to travel ten times as far to get to work.

        2. From a transport/capacity planning point of view, if you have 20,000 people using a bus service (say to Panmure) then those 20,000 hopping off the buses and using the train from Panmure to get to town, you may say that the net effect is 20,000 journeys.

          But you still have to capacity plan for 20,000 bus journeys and 20,000 train journeys.
          And if either mode falls short, them the total carrying/moving capacity of the system may well reduce as well.

          Its the same with motorways, you don’t just count the journeys no matter how they got from A to B as “1”, you count the trips on each part, as that is how the bottlenecks are caused – by trips not journeys. Not least as they have different provisioning processes/requirements and different agencies responsible for them (NZTA v AT for instance). So you can’t conflate them that way as that makes the network less than the sum of its parts.

          PT trips are the same.

          And most importantly, the 20 million figure for CRL funding by the Government is TRIPS not journeys. The Government agreed to count trips not journeys. Thats why the above graph is important.

        3. I guess the solution would be to report on the growth in passenger-kms. That way, regardless of how you break your journey, the trip is still the same (OK, there could be slight differences if different services don’t all take the same route). It also makes it easier to compare against changes in roading traffic patterns.

          1. Passenger-k. Is a good measure of the amount of ‘work done’ in the physics sense, but not always the best measure of value. Long trips obviously generate more passenger-km, but that’s not always a good thing and can just represent sprawly impacts. All being equal it’s better if people travel shorter distances to achieve the same benefit of getting to work or shopping or whatever.

          2. Nick R – I’ve always struggled with these kinds of arguments against passenger-km because they seem to get cause and effect the wrong way around, as well as misinterpret the primary purpose of *why* we want a KPI.

            In terms of cause and effect: Your comment implies that measuring passenger-km will somehow lead to increased sprawl. That would be equivalent to saying ïf we measure PT effectiveness using pass-km, then AT are going to start focusing on PT that meets the needs of long-distrance travel (over short-distance) and therefore contribute to more urban sprawl.

            I think that’s highly unlikely. In general, the cause and effect will run in the other direction: That is, a more sprawled city will tend to have longer journeys, therefore leading to more passenger-km overall (by all modes). Nonetheless, given the urban context if a mode grabs more of the pass-KMs that are travelled this would seem to be a good thing no?

            The second reason I struggle with these objections is because they seem to misunderstand the purpose of KPIs: Their main purpose is to measure the change in performance relative to the existing base, i.e. give a % growth figure. That is clear from the preceding discussion. By extension, the “sprawliness” or otherwise of the existing urban form will be captured in the baseline values of passenger-km. However, the *change* in pass-km from this starting point will still tend to measure the relative change in the effectiveness of the PT system.

            In a nutshell: Yes, both journeys and passenger-km have their advantages and disadvantages, but if you’re trying to understand the effectiveness of the PT system, especially at contributing to economic outcomes, then passenger-km is the better measure.

  3. Across the rail network, there has been an increase in patronage on all lines. However, the Pukekohe line patronage has dropped by 4.4%. Commuters are abviously unhappy about the service and moving to alternative options. What is not clear from the raw data is whether this is due to the hassle of having to change trains at Papakura, a timetable that doesn’t suit, a dislike for the old trains or a combination of these.
    From the increase in all the other lines which are now all electric, it would appear to indicate that there is a business case to extend the electrification to Pukekohe as mentioned in an earlier blog post – http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2012/11/16/electrifying-from-papakura-to-pukekohe/. It would be interesting to know if AT have progressed any further on this.

    1. What people at AT, NZTA & the Government don’t seem to appropriate is that they have added 15 – 25 minutes to what is a 60 minute trip, and this is just outrageous!
      The Government & NZTA spend hundreds of millions to take 5 minute of a someones drive, but adding a huge travel time to someones train trip seems to be OK.
      Electrification to Pukekohe should be a clear and obvious priority – let alone to the extra 30,000 people expended in the area in the near future.

      1. Part of the problem with Pukekohe was that it became so unreliable, you literally did not know if your train would make it or be terminated at Papakura owing to late running exacerbated by insufficient time to turn around and return. And frequently they didn’t make it and tough, make your own way. What was an 13 minute trip by rail is 30 + minutes by road not to mention another half hour or more buggering around waiting or sorting out alternative transport. This was a daily occurrence.

        That to some extent has been sorted with the shuttles. But transferring, up to twice during a trip if you are going via the eastern line is far from ideal.

      2. I think AT understand it perfectly well and would happily extend electrification all the way to Pukekohe.

        The simple fact is that NZTA doesn’t have the money for it, which reflects another simple fact: NZ’s current government does not support investment in rail infrastructure and services, even where there’s a strong business case.

        Only way to change these simple facts is through democratic pressure (of all forms, such as the Blog) :).

      1. I’d expect that the BEMU supplier and the LRT supplier are likely to be the same given that the requirements are similar for both, except one runs on a dedicated RoW and the other doesn’t.

