Yesterday Auckland reached a milestone that seemed nearly unthinkable just a few decades ago, 100 million trips on public transport within a 12-month period. It’s an achievement that ended up happening much sooner in the year than I had initially expected (I guessed September). What’s more, to celebrate it there’s going to be a free day of public transport on 23 June (excluding Skybus and Waiheke buses and ferries).

The last time Auckland saw more than 100 million trips in a year was 1951, right before we started ripping the trams out. Of course back then Auckland was much smaller with only around  350,000 people – I’ll come back to this point later in the post.

Auckland was an enthusiastic follower of some of the most pro-car and anti-public transport policies during the second half of the 20th century and became a case study in what not to do. This was reflected in the numbers which saw public transport usage fall from a peak of just over 118 million at the end of World War 2 to their lowest point in 1994 when just 33 million trips were made.

Since that time, multiple improvements, each often made in the face of strong opposition, have combined to create a PT system that is more useful and attractive and has let to reaching this milestone. As such, Auckland is now becoming a case study of what to do to turn PT around.

Patrick wrote in more detail the other day but some of the big contributors to the phenomenal growth we’ve seen in recent times include, but are not limited too:

  • Britomart, the upgrade and then electrification of the rail network
  • The Northern Busway
  • Integrated Ticketing and Fares
  • Improved bus priority and double deckers
  • The new bus network and delivering better and more frequent services.

What’s also notable is that these and other improvements have performed better than expected. For example back in 2013 analysis by Deloitte suggested that even if AT did everything right, including having the CRL open in 2021, the maximum we would achieve is 101 million boardings in 2022. The way things are going we could be seeing 120 million boardings by then.

Here are some quick facts about PT trips in Auckland.

  • The average length of a trip in Auckland, as of 2018 was 8.55km but this can vary considerably by mode:
    • Bus trips average 6.93km,
    • Train trips average 12.36km
    • Ferry trips average 13.53km
  • Just under 90% of trips are made using HOP cards with the highest use of them on buses.
  • On an average weekday there are about 74,000 train trips and 246,000 bus trips.

Below are a few additional details that AT have supplied about our PT

  • Each day, there are over 13,000 bus services operated by 1,300 buses
  • We have 57 trains, with 15 more on the way
  • Our ferry services have travelled 1.5 million kilometres in the last year
  • Trains have travelled 6.4 million kilometres
  • Buses have travelled 60.2 million kilometres

Of course, reaching 100 million doesn’t mean AT now get to rest on their laurels and many more improvements will be needed if PT is going to make the contribution it needs to. One thing I think we have learnt over the last few decades is that Aucklanders aren’t any different to people in any other city, if you provide frequent, reliable, safe and time competitive PT options, people will flock to use them.

Thinking about the future, with so much underway we should expect strong growth to continue. Auckland Transport planning documents suggest that by 2028 the PT network could be carrying around 150 million people, and that’s before the impact of light rail is added in. ATAP suggested the growth over the next decade could see usage reach even higher to 170 million. Given the rate at which we’ve grown over the last decade and that every new improvement has a multiplier effect, that figure doesn’t seem unrealistic.

As mentioned at the start of the post, the last time Auckland had 100 million trips in a year, the city was a much smaller place and this meant each person used it a lot more. At the time, ridership per capita was over 300 trips per person annually, a figure that would stack up strongly compared to even some of the best PT cities today. But per capita usage today just a fraction of that at about 62 trips per person. That’s up from a low of just 35 but a long way behind where comparative cities like those in Canada are. If we were to achieve the 150 million trips by 2028, even with population growth it would increase the per capita figure to about 92 per person so definitely heading back in the right direction.

Mayor Phil Goff, Minister of Transport Phil Twyford and AT Chair Lester Levy were celebrating the milestone yesterday morning.

Here is their combined press release.

Aucklanders have made 100 million public transport trips in the past year, making this the biggest year for buses, trains and ferries in the city since 1951.

Mayor Phil Goff says, “To mark the occasion, Auckland Transport has announced that on Sunday 23 June the public can travel free on buses, trains and most ferry services. It’s a gesture by AT to say thank you to Aucklanders and to encourage new commuters to try out public transport.”

The Mayor says the switch to public transport is happening faster than was estimated, with the 100 million target being achieved months ahead of time.

“We haven’t seen this much use of public transport since 1951 when trams were in their prime.

“We need more and more people on public transport to ease congestion caused by the yearly growth of population by more than 40,000 in Auckland. Every person on a bus, train or ferry is one less car clogging up the roads and adding carbon emissions to our atmosphere,” he says.

“Public transport has improved immeasurably. We now have more busways, double decker buses, electric trains and upgraded bus and train stations and services. Service hours have been extended and the HOP card and integrated fares have reduced costs and made public transport easier and more efficient. Public satisfaction with bus and rail exceeds 90 per cent.

“There’s much more we need to do, and those changes are coming. We are extending the Northern Busway, construction of the Eastern Busway has started, and the Puhinui Bus-Rail Interchange and rapid transit to the Airport and precinct gets under way in October.”

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says more people using public transport frees up the roads for those who have to drive.

“Everyday 270,000 trips are taken on public transport in Auckland which reduces congestion and carbon emissions.

“Our Government is investing nearly $2.2 billion on public transport in Auckland over this three-year period and the growing trip numbers are evidence that if you invest in more and better public transport, people will use it.”

