It’s been a year for milestones on public transport and Auckland Transport are celebrating another one. We’ve now passed 90 million trips within a 12-month period. That follows us hitting 20 million trips on rail and 5 million trips on the Northern Busway in August. It’s also a far cry from just over 20 years ago when in 1994, at Auckland’s lowest point, just over 33 million trips were made. In addition to the ridership numbers, customer satisfaction with PT has now passed 90%.
Here’s AT’s press release:
Public transport numbers the best in more than 60 years
Auckland’s public transport users have clocked up 90 million trips on buses, trains and ferries over the past year, the last time Auckland saw that many trips was way back in 1956.
Auckland Transport’s Chief Transport Services Officer Mark Lambert says, “Auckland in 1956 was a totally different city. It was the last year the trams were running, trolley buses were very popular and ferry numbers were high because the Harbour Bridge was still three years away.”
In 1956 Auckland was a much smaller city, with a population of around 400,000, but car ownership was still not the norm.
Mr Lambert says “This was the beginning of the era of the car in Auckland, the Northwestern and Southern Motorways had just partially opened, so people were buying cars and public transport usage was dropping by around 8 million trips a year.”
The numbers using public transport in Auckland bottomed out at 28 million and stayed low until 2002.
Since then public transport usage has grown steadily with train patronage rising from 3 million trips a year to 20 million.
The 90 million mark is an increase of 6 million on the previous year, a growth of 6.7 percent.
Auckland Council Planning Committee Chair Chris Darby says he is excited about the future of transport for Auckland, “We’re in the midst of a public transport revolution, with record levels of patronage across public transport. Aucklanders have a growing appetite for bus, ferry and rail travel, and making this reliable and easy to use is a key priority.”
Customer satisfaction also continues to rise, reaching 90.5 percent for bus customers, 93.7 percent for train and 91 percent for ferry.
“I use the ferry daily and I’m really happy to see the satisfaction levels on the rise.
“We’ve come a long way, but we can still do better. There’s even more services to be rolled out next year – hopefully this will see our patronage pass 100 million, and our customer satisfaction reach 100 percent.”
The result is actually a little better than they realise. I was provided the historical data from AT a long time ago and recently I was looking at some old yearbooks on Statistics NZ’s website and found some of the figures from the 50’s were wrong. Correcting that not only fixed an odd spike in the graph linked to ATs press release but also pushed back “last time” date to 1953.
Of course AT are correct when they point out that Auckland was very different back then with a lot smaller population. Back then Aucklanders made around 250 trips per person a year on public transport compared to around 54 now.
The per capita result is improving but still has a long way to go to match our comparator cities. A good next goal would be for us to reach around 75 trips per person which would put us at a similar level to where Wellington is today and slightly ahead of roughly similar cities in the US. At current rates of improvement, we may reach that within a decade. Alternatively, based on our current population we’d need around 124 million trips to reach that level. A longer term goal is to reach levels similar to those seen in Canadian cities and for that we’d need around 130 trips per capita annually or over 200 million trips annually.
Coming back to how today, what’s important to note is not just that ridership has increased but what’s driven that growth. Looking back over the last decade, the number of trips taken on PT has risen by an impressive 37.2 million. Just over half of that (18.7 million) has come from growth on Rapid Transit, the rail network and Northern Busway alone.
There are are lot of improvements to public transport coming over the next year or so with the new bus network rolling out (East Auckland is next in December) and that is expected to help drive ridership. However, what the growth in rapid transit highlights is that for Auckland to see significant change we really need to significantly expand our rapid transit network. Some of this is already underway but a lot more is needed and that’s one of the reasons why we’ll keep pushing the Congestion Free Network.