The public transport results for May are now available and once again there are some very impressive results on the Rapid Transit network with busway and rail network combined up 25% compared to May last year – although an extra business day in the month helped too. Ferries have also continued a good run with the only disappointment continuing to be buses (other than those on the busway) which were only up 0.1% and would’ve been down were it not for the extra day.

2016-05 - Patronage Table

During May Auckland Transport finally increased the peak frequency on the Western Line and early indications are promising. It will be good to see how things go over the coming months. Also important is AT say that punctuality remains high which is good as one of the fears I’d heard was that the additional services would make the network less reliable.

It turns out that May now holds the record for the highest single month for rail after eclipsing even the March result thanks to the impact of Easter. March is shown with the orange bars. That’s seen the 12 month rolling result now surpasses 16.5 million.

2016-05 - Rail monthly Patronage

While the new trains and service improvements have undoubtedly played a key role in the improvements, so too have punctuality and reliability. We now start to regularly see more than 95% of trains arriving at their destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled time which is up dramatically from about 74% about a year ago. From memory, prior to electrification we peaked at just over 90% – but then the current timetable has been padded out in part to deal with the terribly slow dwell times we currently have.

That stellar rise in rail usage has also seen another milestone eclipsed. Now 20% of all public transport trips are by train which is up from just 5% when Britomart opened and with the speed that usage of trains is increasing, that figure could hit 25% before the City Rail Link even opens. The busway currently accounts for around 5% of all trips. To me that’s important as it highlights that rapid transit is doing an increasing share of the heavy lifting – and we’d expect that given the investment.

As I’ve liked to highlight in recent months, the farebox recovery results continue to improve. These results are always an extra month behind with the latest results being to the end of April, so on the rail network we might see a bit of a reversal once the impact of the extra western line services is felt. Still it’s worth celebrating that farebox recovery has passed the NZTA’s 2018 target of 50% and is the highest it’s been in more than a decade. It really shows just how important it has been to have electrification to simultaneously drive up patronage and reduce operational costs.

2016-05 - Farebox

I was concerned at the results last month that HOP use was a little stagnant. I spoke a little too soon as May has recorded the highest result yet. In the business report, AT say that HOP use has risen and on 23 May it passed 85% for the first time. With all of the SuperGold card holders now having swapped or hopefully in the process of swapping to HOP, that result is likely to go higher still. As AT point out, the results are similar to Brisbane and South Australia who have had similar systems for much longer

South Queensland Go Card has 86% trip penetration after 10 years and the Adelaide Metro Card 87% after 4 years.

2016-05 - HOP Uptake

While talking about HOP, the business paper also says this. As yet I’ve had no indication of what this new monthly pass is.

Development of a product transition plan will result in the new monthly pass being marketed in June 2016 for 1 July 2016 launch. A discounted introduction price will be available during July.

Hopefully we’ll find out soon.

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      1. Is there still a need for train managers to shut the doors, then keep one open for some reason and then shut that one. It seems like a massive time sink. In Brisbane and Melbourne they cope just fine with out this, and once the doors are shut on trains over there they take off almost instantly.
        Will we ever have something similar?

        1. Sam whether they are required is debated, the reason for closing all the doors then the last one is they are required to sight the closed doors before closing the one the one they are at. This is currently required by the current rules but may change at some time.

    1. no news seems to be bad news in this instance.

      I think it’s scandalous that train dwell times in Auckland are more than 50% more than comparable best-practice networks internationally. I’m honestly amazed the media hasn’t picked up on this, given their penchant for PT bashing.

      The extra 20 seconds per stop that is required for trains in Auckland will add close to 5 minutes to every run from Swanson/Papakura to Britomart. Every day. All year. Dwell times alone probably add 3-5% to Auckland’s rail operating costs, and that’s before you consider the effect of slower journey times on passenger numbers.

      The new trains are great, but the dwell times are scandalous.

  1. Great news, rail very quickly moving towards 50% recovery.

    It’s interesting to note that the frequent bus network drove the bus decline. I wonder if this is a result of at deliberately continuing to turn away passengers in March and April by crowding then off services.

  2. I can’t believe Pukekohe has also gone up 6.6% in the last 12 months now we have to rely on those damn shuttles.
    Speaking of the diesel shuttles they are a lot colder to travel in than the new trains, or I should say the new trains are nice and warm and most other users haven’t noticed I bet.
    If the line was electrified and there was not an annoying 10 ish wait each way there would be even higher usage I’m sure.