Auckland Transport Board chairman Dr Lester Levy says the speed of change has been impressive. “When I became chairman of Auckland Transport in 2012 annual public transport patronage was under 70 million, so this is a very proud day for me.

“I’d like to thank Aucklanders and the operators of our buses, trains and ferries for helping AT make this growth possible.

“Together we’ve taken Auckland from a city totally tied to the car to one which is embracing the use of public transport as well as walking and bike riding. Many of us are now thinking twice before jumping into our car and looking at the various options now available in Auckland.”

The last time public transport numbers were this high, trams were still running, trolley buses were very popular and ferry numbers were high and the Harbour Bridge was still eight years away.

This was the beginning of the era of the car in Auckland, the Northwestern and Southern Motorways had just partially opened, so people were buying cars and public transport usage was dropping by around eight million trips a year.

The numbers using public transport in Auckland bottomed out at 28 million and stayed low until 2002.

Britomart train station opened in July 2003 and that was the kick-off point for the change.

As for the free PT day, I hope AT consider running a weekday schedule. The last thing we would want to see people not able to catch a bus or train because they’re too busy

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112 comments

  1. Awesome achievement for AT. To grow this fast is amazing.

    No mention in the press release of light rail from twyford. I’d imagine he’s been told to stop talking about things he won’t be delivering. Once they take the minister position off him for his weak performance.

  2. We should also acknowledge the social changes that encourage PT use- teenagers preferring to use PT instead of getting a drivers licence, the cost of fuel discouraging multiple trips, workplaces no longer supplying car parks, etc. etc

  3. I guess it’s hard to see a slow revolution when you are standing in the middle of it, but this is very much what is happening in Auckland. We have slowly and surely turned things around, and created the foundation for the multimodal transport system of a true city.

    I think it is important to note that the gains so far have almost entirely come from improving service levels and quality, not from expanding the network.

    For example, we have today the same basic extent of rail network we have had for 20 years. The improvements of double tracking, electrification, new trains, station upgrade etc haven’t really build ‘more’, they’ve just allowed better service quality, frequent departures and higher reliability. It’s not even faster, just frequent and reliable.

    Likewise with the buses, the main change has been improved frequencies and legibility across the board for a true network. But outside of new greenfields, practically every street that had a bus in the 1970s still has a bus today, it’s just they now run regularly and legibly.

    Even the busway is mostly an improvement of connectivity, frequency, span and reliability (albeit with a big dose of speed in this case, true) over the motorway buses I used to take along the same route in my youth.

    The HOP card system has been a huge bonus too, effectively removing various barriers and inconveniences that used to exist while trying to use the network, rather than a single home line.

    I would say this 100 million marks the end of the housekeeping era. We’ve cleaned and tidied, thrown out some old junk, replaced and repaired a worn out items, and put everything where it is supposed to be. Now we have things in order, we are ready to start the real job.

    The next 100 million will be a new era, one of investment, development, expansion, conversion. This will be hard, because it means true change to something quite new, rather than mere renovation of the old and existing.

      1. I think Winston Churchill said it well: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

    1. Very true, a basis to start from as opposed to anything else. And I really hope AT don’t think we all think it’s job done even in the most optimistic sense.

      The next step is to make the system fast and efficient to attract the 90% plus of commuters who do not use PT. Even 20% will be Herculean.

        1. What would it need to be to try to match the 1950 per capita ridership by 2030, even with predicted population increase?

          And does that match what we need to do to reduce carbon emissions? How does cutting our vkt by 43% (or more because we’re a city and should do more than the regions where it’s harder), translate into increase in PT trips?

          1. To match 300 trips per person of the early 1950s by 2030 would require about 600m trips annually. I imagine that would require not only massive investment as a carrot but probably a lot of stick type measures too to actively prevent people from driving.

          2. Sticks for driving? We have to dismantle that big pile of carrots.

            Carrot: too much public space reserved for cars. For example in Birkenhead:
            — the entire square is reserved for parking
            — parking lanes through the entire town centre (and that is a quite busy bus corridor). It is much easier to park a car than to park a bicycle.
            — or a stupid example elsewhere: apparently there is still a parking lane on some of the bridges over the spaghetti junction.

            Carrot: in many places we go through ridiculous lengths to ensure driving is as convenient as possible.
            — many intersections are ridiculously over-engineered
            — slip lanes without any way to cross on foot
            — no crossing across many arterials. A notable victim of this is public transport. Getting to or from your bus stop is often dangerous and cumbersome. (I see that every day on Glenfield Road)

            Carrot: every little back street is built and used like an arterial road.

            Carrot (and big stick for anyone walking): cars have absolute priority over foot traffic at intersections.

            Man. My car feels like Jazz the Jackrabbit out there.

          3. Take the people with you. Authorities find it all to easy to offer sub optimal services resorting to threats and consequences which loses your desired objective. Kind of an East German model to running things.

          4. @Roeland. Wow yes when I had done hardly any driving for a while but rather used PT, walked and cycled then went for a drive finally I couldn’t believe how free flowing my trip was. Wide smooth roads, slip lanes green lights fast, multiple lanes. Felt like the red carpet was rolled out before me.

          1. I have just tried to answer my own question about replacing car trips with PT trips. Using NZTA’s figures, reducing Auckland’s current 13.1 billion km travelled each year by 43% by 2030 means cutting out 5.6 billion km of vehicle travel.

            If we were aiming for the same ridership per capita as in the early 1950’s, Matt suggests that means another 500 million trips.

