Ridership figures for public transport in Auckland during October are now available and they continue to grow, driven almost exclusively by huge growth on the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – the rail lines and the Northern Busway.

Compared to October-2015, total ridership this October increased by 2.7% with just under 7.3 million trips taken, but within that figure the use of the RTN has continued its double-digit growth and is up 16.3% (rail up 16.4% and busway up 16.2%). This kind of great growth is to be expected as it reflects the RTN continuing to establish itself as the core of the PT network. Now over 26% of all PT trips in the region happen on the RTN and the RTN will continue to grow in the future as it usage tends to follow a fairly simple and proven formula; high frequency services + high capacity vehicles + dedicated infrastructure = great PT use. The graph below shows the growth in the RTN and the overall PT growth over the last decade or so – at the start of the graph, the RTN accounts for just 10.5% of all trips vs 26.3% now.

2016-10-total-patronage-by-type

But the RTN isn’t the only PT that’s been growing though, ferry use has continued some steady growth, inching ever closer to 6 million annual trips and a milestone that’s likely to be achieved any day now. AT also say the Mt Eden Rd and Onewa Rd bus services continue to see good growth which is positive. The former has seen the introduction of double deckers relieving some of the overcrowding issues that were seen earlier this year while the latter has also seen some improvement, Onewa Rd services are also due for more capacity early next year with AT saying double deckers are due to be introduced on some Birkenhead Bus services in February.

But the good news stories are partially balanced by other parts of the bus network which continue to see declining use. AT say the buses in the southern area continue to perform poorly and with bus services from the west which were heavily impacted about a year ago by the bus stop changes related to the City Rail Link works. It’s possible some of the changes from both the south and the west are a result of people migrating to the rail network.

For the south at least, it will be interesting to see how the numbers change over the coming months in response to the introduction of the new bus network that went live at the end of October. These kinds of changes can often take at least a few months to bed in before ultimately bearing fruit. Even if growth happened immediately we also may not see it unless AT split their patronage reporting out (which I hope they do).

Here is the detailed table they publish with the results.

2016-10-patronage-table

It should be clear by now that growing the RTN is essential to the future growth of PT in Auckland. As such, AT really needs to put pressure on themselves to deliver on RTN expansion because at the moment it all seems to be moving at a glacial pace and the AMETI busway is a prime example of the heel dragging that has plagued the organisation. AT are only just now going for consent on the Panmure to Pakuranga section. The recent ATAP reports calls for that busway to be built as far as Botany within the next decade as well as the first parts of the North-western Busway, but both projects only seem to be in very early stages.

Here are a few other graphs from the stats report that we like to keep an eye on.

Farebox recovery has slipped again but is still well within the target range for the year and we expect to see some improvement from the implementation from the new network.

2016-10-farebox

HOP use is down a little on recent months but it’s positive to see it’s use on buses continue to grow.

2016-10-hop-use

Parking occupancy continues to remain high. This is interesting because as you can see both on-street and off-street usage is near the top of their respective target ranges and so based on AT’s policy, suggests prices will need to go up in the future.

2016-10-parking-occupancy

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33 comments

  1. It’s amazing to think that until relatively recently the argument that ‘a rail network will never work in Auckland due to the demographical constraints imposed by its isthmus formation’ used to be trotted out by ‘transport experts’ on an annual basis. I recall as late as a decade back some Auckland-born, London based planning expert (apologies for forgetting her name) was rehearsing those very lines at the behest of the then mayor and a C&R-dominated Auckland City Council. Imagine what would happen if we had fast, frequent, services on all lines as opposed to the clunky (but improved from back then) half-hourly weekend and twenty minute off peak frequencies and tortoise-like speeds we currently experience on the western line.

    1. And indeed the great irony is the isthmus/peninsula/island geography of Auckland actually does the exact opposite, it constrains development and transport to discrete corridors linked by a small number of pinch points… which are the exact conditions where road networks perform poorly and public transport works best.

  2. Agree on the need for AMETI busway urgently. The lack of it is really holding up the take up of PT in the east.

    Taking a bus from Howick to Panmure train station compared to driving adds 45 minutes journey time in total on an average day. Mornings aren’t too bad, but in evening the connections onto buses coming late from the city are awful. It’s not unusual to have a 25 minute wait for a connecting bus heading east.

