Last week I wrote about the Patronage results for February. At the time of writing that post, AT’s monthly indicators report was not available which provides more detail on the patronage plus a number of other metrics. I thought I would highlight a few interesting aspects from that indicators report.

One of the first pages I tend to look at in recent months has been the one showing what’s happening PT subsidies as we’ve been seeing significant changes – especially since the electric trains started rolling out. This information is always two months behind so the data shown here is till the end of January and as you can see the trends continue to be very positive.

Farebox recovery – This is how much fares cover the cost of services and the measure has soared over the last year rising from 45.9% in Jan 15 to 49.4% in Jan 16. Given it had been in approximately a 44-46% range for around a decade that’s a significant jump and is a clear result of the rapidly growing patronage, especially on trains. AT need for overall Farebox Recovery to reach 50% by 2018 so it appears they’re on track to do this in the next few months, well ahead of when the NZTA say it needs to happen. This should hopefully mean AT are able to be more aggressive with the pricing for integrated fares later this year and/or also allow for more to be invested in new and improved services.

As different modes have quite different usage patterns the bottom graph also shows the cost per passenger km for rail is following a very positive trend

2016-02 - Farebox

Parking in the city – remains very high and as you can see below, the upper limit on street metric was surpassed in March. For both on and off street parking, AT want to use pricing to manage demand by setting the rates so that there are always some spaces available should people want to use it. AT consider 90% full as the top of their target range to maintain that and with both measures at or above 90% does it suggest AT could be rising prices again soon?

2016-02 - Parking Results

Daily Rail Boardings – In February we surpassed 60k per weekday which is even higher than it was in March last year. It makes me wonder just how high we’ll reach for this month?

2016-02 - Rail Weekday

HOP Usage – The percentage of PT trips being made using HOP appears to have plateaued over the last year or so at around 70%. What plans do AT have to push this higher up towards 80-90%? So far we know that the government is requiring all SuperGold fares in Auckland to be made via HOP from July so presumably AT will be running a campaign to get those users to shift. SuperGold users make up about 9% of all PT trips although some already use HOP. After that in the absence of any campaign then integrated fares may be a driver to improve uptake. The reason for improving the level of HOP use is that it speeds up buses which helps make them more efficient. It also makes it easier to implement changes that can deliver further improvements such as not giving change, all door boarding etc.

2016-02 - HOP Uptake

Arterial Road Productivity – At a few key sites around the city measurements are taken to look at the productivity of roads – which is the product of the number of vehicles on the road, the number of people in them and how fast they’re going. Interestingly the chart shows that productivity has been increasing with the only major exception being Glenfield Rd. I guess congestion in some places isn’t as bad as thought.

2016-02 Road Productivity 2

Road Crashes – Perhaps related to the above result, over the past year crashes involving serious injuries have increased quite a bit.

2016-02 Road Crashes

Are there any other graphs from the pact that caught your eye?

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  1. AT are clearly going to reach 50% recovery so the question now has to be around what they will do with the increased revenue.

    I really hope that the answer is to increase frequency on overcrowded routes first and then on any of the ‘future frequent routes’ shown in the RPTP. Easing overcrowding releases supressed demand so may be revenue neutral but it would obviously be good to know that we won’t lose 50% recovery as a result. Bringing local routes up to FSN standards drives patronage on that route, but also on adjoining routes as people start using the upgraded route to connect to the rest of the city. I sincerely hope that fare recovery doesn’t stall just shy of 50% and that AT don’t jack up HOP fares to reach it.

    1. “AT are clearly going to reach 50% recovery so the question now has to be around what they will do with the increased revenue.”

      I fear you’re being serious and this may come as a surprise to you, but the answer is they’ll become less of a burden on tax payers and allow the council to spend money on other things.

      Their operating grants aren’t an entitlement. Long term objective should be for farebox recover to be >100%

  2. They definitely need to increase capacity first.

    They can also increase both capacity and farebox recovery by extending every bus lane from 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm, and actually painting in some new bus lanes. They seem reluctant to do either of these things, for some reason.

    1. I also note that proposed hours for Manukau Road T3 lanes are 7-9 Northbound and 4-6 both ways. Should be 7-7, that route is busy all day every day.

    2. Bus lane extensions both in terms of operating hours and road space are a little like the chicken and egg of cycle lanes. Without the acceptance that they speed up the holly grail of flow by removing some of the traffic from the network they will remain difficult to implement and extend.

      The question becomes how does the tipping point get reached, when the normal is “why don’t we have more bus lanes?” or “why are the bus lanes only operating 4 hours a day in each of the peak directions?”

