Auckland Transport are (rightfully) celebrating the rise in ridership that has come as a result of the new network. As I highlighted the other day, boardings are now at just under 98 million trips per year, that’s up by over 29 million or 42% in less than six years.
A complete re-working of Auckland’s public transport network has delivered more services and strong growth in passenger numbers.
Auckland Transport’s New Network saw an 11 per cent increase in trips in February. There were close to 98 million trips for the year, the highest number of passenger trips since the 1950s.
Mayor Phil Goff welcomes the surge in public transport services and patronage. “The number of people now using public transport has reached record levels, not seen since the days when trams ruled Auckland’s streets. While the distance travelled by Auckland buses has increased 32 per cent each year, running costs have been held to just seven per cent. Aucklanders are getting both better services and value for money. And every person using public transport is one less car congesting our roads.”
Notably, around half of all the growth has occurred on the Rapid Transit Network
One area I agree has gone well has been that by implementing the network over a period of time, AT did manage to roll out network with only relatively minor issues.
The mayor says the process of change region by region was sensible and worked well. “This avoided the issues which occurred in other places such as Wellington. Despite the complexities involved, the implementation of the changes has gone smoothly.”
While there are definitely some good things happening and ridership is rising, there are a few things that bug me about AT’s press release. The biggest of these is the claim
“On 30 main bus and rail routes we introduced a minimum 15 minute frequency, 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.”
If only this were the case. Rail frequencies remain at best every 20 minutes off peak and on weekends, often running less frequently than the local buses even though the rail network is considered the backbone of the new network. What’s more, based on the Regional Public Transport Plan, this situation is unlikely to change before the City Rail Link is completed in 2024.
But while the increases have been positive. I do worry that AT aren’t challenging themselves enough. This is highlighted in some comments made by Chair Lester Levy yesterday on the topic. Stuff reports:
Aucklanders might be on the way to doubling their public transport use to 120 million rides a year within a decade, a goal once deemed “unbelievably outrageous”.
Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said the challenge seemed undoable when it was put to him by then-Mayor Len Brown in 2012.
“No other city had done that, Vancouver came close,” Levy told AT’s board.
The key problem with this is the target was actually 140 million trips. The number came from the original Auckland Plan in 2012 (now only on the wayback machine)
This was further backed up in the detail saying:
An important caveat to the information above is the greater allocation of funding. Certainly at the moment one of the big issues that AT have had, even under the a much more PT supporting government, is getting enough funding. While it’s good we’re seeing immediate growth as a result of the new network changes, the real impact of this and other PT improvements over the last 5 or so years takes time to flow through and for ridership to build as a result.
You can see from the graph below that 140 million trips wasn’t an unrealistic of a target at the time.
On a per capita basis it would see Auckland’s level rise from about 57 now to around 66, bringing Auckland close to Wellington’s current level and based on our current trajectory, should surpass the target of 100 trips per capita before 2040.
Given the funding challenges that still exist, perhaps 120 million is a more appropriate target, and one that still represents a significant improvement in performance but it’s a but disingenuous for them now decide that.
One thing I will note, the target in the draft versions of the Auckland Plan was initially 121 million trips but that was increased in the final versions.