We normally get our monthly dose of ridership stats from Auckland Transport’s regular board meetings but with the holiday season, the next meeting isn’t till mid-February. Thankfully, AT have already updated their public facing data, which despite not as comprehensive as the board reports, it does allow us to see how we performed in December. The good news is that we performed well. Here are some highlights.
Compared to December 2015:
- Total Ridership was up 4.9% with a total of 6.12 million trips.
- Use of the Rapid Transit Network continues to grow impressively and increased by 16.2% to 1.68 million trips. The share of PT trips on Rapid Transit is quickly rising. Within that RTN figure:
- the Busway was up 10.7% to 325k
- the Rail network was up 17.6% to 1.35 million. On a 12-month rolling basis, Auckland passed 18 million trips in December only four months after hitting 17 million.
- Ferry trips were up 4.5% to 601k trips, continuing the steady growth we’ve been seeing for some time now.
- Other (non busway) buses continue to struggle, up only 0.6% to 3.84 million trips.
Here are the 12-month rolling results showing the impressive growth in the RTN, particularly over the last few years.
On the topic of ridership, there have long been a couple of things that bug me about the results we see on a regular basis that help to misrepresent some of the results. So I set out to see if I could change that.
1. Rail Ridership and the RWC
Ridership as a whole, but particularly on the RTN has been increasingly solidly for some time with a notable exception around 2011/12 and is most prominent if looking at the rail numbers which showed a roughly 10% reduction in usage. Of course the primary reason for this was the 2011 Rugby World Cup. But just how significant was the RWC or did people genuinely stop using the trains?
I recalled seeing some numbers in old patronage reports estimating the impact of the RWC on a monthly basis so I went back and got those results and adjusted the graph accordingly. Here’s what the rail graph looks like once that RWC ridership is taken into account.
Now as you can see, adjusted for the RWC numbers it becomes there was more a case of the rail network not growing anymore rather than fewer people using it. But you can also see that there’s still a little dip in the results. That’s because right as the impact of the RWC was wore off (both October 2012), AT introduced HOP to the rail network which changed how tickets were counted. Trips using the old paper tickets were counted when the ticket was bought so people could buy a 10-trip ticket and it would be counted immediately in AT’s numbers but the owner of the ticket could still be using it months later. Of course, AT gave people time to use up their old paper tickets. By comparison, HOP trips are counted when they occur.
Taking this impact into account is much more difficult than the RWC but if we were able to, I’d suggest it would all but remove that remaining dip leaving a relatively flat line through to mid-2013 when numbers definitely started rising again.
2. Change in Busway counting
Last year AT changed how they counted the busway. Prior to that point they only counted ridership on the Northern Express even though many people caught buses like the 881 all the way along the busway or local buses used the busway for a small part of their journey. AT’s change was to also include trips from other services that used the busway, assuming they boarded or alighted at a busway station.
The issue is that if you just look at the current information, it appears there was very rapid growth from about mid-2015 – although that doesn’t change the fact during the last year we’ve seen 20%+ growth at times. So going back over some old AT reports I was able to find the differences and separate out some of the differences between the two metrics. The result is below and shows a difference of about 500k trips annually.
Now, neither of these results mean a lot in the overall given the stellar rise of PT in Auckland since the times mentioned but I found them interesting none the less so thought I’d share them. What do you think of them?
I’m also interested in your thoughts about what is usually the busiest time of the year that is coming up soon and culminating in March Madness. My anecdotal observations have been that despite schools still being out and roads relatively empty, that PT is already feeling noticeably busier than last year, suggesting we have a huge March coming up.
We also haven’t covered the numbers from Wellington recently so here’s a quick update to the end of November.
- The bus numbers remain relatively flat with only very small growth in bus use on a 12-month rolling basis.
- Wellington has been doing better with rail ridership recently with the 12-month rolling result up just over 7% compared to the year before to 13.1 million.