    1. They had to extend the buffer time between services because people were complaining it was too tight, and missing connecting service. Can’t win either way.

  3. Do AT provide a a breakdown of where the drop (or lower growth) in the standard buses is? The previous release mostly blame it on the previously-free City Link buses or construction work but more detail would hint at where fixes should be.

    1. City Link took a huge hit with the introduction of charging, which is very instructive. Realtime evidence of price sensitivity in AKL Transit market.

      This looks like a big lever to pull, especially now that AT are ahead of farebox recovery targets… looking forward to fare integration to offer some goodies here.

  4. As well as patronage states do they provide passenger km states? What is the mix between Rapid Transit vs bus on passenger-km basis?

    1. The NZTA publishes info on an annual basis on Pax Km but it it is only by mode so can’t tell form the busway. Trip lengths are definitely longer on train but are coming down but that’s based on data to the end June 15 so will be quite different now.

  5. Two parts of the Southeast Queensland network, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, have very large numbers of holidaying visitors, which may explain the lower figures for card use.

    1. You’re not wrong in terms of tourist passengers in those sub-regions.

      Howver a bigger factor suppressing go card usage in SEQ is the fact that QLD’s School Travel Assistance System (STAS) is ***still*** paper based. These trips make up 5-10% of all journeys, hence what you’re looking at is 85% take-up out of the 90-95% of all journeys that could (theoretically) be made using go card.

      Crazy really, in this day and age.

  6. This is impressive. I thought growth on the rail network would surely slow at some stage, but it’s showing no signs, it’s basically two years now of continuous 20+ % growth. Even if it was to level off now (which is unlikely) the rolling total would probably get near 18 million by this time next year by my reckoning.

    1. The percentage is likely to level off but as the base is so much bigger now the actual quantum is showing no sign of it. Is very impressive. And there’s so much more that can be done to keep it coming, so long as the capacity is there, along with the coming Fare Integration, New Network Integration, Station Upgrades:

      -faster dwell times
      -cheaper fares
      -station access improvements
      -signals, level crossing, + rack improvements
      etc

      1. Have your guys attempted to/had any luck getting travel data for time of day volumes? It would be very interesting to see when the biggest growth is happening, AM/PM peak, daytime, evenings and weekends.

      2. Having the bus network feed into the train network (as per the new bus networks) will provide the next big kick. This will probably also see increased off peak frequencies aligned with some kind of family ticket for weekends will also see a lot more take up of rail.

      3. Unlike a public company who chase profit and efficiency, the upper managers who operate the train may not care too much about efficiency.

        At the moment management just care about politics and stability, just like any other bureaucratic organization.

        There needs to be a bit of incentives for the management.

  7. Perhaps the increased farebox recovery could be used to provide lower off-peak fares?
    This will help encourage more travel during the off-peak especially on buses. Some of the local buses I have caught recently have been pretty empty in the middle of the day.

    1. We have been advocating lower off-peak fares for years. Good for capacity, efficiency, equity, and no doubt patronage. And likely to be at worst fare-box neutral at worst [is my guess].

    2. With council scrounging around for every bit of cash they can get I think AT are going to end up using the money above the 50% ratio to supplement other stuff so they can cut the amount they need from council

  8. Very interesting indeed. I am a Western line user and can only say that the more frequent stops have been great, 8-). I did not realise though that it is actually the most busy line? Previous user comments seem to say that the Southern line is right at capacity? Is there a scheduling issue?

    The lack of growth of bus patronage is surely lack of adequate capacity on key lines. The limited bus lanes don’t help but this really doesn’t seem to explain why you can’t get on multiple buses at peak time! this is hell. My children inform me that this has been a continuing problem for at least the last 6 years, with no improvement.

    1. The 6-car trains that run in the middle of the peak on the Southern Line are nowhere near capacity, but the 3-car sets that run on the fringes of the peak certainly can get pretty full.

    2. I think Southern Line remains to be the busiest. You got to take account that Onehunga and the Eastern Line share the Southern Line patronage, hence splitting the patronage. Stations south from Homai Station are the only Southern Line without duplication.

