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.

2016-04 - Total Patronage

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.

2016-04 - Patronage Table

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.

Daily Britomart Passengers - Actual vs Projected 2016

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.

2016-04 - Farebox

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.

2016-04 - HOP Usage

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.

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.

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  1. wow – Northern Busway up 37.5%; that’s super-impressive and likely reflects a combination of additional capacity from double-deckers plus the extension to Silverdale. Has there been any frequency increases of late? I can’t remember any but perhaps I missed it.

    Interesting to see the frequent bus routes struggling along with a 2% decline. I wonder if that’s symptomatic of all the works in the city centre and associated changes to bus routes/stops? I imagine it’s fairly horrible for affected passengers.

    On the other hand it’s great to finally see the roll-out of the double-deckers on the core routes; they are the equivalent of EMUs for the bus network and I suspect they’ll have a similar positive impact. No more March madness, April apocalypse, and/or May-hem leaving passengers at bus stops: Everyone makes it on the DD bus.

    1. Well the NEX usually shows up when you expect it to.

      Other buses, not so much. If you have an appointment, taking the bus is more or less out of the question. Unless you can ask someone with a car to pick you up just in case. There was this picture of that crowd on Victoria park a while ago. My guess: they weren’t left behind by full buses, but they were waiting for buses which just didn’t show up yet.

      1. I think you’re over-stating things slightly.

        Yes the NEX is better, but the other bus services aren’t that bad. Hence why their patronage is growing. Unless you’re going to tell us that all of that patronage growth is from people catching the bus for fun?

        1. This is in regards to Broadway-Parnell city bound bus.
          I have been using a bus stop in Broadway for nearly a year now to head to the city. There has never been a time when the bus is on time. They have always been either late, cancelled or drive past. The buses here are very unreliable. So much so that walking is preferable.

        2. The “Link” buses have this thing called congestion to deal with. Unless the whole route has dedicated bus lanes, don’t expect any of them to be on-time.

        3. Yes. I once tried to take the green bus to Grafton. Spent 15 minutes on the Grafton Bridge. Turns out Park Rd doesn’t have an eastbound bus lane.

        4. Yes, I’ve had significant waits for the green link at the Vic Park stop. Talking to the drivers they have pressed AT to make Victoria Street West from Queen Street a bus only area so that the buses don’t get badly delayed there but their repeated requests fell on deaf ears. Also according to the red inner city link drivers the Queen Street bus lane is not having much of a difference because of all the turning traffic on the way.

        5. I’m guessing there’s the same problem northbound on Mayoral Drive / Albert Street. There’s often a long queue for cars turning left onto Wellesley Street. I’m not sure what the traffic law says in theory, but in practice you have to get on the bus lane more or less immediately after the Cook Street intersection, or you’ll find it impossible to turn left.

          Until that Barnes dance was introduced this was a major PITA, it often took several cycles to get through the queue. I can only imagine how annoying it was for bus passengers and drivers.

        6. I’m one of these guys with a car, and I can assure you I am not overstating things.

          Someone living in the city once told me that on a Sunday there’s about a 25% chance that no buses will not show up at all (!!). But that was a few years ago, I’d hope that has improved by now. I personally have tried a couple of times to catch a bus to somewhere on the isthmus (Dominion Road, Newmarket, etc). Always a surprise:
          – the journey planner told me it would take some stupid amount of time (like almost an hour from CBD to Newmarket), so didn’t bother trying. But this one has definitely improved lately.
          – bus doesn’t show up (or not in time to still make it to an appointment. Remember to add that extra 20 minute margin to your journey time!)
          – Sometimes it does just work as expected. But that’s in my experience still a minority of the cases. I don’t envy the people who rely on a bus to get to work.

          I have had to walk back home to take the car a couple of times on the Shore too.

          More recently I know there have been issues on the buses to the North Shore running along Wellesley Street. Probably due to the roadworks there. Those works are finished now so let’s see how it goes.

          I think there’s improvement lately so the growth makes sense. Congestion on the roads (at least the variability) also got quite a bit worse. But still, contrast 0% growth on local buses against the 20% and more growth on the NEX and the rail.

        7. I lived and worked in city for 10 years. Never owned a car. Used buses regularly. They were ok. Nit great but ok. Again, i think you’re over-stating issues. Sure they can get better, but to say that no one would uses them for appointments is clear exaggeration.

      2. As someone who lives and works on Fanshawe Street and passes this bus stop everyday, people are waiting on the grass because the capacity of the bus stops at peak time doesn’t come close to the increased number of people taking the bus from the stops there. And as someone walking past those stops it’s a right pain. You can hardly get through!

