We’re almost two months since we returned to Level 1 on the government’s COVID alert system and domestic restrictions were lifted. Over the last two weeks universities have also finally returned to the physical world bringing with it many more people travelling. So I thought it was about time to take a look at how some of the key transport metrics are tracking.
Public Transport use in Auckland reached a post-covid high last week with an average just over 294,000 boardings a day and Wednesday peaking at 306,000. Since lockdown ended PT usage has been sitting at around 70% of the same time last year – including during school holidays. Last week that rose to about 79%.
A 21% drop is and improvement on what we had seen but still represents quite a significant change. However, given the huge growth in PT we had seen in recent years, it only really represents a few years of growth. For example last week:
- Trains averaged about 63k boardings per day which is about what they were doing in late 2016 /early 2017
- Buses averaged about 223k boardings per day which equates to about early 2018.
As a result of COVID, PT use over the last 12-months has so far fallen from about 103 million to 80 million trips. My gut feel is that usage will continue to rise to maybe around 80-85% with the main difference being those working from home. If this plays out, we can likely expect the 12-month figure to bottom out at just over 70 million trips before recovering to about 90 million by this time next year.
What this also highlights to me is how for many years now AT have focused most of their public transport attention on serving city centre trips. That was been somewhat understandable as the city centre is home to the largest concentration of jobs in the region and where PT is best able to compete with driving, both on travel time and on cost (of parking). There has been somewhat of a virtuous circle occurring where PT improvements on city centre routes encourage more usage, which in turn justifies or demands further PT improvements.
But this has also meant mean other potential PT journey types have been somewhat ignored. Trips such as those to other employment centres as well as those during the inter-peak, late night and on weekends. While the new bus network certainly helped in spreading some of the love to other parts of the region, Auckland’s Climate Plan goals of trebling PT modeshare by 2030 mean we need do a lot better in making it easier to use for these types of trips.
One of the potential tools for doing that is by making it cheaper to travel off-peak, like AT did during June. Their most recent board report included this snippet on it.
30% off off-peak fares was run in June to help spread PT demand to assist with physical distancing requirements during Alert Level 3. There was a 49% increase in the number of customers travelling off-peak in the morning and a 64% increase in the evenings (compared with the week prior to campaign start).
Although I suspect some of that is related to the general COVID recovery. In this piece by Todd Niall he quotes AT as saying it achieved a 10 per cent shift from peak to off-peak travel.
We’re seeing a similar trend when it comes to walking on Queen St. In the middle of the city, outside 210 Queen St (the Farmers building on the corner of Queen St and Victoria St), weekday pedestrian volumes are at about 77% of this time last year.
One interesting trend you can see with the graph is during school holidays the numbers go up, opposite to what happens on public transport.
Further North, just south of Customs St, across both sides of the street, numbers are back to 80% of pre-covid levels.
The recent improvements to the temporary solutions, with concrete dividers, paint, including the hot-pink bus stops, and now planters going in, Queen St is looking a lot better and feeling a lot less like a highway – though AT really do need to get the cars out. Heart of the City should be running a huge marketing campaign to celebrate this and encourage people to come and check the city out.
It’s too early yet for the July cycleway data so I haven’t included it here.
Finally we’ve got some light and heavy traffic numbers from the NZTA and is based on traffic on SH20 between Queenstown Rd and Hillsborough Rd.
As of last week Light vehicle numbers are sitting at 93% which is down slightly from during the school holiday period.
Heavy Vehicles are bucking the trend though and are actually above where they were this time last year, up about 5%. That potentially bodes well for the economy, especially as the graph shows it’s not just a recent blip.