Auckland Transport have published some ridership numbers for November. These are just some high-level numbers rather than the more detailed results that go to the board but they show continued and impressive growth.

November 2018 had the same number of working days as 2017 so makes for a good comparison to last year and in total there were more than 615,000 additional boardings that were made, a 7.7% increase. Some of the highlights from the month include:

  • The busway continues to see stunning growth thanks in part to the new bus network. There were over 622k trips on the busway during the month with that being up 35.4%. That follows an increase of 45.6% in October compared to the same month year earlier. It brings total usage to just under 6 million for the year and the busway remains on track to becoming our busiest rapid transit route. The graph below highlights this, although we don’t have the rail breakdown by line for November yet, you can easily see the trends.

  • Other buses saw a decent increase too, up 6.9% to 5.54 million for November. Again the new network is likely playing a strong role here. It means that overall, bus use is up 9.2% for the month and total bus usage for the last year approaching 70 million.
  • The growth does appear to have restarted on the rail network too with usage up by nearly 100k (5.9%) to 1.86m. Perhaps in time we’ll come see the first half of 2018 as just a blip on the history, much like the fall-off following the Rugby World Cup and introduction of HOP (changed counting methodology) were.
  • Ferries have had a mixed bag of results this year with some months quite strong and others weak. Following a strong October, November is in the latter category with usage up just 0.4% to 535k trips. It’s possible some of this outcome is weather related though as there were a number of storms in November and they tend to have an impact on ferry services.

March Madness Capacity

Looking forward, AT have released a paper from their closed board meeting last week on PT capacity, which is focused on the upcoming March Madness – March is traditionally the busiest month of the year due to a perfect storm of people travelling and often makes for some very busy services. They say that extra capacity is coming for some routes but for others there may be capacity issues.

  1. There will be limited additional capacity provided for March 2019 following significant capacity increases from the rollout of the bus New Network.
    The limited budget for capacity management in 2019 will enable addressing the most pressing capacity issues, in particular on Onewa Road.
  2. Other capacity issues will be addressed through a combination of better utilisation of extra-large (XLB) and double-decker (DD) buses. These will be funded through savings on Northern Express 1 (NX1) ‘short runner’ PM trips to Constellation and a portion of value-for-money (VFM) changes to optimise capacity expected to go live on 28 April 2019. The introduction of new DD fleet to the Dominion Road, Mt Eden Road and Remuera Road corridors will address issues on the key central corridors.
  3. The remaining capacity risk routes/areas are expected to be, Ti Rakau Drive, Grey Lynn, Howick to Panmure, Sandringham Rd, New North Rd, Tamaki Drive, Takapuna to Massey University via Browns Bay (83) and route 120 from Greenhithe. These services will be supplemented by utilisation of banker buses.

The graph below gives a bit more detail of what’s planned by route.

One of the issues with the likes of March is that trying to add more capacity at peak times is extremely expensive as it requires additional buses and drivers. As I say in this piece on it at Stuff, I think AT need to be doing more to encourage shoulder-peak and off-peak travel to spread the load. Achieving this could mean keeping peak frequencies running longer, more bus priority in shoulder-peak and off-peak times, discounts for off-peak travel etc. Below is a reminder of how many bus services are running across the day.

There are also concerns for Hobsonville ferry capacity, something that won’t be addressed until April when contracts extensions are enacted.

13. The below services frequently operate during peaks at above 80% of available vessel capacity:

  • Hobsonville is our fastest growing ferry service, with year on year patronage increase of approximately 40%. Vessel size was upgraded during 2018 to provide an additional 47 seats per sailing. Capacity is expected to be constrained, with potential for some customers to be left behind post scheduled sailings.
  • West Harbour has experienced year on year growth of approximately 7%. No provision for additional sailings at present, however there is a smaller ‘stand-by’ vessel available to support during March if patronage outweighs vessel capacity.
  • Pine Harbour, vessel is near capacity. No projected increase in demand.

There are no expected capacity issues on trains but they do say they’ll be looking to maximize the utilisation of 6-car trains.

Free Public Transport

Finally, there was good news yesterday with AT announcing that public transport will be free to use this Friday afternoon from 4pm, which is a bid to improve safety.

To help ensure people get home safely after they finish work on Friday 21 December, Auckland Transport is making travel on all buses and trains free from 4pm.

According to Police the Friday before Christmas is one of the worst days of the year for drink-driving.

