The ridership numbers for April are out and they’re following a similar trend to the other months this year. Overall ridership was up 4.4% on last April, however that is in part due to the calendar having two additional working days compared to 2017. Once you account for those, and any other events, the normalised result was more like 1.7%. However, it was still enough to push the 12-month rolling total over 92 million trips.
Like with other months so far this year, bus numbers saw decent growth of 6.6% over last April. After normalising the results, the increase dropped to 4%. Within the (un-normalised) results we can see that strong growth is continuing on the Northern Busway which was up almost 10% and higher than the Southern Line for the first time in a normal month (happened in Dec/Jan due to the rail shutdown too). But the real star of the show are frequent buses which were up over 60% – although it’s not clear how this relates to there being more of them. One specific example is the 380 Airporter which was up 39% in April following a frequency increase in December bringing it very close to ATs definition of a frequent route.
We’ve been seeing similar results over the last few months and so a lot of that will be the impact of the New Network rolling out in some areas. Bus numbers are likely to get more boosts over the next year with the new network on the Isthmus rolling out in six-weeks (8-July) and on the North Shore at the end of September. The numbers aren’t quite a good for trains or ferries though.
Rail usage was up 1.9% however once that normalisation took place, that dropped back below zero to -2.2%. For some reason, rail growth seems to have evaporated this year and overall usage continues to hover at just over 20 million trips annually. The plateauing growth is something also reflected in the weekday average.
The new timetable that AT have been working on can’t come soon enough. It is now confirmed to be introduced on Sunday 26 August. According to AT it will see:
- Improved journey times across the Southern, Eastern and Western Lines, including further reduced dwell times
- An increase to three trains per hour, from 7am to 7pm, across the Southern, Eastern and Western Lines at weekends, up from two trains per hour
- Weekend services will largely follow the same weekday inter-peak timetable
- Weekday afternoon and evening services will transition from the ten minute frequency in the PM peak to a 20-minute frequency from 7pm until 8pm, and to a 30-minute frequency thereafter
- Services to Parnell station increased to include all Western Line services, throughout the day. Currently, Western Line services only operate to Parnell after 7pm, and at weekends
- Pukekohe shuttle services continue to operate three trains per hour during the morning and afternoon peaks, with an increase to two trains per hour during interpeak periods and at weekends, up from one train per hour
- Later night services on Friday evenings, with an additional two service operating over the current timetable.
AT say another timetable change they are looking at for February next year will see “further journey time improvements, and a proposal to extend the new weekend frequency later in the evening“. Still no word on when we’ll see all day frequent services though.
Unfortunately ferries fare even worse, overall they were down 4.4% however after normalisation were down 7.3%. This drop is on their commercial services (Devonport and Waiheke) and ferry numbers have been fluctuating for the last year or so.
On some of the other metrics, AT say farebox rates continue to track lower. This is blamed on simplified fares introduced in August-2016, the roll out of the new network which is seeing more services being run, and interestingly, HOP usage being above expectations. AT’s strategy for some time has been to push people to use HOP by making cash fares much more expensive. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean they try to increase HOP fares to cover the difference.
One notable result in April was train performance. Both punctuality and service delivery dropped to levels not seen since before the electric trains finished rolling out. It’s also worth noting that the train derailment at Britomart was in May so didn’t impact these results.