It feels like it’s taken a while but we’ve finally got the ridership results for September and they’re looking positive despite there being one less working day than September 2017. Overall, ridership was up 4.8% on September last year but once normalised for things like working days and events, it actually represents an 8% increase. Here’s a quick summary of the results for the month and a few other key highlights I’ve noticed,

  • Overall we’re just a few trips shy of 94 million.
  • Ridership on the rail network has been relatively flat this year but is showing some (slow) signs of improvement.
  • Ferries are starting to show some good growth again, which is good to see.
  • Given these results are up to 30-September there is no numbers yet on how the North Shore network is performing.
Total Trips8.12m+4.8%
Rapid Transit2.23m+2.7%
– Rail1.76m+2.0%
– Busway0.47m+5.4%
Other Buses5.45m+5.6%

As mentioned, we’re at about 94 million trips annually at the moment. Getting to 100 million is likely still over a year away but definitely on the horizon now.

Ridership is creeping towards 100 million trips

Of course 100 million trips isn’t quite the same now as it used to be thanks to the introduction of the new network and simplified fares. The good news is they’ve now started counting journeys too. As a comparison, AT say we’ve had $81.1m journeys so about a 16% difference.

What we do have though is the results for each of the new network areas, except the North seeing as it didn’t even roll out till the 30th September.


The south has shown good growth since rolling out back in October-2016


The east went live back at the end of last year and is so far tracking along nicely.


The west too is seeing strong growth


We have the Central chart but there’s not a lot of noticeable change yet which may reflect that the changes for most people weren’t as significant. AT say that transfers are up 175k compared to the old network.

Wellington Missing

Finally just a comment and hopefully someone from Metlink reads this. One thing I like to keep an eye on is how Wellington is performing. Metlink publish their transport data here. It is usually not quite as timely as ATs data but it does come out. Since June there hasn’t been any data published. Perhaps they don’t want people to see the impact of the issues they’re having or the staff are all focused on improving tings but if anyone down there is able to, would be great to get it updated.

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  1. Thanks, Matt. Imagine what these figures would look like if they started some serious bus lane and bus priority works, and if they prioritised passengers transferring between routes at intersections, instead of treating the area around intersections as multilane carparks.

    1. Also the colour of the bus is unattractive. It is so dull to the point it is sometimes not visible. I know this is superficial and not the most important improvement they can make. But they need to make it shiny and interesting for people to be tempted to try the bus or train.

  2. Can you explain this sentence Matt: “AT do say that transfers are up 175k compared to the old network.” It was in your section about the Central network, but must mean for the whole network? Does it mean the normalised monthly transfers for the whole of the network are up by that amount? Or the September 2018 transfers for the whole of the network are up by that amount compared to September 2016?

    If it’s 175k new transfers out of 8.12m trips. that means 2% of trips are for new transfers. That’s not a big enough figure to run doom and gloom media stories about, is it, when the increasing ridership figures indicate the new network – with all the frequency enabled by simplifying the routes – must be serving most people well.

  3. With population increase running at a fairly steady at 2.8% for a few years now, I guess I’m a little underwhelmed by 4.8% growth… Which raises the question; what is a good target, given the clearly stated strategies of mode shift by both the government and the Council?


    1. Perhaps we should work it out by converting vkt into public transport travel. If we aim to drop Auckland’s vkt by 500 million km per year – meaning it will have dropped by roughly a third in the next 10 years – then how many passenger journeys does that equate to? I have no idea what the average trip length is. Say it’s 10 km, that means we have to increase passenger numbers by 50 million per year. So 50% the first year, then 33%, then 25% etc. Or, starting more realistically, 20% per year, and keeping that rate up.

      Can someone put sensible numbers in for me, or else suggest why the NLTP and RLTP should not have an entire makeover?

    2. A net growth of 2.0% sounds disappointing despite the investments.

      The major issue is PT journey time needs to be competitive to cars.

      For bus, we are still missing smart traffic lights that speed up bus journey time, as well as removing the incentive for bus timetable padding for frequent services.

      For rail, rail is still has poor off peak frequencies and it is clearly becoming a bottleneck for a turn up and go transfer. Train dwell time still long and the line speed is also not competitive to driving.

