Auckland Transport normally releases their monthly patronage data at their board meetings but as the first one for 2016 isn’t till February they’ve kindly provided me the results for December.

Overall patronage growth has remained strong with trips in December up 7.4% on December 2014. The 12-month result has now topped 81.5 million trips which is up 7.6% on the same time last year.

2015-12 - Total Patronage

One concern though is that the growth is increasingly being driven increases in the rail network and on the ferries. This is due to a slowing on the rate of patronage growth on buses. My guess is this reflects there hasn’t been all that much in the way of service improvements on buses over last year or so and I suspect some of the growth that has occurred has been due to HOP making travel easier. The growth that is occurring on buses is mostly being driven by growth on the Northern Busway.

2015-12 - Bus Patronage

We will hopefully see the slowing growth reverse once we finally get the new network starting to be rolled out which is happening in South Auckland later this year. Integrated fares are also likely to help and we should hopefully know more about that soon.

I was expecting the rail results in particular to be very strong as the network was open for Christmas Day and Boxing day while the Western line and the inner part of the Eastern Line remained open all through the Christmas/New Year period. This has shown through in the numbers with rail ridership in December up a staggering 32.6% compared to December last year reaching 1.1 million trips. That leaves January as the only month that has now carries less than a million trips a month and given many of the same factors are at play I’d expect that to change once we get the January results next month. The chart below shows how patronage has changed for each month since 2002 and you see just how big the jump in 2015 was compared to previous years.

2015-12 - Rail results by month 2

The 12-month result is up 22.9% or 2.9 million trips to 15.4 million. Related I remember when the case for electrification was being made about a decade ago they touted it as delivering 15.6 million trips by June 2016. It looks like we’ll surpass that despite the actual roll out happening a few years later than predicted.

2015-12 - Rail Patronage

The last year has seen good growth on ferries on the back of service improvements on a number of routes. Patronage for the month was up 9.6% compared to December 2014 to around 580,000 trips and the 12-month result is up 10.7% or just over half a million to 5.7 million trips.

2015-12 - Ferry Patronage 2

All up December was a continuation of many of the trends we saw throughout 2015. It will be interesting to see if those same trends carry on through to 2016 or if things slow down. Rail likely has a bit of strong growth left yet, especially if AT improve frequencies and move the rail network towards a proper raid transit service with decent frequencies off peak too. The roll out of Integrated fares is likely to help patronage too and the big unknown will be the new network which rolls out in South Auckland in October.

Related, last week Patrick posted results of the latest rail station boardings. I thought it would be interesting to plot the change in rankings over time based on data I’ve collected over the years. In the end I’ve only done it from 2011 onwards as prior to that the movements were too erratic which will be in part due to the how station usage was counted. It might look like a mess of lines now but was worse with pre 2011 data included.

To be clear this only looks how the stations rank compared to other rail stations so isn’t looking at the size of growth but there are a couple of notable points.

  • The impact of Manukau is very clear and between mid-2014 and mid-2015 rose substantially and is currently the 13th busiest station.
  • Panmure is also seeing strong growth, moving from 14th to 5th busiest.
  • New Lynn shifted from 7th to 3rd.
  • Given the stations above along with Otahuhu and Henderson will also have bus interchanges in the New Network then I’d expect them to keep seeing them with an upward trend in coming years.
  • Sylvia Park shifted up 7 places to 8th.
  • Onehunga moved up 8 places to 21st.

Station Rankings Change to Dec 15

On the same topic we’ve long wanted to see station growth from the Northern Busway and many readers expressed the same thing too. AT have now provided us with some data on this and I’ll post this in the next day or two.

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  1. That information is really interesting. Thanks for posting it. I noticed that the southern line stations south of puhini have declined in there relative positions over the last few years. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that eastern line services do not run to papakura anymore. Or is there another reason for the relatively slow increase in passenger numbers?

    1. They haven’t gone down in overall numbers abd ARE still growing, just at a lower rate. They had a higher base to begin with also. It’s just other stations have been more popular. The drop happened well before they stopped going through the eastern line.

  2. That information is really interesting. Thanks for posting it. I noticed that the southern line stations south of puhini have declined in there relative positions over the last few years. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that eastern line services do not run to papakura anymore. Or is there another reason for the relatively slow increase in passenger numbers

  3. Great charts Matt. Might get a rug made from that last one….Given that it’s a rising tide all round and none are losing pax, ranking is still useful. It’s pretty clear Western Line stations are being held back by the infrequency of service. We should look forward to a stronger performance from them this year with 10 min frequencies.

    With the Rail pax one the gap started to widen in 2014 and just continued through 2015. With Dec already taking the annualised figure to 15.4m, can Jan and Feb each add 300k so it busts 16m before March? That would require over 30% growth for Jan and around 25% for Feb… Otherwise 16m will certainly be hit in March.

  4. One concern I have with the new bus network is that new bus lanes dont seem to be part of the roll out. I know there are more on the books but wouldnt getting the new lanes in place ahead of the route changes be the way to go?

    1. At the rate that the new network is progressing I’m pretty sure that the bus lanes will be there first. AT did commit to rolling out 30+ Km of more bus lanes over the next 3 years, starting from July 2015.

      At least given Bridges tweet today of a near 100% growth in EVs last year [to nearly 1000!], we should hope that AT don’t consider allowing Electric cars in Bus lanes like they are doing now in the UK.

