I’ve been bit caught up in other posts so have finally managed to get around to the PT and cycling stats from December.

Public Transport

Every year December and January duke it out for the wooden spoon of ridership as the summer holidays see the number of boardings drop dramatically. Typically December wins this matchup, having done so for 14 of the last 17 years I’ve got data for. However, this year there’s a good chance January will come out on top, and for the second year in a row, as industrial action saw many NZ Bus services cancelled. Despite this, thanks to the improved network, overall usage this December was still an increase on December 2018, albeit only slightly.

ATs numbers show that overall there were 6.69 million boardings in December, up 0.3% on December-18. But it is the distribution of those boardings is different to normal and interesting. As you can see below, our ‘Other buses’ category, which is all bus trips not on the busway, recorded a 5% drop. It appears not all of that was lost though and that at least some people changed to use other bus services, the train or the ferry. In terms of the rail, December was the highest percentage growth in a month since August-2017.

Here’s another way of looking at the overall figures before and it also shows just how much things have changed over the last 15 years. One of the things it highlights to me is that it wasn’t that long ago that we were getting similar figures in March.

NX2 to Hibiscus Coast

A couple of weeks ago we covered in our weekly roundup an AT press release stating

“We’re adding an additional 20 NX2 peak services, these will be express services from Hibiscus Coast station to the city, they’ll start later this month. This will improve travel time for Hibiscus Coast customers by taking away the need to transfer at Albany.

AT got in touch to clarify their statement. They say these Hibiscus Coast NX2 services are just extensions of runs by existing buses so are not ‘additional’ like their press release indicated. Also as there appears to have been some confusion about whether these NX2s will stop at Albany or bypass it. The answer is they will stop at Albany and all other busway stations too.

This service extension starts from Sunday.

Electric CityLink Bus

On thing that will help with not only ridership but also emissions from later this year will see the CityLink buses converted to electric.

As part of Auckland’s Low Emission Bus Roadmap, Auckland Transport and its operator NZ Bus have agreed the CityLink bus services will only use electric buses from the end of the year.

Mayor Phil Goff says the 12 new electric buses will help reduce carbon emissions and help Auckland towards meeting meet its climate change goals.

“Electrifying Auckland’s CityLink buses will help improve air quality by reducing pollution from black carbon and nitrogen oxide emitted by the current diesel vehicles,” he says.

“Black carbon is associated with health problems and has been found in Queen Street at levels higher than in some major European and US cities, so it’s a priority for us to address this issue.

“The introduction of these new fully electric buses is also a step toward electrifying the rest of Auckland’s bus fleet, which when completed will stop around 93,000 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere every year.

This is a good start but we’re obviously going to need to do a lot more for the other approximately 1350 buses in the Auckland fleet.

One of the things about these new buses, and something that will definitely help with the ridership and usability goals are the features of the new buses

“The new buses will be air conditioned and feature 2 plus 1 seat configuration in the front section of the bus and wide rear doors to improve customer experience with faster boarding and alighting, allowing more passengers and faster trips on typically short journeys.”


Like the start of 2020, December was generally fairly warm and dry. That likely combined with the industrial action saw more people getting their bikes out. AT say there was a an overall 4.5% increase in usage in December compared to the year before. The NW cycleway at Kingsland has become old faithful when it comes to ongoing growth.

Wellington Public Transport

Wellington too saw growth in PT use in December with NZ with buses up 5% and trains up 3%

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  1. The cycleways have certainly been busy. Sometimes I have had to wait more than one green cycle to get across the intersections up Nelson st. I think a lot of adults got E bikes for Christmas 😀

  2. I didn’t ride the buses much in December but a lot of the ones I did had the HOP reader turned off and the drivers were letting people ride for free. Presumably none of those free journeys would be captured in the ridership figures. That would contribute towards the drop in ‘Other Buses’.

  3. I think you are probably being generous in allowing the description “clarify” to apply when AT initially say “additional” and “express service” but then come back with “not additional, just extensions” and “still stops at all stations”. Any confusion there may have been after the first statement was solely at AT’s end – either the communication department got it wrong or they have changed their minds since.

    1. AT comms got this wrong first time around. It was always the intention to call these services at Albany (and all other stations south thereof).

  4. Those “Black Carbon” measures in Queen St should be prompting AT & the council to do more than just put electric buses on the Link run. I would like to see them ban all Diesel vehicles from Queen St outside 7am to 10pm.

  5. And with that 5% loss will that have been caused by the holiday period as I found out , a service I wanted was cancelled and the other that I did use was down to every second bus . That may have been 1 reason and the 2nd a large number of commuters were away and out of town .

    1. They were out of town last summer too. Commuters being on holiday is definitely not a reason for a drop in ridership from Dec 18 to Dec 19.

  6. I hope that next christmas/new year break AT takes more care with its timetables.
    In the timetables for 6 January to 10 January 2020, on some offpeak services
    from Britomart to Pukekohe we were given just two minutes to change from
    Emu to Dmu at Papakura. Even the young ones were struggling. We normally
    get a minimum of eight minutes, and even that is not enough when the Emu
    arrives late, as they often do.

        1. Seems not many know for sure yet, still design & planning stages:

          Construction of the electrification of 19km of southern rail line connecting Papakura and Pukekohe will begin by late 2020, but the details of the project remain obscure.

