Auckland Transport hold their monthly board meeting next week and the papers for it have now gone up.
February was quite unique when it comes to patronage. Being a leap year there was an extra day in the month however due to the way public holidays fell, the number of work days and weekend days actually remained the same. As PT public holidays often have less usage it means the impacts from the extra day aren’t all that great. In addition to all of this February was also impacted by a strike by NZ Bus and some Howick & Eastern drivers. This had the effect of removing most buses from the roads forcing people to change their travel or not make it at all. I’ll get to the impacts of that shortly.
For the positive news, once again the star of the patronage show is the rail network. For February patronage was up 21.2% on February last year although when you take into account factors like the extra public holiday, special events and the bus strike patronage was up 17.2%. For the 12 month rolling total, patronage was up to 15.8 million, 21.6% higher than the same point last year. What’s impressive is we’re seeing strong compounding growth at over 20% per annum. To highlight the growth that’s occurred, in Feb 2014 annual patronage was less than 10.9 million, two years later it’s 15.8 million, a 45% increase in just two years.
Each month I keep wondering if growth will start slowing down but it hasn’t yet and with frequencies due to increase on the Western Line in May we should keep seeing growth for some time yet.
One other interesting factor is we’ve also now passed the patronage projections that were made for electrification back in 2006. Those projections also expected electrification to occur sooner than it did so that makes the results even more impressive.
By the year 2016 it is envisaged that rail patronage should be around 15.7 million boardings per annum, and by the year 2030 it is envisaged that the rail system could be carrying some 30 million passengers p.a. (with the inclusion of the CBD loop tunnel), up from the current 5 million passengers p.a.
Given the growth we’ve seen will we hit 16 million in March or will the reduction in working days due to Easter throw a spanner in the works? due to fall of weekends it only results in one less weekday. Trains have certainly been busy
On the water, ferry patronage grew in Feb up 1.8% however after taking into account the various factors it was actually down 1.1%. On a 12 month rolling basis patronage is still up a decent 6.6% but that level has been falling in recent months having been over 10% not long ago. Has ferry use hit a new ceiling until more service improvements happen.
Bus numbers are interesting because as already mentioned the bus strike caused a significant impact on usage. It resulted in patronage being down 3.1% on February last year thanks to 150,000 fewer trips taken or 2.5% of all trips so if the strike hadn’t occurred. AT say that adjusting for special events and the leap year patronage would have been down 0.6%. The impact is shown well on the graph below from AT. Like ferries it feels like patronage may have hit a new ceiling until further improvements are made – although with the bus craziness we’ve seen in March so far, perhaps this month will look good.
Overall patronage has increased by 1.7% for the month while the 12 month rolling result is up to 81.7 million (+5.9%) but at this point the results are being driven almost exclusively by the surging rail use. March numbers will be interesting to see as not only will Easter be having an impact but the end of February also saw some fare changes.
AT Board Report
This month a lot of the information in the board report is not new or things that we’ve covered before. Here are a few aspects that caught my attention.
It seems May 8 is the date we can expect a new timetable for the Western Line which will finally see it having 6 trains per hour at peak times – something originally promised for 2010 when the New Lynn station opened.
Works are progressing to improve the speed of the trains
Work is continuing on a number of track infrastructure speed improvements initiatives as part of the Rail Performance Improvement Plan communicated to the Board during the latter half of 2015. Vector curve speed review is underway. Improvements to driver rule change has resulted in 15-29 seconds improvement at key junctions. Line speed points and signalling works are programmed for Easter and will provide additional robustness for the propose 8 May timetable improvements on the Western line
This will result in a new timetable although I’ve heard it may not be till next year. One of the concerns with this is it seems likely this is when off peak frequencies are improved and that’s an issue as the new bus network in South Auckland goes live in October so there will be a gap where a core part of the new network isn’t up to standard.
The next Timetable following mid-2016 will focus on quicker run times and the resultant benefits for ‘freeing up’ train units to support the increased patronage being experienced across the network. This review will be a full timetable recast capturing the benefits of signalling, interlocking and line speed changes, including through curves, which have been completed and validated prior to that timetable being implemented. This timetable will also factor in the closure of Westfield station in late 2016.
- Train punctuality in February was 94.3% which a little down on the 95.9% achieved in January but still remains one of the better results Auckland has had.
- Bus punctuality – which is measured differently – was also down in Feb from January. It was 95.2% in Jan but has fallen to 90.7% in Feb. With all of work and disruption in the city centre it wouldn’t surprise me if the result in March doesn’t look too flash.
- Ferries did the best in the punctuality stakes achieving 96.2%. Of the routes the two worst performing ones (other than Rakino Is) was Half Moon Bay (91%) and Birkenhead (92.5%)
On the trains, AT say they are going to start testing on-board digital information screens in March and April.
AT have a review of bus lane and special vehicle lanes has been underway to develop a more consistent approach and there is a paper to the closed session of the board about it. Let’s hope this will see bus lane times extended as many end far too early, especially on Mt Eden Rd.
The closed session is where the most interesting discussions take place. On the agenda for the next meeting
Strategy Session – Rail Development
Items for Approval/Decision
- CE/TCC Delegations
- Road Stoppings
- Mill Road NoR
- Bus & Special Vehicle Lane Operating Times
- Integrated Fares Pre-PTOM – Commercial Framework
- LRT update
- CRL Procurement update
Items for Noting
- PTOM Ferry RFT
- Future Planning – Parnell Station
- CRL Gateway