AT is working with Police to reduce drink-driving and one key initiative is to provide free public transport on Friday so that people all across Auckland can have a drink after work and have no need to get behind the wheel at all.

Tamaki Makaurau Road Policing Manager Inspector Scott Webb says Police deal with an increase in alcohol-related crashes during the festive season.

“If you are in any doubt at all about being safe or legal to drive after drinking – don’t drive. It’s vital you look after your mates. Make sure you have a plan to get home safely.”

At 4pm the gate at train stations will be opened, and the tagging machines will be turned off on all bus trips starting after 4pm.

If your journey starts before 4pm but finishes after 4pm, this trip will not be free. But all trips starting after 4pm will be free.

It will be fascinating to see how well used PT is used both that day and during the free period. I image a number of people who don’t normally use PT might give it a go to get to work knowing it will be free in the afternoon. The good news is AT will still be counting usage as trains have automated counters built in and bus drivers will count people as they board.

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39 comments

  1. Why in this age of the petrol tax going straight to AC/AT is there such claims if limited budgets, just like it was pre fuel tax?

    I realise it’s not a bottomless pit and yes more services are expensive but that is what all that tax money is supposed to be going to is it not?

  2. Wow – that is a low number of extra services in March. I wonder if reflects some limitations in the new contracts, or funding limitations from AT?

    Suggest the following 2 ways to maximise the opportunity over the March-May period.
    1. Increase night and weekend vehicle maintenance to allow for more buses to be available (often 5-7% of buses in for maintenance during the day). That could free up 25-50 buses.
    2. Adjust annual staff rosters to have much lower holidays over this time, while still being fair for staff who have family holidays/commitments planned

    If we can win more of the March customers over and keep them on past May (still high patronage) then Auckland could be flying towards 100 million patronage much faster.

  3. The new 66 crosstown route has a good number of users through areas previously without a decent bus service (Mt Smart, Penrose). But lately, heading east in the mornings, it’s been waiting at Penrose station for about ten minutes, presumably because traffic is so thin that it gets ahead of its theorised timing.
    Is there a good reason why “frequent” routes with a fixed end point can’t just continue on through without stopping to make up time? If one is relying on the bus app to see when it’s coming it shouldn’t matter. And if you miss one there would be another one coming soon. So why do they do this?

    1. Have seen the same on the 670, with excessive dwell time at Onehunga. This is a function of ultra cautious timetabling to ensure that AT meets its KPI’s for punctuality. Completely ridiculous and needs to he challenged / fixed. Patronage would be that much greater with faster journey times and who cares if on a bad day it takes a bit longer than the timetable.

    2. Yes the 66 is great. It often waits there and the recently changed November timetable had a whooping great 11 mins added to it going in the Penrose Station to Sylvia Park direction on the weekend, middle of the day (now 20 mins approximately depending on time of the day). Mainly due to traffic congestion approaching the motorway interchange & Sylvia Park car mess I assume. Generally time added on early morning and other times too but not as much. In the other direction it’s actually been reduced from 10 to 7 mins across the board.

      Shows the lack of bus priority really screwing things up here. Also would be good to extend the 15 min frequency at least til a little later at night, quickly becomes a 30 min frequency, myself (and I’ve seen other more vulnerable users) often left there by the train, end up walking alone home. This is more important perhaps especially on the weekend as the local 298 service is a useless 60 mins all weekend.

      I must follow up with AT that there is still a couple of stops showing on their and other apps that don’t exist in real life, I’ve tweeted a complaint through but not sure the right message has been past on to them…how long could it take to fix such a simple piece of data in their system which would be confusing really off putting to new & existing users!

  4. Off peak definitely needs to be looked at. It is a 2-sided coin however: Peak is when you do want people using PT as the roads are all congested. However as pointed out, peak is an expensive time to add capacity. This is why it is important to try to encourage more people to travel offpeak (provided it doesn’t impact or reduce peak services).

    A balance also needs to be reached offpeak regarding the costs to operate the service vs encouraging more patronage. This is because offfpeak often loses money due to low patronage (chicken/egg scenario perhaps – if it was cheaper more people would use it). As a starting point perhaps AT should look at making offpeak 10% cheaper. This would be very easy for people to calculate (10% of $2.30 is $0.23, 10% of $4 is $0.40 etc). It wouldn’t cost much but might just be enough incentive to encourage more people to use it. Also it would help if offpeak services were frequent enough. Worth giving it a go.

