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.

2016-02 - Rail Patronage

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

Packed Train

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.

2016-02 - Bus stike impact

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.

2016-02 - Total Patronage

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.

2016-02 - Bus stike performance

  • 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.

Closed Session

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
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  1. We are seeing a pattern here with rail growth continuing strongly but bus struggling to grow so much despite reports of strong demand. Capacity and performance limits seem to be biting hard. Additional seats on key routes have been added but until street priority is improved consistently these additional bus numbers may, in practice, make for slower runs as more buses merge in and out of intermittent and to brief bus lanes….

    Word that the western line will still be anything but turn-up-and-go in the inter peak after the timetable change is disappointing. Rapid Transit Network is meant to be 10 min freq minimum 7am-7pm. Won’t even be 15min.

  2. Be interesting to know a bit more about the bus figures. If reports of march madness in the isthmus are true, then services elsewhere must be losing a lot of patronage.

  3. Great results. No brainer. Who wants to spend hours on Auckland’s congested motorways (some obviously still don’t mind!)
    I’m talking to more and more ‘car clingers’ who say they can’t be bothered – they want to live centrally and on a train route

    1. I got stuck in that traffic yesterday because I had to go Epsom after work. Sadly working in Albany more or less means being forced to drive as my temporary home is in Devonport which is like and hour and a half by public transport. Having just returned from a European holiday I find myself yearning for a city with a proper metro.

      1. Have you considered cycling? Although the infra is a bit crap going Lake Rd, Esmonde Rd, Fred Thomas, Tahoroto Rd, Forrest Hill Road, East Coast Rd and then Rosedale Rd there is infra most of the way and it is fairly level.

        1. It would only shave 15 minutes off the time which would then be taken up with showering. Besides I’m planning on moving to the other side as soon as I can find a decent apartment. It also wouldn’t have helped me get to Epsom as I would have had to cross the bridge. I also prefer PT where possible so I can read. So basically cycling would more or less combine the worst of both modes in this circumstance. Also before anyone mentions it. The fitness I’d get from cycling would be irrelevant as I’m a runner.

          1. LOL. Of course I shower. I guess it wouldn’t add any extra time then. It would still just be more annoying than driving for me. Today I’m working from Dominion Road because a former boss is having leaving drinks. In order to partake in the demon drink I decided to catch the ferry and bus. It took 55 minutes door to door. If I had that option to get to Albany I’d probably use it a lot more.

  4. You can clearly see two distinct patterns, strong growth through to the RWC bump, then after a brief lull even stronger growth with electrification.

  5. When are they going to order more trains? This blog correctly forecast the “March Madness” we are experiencing now months ago. AT did little. It is not difficult to forecast the same happening with trains, yet no move to order more trains. Does AT require a crisis to make a decision?

    1. Sadly, it seems that with public transport, there needs to be a crisis before anything gets done. The crisis that will unfold from a lack of trains is plain to see, but no-one wants to address this.
      It’s different with new roads of course. They get funding based on a politician’s whim, whether they are needed or not.

    2. iirc Matt L blogged on here (when the EMUs were ordered) that the total capacity would be adequate for 6 car sets on 10 minute frequency.

      Now that AT have a more definite timeline for the CRL, they can progress their talks with CAF for the next tranche of EMUs. They would a good portion of them to have arrived before it opens.

  6. All the serious complaints about the March Madness Saga seems to be all coming from the Ithmus area.
    Rapid dedicated transit (NEX and Trains) are all coping better than I would have expected (might have had lower expectation).

    1. Really Ben? I walk along Fanshawe Street to work every morning and there is also a city-bound bus stop right outside my company’s offices where quite a few people get off from each bus and from what I’ve been seeing the buses, even the double-deckers are packed to the gunwhales in the mornings. Of course as already mentioned more double-deckers are coming but thank goodness there are already a number of them running otherwise the Shore definitely wouldn’t have been coping!

  7. The train run speed improvement is a must, however waiting until next year is a bit long.

    They should also reduce the dwell time.

    The doors are unresponsive. There is a wait between train stopped and door start to open; and another wait between door closed and train start moving.

    Also train accelerate and decelerate unnecessary slow on the station.

    Looking at trains in japan and hong kong, they are very efficient and speedy.

    1. I had heard the delay was to allow the timetable to bed in once the Western line goes to 10 min frequencies. While it’s vital to improve run speed and those bloody dwell times, I would actually support AT on ensuring the timetable beds in first. Since electrification the trains have been much more reliable, especially when it comes to the junctions, there haven’t been nearly as many delays coming through Newmarket and in/out of Britomart recently. To me this has been a bigger gain than run speeds, then again I don’t travel from Papakura or Swanson so others may disagree with me.

    2. AT’s senior staff should go on a study tour;

      Japan for trains.
      The Netherlands and Denmark for cycling.
      Brisbane for buses.

      Who does best-practice in ferries?

      1. Vancouver has fantastic ferry service called Seabus. All integrated with buses on one side and trains on the other. Docking is very fast and people are unloading on one side of the boat, other side starts filling up with new passengers and there are multiple doors not like a single platform we have.

        1. Makes me wonder if we’ll see the busiest stations have boarding and alighting from different sides/platforms (Britomart/Aotea).

          1. Not from the designs that have been shown on this site. Aotea will just be a standard island platform and at Britomart trains towards the CRL will use platform 5 and trains from the CRL will use platform 1.

    3. The dwell times definitely need improvement. I cannot see why the doors cannot open the second the train stops. If it is a problem with the control computers, they need to admit it, otherwise make the changes.

