Last week Patrick posted the latest set of results of rail station data. We’ve long wanted to also 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 it’s fascinating, especially when compared alongside the rail station results.

Many people only associate the busway with the Northern Express however it is actually used by quite a number of services for part of their route, for example the popular 881 which travels from Torbay Bay and the city, joining the busway at Albany. If you are catching a bus to/from a busway station, then integrated ticketing makes it easier than ever to catch whatever bus turns up next but also means that when considering busway station usage you have to take into account more than just the Northern Express service.

Northern Express IMG_4447

The data Auckland Transport have provided is for the 2015 calendar year and shows the number of people boarding or alighting at any of the busway stations along with where they came from or went to. For trips where the origin or destination was outside of one of the busway stations they have broken the results down by broad geographic area. For example, someone catching the 881 at Torbay and getting off at Smales Farm would be counted as Boarding in the North Shore and alighting at Smales Farm. Crucially though this omits another important group of busway users, those that board and alight outside of the busway but whose trips benefit from the busway e.g. the people who board the 881 at Torbay and alight in the city.

Unlike the rail network we don’t have any information on how this has been changing over time but it’s good to finally have some results. Here are some thoughts I’ve had looking at the data.

  • Usage of the busway stations is very strong and stronger the further you get from the city. I wonder how much this is a reflection of the very high peak frequencies provided and how much of it is due to the busway being very competitive in terms of travel times, often twice as fast as driving.
  • Usage of Albany are huge and even larger than Newmarket making it the second busiest Rapid Transit station in Auckland which is impressive considering the busway itself stops at Constellation Dr. To me the numbers once again highlight just how important it is that the Northern Busway is extended at least as far as Albany.
  • Constellation Station is also very strong and it is the fourth busiest Rapid Transit station, significantly ahead of New Lynn.
  • Smales Farm ranks at 10th overall, another impressive result and one that I suspect will grow strongly as the area is further developed.
  • Sunnynook gets very impressive results for what is by in large a walk up station. It ranks 16th overall and is only slightly below Henderson.
  • Even Akoranga which is largely an isolated island (with the exception of the nearby AUT Campus) does better than most of our rail stations.

Busway Station Patronage 2015

I think it also highlights that we probably need to rethink how we count trips in Auckland. While many of the rail stations such as New Lynn and Panmure have strong patronage we only count rail trips from the station. Perhaps we should also be counting those arriving or departing by bus to give a more complete picture of how these stations are performing. For the busway it would also be interesting to know just how many people travelled over it i.e. the ones who caught the 881 from Torbay to the City.

Lastly it’s interesting to think of the impact that park & ride has on patronage. Many people suggest that it is key to getting a lot more people to use public transport. On the busway only Albany (1,100 spaces) and Constellation (450 spaces) have park & ride. They do get some use on weekends but primarily it is on weekdays that they fill up. Even every space was being used every day for a trip (including weekends and public holidays) it would account for less than half of the boardings at each station (402k at Albany or 43% and 164k at Constellation or 22%)

Overall some very solid numbers from the Northern Busway Stations and ones we can now start tracking to see the change over time, like we’ve done with the rail station figures.

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  1. Fascinating. Although to do a true comparison with say New Lynn we’d need to add the bus patronage there too. And it would be good to separate out the city stops into areas too.

    More fuel for the case that what the harbour lacks is a dedicated RTN crossing.

  2. I find this stuff to be really interesting. I wonder why the northern busway is so sucessiful at moving lots of people from the furtherest station but that trend is no longer apparent in the southern line rail data. Historically papakura and manurewa were in the top 5 in terms of usage. However recently there relative rankings have decreased. I can understand the reasons why panmure, Sylvia park and soon otahuhu ( I hope) have increased there rankings. Panmure has increased its catchment area significantly. But the importance of middlemore and papatoetoe has increased as well. Not sure why

    1. Rankings are interesting but not that important in a situation where every station is rising. e.g. Papatoetoe is very very busy, despite there being no investment at or around the station; it’s just crying out for development.

      Additionally the Shore probably provides more employees in the city centre than say the industrial areas south.