        I am seriously hoping that when the bus stops have been upgraded there, there is both more capacity for bus stop users and more space for pedestrians to get through the crowd without trouble. What worries me is that the renders show no extra land taken from Victoria Park which suggests for pedestrians using the pavement along this side of Fanshawe Street there will be no improvement despite there being land that could easily be taken from the park so that the shelters could be set further back and there be more space between the shelters and the road that would have no impact on the park’s recreational use.

        1. “As someone who lives and works on Fanshawe Street”. I’m curious. Are there apartments on Fanshaw Street?

          You’re right about the stop. I’ve been there in the rush hour when it is pouring with rain. There are a few dozen spots under the shelter so long as the wind is in the right direction, but often a hundred or more people waiting.

          There’s also a severe accessibility problem at the stop, earlier this year I damaged my Achilles Tendon, if my bus stopped at the other end of the bay I couldn’t hobble there in time before it drove off again. I’m better now, but it would be horrible for permanently disabled bus users.

        2. yup, tucked in between the rug stores and behind the Grant Thornton building (opposite Vodafone). only about 3 storeys and largely hidden as it runs perpendicular to the street.

    2. Stu agree about the DDs, was in Mt Eden today, saw two nicely full very smart ones roll through the village- very smart. I’d be very surprised if they don’t attract ridership on aesthetics alone.

  2. Matt one more thing – you imply HOP uptake is flat-lining, although from eye-balling the graph it looks like from April 2015 to April 2016 HOP market share grew from 68% to 74.2%. That’s not too bad, especially given that ferries not really included yet.

    I suspect continued patronage growth, moving SuperGold onto HOP, integrated fares, increasing the premium for cash tickets, and rolling out fare products like caps and off-peak discounts will continue to push the HOP rate up above 80% in the next 6-12 months or so. Which is pretty good uptake for a system that’s only been in for a few years, and in which the ferries don’t really participate. That of course will be fixed in the medium term too.

    All in all I’d suggest that HOP is trucking along fairly well, and with a few tweaks here and there it’ll be on it’s way towards 85-90% uptake in 2-3 years, i.e. comparable with systems like Brisbane – that has had integrated ticketing/fares for almost 10 years.

    1. HOP uptake should continue to grow. Hell even I am planning on getting one in 14 years time – on the day buses become free for me.

    1. Non-existent, most are boycotting because its not a train. Have seen a few school kids though who probably don’t have any other option.

      But not going to get into the DMU shuttle argument or I will attract the crowd who likes to repeat the same tired and previously defeated excuses.

      1. I know quite a few people who used to catch the train from Waitakere, most of whom drove from lifestyle blocks. As the service became more and more unreliable, they opted to drive to Swanson. When the service was canned, they continued to drive to Swanson, rather than to increase their journey time by driving to Waitakere to catch a bus to Swanson. The bus does provide a good service for high school students who live close to Waitakere Station and go to Liston or St Doms or Waitakere College.

  3. the obvious reason why NEX services are more reliable is obvious: the Busway

    roll on the congestion free network!

    1. Kiss that reliability away. Government will make that congestion free busway into a clogged out motorway soon enough.

  4. The Pukekohe line is up 18%. Where would it have been if it had been electrified with the rest of the network?

  5. Is it finalised that those train stations mentioned above are ALL getting gated?
    Does anyone know the timeline for this?

    1. Not sure myself but I’d guess up to a year for design and maybe another year for construction. Could be sooner if they really hussle.

        1. It’s not quite that simple. Some of those stations will need some decent changes to enable gates to be effective. Designing them is one thing but then there’s also funding them (not cheap and they have ongoing OPEX costs too) and then building them.

        2. One of the downsides of going for 3-car EMUs instead of 2-car EMUs. Wellington has a bit more scalibility, being able to progressively ramp up train sizes to meet growing demand.

  6. Given that the number of carriages is constant at the moment, has the increase in frequency on the western line come from the last of the new electrics coming into service or are 6 car sets being divided into 2×3 car sets? If the latter then there will be no increase in passengers after they realise that the increase in frequency does not come with an increase in capacity.

    1. PT frequency is freedom. Increase freedom, you’ll see more people take them. It’s much better to send 2x small trains, than 1x large train to make the PT option more feasible, even if it doesn’t mean increase of capacity. That will increase off-peak travel until they get more units to increase capacity. I’m also not a great fan of double deckers, but happy to watch to see how it works out.

      1. 2 x 6-car replaced by 1 x 3-car (6:55am) + 1 x 3-car (7:05am) + 1 x 6-car (7:15am) – 6:55am plenty of standees, 7:05am chocka from New Lynn, 7:15am plenty of standees. So, two full 6-car trains replaced with two full trains and one packed to the rafters (and getting more so by the week).

