Auckland Transport kindly provided me the public transport ridership numbers for November and once again show spectacular growth on the Rapid Transit Network as well as a new milestone being achieved on ferries.

The numbers for the month were helped by an extra weekday compared to November-2015 but are still good regardless. Over all modes, ridership in November was up 7.9% (adjusted to 6.3% taking calendar and other impacts into account). That saw total ridership increase to nearly 84.5 million trips in the 12 months to the end of November.

The milestone for ferries is that over past 12 months, now more than six million trips have been taken on them. This is the result of solid growth, having only passed 5 million trips around 3 years ago and is thanks in part to improved service. The good news is that it is likely to continue, projects like the new Half Moon Bay ferry terminal are close to completion and AT are currently tendering out all non-commercial services (all except Devonport and Waiheke). They say that should help improve amenity and hopefully will increase the number of services too.

Below is the annual ferry patronage since 1920 and you can clearly see the massive – and expected – impact the opening of the Harbour Bridge had with a revival in usage beginning about 20 years ago. At current rates the last bar will end up at about 6.2 million trips for the year.

While ferries have been going well, what has really been driving big growth in PT use has been the Rapid Transit Network (RTN) – the rail lines and the Northern Busway. Those services are showing an impressive a 20.8% increase over the same month last year. The RTN is increasingly cementing it’s place as the backbone of the PT network, a trend we expect to continue in coming years, especially if AT and the NZTA can get a few more routes build, such as the Northern Busway extension, the AMETI Busway and the NorthernWest Busway.

The rail part of the RTN is close to a new milestone of its own, to the end of November there were 17.9 million trips and so based on current growth, hitting the 18 million mark is likely to happen any day now. That’s great news as it means trains are filling up faster than expected, a great success story but also means we’re going to need more capacity sooner than previously expected.

To address this there are still improvements we can make to timetables and dwell times to speed up services, freeing up trains to run more 6-car services. We could also improve capacity by reconsidering the seating layout of the trains, something I wrote about this just over a month ago. But we’re ultimately we’re going to need more of them, a point discussed at the council yesterday by AT CEO David Warburton with the Council’s Finance and Performance Committee. He says a decision on them will likely need to be made next year. With about 20 likely to be needed and at around $10 million each that’s around $200 that will be needed.

As for the rest of the PT network, there was some growth in November but it remains low. There is no new information as to what’s happening in the Southern New Network as a result of the made at the end of October. Hopefully this is something we’ll see in more detail soon.

AT have also recently published the latest bike counts from their network of automated counters. The good news is there are some excellent results for bikes too. Here’s AT’s take

At 14 regional count sites:

  • 1.67 million cycle trips were recorded for the year of December 2015 to November 2016, an increase of 8.5% on the previous 12 months.
  • 145,422 cycle trips were recorded in November 2016, an increase of 4.5% when compared to November 2015.

At 13 city centre count sites:

  • 1.77 million cycle trips were recorded for the year of December 2015 to November 2016.
  • 147,468 cycle trips were recorded in November 2016, an increase of 12.8% when compared to November 2015.

There are many cycleways seeing good growth but the two counters on the NW cycleway at Kingsland and Te Atatu have seen consistently high growth this year. This can be seen below with each month of 2016 being significantly above the same month in previous years. Overall the number of trips at this spot has more than doubled over the last five years.

Similar can be seen on the NW Cycleway at Te Atatu.

I suspect projects such as Lightpath and the improving bike lane network are having a huge impact on this and that this trend will continue as the network improves.

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    1. Big revival in ferry in 1990s came with big improvements to ferry services. Prior to then, the only ferries were to Devonport, Stanley Bay and Waiheke. Since then ferry service has been added to Bayswater, Northcote Point, Birkenhead, Half Moon Bay, West Harbour, Pine Harbour, Gulf Harbour, Beach Haven and Hobsonville. Services generally started as peak only, then have progressively become all-day services, at least on weekdays and there have been numerous improvements, especially to peak services on high-demand routes.

  1. Great news for rapid transit, not so much for buses

    Some of the difference is predictably some is comfort 😎

    Wider bus lane hours vital. Would electric buses help too?