    2. It looks like AT struggles with getting the bus lanes in for the New Network. I’ve asked them that exact question when it comes to West Auckland and the answer was – no new bus lanes. Bearing in mind there are currently hardly any bus lanes out that way I can’t see how the New Network will significantly increase patronage (at least in that area). New network is a step in the right direction, but many more will have to be made before people will actually start to use the service.

      Growth of patronage outside of the central suburbs is probably also stalled by the distances to the bus stops and the amenities there (who wants to walk for 15 mins to a bus stop that’s basically just a sign).

  5. When I see these public transport growth charts, I always wonder whether they shouldn’t be made as a percentage of population rather than absolute numbers? I mean, Auckland’s population growth would account for some of this. Surely the most interesting thing would be to see that a great fraction of traveled Kilometres was by public transport? Of course, that may be harder to find out!


    1. Per capita PT usage runs about 50+ PT trips a year in Auckland, still well behind Wellington and other Australian cities.
      Even with 20 million rail trips a year [and buses and ferries trucking on), the per capita trips for Auckland is only projected to move to about 55 PT trips per capita.

      Passenger KMs is something Wellingtons Regional council (GWRC) report on regularly.

      From memory while we have a higher Passenger KMs average (total Passenger PT KM/s divided by trips) the PT per capita number for Auckland is a lot lower..

      1. When/if Auckland reaches the council’s target of 140m trips per year, it will be on par with Wellington on a per capita basis and not far behind Sydney and Melbourne. I definitely think it can be achieved.

    2. Well Auckland certainly isn’t growing in population by ~7% per annum. So clearly it’s not just population growth.

    3. Last year AKL pop growth was at atypically high 2.9%; rail pax at over 22%; so we have an order of magnitude rise on the rails over pop.

      Bruce, think you have it backwards; 1% immigration, 2% natural and returning NZers. In fact the net gain can pretty much entirely be explained as a failure of the usual numbers to leave.

      1. I’m not lumping natural increase with returning NZer’s. So natural increase would be around 1% (which is pretty much it’s long term average).
        With so many Kiwis returning home there should be a handbrake applied to immigration as 3% is much too high for a city that already has a housing shortage.

        1. Except that returning NZers, and the even bigger group of those ‘failing to leave’ [at the usual rate] are not external to the natural population. You cannot, in any meaningful sense, call NZ passport holders ‘immigrants’.

  6. I think there must be an error in your station rankings. We all know that no one in the western world uses public transport to go shopping, so what could account for silvia park jumping 7 places, if not a data error?

    1. You can do all day parking on level 4 for $4 a day. A more detailed look at the numbers is required but the bulk of it is probably people doing this as it’s grown in line with Panmure and the rest of the eastern line. It’s a fairly attractive option.

      1. Slyvia Park is really interesting; it only exists for quaxing. The ghastly flyover severs it from any connection to the industrial and residential on the other side from the mall. The buses are even across the mall…. Yet on it goes, growing and growing.

        1. It’s carried along with the rest of the eastern line. For people from the PT deprived far east It’s either SP or Panmure, if you’re after 8:00am the park and ride at Panmure is a no go, $4 for secure parking at SP is great value.

          Such a such AMETI has very limited scope and ambition.

        2. You are claiming that people are using SP for park’n’ride? Got any evidence for that, or sense of the likely scale? If so they are the only people paying for it… others could be charged too then.

        3. The upper 2 floors at Sylvia parks 4 storey car park are pay and display (and/or staff only parking), this is above the normal “customer” parking decks on the ground and first floors.

          Didn’t think it was $4 to park all day, but maybe Sylvia Park are using the free spaces until they build the offices there to try and raise some money.
          Not overly cheap at $4 a day, given you pay a 3 stage fare to Britomart from there. Still cheaper all up than the $24 or whatever a day AT charge to park in town though.

          I rode my bike up there one day to see what was up there, most empty parking space – but that was a weekend day, but some people were paying and displaying and going into the mall so maybe they worked there?.

          Note: this is not AT provided Park and Ride, but mall management provided parking.

        4. I think it may be officially staff parking, unsure.

          It absolutely happens; it’s cheaper than parking in town; the return train fare is likely cheaper than petrol and 18 minutes to town is heaps faster than slogging along on the motorway.

  7. Great stuff. I am not surprised that rail is increasing much faster than buses. Rail is coming off a low baseline, whereas the current bus service is well established and not being meaningfully improved. It is also true that many people find buses to be extremely erratic and unreliable at peak times, no faster than other vehicles in traffic and some of us add to that, unpleasantly dieselly. If my only PT option was the bus service, I would not use it.

    In constrast, rail is now just wonderful, 8-).

    1. rail is wonderful, but it is also expensive – and to some degree you get what you pay for.

      Put another way, if we subsidised the bus network to the same level that we subsidised rail, then catching the bus would be pretty nice. For example, you could afford to give passengers a free coffee and cookies with every bus trip.

      In terms of scale, even post CRL, the rail network is likely to be carrying fewer PT journeys than Auckland’s bus network. And I also don’t agree Auckland’s bus network is well-established; there’s plenty of room for growth with better infrastructure and service levels. Hence why AT is investing in NN and bus lanes.

      Both bus and rail are necessary for a great PT system in Auckland, and neither are sufficient on their own.

    1. Yes, the opening of Parnell should be positive for rail usage. It seems whenever rail services are improved there’s growth in patronage. Demand is there. I wonder if the small drop for buses isn’t a transfer to rail. Rail is certainly my preferred option.

      I’m just hearing on the news the government is expected to bring forward the crl funding by two years in an announcement tomorrow as you guys have discussed. I think the government realises there’s votes in it.

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