      The rail improvement is slow and the timetable changes are so minor. There is is a lack of ambition. The whole rail is and a business as usual attitude.

      The AT restructure needs to shake up those who is in charge of the rail improvements and change the incentive to improves service and get rid of the incentive for heavy padded timetables.

      1. Agreed. I work next to Greenlane station. It should not be quicker for me to get home to Massey by driving. It is quicker for me get home by driving, so I drive in the morning and it’s even quicker then too. Absolute madness.

        1. Just chill out man no wonder your butt is wizzying around.

          The best place for your car is safely locked up in the garage waiting to be taken on a trip where you can’t take public transport.

          Lets hear it from the people who use public transport even though it takes longer.

        2. Please do not question my butt credentials.

          But this is the thing; my commute involves twiddling my thumbs on the North Western with a bunch of other thumb-twiddlers inadvertently slowing each other down. It’s still faster than PT. Fine if you’ve got the lifestyle/time luxury to spend longer on commuting on principle, but not so great for everyone else who doesn’t.

        3. Ha ha ha. You put your butt up for ridicule when you chose your name.

          How many minutes is having to thumb twiddle worth, if you could be relaxing in luxury, reading, having a social time on the wonderful train and bus.

        4. Alternatively you may ask some of the people in their car how much it is worth to them to actually see their kids in the evening before they go to bed.

          Maybe it is OK if the time difference is not too large. But the idea that people would happily spend an extra hour or more away from home because of PT is a really stupid assumption.

          And if public transport during peak hour is empty enough for you to relax in luxury, then we’ve got a serious problem.

        5. Oh, this merry-go-round is fun, isn’t it? Royce, at least Buttwizard does argue for public transport and intensification.

          Roeland, I simply asked the question, and your question is equally valid. As for luxury, I must be a gregarious soul, because yes, cramped quarters on a lower-carbon-footprint bus are indeed a luxury for me. Not long ago, the services weren’t even available.

        6. Hi Royce. I used PT to get to a bar to watch the All Blacks last week. Incidentally I couldn’t use it getting back because off-peak frequencies are still garbage 🙂

          I wouldn’t say I’m outraged, I’m saying that until a PT journey takes the same length of time as a car journey that includes rush hour congestion, you can’t expect people to consider it an option.

          This would be less painful if things like dwell time etc were addressed sometime this century, but progress is slow-going. The bulk of my commute issues will hopefully resolve as the CRL comes on line. I should be going against the flow so should safely get a seat until I hit the Western Line. But there are plenty of people out there for whom PT just doesn’t stack up, and they’re the key to unlocking better ridership.

          The only thing working in the train’s favour is the sheer amount of houses and incoming gridlock to the Westgate area which will slow me down dramatically. But that’s not really how PT should be winning arguments. It should be being better fullstop 🙂

          Also, Heidi: my username is Buttwizard69420. No part of that is ridiculous at all.

        7. “I’m saying that until a PT journey takes the same length of time as a car journey that includes rush hour congestion, you can’t expect people to consider it an option.”

          I, personally, look at it the other way. The car has to offer significant time benefits to the train to offset the dead time behind the wheel of a car. On a train, I can work. The car is just not worth the hassle dealing with all the other clowns on the road. On a train I can look down and not give a sh!t for the duration of travel. And I can grab a drink on the way back….

          So if its 30min door to door by train and 20mins by car, train wins.

      2. Hopefully the dwell times will improve significantly once the train managers are gone, although I’m not sure. Does anyone know if it is realistic to reduce the delays between the train stoping and the doors opening?

        Unfortunately with the third main still several years away, there is not much scope for improvements to off peak train frequencies on the Southern or Eastern Line. However the Western Line does not have freight constraints, and should be running at a minimum of 15 minute frequencies all day, in accordance with the New Network principals.

        The real improvements to journey times will come with CRL’s more direct route from the west to the city centre, and from the express services from South Auckland. However the express services are only planned to operate 3TPH in the peak direction with 6 stops in between Papakura and Britomart, and I expect that they will be very popular.

        1. Regarding the western line, I was disappointed a month or so ago to have to take the bus home from Glen Eden after a show. I was hoping to take the train, but the only option involving a train took me west, to Henderson, from where I could then get a bus.