        But to all intents the similarities of need between the Pukukohe run and a LRT down Dominion Road are quite striking, so if the current battery technology is good enough to work for one of these situations, its good enough for the other.

        1. According to a couple of the Franklin local papers (not the most reliable of sources) the battery configuration under consideration is a standard EMU retrofitted with a battery and associated electrical control gear such as chargers, inverters etc. With such a configuration all trains would travel between Britomart and Pukekohe under the wires with the battery being charged and would travel on the Papakura-Pukekohe section under battery power. At a guess I estimate the need for 3 new EMUS with the battery and another 16 or 17 existing EMUs to be retrofitted for a total of around 20. It’s not going to be cheap and it is going to mean a dedicated class of EMU for the Southern line but it is likely to be a whole lot less expensive than electrification of Papakura-Pukekohe.

    2. The reason for the improvement in on time train running is because the trains don’t have to go to Waitakere and Pukekohe any more. The shuttle from Pukekohe to Papakura is just like a bus from Mangere to Otahuhu or Clendon to Manurewa but the good people of Pukekohe think they are superior to other passengers who need to transfer to utilise the rail. Any move to reinstate the Pukekohe one seat ride to Britomart will lead to a decline in service over the whole network.

      1. There are many reasons for the improvements to the train services such as fancy electric trains, not going to Pukekohe or Waitakere makes not the slight difference.
        The key difference about the Pukekohe services is that there is tracks and station all in place – so it is an easy improvement which will stop thousands of new people moving into the area clog up a very crowded motorway.

      2. I would have thought it has more to do with running faster more powerful trains but still keeping the old timetable across the network.

  4. “This is a fantastic result and continues to show that when given a decent option that Aucklanders will use it.”

    One shudders to think what the Western Line patronage would be if they were given a decent option. A decade on from double tracking and still only four trains/hour on peak. AT (and apparently Kiwirail) are extraordinarily unambitious when it comes to pushing frequency. The recent presentation to the Infrastructure Committee should have raised alarm bells.

    If we are on target to achieve 20 million rail trips/year by mid 2017, where is the planning for 40 million boardings pre CRL. AT and Kiwirail seem to be content to plan for 40 million boardings by 2041, which misses the point by about a generation.

    1. Should be happening next year from board reports: “Roster optimisation was conducted for 20 July timetable which resulted in 10 less drivers being required than originally planned. Driver availability for a service increase subject to timetable modelling of the Western Line to 6 trains per hour peak and 3 trains per hour inter-peak will follow driver school completion in April / May 2016.”

  5. Once integrated fares roll out mid-2016 (anyone know more than the comment in the AT Business Report that can be shared??) perhaps AT need to look at running the Henderson-Otahuhu service and link it with express buses from Grafton-Britomart to mirror the CRL running pattern.One would hope that there is consideration being given to another order of EMU’s to at least allow for as many 6 car trains on the network as possible with some spare sets pre-CRL as it looks like they are going to be needed.

    Is is possible to run a 9 car train to P3 at Britomart without stuffing up everything else and have at least one door still on the platform?

    If demand continues the way it is going, then creative solutions in so much as these can be done given all of the constraints are going to be needed in order that supply can cope. That or Auckland is going to need a team of train pushers ala Tokyo!

    1. “One would hope that there is consideration being given to another order of EMU’s…..”

      Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think anything is happening on that front. And given the lead-in time from order to delivery, that is a concern and will ultimately cripple the potential.

  6. Um 14.8 million is 15 million???

    Nevertheless this is a great result and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of the “sparks effect”

    1. 14.8M is the October report. The 15M happened during November. Will show up in next months report (likely to be over 15M for complete month reporting).

  7. I still think that rail growth is astounding; will we trip over the next three million marks next year, to 18m? Is there sufficient capacity at the peaks? Will that extra frequency and capacity on the Western arrive soon enough? Better frequency off-peak, and greater span (later trains), along with ticket price incentives to encourage off peak use look like the next work for AT.

    Imagine what it would be like without the dive in petrol pump price; unmanageable. It doesn’t seem like we have found the end to the latent demand for quality PT services, and there are plenty of other drivers to come yet to stimulate more demand. AT et al can’t sit on their hands and wait for the CRL to solve everything. Dynamic field, in an interesting time.

  8. How to pay for Elect to Puke + Drury & Pareta stations. Cut Reeves Rd Flyover and that gives you most of the cash all completed by 2017, which by happy coincidence is the lead time for EMU’s if we ordered them sounds perfect 🙂

    6TPH Western Line can’t come soon enough.

    The Question is will the Eastern Line soon become the line with most PAX or will Electrification & 6TPH (Western) allow the Western & Southern Lines to stay ahead.

    1. Harriet like your financial proposals!
      When the busways are able to deliver from Howick and Wiri to the stations at Panmure and Wiri and the new timetables introduced in 2016 with pulse type operation then those figures should increase dramatically.

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