        1. Any ideas on the cost vs benefit of the diversion to Newmarket ? If the Western line instead went direct to the new Parnell station, this would become the transfer station to the southern line. It would save 5 minutes off each Western Line trip, and 10 minutes off the round trip, allowing one more service to be 6-cars rather than 3-cars. For those whose destination is Newmarket itself, there are lots of buses from Grafton to Newmarket.

        2. I agree. I think this will be necessary in order to get every bit of capacity out of the system pre-CRL.

          Am now thinking it might be best to run all Western Line services direct to Parnell and divert all the Onehunga Line services west.

          Will write a full post on this sometime, will aim to get some destination specific data first.

        3. That would benefit Southern line users as well as there has been a notable increase in delays at Newmarket. Have a train in each direction every 10-mins filling a platform for approximately four minutes is putting considerable strain on Newmarket Junction. Unfortunately as you have mentioned before Parnell doesn’t have an island platform, which doesn’t help transfers.

        4. I live west and work south and am happy to change at Parnell if it makes the junction cleaner.

    2. From what I can tell there has been some increase in overall capacity but there’s also been some shifting around of it too so some services are very packed now while others have a heap of capacity (but wouldn’t if only 3 car). Over time we might see some people shifting travel times in response.

  7. It’s clear that quality (i.e. reliability and frequency) is the key. As the congestion slowly gets worse local buses get even more unreliable and that shows. On the other hand where there is (almost) complete separation from general traffic things can only get better.

    I really hope this will expedite other “rapid” corridors.

    1. This has been reported as being trialled on one or two units in the last couple of AT board reports. If you want to better keep up to date with these kind of developments then I suggest you go to AT’s website and read those monthly board reports (in the About Us section). Otherwise Matt usually does a piece on here when the board report and AT board meeting agenda comes out highlighting interesting developments and agenda items.

  8. Time to order more EMUs from CAF. They’re going to be needed long before CRL is open! Once CRL is open that will free up some EMU capacity (due to shorter trip times) but even then that won’t last long.

  9. Want better uptake of HOP? Then make it easier to do. Was a nightmare trying to get my card registered – didn’t work online (tried various browsers and different computers, thinking it was me); filled in on-line query forms asking for help but no one ever got back to me; tried waiting in queues at Britomart but they we were so long I had to leave before being seen. Finally, I called by at a time when the queue was short and AT sorted it on the spot.

    That was last March.

    Went through similar frustration this year when my auto-card top-up expired and I had to renew my details.

    1. I just wanted to change the email associated with my HOP account as I’ve changed jobs. Simple enough to do with various other online accounts I have (typically with straightforward security check emails). But go to ‘Update my details’ on AT’s website and it’s the one field you can’t change! So I have to send a specific request to their help desk, sigh…

    2. My credit card expired so my auto top up failed and I didn’t get an email telling me, so my card got blocked – I was only notified when I tried to get on the bus. I had to buy a new card, and when I contacted AT they said they couldn’t refund me but could send me another card – which I didn’t even need! Such a bad system, every other company notifies you when your credit card expires, or if a payment fails.

  10. If the business case for Britomart had been a bit more optimistic it is interesting to speculate what it could have been with extra features. For instance; if the Newmarket line had been brought in in along Beach Road (The original pre-1930s route, which is why the footpath is so wide there.) This would have avoided the slow S bend and reduced congestion in the tunnel. How much time has been lost by Aucklanders due to this omission. Would also allow Britomart to be kept as a 4 or 5 platform station with the crossover lines under Britomart square.

    1. Because Takutai St was built before they’d decided which route the railway would take, they built it with two bridges, afaik the one at the Beach Rd end is still there but unused.

  11. I am a simple sort of a guy, but I’m thinking that these rapid public transport options have removed a large number of people from travelling in cars and un-clogging roads. Would it be conceivable that NZTA might come up with similar options in other parts of the city to achieve similar success?

  12. Not sure I agree with gates everywhere waste of OPEX, CBD stations & transfer new network stations should only need them. Panmure I think is the huge missing one.

    1. Aotea, K’Road, Mt E (As Part of CRL), Brit (Already Done)
    2. Grafton & Parnell (Close enough to get to town and avoid gates, would have helped if designed better so many entrance points)
    3. Panmure, GI Manukau (Already Done), Henderson, New Lynn (Already Done), Papakura, Otahuhu (Is this being done as part of the upgrade) & maybe Mt A (Major New Network Transfer points.)

    After you hit these then all you capture most journeys, all you have left are the suburban stop fare evaders where your strategy is you target school trains, weekends, stations like Avondale & Te Mahia etc (Give the Armaguard guys hop card readers), as well as thurs-sun evenings with ticket inspectors.

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