          The $315 million upgrade will come as part of the $6.8 billion dollar investment in transport infrastructure announced by the government on January 29.


          “Like with Wiri to Quay Park, construction starts later this year and will take till 2023/24 to complete.”

    1. I observed that too on a recent train trip to/from Pukekohe. I was surprised, after arriving in Papakura on a late running EMU, to see the DMU was not held at Papakura, and that the DMU departed Papakura without the TM bothering to check that people from the EMU had made their connection (or if the EMU had arrived at all!). Not a good look for AT. I observed a number of people miss their connections not once but twice (as I observed the same thing happen to another group of EMU-to-DMU transfer passengers on my way back home via Papakura in the other direction) forcing a 30m wait for the next connection. Fairly disappointing to see after a good number of years of customer service improvements following the establishment of AT. I can only assume AT has told Transdev the DMU must depart on time regardless of late running EMUs.

  7. off-peak growth in rail patronage is great to see.

    Generally, though, 0.3% month-on-month growth is unlikely to be keeping up with population growth.

    And that’s concerning given the effects of the bus strike and rail signalling meltdowns are yet to show up in the numbers.

    Unless something changes, I’d suggest Auckland’s looking at an anaemic few years of patronage growth before the CRL comes on-stream.

    Before then what are the projects that might be completed?

    1. Northern busway extenstion, Eastern busway 1st stage and Puhinui Station and associated bus lanes are the main three before CRL opens. They all open next year.

      1. Yes, the two big years for openings are 2021 and 2024, meanwhile the current new train tranche ought to help. A least enable more 6-car sets. Ideally they would allow all day 10 minute frequencies, but I see no attempt by AT to deliver this necessity anytime soon. Not understanding the difference between a Metro and a commuter service, it seems, despite them using the name of the former.

        1. There won’t be 10 minute all day frequencies until the third main is completed at least, there isn’t enough space on the network off peak at the moment.

      2. Great thanks for that Jezza.

        Of those projects you list, is it reasonable to think the Eastern busway stage 1 is likely to have the biggest implications for ridership?

        Even so, that’s not a lot before the CRL opens. I keep thinking we need a new “New Network” to be ready for then, too.

        Appreciate the new rolling stock for rail will enable higher frequencies, although I’m not sure that’ll drive huge ridership growth.

        1. One simple thing AT could do to increase ridership is more routes that are frequent and frequent routes that are more frequent.

        2. Yes, but for rail, freight trains complicate the picture and soon the CRL works at Mt Eden will also make themselves felt. Could be a lot more waiting at Kingsland and Grafton.

    2. Can I suggest again the low hanging fruit.
      More footpaths to stations. Overbridges shortened, escalators installed or steps added, eg the long discouraging walks at Penrose, Papatoetoe. Some easy underpasses. LED timetables outside the station giving passengers knowledge of how long they have to get to the platform. Open platform 3 at Otahuhu to make the station much more accessable.

    3. Still a lot of this track, signal fault stuff rearing it’s ugly head Affecting confidence in a reliable service. I understand post CRL Britomart should be more reliable all things been equal due to the simpler track alignments.

    4. Stu the 0.3% is with the bus strikes taken into account. AT say:

      December normalised adjustment ~ +1.1% allowing for special event patronage, with one more business day and one less weekend/Public Holidays, same tertiary term day and four less school term days.

      But then they also say

      The reduction of patronage due to Union meeting and cancelled schedules was estimated to be ~ 500 thousand this would bring normalised adjustment to ~ +8.6%.

      I do agree that things are likely to be a bit anemic this year but there’s still growth there and as other mentioned, next year we’ll see a few new lollies – although Northern Busway extension is not likely till 2022.

      For some others saying that 3rd main will enable more frequency, it will but it’s not due to finish till 2024/25, as is Pukekohe electrification. Also it’s worth pointing out that AT in their latest RPTP downgraded their plans for rail frequencies and even post CRL are only planning for 15 minute off peak frequencies see

      1. Matt L The thing I have noticed on that chart there is no mention of the Henderson 2 Otahuhu route that will be starting after the CRL is finished . Also looking at it they could possibly alter the service to Onehunga down to 10mins by slipping an extra run in between the southern line slot , after the CRL is completed if possible .

      2. I can’t believe AT are spending $4b to build the CRL and not proposing any improvement at all in peak frequency. Given the removal of deadend time at Britomart and the huge shortcut on the Western Line they will have about 20 EMUs sat their out of use.

  8. Fixing the chronic signally/track fault issues/long service restoration times for emergency or security issues on the rail network should now be number one on the list of things to do for AT. The never mind the quality, feel the sidth approach of crowing about passenger growth might be politically expedient, but quality of service issues can’t be avoided for much longer. Otherwise, rail number may soon stagnate or even begin to slide.

    1. The chronic signally/track fault issues are down to Kiwirail and stepping back for wider perspective, relate to trying to run an intensive metro service on a network that was neglected for decades and lacks resilience. Project DART and the electrification were vital and long overdue but still had an element of lipstick on a pig. The worn out rail fiasco last year was a good example that a lot of underlying problems remain.

  9. Would be interesting to see AT do some calculations on CO2 emissions avoided by rail users. My back of the envelope estimate would be about 30,000 tonnes, based on 20m trips with an average length of 10 km and 150gm/km for a typical car.

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