          Apparently, some people who said they’d play in the band for the show then pulled out because they wouldn’t be able to get home after each session until after midnight. Now I realise that’s because the train stops too early.

          So the trains needs longer services into the evening, as well as better frequencies.

      3. I needed to look up where Massey was its pretty hard for me to understand how you would think it could ever be quicker to use public transport between Greenlane and Massey than it is too drive. For me it is important that we have a network of public transport. I don’t concentrate on speed so much as the ability to make the journey.. You know there are some pretty silly bus lanes around which the bus drivers don’t use and there are some good ones as well but the drivers have to run too timetable so if they get ahead they will stick in the traffic. And its same for the trains a lot of the reason dwell times are so long is because they are waiting for the correct time to depart the station. And there will be complaints if they leave early. I can tell it drive you nuts however there needs to be some slush built into the timetable so it is not that we can dramatically increase train and bus speeds in a hurry. I am not to sure why the completion of the CRL will help you given that you will need to catch a bus anyway to get to Massey..

    3. That’s a net 2% pa growth. Sounds good, but:

      The current PT mode share in Auckland is (from memory) about 15%. So at a 2% pa increase, that would leave us with a PT mode share in 2028 of….. 18%. And 21% by 2038.

      Not good enough.

  4. I see opposition National MPs in this morning’s news still pushing for MOAR ROADS and criticising the govt for spending anything at all on rail. Egged on of course by Kiwis buying new cars in record numbers, 60% of them SUVs.
    And can you blame them when the signals even from the new government are that roads will still get the bulk of transport funding? The incentive for people to change is still very small.

    I understand the last lot of dinosaurs clung on until reality finally swept them away. . .

  5. Obviously the New Network is failing and we should rip it out. Or not.

    Patrick — by the way, sustained growth of 5% is good, especially when you consider that we’re in between major projects.

    1. Stu, respectfully sustained growth of 5% is rubbish.

      This last year Auckland has grown due to about 30,000 immigrants arriving. If 60% of those people travel daily to work or study and back for 46 weeks per year then we have an additional 8.2 million trips per year. At 5% public ridership growth that is only an extra 4.5 million trips per year. The number of road trips is increasing. That should not be any surprise to anyone. The northern motorway, the southern motorway etc etc etc are being widened because there are more cars. 5% growth in ridership represents an abject failure by AT unless they have some other agenda other than increasing public transport usage.

      You are absolutely right that they have no major projects. There is no major effort to do anything. Where are the extra bus lanes to speed buses and make them more attractive? Where is the attempt to lift parking prices; both to ensure an acceptable rate of return on expensive assets; and to encourage greater PT usage? Where is the modelling that AT have done regarding pricing demand with fare changes? Why is so much being spent on road resurfacing at the expense of PT?

      There is a reluctance by AT to introduce major change. They seem petrified (in all senses of the word) by what happened when petrol prices went, up partly due to the Auckland petrol tax. In the absence of mechanisms to raise money they are rendered inert. Unfortunately someone outside the organisation seems the best chance to move Auckland PT forward.

      Oh for a public transport based feebate!

    2. “sustained growth of 5% is good, especially when you consider that we’re in between major projects” This is nonsense. 5% is awful when there is so much low hanging (more like already fallen) fruit.

      1. TK and SB:

        I appreciate your enthusiasm for better PT; my perspective is based on what I see in Auckland compared to other cities where I live/work.

        Until recently, Auckland’s PT growth was higher than 5% due to major capital projects and HOP. While growth has recently fallen back to 5%, I work in many cities that would be happy with this rate of growth. Most cities in the US have falling patronage, for example. Auckland’s population growth is running at 2-3% p.a. so our PT patronage is growing twice as fast as the population. Again, not great but not bad. I also expect this rate of growth lift with the completion of the CRL and AMETI busway, and as fuel prices rise.

        In terms of parking, AC have removed minimum parking requirements from much of the city while AT have adopted a demand-based pricing policy. Ponsonby was the latest town centre to have meters installed, IIRC. As the city grows and develops, less off-street parking will be provided and prices for public parking will rise, in accordance with policy. The contribution of this policy to PT patronage growth will manifest over 10-years, not 6-months. Auckland probably has the best parking policy of any city I work in. Most of the additional changes to parking policy are actually the responsibility of central government, such as applying FBT to employer-provided parking and enabling the application of parking levies.

