Today’s bus strike is expected to have a significant impact on the city. It will also likely have a significant impact on patronage with some estimates suggesting that more than 130,000 trips will be impacted. To put that in context last February there were just under 6.7 million PT trips in February so this could impact patronage in the month by as much as 2%.
While we’ll likely have to wait till next month to find out just how much impact the strike caused, the reports to AT’s first board meeting of the year along with the data they now publish give us information on the results from January. It’s fair to say there are certainly a mixed bag of results.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the patronage results is that overall compared to January last year patronage was down by 0.7%. It’s still up 6.6% on a 12m rolling basis but this is the first time we’ve seen a drop in a monthly result since August 2013. The drop was driven by reduced patronage on both buses and ferries. Train patronage is still growing strongly at over 19% compared to last January but given the growth in recent months and that we saw the least disruptive summer shut down in probably over a decade I had expected it to be much higher.
AT believe the primary reason for the fall in patronage was due to the timing of the Christmas/New Year break this year which likely saw more people push holidays into early January than in the past – I know I certainly did. They note that this also ties in with stronger patronage at the end of December. They also highlight that some routes have been much more affected than others. I’ll come back to those later in the post.
December increases occurred primarily towards the end of the month. The January 2016 decrease in bus and ferry occurred primarily in the first half of the month as illustrated in the patronage chart below compared to January 2015 and corresponds with the lower rate of growth for rail. Underlying trends are likely to be a result of holiday alignment between Christmas 2014 (main two week of holidays falling between 19 December to 5 January) and Christmas 2015 (December 24 to January 11); however, there are specific areas of decrease in January year-on-year for bus and ferry above the underlying trend on Great North Road (-50,000), Manukau Road (-12,000) and Waiheke Bus (-12,000). A major decrease has been seen on the CityLINK (-73,000 or -33%), which is considered to be a result of removal of free travel from March 2015.
The biggest impact was on the buses which carry the bulk of patronage and were down 4.7% on January last year. As noted above it’s interesting that the Gt North Rd buses are down so much. While the information suggest other factors were at play I also wonder if the bus changes in the City Centre to accommodate the CRL works have had an impact. I know it’s certainly made it more difficult for people like me to transfer between bus and train to get to the North Shore.
Ferries use was also down with them 4.3% lower than Jan last year bucking a trend of strong growth. AT reference the downturn on other modes and also note that the reduced use of ferries to Waiheke aligned with reduced Waiheke bus use.
Despite being less than I had expected train growth remained very strong up 19.1% on January last year. That saw patronage for the month surpass 1 million trips meaning that for the first time every month in the previous 12 has been over the 1 million mark. The first ever time we surpassed 1 million trips within a calendar month was in March 2011 and back then there were just over 460k trips in January. Overall rail patronage is now over 15.5 million over the last 12 months which is another solid increase representing a 21.6% growth compared to the same time last year.
One last interesting bit on PT patronage, within the business report AT have commented on the impact of the changes they made to Titirangi/Green Bay services in late 2014. Those changes effectively saw the new network implemented in this area with 24 infrequent routes replaced by 9 simpler services with a “more consistent service pattern operating at higher frequencies”. One full year on AT say that patronage from this area is up 35% which is very impressive. Perhaps they need to try and push harder to get the entire new network rolled out sooner.
It wasn’t only PT that saw usage down on last year. Bike numbers across many of the counters also showed a decline in January although a few counters showed some good growth. Perhaps the most interesting is that there was a large spike in usage of Grafton Gully (+29.9%) and Beach Rd (+23.5%). Looking at some daily data it’s not from any one day so it appears to be a general increase that’s occurred. Monthly data suggests that while numbers had been improving, growth rates really picked up from December and that coincides with the opening of Lightpath. Perhaps we need more data to confirm but it suggests that more connected routes are helping drive usage (who would have thought). Also telling is that the only other route to grow is also connected – the NW Cycleway at Kingsland.
|Jan count||Jan ADT||% change from previous year|
|Carlton Gore Rd||5402||174||NA|
|East Coast Rd||4384||141||-5.7%|
|G Sth Road||2725||88||-10.1%|
|Nelson St cycleway||10711||346||NA|
|Nelson St Lightpath||24693||797||NA|
|NW Cycleway (Kingsland)||18112||584||8.8%|
|NW Cycleway (Te Atatu)||12501||403||-8.7%|
|SH20 Dom Rd||3639||117||-4.0%|
|Te Wero Bridge||18382||593||NA|
|Upper Queen St||3952||127||NA|
|Victoria St West||3097||100||NA|
One other potential factor is that January was considerably wetter than last year and the historical average. This may have affected PT use too.
What is very helpful is that a few days ago AT publicly released the cycleway data for each automated counter allowing us to see back to November 2010 for some of them. This is far more useful that reporting on just nine counters across the region – Thanks AT. I’ll look at the results from the counters more in a future post but for the meantime here is the 12 month rolling number of bikes recorded as going past the NW cycleway counter at Kingsland.