            If these trips replaced that amount of travel, each trip would have to be 11 km long, which is longer than the average public transport trip in Auckland given in this post, of 8.6 km, suggesting even that increase in ridership wouldn’t quite be enough.

            Of course, 43% reduction is insufficient as Auckland needs a far bigger part of the vkt reduction than the regions do. On the other hand, to reduce vkt by this amount requires looking at freight movements too. Some of the reduction will have to be by converting freight movements to other modes and reducing the economy’s reliance on moving stuff around.

            And of course there are so many short car trips that are better done by active modes – this is where a large part of the vkt reduction needs to come from.

            But on the whole, I would’ve thought that the carbon emission reduction requirements mean our targets for per capita ridership by 2030 should be in the same ballpark as those of the early 1950’s.

          2. Heidi, thanks for continuing the commentary about the likely number of PT trips required in 2030. It is important to design a network and pricing structure that enables this.
            I suspect that it won’t be a linear progression because some of the projects that will allow a big ridership increase will occur later in the next decade.

      1. I don’t think commuters are that important to be honest, trips for work only make up 30% of travel, and those that you might call ‘commuters’ would be an even smaller proportion.

        Focussing on the census journey to work modeshare is to ignore almost three quarters of transport activity.

        I’d love to see the current PT use by trip reason. I’d be surprised if more than half was commuters.

        1. “I’d love to see the current PT use by trip reason. I’d be surprised if more than half was commuters.”

          For this to give us meaningful data would require a shift in thinking. What I tend to see in surveys is limited options for using a particular mode of transport.
          Why did you cycle today? Were you going to work or school? Were you doing it for sport/exercise? Were you doing it for recreation?
          For me this misses out completely the reasons I use my bike. I bike to the local shop to buy food. I bike to the library. We have at different times biked to sport either the Saturday morning game or mid week practice.
          None of these involve work or school, I’m not doing it for exercise or taking part in sport while cycling and I’m not doing it for recreation. I’m riding my bike because I prefer it as a form of transport for short trips where I have to be somewhere else to perform a particular task.

          1. Would be good to see this same data for car-journeys also. What proportion are frivolous, low-value journeys that do not need to be made or can be made alternately, yet they currently count towards the observed “traffic demand” that is used to push for expensive new facilities at no additional charge to users.

          2. According to those numbers only 1 in 10 trip legs were “underway to work”.

            How is it possible to have a rush hour if the proportion of commuters is this low?

            Or maybe nobody with a job had time to do the survey.

        2. “I imagine that would require not only massive investment as a carrot ”
          For 600 million trips as a target probably yes. What is very evident about our current system is that buses do the heavy lifting as AT describe it. It is the same in Singapore where there are about 3 million trips per day by bus. So Auckland could add lots of capacity quite cheaply with others owning the infrastructure – buses, bus stops etc
          I am not advocating buses as the only approach but they are a means to rapidly grow patronage, much as is happening now on the Northern busway.

          1. The reason why bus patronage was able to increase on the busway is because it is *separated*. More buses sharing congested roads does not produce the same effect.

        3. Nick, the figures suggest that you are wrong. Figures from MBIE show that there are 2.4 million employees in NZ. It seems reasonable to assume that 800,000 of these work in Auckland. Not all of these are full timers and not all need to commute by transport to work so let’s reduce that figure by 30%. That still leaves 560,000 to get to and from work each day; or 1.12 million trips per day. Scaling that up using 240 days per year that is a total of 268 million trips per year. It dwarfs the current 100 million.

          These trips are vitally important because many of them cause peak congestion. They are important because most of them are non discretionary – people have to go to work.

          I absolutely agree with you that non commutes are important, but not at the expense of loosing focus on commuters.

          Many of the non commute trips may be the hardest to change because of AT’s other policies that enable driving. Such factors as discounted AT off peak parking; free parking in the evenings; free parking on Sundays. All of these factors are a disincentive to using PT.

          It seems sensible to consider all uses of PT when making decisions about how to expand usage. Is the person who is the most committed to PT the one who uses it 10 times every week, or the person who uses it spasmodically as it suits?

          1. AT focusses very hard on commuters. It is time to add to that focus is what Nick is saying I think. There is a risk in assuming the market is only in one place, because the service levels provided also shape the market. Peak journeys are the most expensive to supply too, so there may be opportunities we are missing to grow other markets and spread the current very peaky pattern. Not least with price incentives and all day turn-up-and-go frequencies…

          2. Patrick, I completely agree with you that peak PT transport trips are the most expensive to add, assuming that there is no spare capacity. (We know that there is somewhere around 40% capacity on the Northern busway.) The corollary though is that peak car trips are even more expensive to add. The $700 million that is being spent on the Northern motorway is money that could be better spent elsewhere on PT infrastructure. That is why it is critical to move peak car trips to PT.
            I am yet to see any evidence that reducing off peak PT prices will reduce peak car trips, and so there will continue to be pressure to widen roads. Part of the reason that there will be pressure is that, as you know, AT has metrics that they have set to achieve for road traffic flow.
            Minister Twyford is saying it is not possible to find more money for PT. Local councillors are currently talking that it not possible to divert spending from roads to PT. It is therefore critical that Auckland reduces the demand to build more roads. I am interested though to hear your solution about fixing congestion other than your previously well articulated views.
            I share Heidi’s belief that Auckland rapidly needs to reduce carbon emissions via reducing car trips. It is a problem way bigger than making PT cheaper off peak.
            I would also like to see the pricing model that you see would best enable PT growth. Much of Europe seems to be based on the monthly/ yearly price to give the best deals. I note London has off peak pricing, but if this is the reason for peak fares being so hellishly expensive in London then I cannot see that model being useful here. I suspect PT works so well in London because a congestion charge of 11 odd pounds is the alternative.