  3. I’d also like to point out that the deaths and injuries graph represents 500 personal tragedies. The aspirational line would represent 400.

    Almost all of which are avoidable. As this blog has shown, there is no plan to address many of the most dangerous intersections in Auckland, and safety-centric design for people frequently loses out to the dream of shuttling vehicles around at speed on urban streets.

    New York has a Vision Zero. Auckland has a Vision Four Hundred.

  4. So “road productivity” is seen as a positive by AT? From the description it appears that the more people drive on a road, the higher its productivity. How is that KPI consistent with getting people out of cars and onto PT, bikes etc? The goal should be for roads to be underused and unproductive. It would be better if productivity measured the amount of people using the road as that would at least take into account buses, car sharing etc, but alas, it’s just vehicles.

    1. Nick people moving is pretty much how AT measure road productivity.
      The small print beside that graph explain the methodology (its a little weird wording but if you read a couple of times it kind of makes sense).

      Its not perfect, but its better than the very blunt ‘LOS’ (Level of service) metric they used to use.

      They do count how many “people” (using cars/buses and average occupancy per car/bus as a proxy for people) you actually get down each lane and what their average speed is.
      Multiplied out and then compared to the ideal number to get the %age of the ideal value (lane productivity %).

      The ideal figure is (from memory) something like “37,800” (which is 1080 “people” moved per peak hr at 35 km/hr average speed], per [peak direction] lane. (1080 people = 900 cars x 1.2 average occupancy)

      They don’t count bicycles, as “people” moved – probably on the basis that bicycles don’t “use up” a complete lane from other road users unlike cars, buses and trucks do.

      To increase a given roads productivity you need to either:get more people using PT (buses) on the road, which means either more buses, or getting more people on the existing buses [pretty hard when they’re all full up like many are now].
      And/or prioritise the buses (with bus lanes, signal pre-emption etc), so they move more people faster.

      You can also try and get more people in the cars, or have less delays (queueing at lights),

      But thats a zero sum game because reducing queueing for one road/direction, increases queueing in the others so the overall effect for peaks when the intersections are equally busy in all directions is the same.
      However it can make a given arterial routes productivity look better – which is probably what AT do now for those ones in their metrics..

      We know adding more people per car [car pooling] mostly doesn’t work in practise because of the difficulty in everyone scheduling their trips together at the same time.

      AT do this productivity calculation to figure out when a bus lane should be created (or whether a bus lane should be downgraded to a T2 (or T3) lane instead.

      Whether they then act upon it and put them in, is another story…

  5. AT should most definitely put up on and off street parking prices in the CBD, not just for revenue purposes, but to actively discourage driving into the CBD while the CRL and all the other works are taking place.
    Have to keep the roads free for buses, trucks and tradies not so much for SOVs.

    1. So some tradie earning $100/hr should have more right to CBD streets than me popping in to visit a friend for a coffee? That’s some of the most ridiculous stuff I’ve ever heard

      1. Yes, a tradie who has materials and tools that require them to drive should have more right to the streetspace than a person who drove past transit stations to go for a coffee.

        1. Capitalists should pay for their use of public space. Can I also set up a consultancy firm on the road? I just need a desk. I’m sure people won’t mind me appropriating public space for private profit.

          1. Presumably you would also pay for the right to use that road while ‘popping in for a coffee’ under such a scenario? Finally we agree on something.

          2. We all benefit from commercial vehicles as we tend to be the ones paying for the goods and services they provide. Even the ingredients for your coffee arrives in a delivery truck at some stage.

        1. I knew this was coming, and it’s a coffee in a friend’s apartment. A 20 minute visit. Even with the fastest PT around it’s inefficient to use PT for trips of such short duration

      2. Yep.

        That tradie is providing a serious economic utility by being in his vehicle, your coffee trip could be easily facilitated by other modes, and should be given how unimportant it is.

        1. I catch PT to and from town every day. It has to be bus as although I’m NL, I’m a 20+ min walk from the station.
          So I know exactly how long it would take to bus to town for a coffee chat, then bus home. It would probably *triple* the overall time required. (20min drive vs. 60min transit)

          If you can get AT to reimburse me for 80mins at say $100/hr (130$) I’d take it. I’ll charge like the tradey

          1. If, hypothetically, every car journey was effectively tolled (just like every public-transport journey is subject to a fare), then this would soon sort out the high-value journeys from the low-value ones. My guess is that car-use would plummet as people realised that certain journeys are just not worth making, or could be better consolidated into fewer, more-productive journeys with no real loss of amenity. Currently it is all too easy to hop into a car on a whim for any trivial reason, and claim valuable road-space at no additional charge.

