Auckland Transport’s board meeting – where we usually get the monthly ridership results from – is not till late June but they’ve published the April results. We’ve become used to seeing impressive ridership growth on Auckland’s PT network as the numbers for each month come in significantly higher than the same month the year before. However April this year was always going to be a tough month to see that trend continue as the calendar conspired against it. That’s because the combination of Easter being in April this year plus with when weekends fell, there were only 17 working days in the month compared to 20 last year. That’s significant because working days see over 3 times the number of trips as weekend and public holiday days do.

Yet, perhaps as a show of just how fast public transport use is increasing in Auckland, overall the number of trips in April was only 2.7% less than in April last year and our Rapid Transit Network still managed to log growth. Here are the headline numbers for April:

  • Total – 6.84m (-2.7%)
  • Rapid Transit – 1.92m (+1.8%)
    • Train – 1.52m (+1.4%)
    • Busway – 404k (+3.5%)
  • Other buses – 4.40m (-4.7%)
  • Ferry – 519k (-0.7%)

For rail, the 12 month rolling number is sitting at just under 19 million and assuming the growth has continued in May, we will almost certainly be over that mark now.

We’ll have to wait to see the formal AT stats to see the weekday usage but here is the result to March showing just how much this measure has increased in recent years with around 80k trips per day in March. If we follow previous trends we will be in for another big year of growth.

The information for Wellington for April is also available. Wellington has been experiencing PT growth but not to anywhere near the same extend as Auckland does. As such the fewer working days in April this year have impacted the numbers far more than happened in Auckland. The key changes are listed below:

  • Bus – 1.78m (-9%)
  • Train – 939k (-17%)
  • Ferry 16.7k (-17%)

At least May has the same number of working days, giving us a more fair comparison to use.

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  1. With rail, at what point are we going to see growth drop off due to capacity constraints?
    The peak periods are the main constraint (our current network could probably take double the present numbers if the load was spread throughout the day).
    AT seriously needs to look at urgently ordering more EMUs.
    As has previously been mentioned we are at the point where any new EMUs should be permanent 6-car units rather than 2×3-car since they are not only cheaper to purchase but have approximately 10% or so extra capacity over 2×3-car units.
    Even better would be to order the appropriate units to convert most of our current fleet into permanent 6-car units since this would provide best bang for buck and also not overload the network that is limited until CRL opens.

    1. There has been many subtle adjustments to services and the way they are run which is extracting more bang for their buck, especially the Newmarket turnaround times. So kudos to AT for that!

    2. I know its rehashing the same old suggestions but ordering a couple or six new electric locos for a half dozen trains of those SA and SD carriages would certainly fill the capacity gap until a new tranche of 6 car emus can be ordered and placed in service.
      Better if they were battery hybrids to range out to Pukekoke, Mercer etc.. since OLE to Puke looks a long way away

      1. The SAs will not be back, it is time to get over that fact. The capacity issues are not as bad as some will have you believe, well AT don’t think so but then all the data they collect is from paying passengers so it may be time to make sure those who don’t are not taking up space required by those that do.

    3. It’s actually the shoulder peak that will feel the crunch first as this a still reasonably busy time when there are mostly 3-car units running. At the middle of the peak there is plenty of capacity as there are mostly 6-car units which are not the issue for capacity.

      From my observation most 3-car sets still have plenty of room on them, however I’ve seen images and heard commentary that some of these units are pretty full. So we must be close to some of them being at capacity.

      This may not have a huge impact if it is just the odd service, but if it starts to dent peoples confidence in being able to get a ride it could have flow on effects.

      I had really hoped yesterday’s budget would announce new units, however the remaining hope is an election announcement. If they are not ordered this year then I think we will be in trouble in a few years time.

      1. “…but if it starts to dent peoples confidence in being able to get a ride…”
        It’s not just get a ride but some people like a bit more space and don’t want their nose in someone’s armpit.

        1. Yes, that’s very true. However, most of the time it would just be for a short part of the journey, which isn’t quite as bad. The big problem comes when people get left behind, it’s very hard to plan anything if you don’t know what train you will get on.