    1. Not sure what you are describing there would be solved by the busway, that sounds like an issue with congestion holding up buses approaching Panmure from the west, which I imagine is down to a lack of bus lanes on the route between the CBD and Panmure.

      1. During peak and inter-peak, buses can run the Panmure-Eastern route without going to the CBD – as long as the railway network frequency is high.

        It takes like 15 minutes from Panmure to CBD by train, probably much less once CRL is complete (a lot of that is crawling into Britomart). The key would be to ensure that buses can get along Pakuranga and Ti Rakau without getting stuck.

        1. Yes, I see loads getting off the eastern buses at Panmure when I catch the train in the morning from there. However, there would still be a number of people on these services who want to go through to Ellerslie or Newmarket. Additionally these buses are the core of the frequent route on the EP Highway and Great South Rd. Ideally all these buses would terminate at Ellerslie as that gives a connection to the Southern Line as well as the Eastern, however I’m not sure where buses could be parked or turned at Ellerslie without causing disruption.

          1. As you probably know, but for other readers etc: New Network will have the 53 from Botany will run all the way to the city every 8mins peak, 10mins all day (but surprisingly only 30mins after 7pm?!). Also the 55 express (Botany via Howick) will run peak via motorway. I guess you can transfer from the Howick 55 to the 53 if you want to connect at Ellerslie, be pretty frequent at least. Yes pretty hard to solve a micro interchange at Ellerslie from that side and still be near the train station (which is still a bit of a walk up and over etc at present anyway).

      2. Both would help, congestion anywhere on the network degrades everything.

        However having the busway would allow a dedicated service, just from Panmure to run at proper speeds

        1. I should say I completely agree with AMETI being a high priority, I just hope they can also improve bus priority through some significant choke points on Great South Rd and around Lunn Ave/Mt Wellington Hwy.

    1. Pan-Pak on track, NOR & Consents being done. The last major event was whether Reeves Rd Flyover should be pushed back freeing money to accelerate the Pak-Botany section of the Busway however political forces intervened. There is about a just under 200m shortfall in funding needed to be agreed to for the whole program to be funded, hopefully with ATAP confirming first decade priority will all be funded.

      Northwestern Busway all agreed to, was basically P1 in ATAP. Funding wont be agreed to formally however until after business case is completed early next year, I think around April.

      1. That would have to be one of the biggest debacles of all time. Holding up a complete AMETI because money is being put into the Reeves Road flyover. Let’s hope it doesn’t eventuate. Could there be a bigger monument to poor choices, a friggin flyover in a surburnan neighborhood when we should have got dedicated bus lanes. They should call it Maurice Williamson Flyover to credit the generation of politicians that resolutely created this mess.

  3. Auckland Transport priority project should be the following:
    1. AMETI Busway
    2. Isthmus Light Rail
    3. Northwest Busway

    These three projects are needed now in Auckland. Not in 5 years, not in 10 years, but now!

    1. Unfortunately not so simple, many of these projects are still in the design & business case phases, after this we need to get the consents, issue the NOR’s & acquire any land needed in the corridor.

      Then we have to build it, we also have a housing crisis and a shortage of skilled & “competent” tradesmen which will make building much longer than usual.

      So yes we need it now, but unfortunately we have a slow consenting process (Skypath/Newmarket Level Crossing anyone) & haven’t really invested in trades training, couple that with little counter cyclical works after GFC which has caused a massive shortage of trades.

  4. Totally agree that the constrained geography is perfect for rail! Despite the 30 min schedule I am finding that the weekend service on the western line getting steadily busier. The last few weekends they have been running 6 set service. Personally I would rather 3 sets every 15 min, 8-), but I hope that it is a sign that AT are responding to greater weekend demand….

    1. The hope is it will be 15m minimum frequencies 7-7 m-s next year as this was promised as part of the New Network, there is no reason this can’t be done on the Western Line.

  5. The further small fall in farebox recovery is interesting. Since patronage has increased presumably that this must denote that a significant number of people have taken note and are optimizing their routes to the new system? The zones are very arbitrary and definitely reward careful choice of station 8-).