      1. I think AC is planning development around old papatoetoe. So it will be interesting to see if a new Lynn type effect occurs.

        Thank you for ur responses

    2. @Andy “I wonder why the northern busway is so sucessiful at moving lots of people from the furtherest station but that trend is no longer apparent in the southern line rail data. Historically papakura and manurewa were in the top 5 in terms of usage”

      My guess is that those rail stations were already closer to ‘maturity’ in terms of people using the service because of the savings when compared to the long drive. Upgrades bought more people out of the wood work for all stations, but less of a % increase for those stations further out, so they drop down the station rankings.
      Total guess.

    3. Be careful, it’s an artifact of the data. These busway figures count all boardings at the station, including all the local and connector buses. The rail figures count only train boardings, none of the local buses and connectors are included.

      You can’t directly compare the two, as Matt alludes to above.

  3. Thank you for these posts this month they are really interesting and worthwhile. I wonder that the media are not taking any notice of them or reporting the graphs that you’ve prepared?

  4. There are a lot of people parking on streets surrounding the park and rides including me. I don’t understand why there can’t be some parking at Akoranga as there is a huge amount of free land there.

    1. A lot of it is unstable swamp land – you’ll notice the golf driving range is actually not all that straight as the land it sits on shifts around.

      When they upgraded Esmonde Rd and installed the busway, it took quite a bit of engineering and thousands of massive polystyrene blocks to stabilise the land for the busway and the road.



  5. the catchment for Smales station is much more than just the Farm development, there’s Westlake Boys and Girls coilleges (more than 4,000 students) Takapuna Intermediate and North Shore Hospital, I think that use of this station will likely pick up this year as there are a lot of Westlake students who come down from the Hibiscus Coast

    Sunnybrae is a busy little station and suffers from the short platforms due to the tendency of North Star buses to platoon up the busway in the PM peak, when I was driving the NEX it wasn’t unusual to be on the back of a five bus convoy and have to wait to get on the platform, the natives get a bit restless when this happens! from the aerials there’s scope to lengthen the citybound platform for an additional bus; but northbound is limited by the stairs, with room to extend the platform at the north end, but it’s a pretty steep climb up to Constellation and a level run up to gather speed is handy; the shorter double deckers may help here, but I suspect that on the stop dwell time will increase

    as well as AUT, Akoranga has Rosmini College close by, but the 4 hour P&R facility there is very useful for getting into town and avoiding parking issues

    time series data would be interesting on these stations as well, but I would expect much less “churn” than on the rail stations

  6. At least we know they’re tracking the numbers now so we’ll be able to get a clear before and after post new network implementation on the North Shore.

  7. I think fare gates would be a great idea for these stations with a fare paid zone, if only just for the northern express platforms. Probably easier said than done however.
    It would speed up dwell times considerably, and any-door boarding could be implemented as well as enduring people are paying the correct fares.

  8. I would get the 881 from Constellation to Britomart at least half the time when heading to the city. It goes exactly the same way as the NEX (up to Britomart) and if it comes along first them I’m on it. Trips on the 881 definitely are a part of the busway story.

  9. Really interesting. Does that put the need for light/heavy rail across the harbour closer on the horizon than initially envisaged? I am thinking the cost (drivers) of running all these buses.

    I also understand the PM announced funding for an extension to Albany (shame it wasn’t all the way to Silverdale). Interested to know where the station would be located.

        1. That’s what McClymonts Rd is for. They will run it up the east side to it’s on on/off ramp there and then a short section on the street to the station.

  10. Just saw another B Orsman HERALD – – video of Key saying something about the EW link being a completion of Auckland’s Motorway Network. When on Earth did this become ANOTHER final cog in the motorway network, It does look awfully lick the motorway network is never going to be complete and the roading/truck corporate welfare league is going to be coming up with even more ways to receive massive tax payer subsidies!

  11. I think it is about time that someone produces a graph/table showing PT subsidies vs Trucking vs car subsidies. RUC’s and farebox recovery should be deducted and then presented comparing hydrocarbons with hydrocarbons.

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