We keep a close eye on what’s happening with public transport patronage in Auckland and to a lesser extent in Wellington. Other than the fact that these are the two biggest PT regions in New Zealand it’s also because they are the ones with relatively easy monthly data available. For other regions across New Zealand we rely on data from the NZTA and Ministry of Transport, however due to delay with the results from one of the regions, 2015’s data has only recently become available.
Across all of New Zealand there were over 144 million PT trips up to the end of June 2015, up from 137 million the year before. The results show than when it comes to PT in NZ, Auckland dominates with around 55% of all trips occurring in the region. Further, the growth in Auckland during the last financial year made up about 95% of all PT growth that occurred in NZ (6.9 million of the 7.3 million increase). Of course if Auckland was performing more like peer cities overseas it would have a much larger share of the overall pie.
But we know PT is has been growing strong in Auckland for some time, reaching over 79 million by June 2015. We also know that PT usage in Wellington has grown much slower and has been hovering around the 35-36 million trip level. But what about the other regions?
In many regions patronage is very low with less than 1 million trips per year – in fact most are less than half a million. These regions are below along with the most recent patronage result.
- Northland – 0.31 million
- Gisborne – 0.14 million
- Hawkes Bay – 0.74 million
- Taranaki – 0.59 million
- Marlborough – 0.03 million
- Nelson – 0.42 million
- West Coast – 0.02 million
- Southland – 0.25 million
Moving on to regions with more than 1 million trips, these are shown below along with how they’ve changed over time.
There are a couple of interesting things you can notice fairly immediately.
The most glaring is Christchurch which was obviously significantly impacted by the earthquakes over 5 years ago. We’ve started to see some good changes in Christchurch like the new central bus interchange, a new bus network and quite nice suburban bus interchanges, but given when they opened/were implemented we’ll really need to wait till this year’s results to see if they’ve had any impact. Hopefully they will have, but I suspect it will take a while to get back to the level it was at before the quakes, especially given the change in urban form that’s occurred.
Perhaps the next most interesting result is actually the Bay of Plenty. In 2001 there were only around 100,000 PT trips in the region but that has now risen to over 3.1 million trips, the largest percentage increase of any region over that time. One reason for this is likely to be that it appears the region has some fairly well designed bus networks providing relatively simple connective routes, such as Tauranga’s network which is below.
The last thing worth noting is the drop off in patronage in the Waikato in recent years. I’m not sure what has caused it, but if current trends continue it appears likely that in a few years’ time the Bay of Plenty could surpass its western neighbour too.
Given there are also wide differences in population between different regions it’s also useful to look at things on a per capita basis. For this I’ve also included Auckland and Wellington for comparison.
The trends are pretty similar to the graph above although interestingly Otago does better on a per capita basis which is probably due to having a comparatively lower population outside Dunedin and Queenstown compared to regions like the Waikato or Bay of Plenty. This is one of the limitations of only having data at a regional level and it would probably be good for the Ministry to collect the data at a city/urban area level if possible in the future.
In my view all cities have fairly low per capita results – even Wellington should really be higher than it is. In Auckland’s case it has improved but based on peer cities we should probably have around twice the number of PT trips, so still a lot of improvement to go.