        2. Western line doesnt have much room to grow during peak, currently running 3 car trains frequently between 5:30-6pm, as you can imagine stadning room only, often to Avondale or New Lynn. Also it slows the service down when no-one knows the size of the approaching train. When passengers are scattered along the platform in anticipation of a 6car train, it can take a while to walk into the centre of the platform when a 3car turns up, especially if you need to use the central carriage.

          Seems like more trains are already needed.

    4. “The peak periods are the main constraint (our current network could probably take double the present numbers if the load was spread throughout the day)”

      More like twenty times the current numbers!

      Auckland runs the rail network for about 120 hours a week, which is actually more like 240 network-hours a week if you count both directions separately.

      Meanwhile the network is really only proper,y crowded inbound for about an hour on weekday mornings, and outbound for an hour or so on weekday evenings. It’s maybe 10 out of those 240 network hours each week that are congested.

      I think there is still plenty of opportunities for growth to continue outside of the truly crowded times (although better off peak frequencies would really help that).

      1. Certainly better off peak and weekend frequencies, ideally turn-up-and-go frequency. But also longer spans, i.e. later trains too.

        And if the peakiness persists and becomes problematic (because of course a full train is also efficient asset and service utilisation; i.e. no bad thing!) then discounting off-peak fares should be tried as a way to spread the love. Though I think turn-up-and-go frequencies remain the killer app for Rapid Transit. 10mins or better.

        Especially now the New Network is being rolled out further, it is seriously poor form to have a feeder service with better frequencies than the core RTN route; that undoes the whole philosophical basis of the transfer model.

        1. Patrick, I am sure that some of that money for extra services could come from AT running some of their other services more efficiently. For example, we have a car park down the road from us where you can park for $7 a day. Little wonder that there is a list a mile long for this parking.(The next cheapest parking in the area seems to be a neighbour’s front lawn at $8 per day.)

      2. Currently watch empty trains going in the opposite direction during peak hour. Should really be aiming for full trains in both direction during peak by enabling more mixed-use and commercial development along the train lines on the isthmus (10min range from CBD). Would make use of the full capacity of our network as it currently stands for easy gains without much work required.

        1. You are never going to have the same employment/student numbers of the CBD in Papakura and Henderson. Empty trains end up as the trains you catch from CBD!

  2. What can be done for the ferries? Almost no growth in 10 years says to me the status quo is not working. I can see buses compete with them but surely there is scope for growth?

    Maybe the patchwork of second hand launches, fare prices, inconvenient to use wharves like Northcote, the overcrowding of the Ferry basin and bus feeder services need attention and quickly!

    1. I suspect there’s been substantial growth on ferries in 10 years — it’s just hard to pick up on that graph because it’s small relative to rail and especially bus.

      1. Yep ferries have been growing well but come from a low base and have a lot like more limited ability to grow. Changes in the 10 years from Apr-07 to Apr-17
        Bus – +18.8m (+44%)
        Train – +13.3m (+232%)
        Ferry – +1.7m (+40%)

        1. important to note that even though growth on rail is five times higher than the growth on buses when measured in percentage terms, buses still experienced more growth in *total* passenger numbers.

          While Auckland needs flash new rail infrastructure/services, this should not come at the expense of investment in maintaining and improving the bus network.

          Lest we want to risk going backwards in terms of passenger numbers.

        2. I think you see the transfer from long distance bus to rail, and as the road traffic slows down even more, people will transfer to trains even for the last 5km, especially with the CRL

      2. Ferries will always be a nice mode in Auckland, very important for specific routes but not something that scales to a regional level.

        Despite our harbours, the fact is we have a lot more of the city on dry land than we do on harbourside suburbs with convenient sea links to main demand centres.

  3. Hey kids, lovers and geek readers. Can I please propose a project that we could collaborate with.

    I would love to make a Massive 3D model of Auckland, using a 3D printer to slowly build an almost exact model of out entire city/ region.

