With the country rapidly moving towards lockdown, thinking about how many people used public transport last month doesn’t seem like a high priority, but then nor does a lot of other things.
Over the last decade we’ve seen public transport use in Auckland grow like never before, rising by over 44 million trips to nearly 104 million and 60% of that was in just the last five years. The growth has been driven by regular significant improvements to the entire network but with no major changes/improvements since the core bus networks finished changing in late 2018 and future major improvements still 1-2 years away from completion, growth has been noticeably starting to slow.
In her speech yesterday, the Prime Minister said public transport will only be available for those working in essential services. The question now is now is not how much it will keep growing but how much it will fall. And not just from the immediate impact but also from the longer term impact to the economy. It’s hard to predict the impact but I think it’s almost certain that we’ll fall back below 100 million trips.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the February results.
Overall ridership increased by just 1.5% in February but then we also have to remember that this year was a leap year so there was an extra day in the month. That extra day fell on a weekend when usage is quite a bit lower than on weekdays but after normalising for that and for special events, usage would have been down 0.4% for the month.
Usage was primarily driven by the bus network which increased by 2% overall but higher on the busway. Rail on the other hand actually declined slightly, down 0.9% and ferries, which have been quite volatile of late, actually increased.
If you look longer term, what’s interesting is that you can see there seems to be a pattern forming with cycles of growth in ridership for about seven years. The just ending cycle ran from 2013 to 2020, the one before that from 2005 to 2012 and there was an eight to nine year one from 1994 to 2003. With significant new PT infrastructure due to start coming on-stream starting from next year then perhaps we’ll see the pattern repeat.
Unfortunately at the time of writing this AT still had not published the cycling data however they did tweet this summary earlier in the month.
Great work Auckland! 3.76 million cycle movements were recorded for the year of February 2019 to January 2020, an increase of 4.7% on the previous 12 months! pic.twitter.com/O9hDJKFUh6
— Auckland Transport (@AklTransport) March 8, 2020
But while on the topic of numbers that will decline, I took a look at the latest data from the Airport which is up to the end of Feb. Like PT, growth seems to have peaked and has hovered around 19.6 million trips for about 18 months.
This version shows the aircraft movements
How low will they go?