        Auckland has also made progress on what I call hard PT stuff, such as network re-designs (which is currently driving growth) and bus contracting (which is driving cost efficiencies and/or reliability improvements). Many cities where I work can’t even contract their bus services even after decades of trying, for example. And these cities now pay almost twice as much per bus-kilometre as what I see in Auckland. As a customer you won’t see how much internal AT effort goes into re-tendering of bus contracts and re-designing the network. The net effect of this effort, however, is that Auckland will enjoy lower bus operating costs (and hence more service for a given budget) and a more effective network (providing a decent foundation for further investment and refinements) for years to come. Please don’t underestimate the amount of internal resources that have needed to be dedicated to these tasks, which are now hopefully being reassigned to other things.

        Like bus lanes. You are correct that this one area where AT has not delivered sufficiently rapid progress. I’d also suggest a range of operational changes, such as no-change on-board and all-door boarding, would be useful for getting services moving faster.

        So sure, keep agitating for change and improvement. I’d just ask that you are also honest about what Auckland has achieved, which is quite a lot. Onwards!

        1. AT have spent a huge amount of resources improving PT. They have also spent a huge amount of resources developing plans for Lincoln Road. That would have been enough resource to actually implement some of the bus lanes they have been talking about for the last eight years.

          I appreciate that there is a lot of effort going in, but the urgency just isn’t there. Suburban intersections have turning lanes added at the drop of a hat
          But in 2015 I worked on bus/cycle lane projects that don’t even need kerbs moved and still haven’t been started. The ‘manual’ for quick fixes to intersections came out in 2015 and there still isn’t a single modal filter from that guide implemented anywhere in Auckland.

          People are working hard, but there needs to be far more institutional urgency.

        2. Good point re: the need for institutional urgency, which certainly could co-exist alongside the (more positive) narrative I provide above. The gains we’ve made could be entirely down to a couple of hard-working teams sitting within an otherwise complacent organisation. Perhaps the fact that AT is a large, multi-headed organisation makes it hard to generalise?

        3. I suppose that the real narrative could be ‘despite an enormous lack of institutional urgency, particularly at the top levels, AT are managing to grow ridership through the hard work of a small number of staff driving major projects’.

          That’s still not a very positive narrative IMHO.

          I really think that the councilllors need to install a CEO who is actually going to demand that his staff build things and build them urgently.

        4. “Suburban intersections have turning lanes added at the drop of a hat

          Yes this is absurd. Karaka St in Takapuna is a classic case of AT having no idea of what they want to achieve, apart from change it seems. This is a loop street of only about 400m in length that has very little traffic because of the very few number of houses, except that it provides (AT provides) free parking for Smales Farm. About 3-4 years ago AT decided that they needed to put a traffic island at the end of it. This year they decided that they needed to remove it. Spare us!

          Meanwhile at the end of Karaka St is the main link between Takapuna and Smales Farm (Taharoto Road) that now carries a huge number of link buses under the new network. Is a bus lane or T3 proposed for this road that provides an abysmal bus service at peak – dream on.

          Much more is needed.

        5. Stu, we’ve many times listed the things AT are not doing to encourage PT ridership. Buslanes is the obvious tip of the iceberg, but there are many, many other things they could be doing. Some (changing the funding given to PT) are government’s job. Others come down to strategy. The strategy in AT seems to be to continue widening intersections and motorways and adding road infrastructure for as long as we can get away with it, and have a few progressive project on a go-slow. Unless the teams involved with those start expecting too much, in which case they get the chop. So the things AT could be doing to increase PT are not happening.

          If comparison with other cities has Auckland looking good, that’s simply a sign that other cities are performing terribly. And given the contribution that transport emissions make to climate change, worldwide, this has to change.

          Sometimes you need to start from a completely different perspective. Carbon emissions is one such position. We must reduce vkt substantially, and replace those trips with PT. With my rough figures above, a 20% increase in PT per year would convert about a third of our vkt to PT in 10 years. That’s the sort of ballpark we need to be going for.

          And if other cities want to learn from us, great. But we don’t have to be limited by the collective roads bias.