    3. You need to add nearly all the Onehunga numbers to the southern line as there is only a handful from Onehunga to Penrose and the rest are made up by all the Onehunga trains running 3 minutes ahead of a southern train. The eastern line trains also runs on the southern line between Puhinui and Westfield so will take some from there as well. The issue with patronage on the western line while it is increasing it is still along way from the west to the CBD by train and a relatively short distance via the MW motorway, one of the reasons AT is building a busway next to the motorway to service Kumeu/Huapai etc when it is near an existing rail line. What I don’t know is way they are wasting time with building another busway when they are already talking about putting LR on the northern busway, there could just be a LR corridor built there that could in future include Hobsonville and possibly link into the northern LR route at Albany creating a loop or alternative routes.

      1. Yes, I think just jumping straight to light rail would make more sense. It would also have the benefit of forcing the planners to run it down one side of the causeway rather than the existing plan to have each direction on a different side for the busway.

        1. The thing you gotta remember is that New Zealand Government and Council are not able to plan ahead of time. They are only focus on stuff happening now and the next election.

    1. They seem to be targeting an annual result of 19.5m by the end of June 2017 which would be about a 16% increase from what I expect things will be at the end of this month

  9. I wonder if we could get farebox recovery of the Northern Busway so we can compare it to the trains. Might help to determine which way we should go. Any guestimate on light rail would be interesting as well.

      1. Also the access charges may be quite different. I suspect there is plenty of literature available already on the comparative costs and benefits of busways and railways.

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NEX gets close to or above 100% recovery, would love to find out but I figure that’s commerically sensitive information.

        1. Back of the envelope calculation suggests NEX is running around 100% farebox recovery. Great example of how good infrastructure increases patronage while reducing subsidies.

          Mind you we really should includ an OPEX charge for the opportunity cost of the land used for P&R on the Northern Busway. I wouldn’t be suprised if it’s approaching a million dollars per annum.

      1. We’ve already seen the benefit of this in higher frequency peak services already being added to Hibiscus Coast NEX services not even a year after being introduced.

    2. when the NEX was introduced it was on a net price contract, i.e. AT paid Ritchies the full cost of operating the service and all revenue went to AT so it should have been simple to calculate the fares/cost ratio

      I don’t know it it’s still a net contract though . . .

  10. With more fare box recovery, AT could lower inner city travel zone to $0.50, (same price as city link), instead of $1.80.

    For $1.80 to travel in city using INNER and OUTER Link, $1.80 feels expensive for 15 min walk (For example from University to Skycity via Outer link.

    In Melbourne, trams are free inside city.

  11. Improved frequencies may have caused some bus users to reconsider the train, impacting bus numbers. E.g personal experience living around parts of New North Rd where you are lucky to have both train and bus may as reasonable ways to get to the CBD, 10 min frequencies may tip the scales for some users. Bus route level info on bus usage would confirm/deny. Though the buses and bus stops still feel full at peak time!

    1. yes, and this creates opportunities for re-structuring the network so as to reduce duplication between bus and rail, with bus-km reinvested into running higher frequencies on shorter routes that connect town centres and train stations.

      A ‘la New Network/

  12. Wait till the results for July are out before everyone goes on congratulating each other for the continued rise in train patronage, July 1st being the day that the supergold tickets are removed from the platform ticket machines. After there is no more supergold tickets being produced in there hundreds in an attempt to run the ticket machines out of paper and the kids producing one then holding it in their hand in the hope that no one will ask them for a ticket as they appear to have one just to get their free ride, it was not until the government announced it was reviewing the way supergold was funded that AT started to make plans to accurately collect supergold numbers and ending their scam of the system.

    I’m picking there will be a noticeable dive in train patronage to what is closer to the actual numbers.

    1. All supergold tickets issued, whether legitimate or not, account for 4.9% of rail trips. It’s almost irrelevant when rail patronage is growing at 24% a year. You could remove every last supergold ticket issued from the system and we would have “only” had 20% growth this year.

  13. The city centre map is now released.

    https://at.govt.nz/projects-roadworks/new-public-transport-network/new-network-for-the-central-suburbs/#docs

    The dominion rd buses (25) in the consultation were shown to loop through town, saving a 15 minute walk for those heading to the north or western parts of the CBD. Despite showing “no change” in the summary of changed routes, they have dramatically altered the routing though town and they now keep their current terminus at the St James.

    So along with the cross town through Kingsland to Ponsonby being removed, the two specific positive things I supported in my submission have been removed. Can AT please remove me from the number of people they counted as ‘strongly supporting the new network’

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