The December ridership numbers from Auckland Transport are out and there is one particularly surprising, albeit understandable result. Overall, ridership in December grew by 3.1% which is not the highest it has ever been but growth none the less. One of the key reasons for it being lower is that there was one fewer working day compared to December 2016. But that wan’t the only reason and I’ll get to the others shortly.
Bus numbers are continuing to show some good growth and as I’ll discuss later in the post, a lot of that seems to be from areas with the New Network rolled out. Ferries also saw a bit of growth which is being driven by Fullers commercial routes of Devonport and Waiheke.
The surprising aspect was that for the first time since April 2013, rail use dropped.
Compared to December 2016 there were around 71k fewer rail trips taken, a drop of 5.2%. There are three primary reasons for this and they are:
- As mentioned, there was one fewer working day in the month.
- The rail strike on December 8.
- The December 2016 numbers were inflated by a large Coldplay concert at Mt Smart
Over the last year we now average over 70,000 trips a day on the rail network, although less in December due to Uni/school holidays and then the Chrismas to New Year period. The two fewer days of trips quickly adds up to being a significant impact. All up and including the lack of special event trips, AT estimate that after normalising for the impacts rail growth would have been 5.6%. That’s still a lot below the double digit growth of a few months ago but similar to November.
Whilst there is clearly still some underlying growth in rail usage, I think it does highlight that it has slowed down recently. It makes it even more important that Auckland Transport focus on getting rail frequencies up to frequent standard of at least once every 15 minutes, 7am-7pm, 7-days a week. This is doubly important given rail is meant to be the backbone of the new bus network.
Speaking of that new bus network, there appears to be strong growth in the areas it’s been rolled out. Here are some highlights from ATs reports.
The Southern network rolled out at the end of October-2016 so we’ve now getting our first year on year results. After normalising the results, overall trips increased by 12% and even if you take into account that more people are transferring, the total number of journeys is still up by 7%.
The Western network rolled out in June this year. The normalised total trips for the month were up 18% and after taking account of more transfers, journeys are up 11%
The Eastern network only rolled out in December but is already showing good progress. Normalised trips in December were up 11% with total journeys up 5%.
Rest of the network
Given that overall bus numbers, even after being normalised were up 5.6%, this suggests that the central and North networks saw lower growth numbers. Historically, the isthmus has made around 40% of all bus and train usage and the North around 20%. Those two networks are scheduled to roll out later this year and if we were to see similar results to above, we’re going to see some rapid growth in PT usage.