When it comes to tracking public transport ridership in Auckland, finding out the results for March is one of my favourite times of the year. March is usually the busiest month of the year thanks to a number of factors, such as:
- Universities starting up again with students keen and eager to learn – before some start dropping away
- Workers taking fewer days of leave with man having often just taken it over summer
- Fewer instances of people being sick as the cold and flu season has yet to kick in
- As traffic and the ensuing congestion increases, more people deciding to give PT a go – before some get frustrated at seeing multiple full buses travel past their stop.
This year was notable in that were the same number of working days as last year. It is also the first March we’ve had since the new network was fully rolled out across the urban area. It was also the first full month since Auckland Transport increased fares but most of all, I was particularly looking forward to this years result as based on the way things had been tracking, it was likely we would pass a major milestone – and we did.
For the first time in modern history, Auckland had more than 10 million boardings in a calendar month. As you can see from the graph below, it represents a significant increase over the last decade and back then we’d just passed the 6 million milestone for the first time.
Delving into the numbers, the total growth boardings for March was 10.19 million, an increase of 6.7%. Within that:
- The busway continues to shine with boardings up just under 40% to 787k, although that is in some part due to a change in how AT count it. Still, that number is higher than we’ve seen for any of the individual rail lines (we haven’t seen March’s results yet though).
- Other buses are also continuing to do well seeing a 6.1% increase. This has continued to buck expectations as a drop in usage was expected following the new network rollouts.
- Trains were busier this year too with usage up 3.3% on last year and helped see a small milestone with annual boardings passing 21 million for the first time. To put that in perspective, following electrification we would see the 12-month rolling total pass another million milestone every 4-5 months. To get from 20 million to 21 million it took 19 months. It is also still not the highest single month we’ve seen for trains with that remaining March-2017 when there were two extra working days.
- The one disappointment with the results was ferries which despite a relatively warm and dry March, saw a 4.7% decrease in usage compared to last year.
Last month there was an article about Wellington’s PT woes and the fines the Greater Wellington Regional Council had imposed on NZ Bus, one of its operators.
The bus operator company was contracted by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to deliver 150,000 trips during this time.
NZ Bus received 3207 penalties for cancellations, 8451 for late services and 6005 for using the wrong sized buses.
This got me wondering what happens in Auckland, so I asked AT and here is their response.
Auckland Transport bus contracts have provisions for deductions and there is a bonus scheme. Net deductions (offset by bonuses if applicable) are deducted from monthly contract payments.
AT contracts contain clauses and schedules that specify performance management standards. Operators are required to meet a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Performance Indicators (PIs). These requirements are detailed in the relevant agreement.
KPIs include: punctuality at first stop (lateness); punctuality remaining trips (lateness); reliability (lateness; includes missed trips/cancellations); real time registration; customer satisfaction.
The operator’s performance in relation to the KPIs, but not the PIs, may result in a performance bonus or performance deduction, eg service trips not run – any service trip that does not appear on the reports will be deemed to have been identified by Auckland Transport as not having operated and will be subject to a performance deduction.
Currently there is no KPI or PI for using the correct or incorrect bus size. Work is underway to develop a report to capture this information so the operators can be advised. Currently this is monitored and followed up through customer feedback.
Deductions are processed monthly and a chart is attached but we will not be naming the bus companies. All deductions are subject to an operator requested exemptions (ORE) process. This enables operators to apply for exemptions if they are able to prove that is warranted. Each request for exemption is assessed against the evidence provided and either accepted or rejected in accordance with the ORE Guidelines for Rules, Reasons and Verification document.
If I’m reading this right, it appears we’ve actually paid bonuses more than we’ve charged fines.
While on the topic of Wellington, I also keep an eye on ridership down there and especially since the launch last year. The numbers are only till December but suggests that overall usage hasn’t fallen but is flat.
For trains, Boardings have been slowly increasing and at current rates, will reach 14 million boardings later this year. For buses, as part of the change the Airport flyer bus stopped being counted and so GWRC have also published a year’s history using the new metric. I’ve reflected that in this graph showing the new numbers in red. Overall, the number of boardings in Wellington have increased over the last decade but not but a lot.