          3. Further on my above comment on the HTS data: Travel surveys indicate that a clear minority of vehicle trips taken during peak hours is to commute to work.

            I find this somewhat surprising, but it’s pretty clear in the data!

          4. Peter,
            those figures are interesting.

            I would have thought that “went home” should have been 50% of all trips for obvious reasons. I don’t understand how you have formed the view that “went to work” should be doubled and not say, “sport and exercise”.

            As you say, the figures are what they are. “Travel surveys indicate that a clear minority of vehicle trips taken during peak hours is to commute to work.” If this is right then it suggests that AT is making a very poor job of penetrating the worker commute trip to convert it to a PT trip. This is a huge lost opportunity because a majority of workers make 10 trips per week. It is hard to imagine that many individuals make 10 trips for any other reason and so it is vital to capture these trips as PT ones.

            I wonder if it also suggests that a far reaching social change should be in order; for shops to open at 10am as they do in much of Europe to disperse all the shopping trips from peak?

            Having said this, I have a very healthy skepticism about these figures. Last year I obtained figures from AT that showed that the combined total of secondary school plus tertiary trips made up just 15% of all trips. In the HTS figures education trips are more than went to work trips. It just seems bizarre.

          5. John you are assuming everyone goes home between every journey, every visit, or errand. Really? That’s an odd assumption, and certainly not what I do, do you?

          6. Patrick, first of all I believe that all PT decisions should be based on empirical evidence; not some politician feel good factor or vote capturing mechanism; or any general perception of what is needed. That is how the motorway system was developed it seems and is still being built for peak demand – the holiday highway as an example – part of a road I travel reasonably often.

            Having said that my perception is that on all the commutes that I have done most fellow travellers seem to have the same purpose. When the train stops at Manukau very few get off. It makes sense because at 8:15 the shops aren’t open. When I have bussed to Albany although I am walking towards the mall I am not surrounded by others doing the same thing.

            Largely my PT trips are single event: work during the week and entertainment, shopping on the week end. I am not a consumerist so my patterns may be different. Because we live in a town centre most of my trips are on foot.

            Maybe I just don’t have sufficient information to understand the table. Say I went to the gym every morning before work by bus and then continued the journey to work by foot. Presumably this appears as a sport journey when more validly a work journey?

            I am skeptical that the figures are of any use, but I am happy to be proved wrong.

            I am going to tell my favourite story about interpreting figures because it shows the huge mistakes that can be made if it is wrong. In Takapuna there was huge demand for extra car parks because supposedly shoppers needed them and existing car parks were 85% full at peak. What everyone conveniently ignored was that 50% of all car parks in Takapuna are occupied by long stay parkers. $30 million has been wasted on a new car park which if the farebox recovery system allowed would have held PT fares for two years.

          7. The Albany example is telling — you get off the NEX, and then what? Ideally that station would be in the middle of a town centre and you could easily do some shopping on your way. But instead you’re on a car park in the middle of nowhere, so now what.

            I used to regularly get groceries on my way home back when I was commuting by bicycle from Milford. I’m back on my bicycle now, but I don’t go near a town centre on my way home. So no shopping underway.

          8. I think there’s no conflict of goals here. If people are able to use public transport for their offpeak travel they will use it more for their peak travel too. At this stage of our city’s development, it’s clear that improvements to offpeak public transport service will increase peak ridership too.

            There are many people who drive to work not because they really want to but because the trickier journeys later in the day (maybe around the middle of the day, or maybe getting home from the evening commitment) aren’t yet attractive by public transport.

            The question then becomes, do we have to squabble over the “best” next move, or is this just more divide and conquer stuff?

            All of it is needed: focusing on what would help at the peak, on what would help offpeak, on what active mode improvements will help ridership, on how to price driving appropriately to cover externalities, and on how to reallocate road space and reorganise road layouts to provide a better network.

          9. Roland “The Albany example is telling”

            I completely agree with you. I think that when light rail to the Shore is built that a (the) Albany station needs to be adjacent to Albany mall in some fashion.

            This mall is a huge generator of carbon emissions as it is designed to attract customers from all over the Shore.

            I have long been a proponent of forgoing the current Northern bus way extension and doing a proper light rail solution. I am told that it would add expense by starting at the Albany end and that bus transfers wouldn’t work. And then I see on this site someone saying, “lets build light rail to Mt Roskill initially” and do transfers by bus.

            Whatever happens viable PT options should serve Albany mall as happens with major malls all over the world. I still have it etched in my mind many years after visiting the Parque Auruco Mall in Santiago where buses seemed to arrive and depart every minute.

    2. The recent AT fare schemes report thing showed a lot more user growth potential on current network still in our back pocket. Obviously to weigh against using spending on missing links etc for true growth.

      Then uh Hop for NFC phones, free bus WiFi, what else?

      I think A4E can be a conversion tool as well when people experience the city centre as a collective of PT-linked locales, moving from waterfront to midtown to k road seamlessly.

      Exciting times.

