Auckland Transport’s hold a board meeting next week which means we finally get to see how public transport performed in February. February’s results are always slightly more interesting than normal as they give an indication of what kind of results we can expect from March Madness as the busy conditions usually start manifesting in late Feb – and so far, March has been noticeably un-mad. February this year had an additional dimension to keep an eye on as last year had an extra day due to being a leap year – although there were the same number of normal working days.
The good news is the results were strong, the highlights are:
- Overall ridership for February was 7.38 million, up an impressive 8.6% on February-2016. That’s almost 600k more than in February last year and sees ridership on 12-month rolling basis, rise to 85.7 million trips.
- The Rapid Transit Network continues to see strong growth with usage on the RTN clocking in with 2 million trips, up 11.3% compared to Feb-16. Within that:
- Trips on the rail network increased by 10.3% to 1.6 million
- Trips on the busway increased by 15.2% to 395 thousand
- The big surprise from February’s results was the non busway buses which hasn’t been doing as well as other modes in recent times. In Feb though, usage on them rose an impressive 7.8% compared to Feb-16.
- Ferries continue to glide along with nice growth, increasing 6.3% compared to Feb-16.
Most PT trips happen on work days and for those, you can see on bus and train that February was well ahead of previous years and that sets us up for a great March result. Could we see March reach 80,000 trips per day on the rail network?
If the current trends hold then we’re in for a bumper result in March, and without almost all of the cramming and missed buses of previous years.
The farebox recovery has been a measure we’re been keeping a watchful eye on a lot recently to see what impacts the various service and fare changes made in recent years are having. The results for February are notable in that for the first time, the net subsidy per passenger km for trains is lower than it is for buses.
We’ve sometimes seen subsidies measured on a per trip basis however per passenger km is more accurate as it takes into account that the average train trip of 13.26km is longer than the average bus trip of 7.54km.
One aspect that isn’t clear is what is causing farebox recovery ratios on buses to be falling. I suspect one element of it would be all the extra services that were put on both recently and prior to Christmas to help combat March Madness.
While not ridership specifically, AT added an interesting set of graphs to their Monthly Indicators pack. We’ve shown them before for specific projects, such as with AMETI. In all but one of the examples, you can see that PT can often compete with driving usually in the peaks – although we think PT needs to be more time competitive throughout the entire day. There are a couple of things that stand out though and the biggest one is how in most scenario’s the travel time via PT is at least in the range or close to it, with the exception of one – the northwest. This of course highlights once again how important it is we get a proper busway built along SH16.
Perhaps the buses along SH16 being so slow also has a small part to play in increasing popularity of the NW cycleway. For Feb, the counter at Te Atatu was up an massive 47% on Feb-16 while at Kingsland numbers were up a still impressive 18%
Lastly, Wellington also published their ridership numbers for Feb – but they’re definitely not quite as pretty as the Auckland results. For the month of Feb-17 compared to Feb-16:
- Total trips taken were down 5.9%
- Bus trips were down 4.7%
- Train trips were down 7.7%
- Ferry trips were down 20% – although this was off a very small base