Public Transport patronage results for April are now available and even taking into account that there was an extra weekday, the results were pretty good. This is a good to see after fewer work days in March dragged down the results a little bit.
Once again the most impressive results are coming from the Rapid Transit network consisting of the rail network and the busway. Both of those saw growth of over 30% compared to April last year and even taking one working day off the growth for rail was still over 25% (the adjusted figure isn’t available for the busway). We learnt in early April that rail patronage passed 16 million but from the results we can see it has now soared passed 16.2 million. Combined with the busway which has also passed the milestone of 4 million trips means that rapid transit is now carrying over 20 million trips annually or just under 25% of all PT trips. That’s up 5 million trips in just 18 months, not bad considering a decade ago our rapid transit network carried fewer than 5 million trips and accounted for less than 10% of all PT trips.
One of the results that strikes me the most from the results is the Western Line which is up 35.6% on April last year. This is impressive as other than some added capacity that came with the new trains, there hasn’t been a weekday timetable change for years and the frequency during the peak hasn’t changed since at least 2008. With the change earlier this month giving a 50% increase in frequencies at peak – now every 10 minutes – and improved inter-peak frequencies it will be interesting to see what impact they have. In the business report AT say the initial two weeks are already showing an over 30% increase on the same time last year.
One aspect that will also be having an impact on train results is that punctuality has considerably improved. In April it reached its highest result ever with 96.4% of all services arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of what is on the timetable.
Of course the Busway is also doing extremely well which will be in part due to the increased capacity from the Double Deckers now a regular sight on the busway and the extension to Silverdale which less than 6-months after starting has seen high growth resulting it having “insufficient capacity”. AT are planning on increasing capacity and peak frequencies to Silverdale in late June. It’s also worth noting that the Northern Express performs better than other buses on punctuality too.
Both the busway and the rail network continue to perform ahead of projections made when the various projects were justified. One of the best examples of this is with Britomart where the business case for building the station assumed that by 2021 about 22,000 train trips would start or end there. Data provided to me by AT last week shows that already almost twice that is happening with the number at around 42,000 a day.
As expected farebox recovery – which is always reported a month behind – continues to improve. It is now tantalisingly close to the 50% magical mark which is the level it has to reach by the end of June 2018 to meet the NZTA’s farebox recovery policy. If current trends continue it should mean that AT will have additional funding with which to either improve services or reduce fares. The improvements to rail primarily as a result of electrification continue to be impressive.
One area that isn’t seeing much change in recent times is HOP usage which seems fairly stubbornly stuck in the low-mid 70% range. Perhaps changing all SuperGold card users to HOP will help boost that up a little bit but I hope AT have some plans to improve utilisation above that. One thing area that may help for trains at least is that they say they’re working on designs for gates at Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Middlemore, Glen Innes, Henderson and Papakura Stations.
Overall some good results from April and I’d expect those to continue in the coming months. Changes such as the improvement in timetable on the western line are bound to drive passengers. As is the roll out of double deckers to Mt Eden Rd yesterday – although it could be a little while before we see just what impact this has.
— Julie Fairey (@juliefairey) May 28, 2016
We’ll also see double deckers on the 881 route by the end of June and at the end of July we’re due to finally get integrated fares which I think could have a significantly positive impact on PT use.