        6. No we don’t have to be limited by anything, I guess? Except reality?

          The experience of others cities is not necessarily a constraint, but it is a useful information signal about how fast reforms tend to proceed and effect behaviour.

          Even a large change in policies around road capacity expansion, for example, won’t give you the sorts of patronage growth and mode shift that you are talking about. The only policy tool I know of that could possibly achieve 20% p.a. is pricing. Yet experience suggests that efforts to quickly address pricing leads to politicians being voted out in favour of others. That to me seems to be a constraint.

          Main message: people’s behaviour is generally quite sticky and takes time to budge, while winning people’s hearts and minds also takes times. That’s why I’m much more interested in trying to achieve an average of 10% growth over 20-years rather than 20% over 10-years. I say average because with major projects like CRL / LRT coming off the line there may well be years in which we achieve, say, 15% for short bursts. I wouldn’t pretend that’s sustainable though as major capital projects exhibit diminishing returns (the next CRL won’t be as transformative, for example).

          You’re welcome to call for more, I just don’t see a feasible path to achieving it.

          takas vienna annual pass example is quite instructive here: they slashed cost of annual passes and ended up shifting PT mode share by 3%.

        7. 5% PT ridership growth is good. But in the context of 2.8% pop growth is not a huge mode shift. It’s a net 2.2%… I think more needs to be done to improve the current services while we build the big things. And the govt has signalled they are keen to hear proposals and meet them with higher funding if they are convinced.

          That. And the understanding of the need to lean on the push lever as well as the pull one (more better services and quality). Aside from pricing which is a govt level issue there is a great deal that can be done. And some of it is around what we don’t build; expensive new roads, and some of it is around adding missing modes to roads while reducing lanes and/or parking.

          These should all save capital expenditure too. But will require great comms, and confidence.

        8. Pricing is one useful tool, but I think people are relying on it too much when we are literally mis-spending billions on increasing road capacity. Show me a city that immediately cut wasting this level of money and put it instead into urgent road reallocation to PT and walking and cycling. I’d like to see their figures for PT uptake.

          Let’s think of an analogy: If we spent billions piping coke to everyone’s homes, to a fountain on every street corner, mandated its inclusion in every development, and created, over decades, a connected network of coke infrastructure, while saturating our media with advertisements about the freedom that cokes gives, calculated the business cases for new pipes using methods we know are incorrect, plus had coke infrastructure lobbyists influencing both media and government…

          …and then put the price up by a dollar per litre, is that the best we can do to reduce coke consumption?

          No, it would be to convert all that infrastructure to piping water to all those places, and provide a good, education programme about the health and economic benefits of doing so.

        9. “One consequence of Transantiago is that the Metro system, which was to be a backbone of the system, was overwhelmed with over six users per square meter. The increase in usage was reported as having gone from 1,300,000 to 2,200,000.”

          Stu, here is what happened in Santiago de Chile when they introduced a new bus system. If there is a mind to change then it can be done.

          I agree with Heidi that annual change above 15% per year is quite achievable because we are moving from such a small base. As we know ridership today is less than it was in the heyday of trams. Major growth is easily possible.

          If every commuter who makes 10 trips per week to and from work was persuaded to make just one trip on the weekend or after work, then already 20% growth has been achieved. Say in Takapuna, where parking is free in the evening for no explicable reason, and this was charged what impact might this have on movements other than by car?

          There is a huge proportion of the population who believe that we need to reduce carbon emissions. Enabling them to make that change may well create a movement towards even greater change as has occurred in many European cities. Many of these cities are outside our observation, but the massive changes that are occurring are none the less real.

  6. Matt: Wellington Patronage
    Daily boardings in graph form were included in report presented to last month’s Sustainable Transport Committee meeting.
    (p17 in the agenda document)

    Also looks like weekly online reporting of patronage and on time performance is coming (soon?) with a sample of what it’ll look like in the appendices of the above doc.

    I suspect the GW transport lot have been rather busy – new revised timetables for many city routes from Sunday (11/11), based on real time info tweaks but also including more frequent earlier evening services and later late evening services on some routes. Main changes are to TranzUrban routes this time, with NZ Bus routes changing at the end of January (when they (should) have some new buses, including double deckers).

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