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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.