    1. Only if you assume costs to be static.

      If costs increase then the percentage farebox recovery number can fall, even with an increase in patronage

      1. Indeed, there have been several small frequency increases on bus routes, more 6 car sets being used, more security patrols, etc.

      2. Yes, and the patronage efeffects of investment, e.g. integrated fares, are realised slowly over time. So you normally see a saw-tooth type pattern, where there is a sudden drop in farebox recovery and then gradual recovery as patronage grows.

        In theory anyway!

    2. But also remember Fare Integration is essentially a price drop for all joined journeys. Overall the Simpler Fares programme will involve an income hit to AT for the customer’s benefit. This is good policy as AKL fares have long been high by international comparison and for the level of network wide service, so the drop is overdue but doing it this way also makes the whole system more accessible. It also subsidises longer more complex journeys, comparatively. This helps with dwelling cost issues in as it makes more distant cheaper dwellings more accessible at lower cost on PT.

    3. So the last decade has seen a move from 50m annual trips to 85m including a more than quadrupling of Rapid trips from 5m to well over 20m.

      Could this kind of growth continue over the next decade? Well Rapid should say double to reach ~50m or so by 2026, depending what is built. I guess the question is what proportion of the total this will be? 50/135m? Or perhaps if both AMETI and NW are built smartly and so many more services are defined as rapid, plus CRL growing the rail core, perhaps it will be more like 70/140m, or more conservatively; 60/120m?

  6. The buses around Manukau, Otara, Otahuhu, Papatoetoe and Mangere look quite empty since the changes to the new network. Off course there are more of them maybe carrying the same number of passengers or maybe it could be less. Anyone know.

    1. Coming into the traditional 10 week great New Zealand shut down

      Universities are on leave (exams or finished) so that takes a decent portion of patronage out of the system.

      TBF we wont see the true results of the New Network until May when the March Madness results come in.

      1. The data are compared with the same month from the previous year so it should be possible to pick up on changes reasonably quickly. However, you are right, it’s hard to make a visual judgement at this time of year.

    2. Public transport agencies seem loathe to use new capacity for promotional purposes, whereas commercial airlines might offer $1 intercity promotional fares as a way of filling seats they would be unable to fill otherwise. For example, wherever the New Network is rolled out there could be a letter drop of free family day passes, which can be used over a limited period on any of the new routes (eg expires end January), plus the rail network if arriving at the station by bus. The pass would be date-stamped on the bus to ensure it is single-use, that passengers only come from the target area, and arrive at the station by bus. Family passes would maximize the “fun” aspect, and spread most of the promotional trips to non-peak times.

      The intent should be to minimize substitution from paying fares, and attract new patronage who would otherwise be reluctant to try the service.

  7. Interesting month spike in Pukekohe? pre New Network advertising and people trying it out or just southern motorway traffic so bad more/new people moving to this option I wonder?

  8. Interesting watching the roll out of buses in Papakura. In my family five adults can use the trains and we live within 500m walk of two of the new bus loop services. Two of us regularly use the train and three sometime use it depending on shift start/finish times.The issue is that coming out of the train a bus for one of the loops is usually waiting and it is seamless to get on and go home . But to get to the train the buses are so infrequent even at 2 per hour that there is no connection to the trains that we want to use. It is easier to walk or drive the 2-3 km into the station than to wait around for a bus that will get us there after our trains leave. To get the connections that we need the buses need to be every 15 min or less. Or alternatively staggered so one loop is in the middle of the time for the second loop. Maybe some thinking has been done on this.

      1. I use the bike all the time. Bike to train to bike. Then ride home. The rest of my family need convincing. I thought the new bus loops would be a way of doing this. The connections from bus to train need to be tighter. Just like the puke to town train link. The gaps between services need to be tighter. I think it is great what they are trying to do. But the non believers will be seeing a lot of empty circling buses.

        1. fair enough. I think the bus loops will only increase in frequency as Papakura grows. In terms of the gap between the Pukekohe and Papakura trains, IIRC AT recieved customer feedback asking to increase the time window. I don’t know why, but there you go.

          In terms of non-believers, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. I’d just focus on the patronage data, once the network has been inplace for a reasonable period of time. If we don’t see growth in say 6 months then perhaps there’s a need to go in and look at where service can be re-assigned from poor-performing to better-performing routes.

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