  6. Seems a bit unfair for bus and ferry users to be subsidising train users by so much. In London for example the tube is much more expensive than the bus as the tube is much more expensive to run. Maybe AT need to consider this with the upcoming zoning and fare changes?

    1. JJ,

      Ferries cost a lot more than trains or buses per km, so ferry users are being [handsomely] subsidised by everyone else right now.

      The Fullers ferries operate outside the subsidy model as fully commercial services (i.e. unsubsidised). AT can’t/don’t subsidise them [except for providing them with berths and ferry terminals etc].

      Bus subsidies are currently not controlled as easily as it should be by AT because of the old contracting model for bus services still in force for most of the bus services running today.
      Under the new bus network which uses “PTOM”, AT will be able to control the bus services and the costs of those services a lot better, and because of HOP data, allocate revenue and subsidies a lot more efficiently across the modes than now.

      So over time, the various subsidy levels may change to reflect to true level of subsidisation per mode. Allowing that 50% of the cost must come from the “farebox recovery”.

      Whether AT can cross subsidise ferries from buses and trains under PTOM rules I am not sure,
      I would think so, otherwise new services could never be implemented as they’d have to get 50% farebox recovery from day 1..

      If not, then that would mean the subsidised ferry fares would have to rise by 2018 until 50% of the actual fare cost is being recovered from those ferry service users as per NZTA farebox recovery rules.

      1. AT is ripping off ferry users right now – it’s as simple as that.

        The Council is pocketing a handsome amount of rates for AT from ferry users. Nobody is stopping AT from meeting Fullers to remedy the unfair cost of travel for ferry users and there is no regulation preventing it.

        Why hasn’t it been done yet? Because by taking money in rates from ferry users and not spending it on the service, AT has been accumulating an absolutely huge cash mountain out of this scheme.

        1. “and there is no regulation preventing it.” There is, as has been discussed ad nauseum on this blog. The regulations need to be repealed immediately.

          1. Are you sure SB? Although the LTMA [section 150] states that the public transport service, while operating as an exempt service, will not receive a subsidy for the provision of the service, it also makes it explicit that for the purposes of the act subsidy does not include anything done under an agreement between a regional council and an operator to reduce passenger fares. It seems that fare equality has been anticipated by the act that legislates exempt services, not prohibited by it.

    2. I would be very surprised if the tube were more expensive to run as moving 1,000+ people with one driver at 50 km/h is much cheaper that 100 people with one driver at 10 km/h.

      1. I thought it was the maintenance costs associated with 100 year old infrastructure and a bit of under spend during the 80’s & 90’s, while the effects of auto dependency were fully realised, that has lead to a fair amount of the tube cost.

        1. If you buy a single ticket for a short journey, then yes, London Underground fares are very expensive. If you travel for a few zones, or buy a day-ticket and make a few journeys then it’s not too bad.

  7. Should they be breaking the Ferry component (22%ish) into Contracted and Non Contracted, as the contracted services will probably always have a lower uptake, until there is a consensus on how to revenue split the resulting fares.

  8. Increasing the price of the HOP card to $10 was not an incentive to increase take up.

    Given that farebox recovery is so well advanced to meet the 50% (current) Govt requirement, there should be NO fare increases, possibly some decreases, with the new fare system planned. Infact, it will be extremely hard for AT to argue for any fare increase whatsoever. Wellington has had 3 years without price increases (except for the Capital Connection which is operated separately).

      1. It will be interesting to see the data of HOP card up take and percentage of usage before and after the price increase of the cards.

        I note, that after 2.25 years of using my HOP card about regularly and keeping it safe in my wallet, the plastic coating is now peeling. The magnetic strip is also starting to wear. Will AT provide a free replacement after it fails?

        1. Likewise with my card. With my cynical lens on, I highly doubt we’d get one. On the other hand, my Snapper card which I regularly used in Wellington for 4 years and intermittently for another 3, and which came with a plastic protective case, is perfectly intact.

          1. Good point, Ive a sporadically used hop card falling apart and an older, well used snapper in fine condtion. Assume the snappers were a better manufacture?

        2. Seriously, you are complaining your $10 discount card is going to need replacing after 2.5 years of daily use? That’s about $1 every three months, not really an issue.


            Easter Warning for HOP card users.

            Let’s see if they have finally corrected the HOP card issues this long weekend when rail bus replacements replace segments of journeys. PTUA warned AT over a month ago about the over charging. If not corrected we will make a complaint to the Commerce Commission as we have evidence that we have informed AT about the over charging errors. It has effected many HOP users (there were letters of complaint in the Manukau Courier after Waitangi Weekend. We await the OIA information about how many HOP users have been overcharged since early 2015.

