Last week the government released a new report packed full of facts and figures about our transport system. I think this is a good idea and is a useful resource, although one criticism is it’s simply too hard to find on the Ministry of Transport’s website. Here’s part of their press release which includes some of the figures they’ve highlighted.

Associate Transport Minister Tim Macindoe has launched the first product of the Transport Outlook project, the Transport Outlook: Current State report. The Transport Outlook project aims to provide information, data, and analysis on New Zealand’s current and future transport system.

“Understanding transport demand and emerging trends in our transport system is crucial to ensure that we can provide the right information for the general public and transport planners, investors, and policy-makers,” Mr Macindoe says.

“The report combines information from all transport modes for the first time. It provides invaluable information on what is currently happening in the New Zealand transport sector and analysis of what it means.”

Information included in the report ranges from public transport patronage in the main urban centres, freight volumes through ports, passenger numbers through airports, transport deaths and injuries, composition of the vehicle fleet, through to the use of different travel modes for work, education, and personal business.

Some of the key statistics highlighted in the report include:

  • More than 36,000 aircraft arrived in New Zealand in 2016, just over double the number in 1998
  • Over the last ten years our exports have increased by 74% in volume
  • New Zealanders spend on average just under one hour a day travelling
  • Two car households are now more common than single car households
  • In 2000/2001 there were 86 million public transport boardings by June 2016 this had increased to 148 million boardings
  • The use of ferries to cross the Cook Strait has increased 95 per cent since 2000/2001
  • About 38 million passengers used our airports in 2016
  • Our vehicle fleet has grown 44% since 2000
  • Train patronage in Auckland has grown by 67% in five years
  • Queenstown is our fastest growing airport in percentage terms
  • Only one third of young people have a driver licence, compared with nearly half in 1989
  • Only 3 per cent of 5-12 years olds use cycling as a mode of transport
  • Between 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 cruise ship passenger numbers increased by 26% to reach a total of 254,409
  • There were 138 cruise ship voyages, spending a combined 703 days stationed at a port in 2015/2016
  • The largest container vessels coming in to New Zealand ports at the end of 2016 had double the capacity of the largest vessel arriving earlier the same year.

The report itself and the overview version are full of graphs. Perhaps my biggest criticism of the report, and can be seen in the information above, is that each the statistics stand alone and are assessed differently, possibly a reflection of the data being pulled together by different parts of the organisation. In some cases, the change is shown as the actual number, in others as a percentage change and almost all of the cases, they’re assessed over different timeframes. For example, why is the change in the vehicle fleet assessed over 15 years while rail use in Auckland assessed over 5 years.

In fact, even within the same subject the figures can be represented differently. Again, take rail use in Auckland, in most of the report when talking about PT they refer to the the results for the 2015/16 financial year (12 months to 30 June 2016). In Auckland’s case that means 60.2 million bus trips, 16.8 million rail trips and 5.9 million ferry trips. However, in this one section looking at rail transport for 2016 it says 18.1 million trips – which was the figure for the 2016 calendar year. The calendar year figure also appears to be the basis for the 67% increased over five years line mentioned in the press release.

It’s not that these figures are wrong, it’s just that it makes it harder for people to compare them to get a true picture. Going back to the vehicle fleet/Auckland Rail example, if we compared them over the same timeframe the report would need to say that rail had increased by over 700%.

Of the figures they have highlighted, a few others stand out as worth of some comment.

  1. that only 3% of 5-12 year olds are now cycling while the report goes further to note that the number is declining. Making it safer and easier for kids to cycle to school and around their community should be one of our highest priorities
  2. The confirmation that like other western countries, New Zealand is seeing fewer young people getting drivers licences.

Overall a useful bunch of stats and hopefully something the government/MoT release on a fairly regular basis.

Lastly, the press release hints at some more interesting work coming later this year

“Later this year the report will be published which will project transport demand over the next 25 years. It will examine future regional travel patterns, including the impact of new and emerging technologies,” Mr Macindoe says.

I wonder if that projection is simply a rough extension of the trends seen above or if it will make bold predictions about the future.

