Is Auckland Transport doing enough to improve public transport or is it resting on its laurels basking in the glow of the spectacular increases being seen on the rail network and busway. That’s a question asked by Radio NZ the other day in highlighting that patronage on the bus network outside of the busway has actually fallen recently and will mean that AT misses its PT targets for the year.
The number of trips being taken on Auckland’s public transport network looks set to miss targets this year, and a new survey shows public perception of the services is worsening.
There has been strong growth on trains and the dedicated Northern Busway but fewer people are using the general bus network, which carries 75 percent of the city’s public transport users.
With two months to go, patronage is down slightly – despite population growth – and overall bus trips are expected to fall short of the annual target of 51.5 million, by more than 4 percent.
I’m not quite sure where the 51.5 million comes from as buses already carry well more than that so it might be a year to date target but that doesn’t change the fact that patronage has dipped in recent months. The four graphs below show how we’re performing across each of the modes and the targets are based on information from the Council’s Long Term Plan debate last year. As you can see both trains and ferries have already exceeded targets but bus use has tailed off and that’s dragged the overall total down.
So what’s causing this drop. AT attribute to a number of factors such as charging for the City Link which they say has seen the biggest change and resulted of around 700,000 fewer trips, something AT seem fairly nonchalant about. But seeing as they’ve been doing a lot of advertising recently including large ads in Britomart and people walking around with the modern day version of a sandwich board it’s obviously trips they want back on the buses.
“If you’re transferring from another bus or another train using the AT HOP card, the service is still free,” AT Metro general manager Mark Lambert said.
“But I guess some of those people who were using the City Link for relatively short distances would rather walk a few hundred metres than pay a 50 cent fare. That’s completely understandable and that’s probably a good thing.”
Other factors likely include that people are being put off some buses as a result of the bus stop and route changes made to accommodate the construction of the CRL and possibly even lingering effects of people put off by the bus strike and March Madness a few months ago. But I suspect there are additional factors too.
Over the 18 months or so, AT plan to roll out some of the biggest changes we’ve seen for PT in the form of Integrated Fares (next month) the new bus network (South Auckland in October and the rest of Auckland some-time between then and early 2018). Both of these changes will undoubtedly be positive when they arrive and be the result of countless hours and effort put in by AT staff. Yet at the same time I also wonder if they’re hiding a little behind those projects or perhaps that they’ve just got so much resource tied up in getting those projects over the line that other improvements suffer.
AT said the bus network had suffered years of neglect, but new fares and a redesign of routes over the next 18 months were expected to provide a boost.
“As we change the bus network there may be a localised stagnation, as people get used to the changes, but we certainly expect to see strong growth as a result of those service re-designs,” Mr Lambert said.
One such example which is seemingly languishing on AT’s list of projects includes the roll out of bus lanes on which their latest report says they have under spent for this year.
Bus Priorities and Bus Lanes
Whilst we have received a number of requests from AT Metro in the last few weeks, we are still forecasting to underspend by $1.5m as undertaking any physical works this FY related to those requests will not be possible.
Just one example are the proposed transit lanes along Manukau Rd which would cut journey times for bus users and thereby making the buses along the route much more attractive and efficient. Other routes they’re looking at are shown below from their latest report but it seems the roll out of them is going far too slow.
What do you think, are AT doing enough to keep patronage on buses growing or should we just hang around till October when the new network starts rolling out? If you were in charge what would you do to get that growth happening again?