    3. Yeah, funny thing is when people comment on PT in Auckland, I tend to say, “It’s actually quite good now,” which is something I would not have said 10 years ago.

  4. It seems like the old world of PT I knew is gone. No more missing university tests because two buses didn’t show up. No more being stranded in town because the last bus left twenty minutes before it should have. What a welcome relief that must be for today’s younger people and adults.

    1. Yes. Funny you should say that. A member of my household on his way to a test this morning ran the 7 minute journey to try to catch a bus only 2 minutes away. And missed it. But a different route came 2 minutes later. Just 10 years ago there was only one (more circuitous) route, which took much longer again because of people paying cash, and at that peak time of day would’ve been at 30 minute frequency.

      It really is a nice way to travel now.

      1. Heidi, it’s still 30 minutes for most of Auckland. You are absolutely right to highlight frequency, where more than half of Auckland lives in a black spot where if you miss that bus you have to go back home and drive a car.

        I think we need to eliminate those black spots urgently if we are going to be realistic about reducing carbon pollution.

        1. I agree we need to improve frequencies. However, here is a risk in some lower density suburbs that emissions will be increased by putting on more bus services. It is conceivable that ridership would be so low that there would be more emissions per person than if they drove.

    2. I’m not a frequent PT user but in light of the 100 million news, I decided to catch a bus into the city centre for an event last night. Returning back home at 11pm I was amazed to see the bus half full of people from all walks of life returning from dinners, shows and work. I thought the bus would be empty at that time on a weeknight. Was super easy and didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes for the bus each way!

      1. That’s right. I’m a frequent offpeak bus user, and have been for a long time. A decade ago, I would often be the only one on a service. Now, at the most unlikely times on a weekday public holiday, or late at night, or crosstown at 6:30 am, buses have 12 or 25 people.

        It’s what happens when the network becomes advanced enough to be able to cater to many different sorts of trips, not just the tide of commuters into town and out. And I think we’ve only just started on this.

        It’s why AT need to focus on extending the span of services, and on improving the offpeak frequencies to make transfers quick. The efficiency of the whole network goes up if these offpeak trips are well patronised, and means households can go to one car, or from one to none, where catering just to commuting trips does not.

        1. I’d love to see AT and Council get more aggressive about pushing all day (and all night) turn up and go services. Lets say 80% of the population within walking distance of such a service and 95% within cycling distance by 2040.

          The argument against will be that it can’t be made to work; but we need to stop trying to play catchup with our transport and be proactive. Geometry and geography aren’t going to change, our current approach of building roads to the cheapest land available has got us into this mess and unless we change tack we aren’t going to get out of it.

    3. It’s certainly better than it was, but still room for improvement: e.g., twice recently at Albany busway station I’ve missed an NX2 to the city because it departed (empty) about 10 seconds before the connecting 83 bus opened its doors to let people out to transfer. This was off-peak, so it was a 15 minute wait each time – very frustrating for the sake of 10 seconds. The NX2 drivers clearly saw the 83 drive past them and pull-up opposite them, but they drove off empty anyway. I don’t understand that mentality – even if they’re working for rival bus companies, it’s surely better to have passengers than to not have passengers.

      Has anyone else had similar experiences?

      1. The NX drivers have always been bad at that. It also shouldn’t matter that they drive for rival bus companies as they don’t receive money from fares.

      2. I recently witnessed a bus driver being quite rude to an elderly woman who was trying to find out which bus she should catch, on the basis that ‘that’s another bus company. How should I know?”

        Privatisation and competition between companies seems to work in many ways to prevent a healthy ‘service for residents’ mindset.

  5. I’m getting a sense that ridership numbers often exceed expectations in planning documents and business cases. Is that the case? Matt, do you think if AT / NZTA more accurately predicted PT uptake that it would make a significant difference to business case outcomes or speed of funding/delivery?

    1. In short, yes.

      A longer answer is that I think the bit that has been missing is often each improvement is looked at in isolation and so we’re missed the multiplier effects of the improvements. In saying that, I guess it’s better to beat expectations than the other way which allows doubters to use over estimation as a tool against improvement

  6. The free day doesn’t include Waiheke ferries. Well OK, we know why: PTOM exemption. But why doesn’t it include Waiheke buses either?

    1. Oddly it seems to include Devonport ferries, which are also under PTOM exemption. My guess is it is more to do with concerns around overcrowding on Waiheke ferries, especially if it is a nice day.

    2. If you follow the news, the Waiheke ferry is overloaded with tourists already.

      This is surely a strategic move simply to prevent 50,000 Aucklanders all trying to take a free day trip to Waikeke at the same time, on a day that already has peak tourism demands.

      1. Yes, that may well be a factor as far as the ferry goes. But I asked about why the Waiheke *buses* were not included? Cheers.

      2. Why don’t they have it so that people from Waiheke have free travel to and back from Waiheke so that they can have a day out in Auckland . And Fullers only charge the people going to the Island . As most from the Island in the course of the working week use alot of the PT in the City which also helps with the increase of the usage numbers .

        1. Waiheke Island residents are likely the greatest users of Public Transport in Auckland as the only realistic way off is by PT. I surely can’t be too hard to have all Waiheke originated return fares from the island free for a day.

          1. Perhaps AT are afraid the 8500 permanent residents will travel that day across to Auckland for a free trip and close the Island down for the day

  7. Nice milestone.

    One thing on trip lengths: rather than splitting by mode (e.g. rail and bus) it’s often more relevant to analyse by network function.