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  1. Maybe I’m picky here but I don’t think it should be defined as “mode choice” for travel to school. Lack of safe cycle facilities around schools and residential areas mean the “choice” is removed. Also students in that age range 5-12 consistently “choose” cycling as their preferred way to get to school, it is often parents who, for reasons including those above, prevent them from riding.

    1. Good point about “mode choice”. The kids love it; around here they particularly love the new concrete footpaths which have such huge dips to the vehicle crossings. (Unfortunately wheelchairs can’t cope with them.) Those parents who do allow their kids to cycle give very precise instructions about exactly where they are to ride, and where to cross (of course many are on the footpath as the roads are too dangerous), so the kids are cycling to school but don’t have accessibility to the full suburb.

      The factors influencing cycling school rates have missed a big one: increased car dependency, car ownership, and vkt. Now each parent has a car, and is travelling longer to get to work. So are all the other adults around, so the environment is less safe. Throw in the extra traffic from outer suburbs, the increase in daytime parking from people using the buses, and the result is a dangerous environment for kids to cycle.

      1. Travelwise surveys usually show around 20% of children wanting to ride bikes to school. But what is the point of a survey and collected data if the transport agency does absolutely nothing to fix the obvious problems?

        1. the survey is helpful in the sense it shows latent demand for cycling infrastructure and could support a modal shift away from private vehicles during peak hours. helps build the narrative to justify increased investment in infrastructure when they have exhausted all their road based solutions or the decision makers change.

        2. Yes infrastructure changes are probably the main way to win this combined with school promotion programmes, but it’s slow in coming. Seems the recent work done on Albany Highway area schools was a success? Good work by all those involved.

  2. Those axes are awful. The ‘substantial decrease’ in 13-17 year olds is over 15 years, but looks exaggerated compared to the 7 years that follow. Also, do they just not have more data since 2012 which must be aroudn the time cycleways started to get put in?

    Kids cycling and walking should be one of the main priorities. Takes so many cars off the road. Make it safe and they’ll go back to it in droves.

  3. Interesting to see the government acknowledge that mandatory helmet laws were a contributing factor in the decline in cycling to school in the 90s.

  4. The data proves a direct correlation between introduction of helmet law and decline of cycling. This piece of fact is gold when used as evidence for the argument of the negative effect of helmet law.

    1. Does it? Only 3% of 5-12 year olds are riding bikes. Are you really asserting that the other 97% of kids will not do so on the basis that a helmet is required?

      I think the answer more likely lies in the 44% increase in vehicles. Kids are generally aware that a helmet provides essential protection, even if they are unaware of how serious a head injury can be.

      1. “97% of kids will not do so on the basis that a helmet is required”

        More like 97% of kids parents will not let them do so on the basis that a helmet is required.

        There fixed it for you.

      2. What a disingenuous comment. No one ever claimed that every child who doesn’t cycle would do so if we only relaxed the helmet laws. The claim is that compulsory helmet laws reduce ridership, this is true to anyone looking at data on cycling rates where helmets are banned.

      3. Given the head risks are about the same for walking and higher for being driven in vehicles without airbags, why aren’t helmets required for these other activities? The helmet law makes the perception of riding a bicycle more dangerous. If you want to wear a helmet, by all means do so but don’t make it compulsory for everyone else.

  5. Can’t really pick apart the drivers’ licence trends without population figures and info about when the various changes to licencing pushed up the age you could get a licence.

  6. “the impact of new and emerging technologies” – I’m expecting a fixation with self-driving electric cars in that part of the report.

  7. Interesting report. I just had a look – in a 72 page report, there is only a little more half a page on walking as a mode of transport, despite it accounting for 17% of all trips. Skewed priorities?? Or just a lack of data?

    Also someone really needs to show them how to format their axes!!

  8. The kids not biking is a real issue. It seems to be a catch 22. Parents don’t let their kids bike to school because there’s too many cars on the road so drop them off in their cars????