    The plan would be a model say 4 meters by 4 meters and future overlay effectively with different Unitary ideas by way of models or projection from above.

    I would love interested parties to perhaps talk with Motat to provide the space as a interactive History/Future transport plan.


    1. I guess I’ll be a lover. Why not just talk to Motat yourself? Your enthusiasm will win them over faster than one of us.

        1. You would be better off using Council GIS data for topo side and with a free/low cost 3D draughting package , DS would be a good place to start.

  4. Is that little blip upwards, second from the end column, the result of Adele? Seems like a relatively decent uptick in that month alone…?

  5. Wellington numbers don’t include the Cable Car, typically just under 1 Million passengers per year. GWRC seem reluctant to fully recognise its existence, so its not counted in their stats despite appearing GW’s Metlink website as a PT service …
    Strange as it is, AFAIK, the only PT route/line that runs a turn-up-and-go frequency first service to last service 7 days a week.

      1. Yes, for stupid historic reasons … Still public transport though.

        However, still seems somewhat inconsistent as AFAIK the stats include:
        – The entirely commerical serivce Route 91 ‘The Flyer’.
        – The ‘Harbour Explorer’ weekend ferry trips which are just a commercial tourist jaunt round the harbour.

        1. cablecar is definately more of a public transport service than the days bay harbour cruise (still highly reccomended way to see the harbour imo).

          even takes snapper and the lambton terminus sort of remimds me of a mini london tube station.

        2. You can’t blame GWRC for the quirks of the Land Transport Management Act – and the Harbour Explorer does provide a useful public transport link for those travelling between Queens Wharf, Seatoun and Days Bay (and Petone, when the wharf’s open). Much quicker than any alternative!

    1. You thought wrong. Wellington public transport is not at levels of a thousand times less than Auckland. Both cities are expressed in millions.

  6. What to do about the ferries? Standardise the fares with rail and bus for a start. Ferries have around 80% farebox recovery, and if fares were brought down to match rail and bus, an equivalent farebox recovery to rail/bus (around 50%) would be likely – surely that’s equitable. Greater focus on the ferries would remove cars from many of our motorways, and the harbour bridge as well.

    Although they’re not fast, they save significant amounts of time for pax because of their direct routings. In this respect, they are in some ways equivalent to RTN routes – I’m thinking in particular of Devonport, Waiheke and Half Moon Bay here, possibly Birkenhead as well. I propose they should be formally recognised as RTN routes, and their feeder services strongly promoted as RTN feeder routes – this way they could attract significantly more patronage, in my view. Underpasses from the ferry terminal to connect with other components of the RTN network at lower Albert Street and Britomart would reinforce the RTN-ness of the ferry network.

    When the fare standardisation issue has been raised before, the usual response is that too many people would start using the ferries if fares were standardised, and the capital outlay to boost ferry services doesn’t justify the risk. Since when were we concerned about the capital implications of burgeoning rail or bus travel? A big, bold vision to move more pax on water would likely have the same positive passenger support as our current big bold vision to move more people by rail, and we should embrace it, rather than impede it!

    The transition to a standardised fare structure could be gradual, by either gently lowering a “ferry supplemental fare” to zero over time, or by holding ferry fares while rail and bus fares gradually increase. A transition would also enable any future capital fleet needs to be staged and not pose too much of a capital burden on operators.

    I like the new “RTN route maps” now appearing inside trains, which include the Northern Busway, as a replacement for the former rail route only maps. I look forward to the day (which could be anytime we choose – soon?) when they key ferry routes also appear on these RTN maps. Quite apart from anything else, it would significantly lift the proportion of the population who live close to the “connected” RTN network and who therefore perceive that their mobility is the better for that.

  7. Filling-up of empty off-peak seats, while a worthy goal in itself, will only help de-congest the peaks if current peak-riders can be induced to shift their times of travel.

    A whole lot of new users attracted to cheaper off-peak services would be great for vehicle-utilisation and overall revenue, but of itself will not help peak overcrowding.

    There is no way of dodging the urgent need more trains in a growing city like AK.

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