    Reason being northern express services probably have a trip length that is more like rail.

  8. A low cost way to get more using PT is by improving paths and walkways to them.
    Penrose station requires walking 4 long ramps, each about 30 meters, total over 120 meters and is offputting. To get to Otahuhu station from Station Road is a struggle. Using platform 1 and 2 would save 50% rather than platforms 2 and 3.
    Puhinui the same but is renewing. Underpasses like at Parnell, Ellerslie, Morningside and GI are so easy.

    1. +1 And changing the phasing at traffic lights so people walking don’t have to wait long makes a big difference when transferring.

        1. x 100 mason. Cycle access – which effectively expands a station/bus stop’s catchment area – must be a focal area for AT moving forward. Pedestrian access too…

      1. How do we convince AT to put pedestrian facilities in place at bus stops?
        Example:
        I live in an apartment on Hobson St, on the opposite side of the road from the last south-bound bus-stop. If I’m on my own in light traffic, I can bound across the road in under a minute, including waiting time. Of course, this never happens, as I have three preschoolers. Instead, I need to walk to Union Street, cross at the intersection, and walk back. With kids, it takes 10 minutes.

        There are about a thousand people living in the four buildings around me. For the able bodied and fit, catching the bus isn’t a problem. But for kids, for slow people, it’s nearly two blocks away.

        1. SOA, good call. That’s a dangerous run at the best of time and a really tough walk with kids. Apparently AT has a push on re pedestrian safety, especially safety around schools, but I’m yet to see many improvements…

          for another example of awful ped amenity, check this out. Try crossing this racetrack four lane road, with multiple side roads, to get to the bus stop on the right or the stop just behind the camera perspective…. it’s a nightmare.
          https://www.google.co.nz/maps/@-36.8992064,174.8189409,3a,75y,112.07h,101.01t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sU40xIO2PBg8RuRmg70Mmlg!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DU40xIO2PBg8RuRmg70Mmlg%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D143.77669%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656

          1. The example you give would be so off putting to users. A safe easy to access bus stop only one way of your journay and the other way a four lane, take your life in your hands, road to cross.
            One safe crossing here, I think just the other side of the bus stop just out of view, would increase the number of people able to use both stops safely.

          2. CK, trust me, it is.
            Local residents, the local board, and anyone who cares can see there is a problem and have told Auckland Transport so. This is just one black spot in Ellerslie, but AT aren’t interested.

            All we can do is keep hammering – if you have pedestrian and cycling black spots in your area, keep complaining to AT in writing. Eventually the penny will drop.

    2. Yes this.
      My partner doesn’t take PT half the year because the path to the station from our house isn’t lit in the middle, and the alternative route is half a kilometre longer and requires dashing across a four lane arterial of death in the dark.

    3. I walk to the Panmure train station daily and it’ll be interesting to see how usage changes once the first stage of the Eastern Busway (just started construction) opens. Currently the walk-up catchment to the station is extremely hostile to pedestrians as getting there involves multiple crossings of busy roads and a circuitous route around the Panmure roundabout. During construction Fulton Hogan has managed to make the area even more hostile to pedestrians by closing footpaths without providing alternative routes.

      Once construction is finished the roundabout will have been replaced with traffic lights, making the walk to the station both more direct and safer. So local patronage should increase, and that’s before you account for passengers arriving by bus from the East to transfer to train. Hopefully AT will foresee this surge in patronage and gate Panmure station so we don’t spend even longer queuing for the few Hop readers on the platforms (a daily evening peak problem).

      1. I don’t believe gating is a priority for Panmure as the majority of passengers are heading to or from Britomart so get picked up there anyway.

        However, as a regular user I agree the evening peak is a pain. I think the solution would be more HOP readers, with some up on the concourse as well.

        One of the big issues at Panmure is the lack of stairs leading up to the main concourse, even if HOP card issue was solved there would be a lot of congestion around the escalator.

        1. Agreed.

          The best exit is the ground level one hidden behind the lift but unfortunately doesn’t have its own Hop reader. The one that has 3 stairs up then about 100m of level pathway to the carpark. It frustrates me how easily this could have been made wheelchair/pram accessible but the station designers didn’t bother.

        2. Panmure is underbuilt. A victim of our terrible transport models built on assumptions of resistance to train travel, and especially, resistance to transferring.

          The good news is that AT learnt from that so subsequent station rebuilds: Ōtāhuhu, and now Puhinui are built properly for growth, not just enough for now. Our agencies are learning…

          1. As long as all of the rebuilds cater for 9 car trains.

            It might take longer to get through all of the stations, but it is better to get started now than have another go later.

    4. Jim is also right, there are plenty of stations which could benefit from improved walking (and of course cycling) access.
      E.g. Sylvia Park requires a long, circuitous walk to get to from the east, making many workplaces and educational institutions unnecessarily hard to get to.
      Greenlane as well is much further to walk from the north and south than it should be. Additional exits could be built off the platform to the north and south, there is space, but no imagination apparently.
      I asked Phil Twyford at a public meeting before the last election if there was a fund planned for such small improvements as well as the big ticket items, he said no. With luck the fuel tax revenue will have changed things…

      1. I think the correct answer Phil Twyford should have given is that we have the Regional Land Transfer Fund. It is supposed to be funding safety for people walking and cycling. The Future Funding Strategy laid out the philosophy of ringfencing road user charges, and said:

        “Pedestrians are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles. Cyclists are legally entitled to be on the road. Motorists have a duty to pay for the facilities needed to keep them safe from motor vehicles.”