  8. I was getting the Mt Eden Rd bus home after a show last night – the damn thing passed the stop with a “bus full” sign at 10:20pm. Something weird is happening…

  9. Yes definitely need more & proper bus lanes, will fill the gap until other improvements come on board. Slightly off topic: Do you think or does anyone know if the LRT construction on Queen St etc will be done rapidly after the cut & cover on Albert is done & boring starts higher up…just thinking roughly that is when you could fit the work in perhaps if Albert St is freed up again…but then there is street make overs etc etc

  10. Matt (or others) do you know what the plan is for the Western Line services while they are constructing the Mt Eden station and connections with the CRL and whether they will be able to continue 10 min frequencies.

    I’m imagining they may have to go down to single track for a period of time like when Newmarket was built a few years ago, which I imagine would impact on 10 min frequencies.

    1. Yes that’s going to be tough, especially as we’ll be running around the 20million pax mark by then.

      It could be worth running shuttles Kingsland west with more New North rd buses. Especially as the western line has such a high proportion of intra line travel. At least then service wouldnt be as crippled everywhere by limitations at the Mt Eden work site…?

  11. I think they know that demand is very high.

    But they seem cautious. Several years AT didn’t have the permission they needed to make the changes that improve our city, and instead had to go slowly and bed things in. Risk aversion is appropriate in a mature system. It isn’t in a growing and transformative one.

    1. In terms of cost benefit, wouldn’t it be better to build cycle lanes or fund local connector buses in order to remove the need for PT users to have a car at all?

      1. Unless you are far out in the sticks where land is cheap (and even there it is only cheap in comparison), building massive car parks next to train stations is the worst thing you can do. You lose space where people could live in apartment buildings and use the space so people can drive. As said above – feeder buses, better walking and cycling, more people living close by. That’s what works.

        Park and ride only works if you ignore the ancillary costs of park and ride.

        1. Feeder buses increase the journey significantly and cost money. Other cities have park and ride as multi-storied car parks and charge for the use. If I have to pay for a feeder bus why wouldn’t I pay for a car park next to or over a train station? At least I would arrive at my office dry and not looking like a drowned rat.

          1. Shortly you won’t have to pay for a feeder bus, it will be included in the price, thats what integrated fares is all about.

          2. My experience is that if I’m within 2 km of Smales Farm, either side, there is just no way to catch a “feeder bus” to Smales Farm. At least not in a way that I’m underway for less time than when I would just walk to the station. Obviously a 2 km walk adds a fair bit of time to a journey.

            From Milford I could go via Takapuna, IF those buses would be more frequent than 1 / 60 minutes, and IF they wouldn’t be 30 minutes late from time to time.

            So for now I consider feeder buses science-fiction. They might arrive one day, but it will not be today.

          3. I cycle to Smales Farm bus station if I need the NEX. Super flat and very easy with bike parking for free.

          4. We had a new network consultation a while ago for the North Shore. Not much improvement planned for the near future. The ‘frequent lines’ don’t form a network at all. Transferring onto a feeder bus with a 30 minute frequency is something you just don’t do unless you’re really desperate.

            Cycling is probably the best option, but only between your home and the station. On the other end of the journey, not so much. You can’t take your bicycle on the bus.

          5. Your specific example was Milford which will have a service every 15 minutes 7-7 7 days a week to town.

            Crosstown services on the shore are very poor and that was part of my submission (I lived on the shore when the consultation came out)

          6. Yes I also submitted that we need meaningful east-west connections.

            There is improvement on the eastern side—Milford will indeed get meaningful public transport access at last. For the western side, not so much. On weekdays old and new look more or less identical.

          7. Have to agree to disagree on that. Lived in town and worked just west of the events centre 2 years ago. Far better under new plan.

      2. Yeah like I’m going to walk 15 mins to get the bus to take me to the supermarket, do my shop, walk 10 mins to get the bus (with 10 bags of shopping), catch the bus and walk 15 mins home again with all my shopping? ”
        I don’t think so Tim”.

        1. That’s when you do use a car….buses don’t work for everyone everywhere all the time….though we want to improve them.

  12. Anecdotal but the eastern train line seems much busier now that at any time in the past year, even at 10 minute freqs every train I catch is busy.

    I do wonder how much scope for growth exists on the current infrastructure.

    We also need to quickly accelerate the supply of public transport into the areas with dreadful services like the outer east. AMETI is limited in scope and ambition, but it’s better than nothing, the 20 year estimates on it will cripple that part of the city

  13. Really not good news this month – ferries are stagnating because fares have still not been made equal to bus/train fares, so lower petrol pricing means it’s cheaper to drive even with no passengers. So of course there’s no growth. If folks living in Mt Eden and Grey Lynn (same distance travelled) were to be charged $4.50 per trip then public transport growth would be poor there as well Of course it would solve the bus crowding issue but you can bet the roads would be jammed up; just look to Devonport’s Lake Road to see the fruits of AT’s work on ferry fares.

    As for crowded buses, well this third month of the year has been dubbed “March Madness” for a while now, and is it reasonable to ask why the numbers we are seeing now could not have been predicted a year ago? Again a slack effort from AT.

    I don’t get it – these are basic core services that are undertaken on behalf of the Council, and AT was expressly created to get them right, yet they have failed on fundamental issues (price and capacity) in two out of three modes. Where are our silent and invisible Councillors on these issues, and what is to be done about AT?

    1. “just look to Devonport’s Lake Road to see the fruits of AT’s work on ferry fares” Think you men the fruits of *National’s* work

    2. Ferry services cost much more to operate. And yes Devenport may be the same distance as Grey Lynn, but there’s also a huge chunk of water in the middle which is a massive barrier Grey Lynn doesn’t have. These people chose to live in Devonport for the water views. I find it odd how you can say driving to the city is cheaper. Where are you finding all day parking, the price of fuel, vehicle wear and tear for les than $9 for the day??

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