    1. Yes, quite. At my local, the huge commuter through-traffic is one factor. The sheer number of cars on the road – both parked and driving, is a second factor. And the parents dropping the kids off is a third factor. Probably about equal. Solvable with a major road closure, a car tax, congestion charge, reallocation of road space to cyclelanes, either from parking or from two-way to one-way, and a school ban on dropping to school in the streets around the school. Plus a few dead end streets to minimise the crossings for the cyclelanes. There, fixed. 🙂

  9. I remember when I left my local college in new Plymouth there was was over 100 bike’s in 1 of the 3 bike parks they had.
    and in 2001 I moved up here to Glenfield college in Auckland and there was only 3 bike’s including my own, I asked where are the other bike stands, to my surprise there wasn’t any.
    Now back in the naki at intermediate school we had Sports days and if you had your bike you can race around the paddock instead of the usual relay race.
    Maybe schools should adopt bike Sports days to encourage kids to bike to school.

  10. I note there is nothing in the report about long distance bus travel. Again an example of how this mode of transport is not on policy makers radar

  11. No comments on how the number of aircraft landing in New Zealand has doubled since 1998? Or is that the bit no one wants to give up?

      1. Apart from just not doing it. 🙂

        We could stop promoting tourism and think of something more regenerative to make money from. We could see the cheap airfares for what they are – subsidised by future generations – and resist the temptations.

        I’m not opposed to young people getting out to see the world to shake a few prejudices off, opening their eyes by living and working in other cultures.

        But in certain circles, writing and ticking off one’s bucket list seems to have become an obsession. And trips quarter or half way around the world are being made for only a few weeks. There are even children’s bucket-list workbooks you can buy, to fill in when you’ve been to each place the book recommends…. repulsive.

        I find it so disrespectful of all the struggles people have been through (and will go through).

        1. If people are not willing to stop – or at least slow down – their rate of international air travel perhaps they should be encouraged (forced?) to offset it with funds for native re-afforestation in NZ. It would not only suck up some of the carbon but could dramatically increase biodiversity, help clean up rivers etc.

        2. +1, compulsory carbon offset would be a good step. Actually taxing net carbon emissions would be better.

        3. I think realistic pricing is they key, the cost of pollution should be factored in. Ultimately the costs should fall on the person undertaking the activity, I don’t think reducing tourism promotion is the way to go. It is worth remembering nearly half our tourists come from Australia.

          Like you I hate bucket lists but there are many places I genuinely want to see, including in New Zealand.

        4. Isn’t promoting tourism while taxing carbon emissions as bad as, say, promoting greenfields development and cars while using congestion pricing, or promoting growth in plastic toy manufacturing while taxing waste. Why not actually decide what supports a decent future for the planet and people, and just promote that?

        5. I think those who are developing greenfields areas should be free to promote them if they want as long as those developments cover their true costs on infrastructure. It is worth noting that the biggest spender in promoting NZ is not the government but Air New Zealand, they spend over double what Tourism New Zealand do.

          I don’t think we should be regulating how private businesses promote their business.

          Targeting promotion is a very round about way of solving a problem. It means those that already knew about NZ say through word of mouth would still come here without paying the appropriate carbon taxes, whereas taxes would make everyone think is it worth coming here.

        6. Yes. Still, spending half of what Air New Zealand does on promoting tourism is still a fair whack of money.

          Given that greenfields developers are not paying the full costs of the infrastructure (eg the costs related to increased traffic city-wide, and associated carbon emissions costs, etc) and that airlines are not paying the full costs of air travel (again, carbon-related, but also other tourism-related problems) then we need to discuss all mechanisms to reduce these negative activities. Even if it’s only to inch us closer to having all the costs borne by the industries.

        7. I should add aviation will come under pressure anyway as we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels as it will become less viable to explore for new sources.

          The aviation industry appear to be hedging their bets on biofuels at the moment, but there are other problems with that even if they are successful.

  12. Or instead of saying NZers ‘just’ walk for an hour a week, they could remove the qualifier. Or talk about the rapid decline in primary children walking to school – where is the research to identify the causes of that and what to do about it, a priority issue. Or if 17% of trip legs are walking, why isn’t there any central government initiative to build on this good base. The most popular recreational activity is walking also, so strong demand for it.

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