        So even before this more enlightened government manages to update all the strategies, policies, legislation and practices to ensure we can actually fund safe and sustainable transport, the previous government had already said that this kind of work should be funded by the NLTF.

        What’s eventuated – neglect of basic safe infrastructure for people walking and cycling – is an example of choosing to apply only those parts of the strategy that suited their goals.

      2. I have an alternate view about Sylvia Park. The operating model of this complex is to induce customers to drive from all over Auckland with a consequent high level of carbon emissions. Increasingly this is not a satisfactory outcome for Auckland. As a good NZ corporate citizen (that reports on its sustainability policy to NZSE) it should be responsible for ameliorating environmental effects. At the same time that it furiously builds car park buildings it should be looking to ensure that its customers can access its centre by other means.

          1. So just a simple low maximum allowable carpark limit would have shifted their focus to making that investment in the station work for them.

            Alternatively, if they’re given freedom to put that many carparks in, I guess they should be charged the cost those trips impose on society – present and future. That would mount up and could have been just as effective.

        1. I would never go there if I couldn’t take the train. That carpark is the absolute pits and the surrounding streets you might as well walk what a car shambles. Maybe there could be a special insurance policy for people who never drive within one kilometre of Sylvia Park.
          I wonder if you have seen they have two car parks set up for electric vehicles right next there are three mobile caravans selling food and they get powered by petrol generators ffs. Save the planet why don’t you.

  9. I think our planners are now more focused on customer service. Making stations easier and better connections for customers must be the first priority.

    1. Hmmm. Back in 2013 at a CRL submission hearing I implored AT to ensure planning and provision of pleasant, quiet and safe walking and cycling access routes to all new/upgraded train stations. They assured me they would certainly do that as part of everything they do. The evidence given in some of the comments above on new/upgraded train stations and bus stops (admittedly not on the CRL, but a network is a network) suggests they might have ‘forgotten’ to do what they assured would be done. Maybe PT ridership would be somewhat more than 100 million now if AT had done it?

  10. Thanks from all Waihekeans, who pay rates and transport charges (propping up your AT free ride day too), for not being invited to the free ride party. Smash the Exempt Status!

  11. Good to see the growth. Perfect storm of Britomart, electric train network, HOP integrated fares & new bus networks, plus a number of other things as mentioned and some.

    ps free PT also won’t include the Rakino Island Ferry, but at $63 return I don’t think anyone expected that.

    1. Fair enough points made here and above about excluding high-cost services with limited space, but why is the Waiheke local bus service excluded?

  12. Matt: you mention that we have 57 trains, plus 15 more coming.

    Does this mean the Dmu’s have been written off ? Can we hope that some of
    the incoming Emu’s might be Bemu’s ?

    We wait and hope and dream.

    1. No the 15 more are to allow all existing services (excl Onehunga) to be 6-car trains, BEMUs appear to have been abandoned for now.

  13. So, nothing for Pukekohe then ?

    I went through Parnell this morning, and was surprised to see gates being installed.

    I would have thought other stations would have a higher priority than Parnell.

  14. Pfft. Auckland PT is still bad. Buses still not frequent enough (I advocate for 5 minutes frequency all day on EVERY bus route), and not enough bus priority. What happened to the installation of continuous bus lanes on Mt Eden Rd?

    1. I am so pleased with these comments. When we started here most comments were also complaints, but then it was all about how no one wants to use PT and that we’re all dreaming. Now the complaints are that what we’ve long advocated for isn’t arriving fast enough.

      Feels like winning to me.

      1. +1
        It sure seems like attitudes have changed significantly in the past few years … at least in the comments on this site, and the discussions at public meetings (I’m not sure whether it’s filtered-through to ZB listeners and Herald readers …).

        1. Jamie, the readers or the columists? I love the Herald on-line now. You get the first paragraph that gives the important stuff that they use to draw your attention and you don’t have to read the advertorial, invective and opinionated diatribe that follows.

          Great what Stuff are doing. They are asking through a survey about what people want to hear about climate change. Yes it is clever marketing, because the Colmar Brunton survey of last year said that more than 50% of people are concerned about climate change; but if it also displays a social conscience then this is a huge step forward that one of our leading media outlets is inviting conversations.

          1. Good point re. Herald readers vs columnists/content John; I stand corrected. Also good insight and good news re. Stuff: asking the people, and inviting conversations.

            I meant to say previously “Hats-off” to the Greater Auckland team; I think they can take a lot of credit for the 100 million PT ridership milestone. I don’t think AC/AT/NZTA would’ve got things to where they are now without the relentless, smart advocacy and lobbying by Matt, Patrick, Harriet, etc. It just goes to show what a handful of dedicated people can achieve. Thanks Greater Auckland!

  15. Matt L , A question is there any data out there about the numbers using PT if the trams were not removed ? Looking at the numbers from 1958 I would suspect the usage could possibly be around say 300millions plus if they were still there and upgraded not removed like they have/did in a number of cities around the world .

    1. He he. That’s one of my favourite topics. And honestly, who would know?

      If they were not removed because they were valued, and a conscious choice had been made to go down the public transport route… and thus, for the same reason, they were maintained, given priority as conflicts arose, extended, improved as technology advanced… would anyone doubt our ridership numbers would rival the best in the world?