  2. Decent results again and again huh!
    I seriously cannot wait unitl the CRL is open and trains are running smoothly and efficiently with frequent services all day everyday.
    Hopefully these numbers are being noticed by the people in charge of budgets and budget allocations.

    1. It would be interesting to compare the growth of vehicle movements on RoNS with the growth of pax on PT etc. Do NZTA measure (and publish) vehicle numbers on state highways around the country?

      1. Can’t believe month on month double digit rail growth figures will continue like this for much longer.

        That projected annual rail figure of 19.5 million by end of June 2017, makes a complete mockery of the “20 million by 2020” target the MoT and Brownlee set prior to committing whether CRL would get a look in for funding.

        The extra train issue/discussion is one of too little too late on AT’s behalf, this is a conversation that should have been had and concluded, and funding put in place 12-18 months ago. As even if we ordered new trains today, they would take years to come on stream.
        That Radio NZ piece says Brownlee raided ATs budget for extra trains on the basis more trains would be further away than planned.
        Don’t know if this is actually true, more like AT was told to come up with savings and chopped the trains (over roads) as an easy out.
        And don’t know who was stupider – AT for allowing it to happen or Brownlee for accepting AT’s assurances that it would be ok.

        But here we are and they’re still talking about “setting a date, to set a date [to agree to order or not]”, regarding the timing over making a decision on extra trains sometime next year. But not neccessarly over how to fund them.
        So we’ll be 6-12 months further behind the 8 ball on rail, with the literal hoardes heading for the rails courtesy of the new network rollout.
        all over a measly $200-300m cost. The price of the average NZTA project these days it seems.

        At this rate we’ll have a new central Government sworn in, and voted out again before AT and AC can sort their shit out on ordering more trains, or fixing the existing issues and the how many we need issue.
        And the new government could then be voted out again before AT takes delivery of whatever extra trains they do eventually order.

        1. Completely agree, meanwhile NZTA is spending hundreds of million on ’emergency’ widening of motorways around the Waterview tunnel – all new money on top of the billions being spent on the tunnels and super sizing of NW and on/off ramps. The entire NZTA and transport funding in NZ under National is out of control and almost exclusively spent on poor quality motorways.

        2. The price of the average NZTA project is now closer to $1 billion.

          Blame NZ’s stupid siloed transport funding.

  3. Great to see the rail network growth back above 20 % again. It looked like the growth rate was falling but it would appear this impressive growth is around for a bit longer.

      1. But those three car sets will limit growth. If I usually catch a 6 car but miss it once a week and also can’t get on the next 3 car because it’s full then I’m suddenly 20 minutes late instead of 10. That may be enough to push the marginal user back to a car.

        1. My observation on the Southern and Eastern Lines is that even those 3-car peak sets are no where near so full that people who missed a previous train couldn’t fit in, my observations (I don’t see every train admittedly so others may see packed trains daily that I don’t see) are that there is still plenty of capacity. However, you are right this will become a bigger issue at some point.

        2. Yes all peak trains need six car. But off peak needs to extend to 10min frequencies with three car sets. Lots of opportunity for growth off peak, weekend, and evenings. Longer span and higher frequencies are the necessary investment for this. Plus, ideally differential pricing.

  4. disappointing to see that, while bus patronage is increasing, most of the bus patronage increase is on rapid transit networks. time to improve the local services (more clean buses, frequent and on-time) so that we see overall, un-skewed growth of bus usage.

  5. Anecdotally after spending a couple of weeks circling around Pukekohe and Papakura empty. The new bus routes are starting to attract passengers in the 2’s and 3’s. So people are starting to get the idea. Be interesting to see how that fits in with increased patronage on the rail lines. And to see if the effect can be detected in the coming months

  6. The real crunch time will come in March and April, at the moment there are a few people on holidays, uni are closed so it is traditionally a low patronage time of year. the question in my mind is that can the train and RTN network cope with 20% growth compared to march last year. Hopefully some of the changes AT have proposed will help but there was not a lot of room on some of the southern line services in March/April 2016. Off-peak services are not that busy on the southern line and could take up the slack. I guess the problem with the data provided is that it does not tell where the growth is occurring, whether it is peak or off-peak users. If it is off-peak users – no problem, with have capacity but if it is peak it might be a different story (maybe we need to learn from Japan about maximizing number of people that can fit on a train?).