            All these actions help reduce trust in the HOP system. Fortunately, the PTUA has found the error.

          2. Come on Jon that’s some pretty childish schoolyard behavior. Why not engage with the issue at hand rather than immediately fire back with fallacies like that?

          3. It’ll actually be interesting to see an interpretation under the Consumer Guarantees Act as to what’s a reasonable use period for a smartcard during which repair/refund/replacement is required from the supplier or manufacturer.

        3. AT Hop card doesn’t have a magnetic strip. It’s just a painted line in silver colour. All the brains are inside the plastic. So protect the plastic and you’ll be fine. My card is also peeling on the edges btw.

        4. The TAP card (“Transit Access Pass”) in Los Angeles costs only $1 and can be bought at vending machines or outlets all over the place, so if you wear it out it’s no big deal.

          Furthermore, LA charges only a USD1.75 flat fare for any single ride within the wider city ($7 for a day-pass), with no need for any wretched “tagging off”.

          There are better ways of doing things than our way.

  9. Why would the cost recovery be so low for rail ? is it the combination of high KiwiRail access fees, repayment of the loan for the trains, and 2-person crews ? One of the few ways around this is to dramatically increase patronage, particularly in the off-peak when there is capacity, such family tickets or a policy children free with an accompanying adult in the off-peak.

    1. I think KiwiRail’s track access fees are quite reasonable actually, and I don’t think that the EMU loan repayments is a major issue.

      The two main cost drivers are speed and labour, which are related of course.

      In terms of speed, if we can get the dwell-times down from the current ridiculously high levels then we’d say about 5 minutes per run, or about 5% of total operating time. Could be complemented by closing under-performing stations such as Te Mahia.

      In terms of labour, if we could get the TMs off the trains then we’d save much more,

      Basically we need to make the trains 1) run faster; 2) with fewer staff; while 3) carrying more people.

      If we make progress on all three outcomes then we’d be in with a fighting chance of achieving a reasonable cost recovery.

  10. I think a note of caution needs to be added to Matt’s original optimistic comments about the improvement in farebox recovery results over the last 18 months or so. The farebox recovery indicator, as defined by NZTA, is a pretty good measure for comparing cost recovery trends over time on a given mode, but it is NOT a good measure for comparing cost recovery between modes. The denominator (which represents the costs) in the farebox recovery formula essentially comprises the total income received by the contracted operator, made up of fare revenues, SuperGold reimbursement payments, concession fare reimbursement payments (if any) and ‘general’ contract subsidy payments. For bus services, this total income pretty much equates to the total of all costs to provide such services, as these are very largely funded by the operator (including the buses themselves, the depots, and the road user charges paid): the main exceptions to this are on-street infrastructure, which is usually funded by local authorities (eg bus stops and shelters, bus interchanges etc), but accounts for only a small proportion of total costs.

    However, this is far from the case with the rail services, where most of the capital expenditure is not funded through the operator but funded separately direct from government (not mostly through the National Land Transport Fund, but directly through Crown funding sources). A consultancy assignment I undertook a few years ago for the Ministry of Transport examined all metropolitan rail services in NZ and Australia (but is unfortunately unpublished) found that the annual capital charges required to cover the costs (replacement cost depreciation and interest charges) for asset replacement over the longer term were of similar magnitude to the annual operating costs.

    The implication of this is that, while the farebox recovery ratio for bus services covers almost all the relevant costs, the ratio for rail services covers only about half these costs. So, while the current AT figure for rail cost recovery is given as about 35%, for comparability with bus services, the figure should be around 15%-20%. As is the case for all metropolitan rail services in NZ and Australia, when the rail services are costed on a ‘full’ basis, their cost recovery performance is poor relative to bus services in the same metropolitan area – and certainly a few years ago was below 25% in every area.

    This may be an inconvenient truth in some quarters.

    1. How long ago was that Ian? As I understand it the costs for rail includes track access charges which is to cover AT’s share of track infrastructure costs and also includes interest costs for the trains themselves. It’s possible this outcome was a result of your previous work. This doesn’t necessarily mean full costs are attributed but perhaps not as bad as you’re suggesting.

  11. Matt: I think you are right that the situation will have gone some way towards providing a ‘level playing field’ since the work I did for the Ministry of Transport (which was in 2010). However, my understanding is that the farebox recovery figures quoted for rail are still quite some way from reflecting full capital costs (ie replacement cost depreciation plus a commercial return on capital) that would apply to the bus mode under private contracted operations. It would certainly be interesting if someone were to update my 2010 work to assess the rail farebox recovery on a consistent basis with the bus figures.

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