      If they were not removed but had to share corridors with cars, were given little funding so maintenance was poor, frequencies were poor, and breakdowns common, our ridership wouldn’t have been much better than it was, I imagine.

      But there’s a range of possible outcomes between those two extremes. We had a bit of to-ing and fro-ing of policy and practice on other issues. I can’t see that transport policy wouldn’t have swung around a bit, too, if the trams had survived that initial era of destruction. There were public transport advocates throughout our history.

      My hypothesis is, that the outcome would have been higher ridership. I reckon by the 80’s a likely scenario would be that it was 30% higher or so than it was. And that when the rail revival happened, a similar thing would have happened with the trams, so that the network effect we’re seeing now might have happened earlier. I think every step of the PT revival would have been easier.

      And I’m sure others will disagree. 🙂

      1. Pick a city of similar population and pt usage to Auckland at time trams were removed which didnt remove them and compare? Im assuming Melbourne was substantially larger at the time?

        1. Melbourne certainly suffered a significant drop in ridership even with the trams, it really was a period of people discovering the joys of driving and suburban living. After a while they discovered the downsides.

          1. According to the stories, Melbourne simply got lucky in that they’d just spent a heap of money on the tram system prior to the advent of mass motordom and urban sprawl. It was obviously difficult to turn their back on this kind of investment.

          2. Yes, most cities like Auckland built trams in the 1910s and 1920s, so went into WWII with a pretty old system… An after WWII rationing the found themselves with completely shagged 40 year old fleet and tracks in dire need of replacement. The newly improved buses looked like the go at the time so they ripped them out and replaced with road PT.

            Melbourne on the other hand built cable cars in the 1910s, and didn’t replace them until the 1930s. So at the end of the 1940s Melbourne had practically new trams and tracks that needed nothing doing. So they stayed. Their equivalent “renew trams or replace with buses” moment came in the early 70s when they very nearly shut down 2/3rds of the network. But a chap named Risson spearheaded the tram movement and they invested in new fleet (the Z class) instead.

          3. Nick R – what about Toronto? I understood that was a pretty good comparison.

            What was different in Toronto that they kept most of their trams?

          4. Not very familiar with Toronto but I understand they didn’t keep most of their network, the actually cut a whole bunch of lines and contracted. But in doing so they did double down on the lines they retained with new fleet and services.

        2. One city could be San Fransisco with their cable car , Trolley/tram cars and with those they bought up the old cars you see now from all over the States and other parts of the world and in 2017 they only have a pop. of 884,363 compared to Auckland’s 1.4million and today they still have them plus Trolley buses and LRT and where did we go wrong we followed the LA version of history with cars , cars and more cars .

          Back in the early 80’s the Muldoon government gave Auckland the funds to upgrade the Trolley bus system but they decided to flog everything off to Wellington and if they hadn’t done that we could have had artic trolleys running across Auckland like they have in San Fransisco now [made in czech republic by Skodia] And San Francisco Muni has the largest trolley bus fleet of any transit agency in the United States and Canada. Muni’s trolley coaches (as well as its streetcars and cable cars) are almost entirely pollution-free, since their electric power comes from the city’s hydroelectric Hetch Hetchy Water and Power System.

          so why can’t we do that here ?

          And this link showing them here
          ;,-

          1. And Heidi if you look at the front of the buses in the video they have bike racks similar to what they have here on the buses on Waiheke

          2. And if you check this video out from Skoda they show a Trolley bus at 7.40 that shows one that can crry around 200pas which would have been good on the old Mt Eden route ;-

          3. David – San Francisco is the centre of a metro area with around 4 million people. A more accurate comparison would be with the old Auckland City Council pre-amalgamation.

  16. And Salzburg still has trolley buses and some of them are articulated.

    Yes Wellington’s decision was short sighted, but so much of what happens in Wgtn is. I could never comprehend that with the Victoria tunnel being problematic that they would build a major leisure centre on the other side.

  17. The free day might be even more effective if it was actually on a week day, i.e. a work day. Preferably a Monday. People might then be tempted to leave the car at home and go to and from work by public transport. They might like it so much that they do it again on Tuesday, even if they now have to pay. And Wednesday. And so on. By the end of the week they might be converts to public transport.
    Another possible strategy is to have free days at random, not announced in advanced. People might then be tempted to use PT in the hope of ‘winning a prize’.
    Probably to imaginative for the horde of overpaid underachievers running AT!

    1. Why did you have to add that last sentence which screams “obnoxious baby boomer”? At any rate, it’s very simple why they didn’t make the free day during the week. It would cost too much and there isn’t the spare capacity.

      1. Zippo, so what expectations do you think that baby boomers, obnoxious or otherwise) have of AT?

        I am close to being a baby boomer and I think AT are under achieving because the current PT ridership growth is insufficient to curtail carbon emissions. Does that make me obnoxious?

  18. About twenty years ago I was at planning workshops in which it was jokingly suggested that the aim of the ARC as-was, was to “turn Auckland into Portland-on-the-Waitemata”.

    The Portland system handles about 100m boardings per year, in a market catchment of about 1.5m people.

    So, have we finally done it?

    1. As of 2018, Portland did about 110m trips with a metro population of about 2.4m giving it a per capita rate of around 45 (note this has fallen a little bit in recent years).

      So we’re doing 100m on about 1.7m or about 60 per person. So I’d say we’re exceeding Portland

      A comparison, in 2000, Portland did about 90m with population of 1.9m

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