  7. 15% growth will see rail patronage up to 40,000,000 within five years. That means 20 extra trains won’t cut it. On the other hand, the lack of service may severely hinder growth, so AT can say – “see we were right”.

    1. Yes this is unlikely as the long time it will take for the CRL to be operational will certainly put a brake on ridership, unless and until AT put investment and effort into off-peak, nights, and weekends, where there is a lot of opportunity.

      I am hopeful this can be done though, as once there are all 6-car sets running at 10 min frequencies on the three main lines, there is no where to go but to the shoulders, and off peaks.

    2. So only EMUs can use the CRL but what about other non CRL routes such as cross-town? Perhaps some Kiwi ingenuity and use that expensive fleet of SA and SD carriages that could be utilised with diesel locos or electric locos.

  8. 20 3-car EMU’s won’t be enough (let alone if they plan on operating them to Pukekohe). The order needs to be more like 30.
    The extra capacity provided by CRL in terms of the existing EMUs will be taken up almost immediately.

    1. This order is for pre-CRL. And, in fact, CRL does make for more efficient optimisation of the existing fleet; ie each train will be worked harder, and will be more full more often. But, indeed, the demand boost generated by the CRL will be huge, and prove their models, yet again, to be wrong.

      1. Problem is by the time they decide, get funding, then order and take delivery the CRL will be already opened, or pretty close to it.

        So once again AT will show they know how to solve last decades problems, not this ones.

  9. I’ve noticed at Sylvia Park the 3car stop point needs to be moved north by one car to spread the load out to the whole train. At the moment the main part of the load gets into the front car because that car stops at the platform shelter.

  10. Something completely unrelated, but where on the North Shore can you park your car seemingly anywhere you like with impunity?. So that anywhere may be: partly on the footpath; on the grass verge; or on the grassed reserves in the area. Could it be directly outside AT offices?.

  11. I am going to call it, AT’s performance on the majority of the bus network is just appalling. Patronage is going nowhere. Sailor Boy has, I believe, correctly called it, ” People choose the RTN buses, so lets make the local buses more like the RTN: Fast, frequent, legible.”

    Today I arrived at Smales Farm to catch a bus to Takapuna. I simply don’t believe the information on the electronic board translates to the bus operators self reporting of punctuality and no shows. Just on this service there appeared to be two no shows and two late arrivals, just around 5pm – and the evening peak has barely started. Sadly this is not my first experience of this. It is unsurprising that our buses on local routes will get stuck in traffic causing these delays.

    Let’s hope Mayor Goff is as committed to solve the public transport issue as he says that he is.

  12. “Completely agree, meanwhile NZTA is spending hundreds of million on ’emergency’ widening of motorways around the Waterview tunnel “. Yes this is another disgrace. NZTA recognise that new roads induce demand (new Harbour Crossing) and so extra lanes were inevitable. And on and on it goes and as a consequence spending on public transport is constrained and also it seems on Police and measures that would pull kids out of poverty.
    And sadly for what purpose? We will never catch up because we simply won’t be able to afford it, particularly if we want to preserve many of the social services that we value.

  13. And Auckland also has the debacle of congestion on roads to the airport. Here’s what Mayor Goff has said,
    Asked specifically on his plan to solve congestion at the airport, Goff said there wasn’t anything within transport plans for the next decade “that effectively solves that problem by way of mass transit between the CBD and the airport”.

    “I think that’s crazy, those are the two fastest growing areas for both employment and population in the city. I think it needs to be brought into the first 10-year plan,” he said.

    At least someone has some ideas that might fix it. It is obvious to all that a huge amount has just recently been spent on airport roads and if anything the problem is worse. It’s perhaps unsurprisingly because a greater volume of vehicles are being funneled onto roadways that have not been expanded.

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