    1. Well good for you … however AT has managed to find one last opportunity to short-change ferry users for Christmas. Their ongoing anti-ferry bias just sucks!

      1. But if the ferry was only used for the return journey, very few would benefit – only those in walking distance of their nearest ferry terminal. Most ferry users drive to their nearest terminal, so making the ferry free would not discourage drink-driving, which is the purpose of the Friday afternoon give away.

        The only route where it might make sense is Devonport (because there are a lot of places accessed faster by a ferry/bus combination than just bus alone), but that’s a commercial service and tickets are not AT’s to give away.

      2. David… you should note a lot of ferry services in Auckland are fully commercial (in particular Devonport which I know you have commented on before). This means it’s not up to AT. You can thank the exceptions put in place by the previous government for this. The services are quite literally out of AT’s control, and completely in control of the operator.

      3. Blame Fullers not AT. They won’t cooperate with any of these deals. Same with having tickets to sporting events and getting free travel.

        AT need to buy back the ferries and then maybe contract out operation back to Fullers. Then Fullers can just concentrate on the tours as a business.

        Fullers just simply don’t have the capital (plus the constant pressure of shareholder return) to make investment where it is needed. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens with the new downtown ferry terminal.

        1. Before blaming Fullers I would like to see details of AT’s negotiations with them on these things, and on fare equality generally. I have seen no evidence of any effort being made by AT or the council, nor does it perceive that our mayor even cares.

          That said, I fully endorse your proposal for the long term.

    2. It is a good start but should be all day. Then people have no temptation or excuse such as getting car home (not that there is any valid excuses).

      1. It’s still the equivalent of 50% off, how many other services ever offer a deal like that without having to book six months in advance?

  5. I can’t comment on the Western Line but it’s interesting that both it and the Southern lines appear to show a peak and decline in usership, which reversed since approximately the new timetable. This is interesting to me because I remember talking to a friend back in July about how the trains had been worse this year (to date) than they’d been for a while. His comment was that I should really judge them based on the new timetable which, at that point, I hadn’t used much less than he had. I have to say I agree and have generally found the trains better this second half of the year.

    1. Agree, I’ve noticed since the new timetable was introduced there have been far fewer delays entering Britomart. Also I’m sure there have been fewer regular problems on the network in the second half of the year than the first, there was also the industrial action in March and the derailment in May.

      1. Yes, I tend to agree that the western network feels more reliable. Although saying that this morning 11am track fault saw citybound emu held at Henderson for 15 minutes. Then set off wrong track all way to New Lynn causing waiting pax to scurry over to other platform when they saw train arriving (not all made it) at sunnyvale, glen eden, fruitvale.
        Still, it proved network resilience having bidirectional signalled tracks.

  6. Actually the line in the piece that states “If your journey starts before 4pm but finishes after 4pm, this trip will not be free. But all trips starting after 4pm will be free.” is incorrect. On AT’s promotional page they advise that journey’s starting before 4 and finishing after 4 will be charged a fare but this will be refunded.

    All in all a fantastic move by AT, hope to see more of this.

  7. It is a real positive that all modes are up, even non express buses and given there have been few addtions to the trains the growth is impressive.

    I truly hope AT use their new income streams to start cranking up services, keeping fares low and improving not only services but to improve the terminal infrastructures and quickly.

  8. I really enjoy taking the train and kudos to AT for delivering a pretty good service.
    But… is it just me that gets really irritated with the painfully loud exhaust noise? Surely there is a technical solution for that

    1. Unless you are referring to the diesels between Papakura and Pukekohe, there is no engine exhaust on an electric train and nothing else I can think of that could imitate such a feature..

      1. The only thing I can think of is when the brake’s release their air, this is certainly quite loud as you disembark the train at Britomart.

        1. That must be it. It’s a piercing noise very irritating. But maybe I am the only person in Auckland that thinks that….

  9. Friday’s free PT will not be on the Waiheke bus, despite it being subsidised by AT and Waiheke ratepayers pay Auckland transport rates .Good to see us islanders pay for your safe passage home drunk, right?

      1. How do we know this? Is there a table somewhere that shows how ratepayer money flows into and out of each ward? It would be interesting to see how Waiheke and Rodney fare, given their desire for independence from Auckland Council.

  10. Anyone know when the double deckers will be launching on Dominion Rd? Before march madness?

    And how can they project no increase in demand for pine harbour ferries when there is so much new housing going up out there at present?

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