What’s the actual rail growth?

July 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Hefty patronage growth on Auckland trains is making the city’s transport authority bullish about meeting the Government’s conditions for an early start on the $2.86 billion underground project.

“We think it’s highly realistic,” Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said yesterday of the organisation’s prospects of persuading the Government to let it start digging twin rail tunnels between Britomart and Mt Eden before 2020.

He was commenting on a report to his board of a 13.9 per cent increase in rail patronage for the year to June 30, to 11.4 million passenger trips.

That sounds like a big increase.

That was 1.4 million trips more than last year, when patronage fell in the wake of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, interrupting a steady upward trajectory since Britomart opened in 2003 handling 2.5 million passengers.

So 2011 and 2012 figures are skewed by the World Cup. So let’s go back to 2010. That was 10 million trips a year. This year it is 11.5 million trips a year. But how many is that in terms of annual commuters? Let’s assume 250 working days and two trips a day.

In 2010 that was 20,000 Aucklanders using rail daily and and in 2014 it is 23,000 Aucklanders using rail daily. That is growth of 750 Aucklanders a year. It is 15% growth over four years which is just under 4% a year.

To make the target of 20 million trips to bring the CRL forward, you need over 12% growth a year.

Personally I think it will be a good thing if they do achieve ongoing 12% growth, and the CRL does happen earlier rather than later. But I’m somewhat doubtful that you assume growth based on the change over one year only. Let’s see what happens in the next 12 months.

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25 Responses to “What’s the actual rail growth?”

  1. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    It’s chickens and eggs though isn’t it.

    Build it and they will come

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  2. emmess (1,427 comments) says:

    A lot will depend on how the electrification of the network and the associated increases in train frequency affect the patronage levels.
    At least wait for a year’s data after that is complete, before even thinking about going ahead with the CRL.

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  3. Auberon (873 comments) says:

    Damn you and your pesky facts Farrar. Damn you! :-)

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  4. Komata (1,178 comments) says:

    FWIW:

    One detail which is never considered or mentioned because it is politically-inconvenient to do so, is the unfortunate fact that, aside from India and Pakistan, where population-density skews the figures, if one treats rail passengers as a revenue-earning item, they never make money; their carriage is a matter of ‘convenience’ rather than good economics.

    This is something that the NZ Govt. finally realised several decades ago, which is why they no longer have direct connection with passenger services. It is far better to let local authorities ‘carry the can’ than central government. As a result, Auckland and Wellington passenger services now devolve upon the local authority and they have in turn been sub-contracted out to in turn minimise the losses to that authority.

    Sadly, and despite Mayor Brown’s wishes that it would be otherwise, based-upon the economic best-benefit model, Auckland’s passenger-carrying trains will always be a loss-maker, and the unfortunate result is that it’s now really only a matter of waiting until these losses become too high (and too politically ‘inconvenient’) to continue, at which time the passenger service will be allowed to quietly expire. It won’t of course be immediate, but in perhaps 10-20 years from now…

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  5. thedavincimode (6,710 comments) says:

    This is curious against the background of current suggestions regarding the need for train police to protect passengers.

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  6. tom hunter (4,732 comments) says:

    Rather puts into context some of the comments from the earlier thread today on the Transmission Gully project:

    Tax and spend all good then? If only there was a union of taxpayers that ensured our money was being wisely spent.

    I don’t suppose that the benefit-cost ratio for this behemoth has magically come out above 1.0 yet, has it?

    All the more reason to ensure that we only invest these huge sums in projects that actually make economic sense.

    It’s quite easy to make economic sense when one boosts the user numbers or perhaps “triple bottom line” bullshit.

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  7. Reid (16,290 comments) says:

    Personally I think it will be a good thing if they do achieve ongoing 12% growth, and the CRL does happen earlier rather than later.

    Damn you and your pesky facts Farrar. Damn you!

    It’s a shame those “pesky facts” don’t include talking about the FACT that most of Auckland traffic woes come not from burb->CBD traffic but from burb->burb traffic. As anyone who’s spent any time at all in Akld will tell you.

    This means – duh – that the inner city rail loop will do absolutely and utterly zero in terms of solving gridlock but will be very successful indeed in providing a giant money pit for billions of dollars of our money.

    None of which National wants to talk about because it opens the door for the left to attack them for not cawing about pubwic twansport and by implication, the enviwonment. So it instead schedules a start time far in the future, when they’ll be long gone. Rather than using their position of current influence to stop this galloping mentalism once and for all, by spending a bit of their political capital.

    Which is exactly the same behaviour exhibited by National when it munts on about freeing up land in Akld, knowing all the while full well what the real root cause is – immigration – which it also refuses to discuss because if they did they’d have to do something about it which would piss off every single property owner in Akld, where elections are won or lost. So it allows a two-speed economy to develop and puts home ownership out of reach in our largest city for a significant proportion of the entire population not just in Akld but in the whole country, when all it has to do is say to immigrants: welcome to the country, please feel free to settle anywhere but Akld, for the next ten years. Then we may let you move there if you wish to.

    How’s those for facts.

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  8. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    Why do public transport projects require targets to be met, even though in the case of the CRL (note LINK not loop) patronage is increasing, but RONS just need a Govt decree even though vins are decreasing?

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  9. OneTrack (3,023 comments) says:

    Can we at least identify at least one person who will start taking the train after we have spent the $6 billion? Or is it “other people” who “should” take the train. Len obviously thinks so

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  10. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    * vkms

    the growth in pax using the assumptions in the post shows that there are almost 3,000 cars not on the road that would be if those passengers had not used the train. That’s quite a lot of road space morning and evening.

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  11. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    @Reid

    “when all it has to do is say to immigrants: welcome to the country, please feel free to settle anywhere but Akld, for the next ten years.”

    and you’ll get all the crap immigrants – those willing to accept such restrictions as probably anything is better than where they’re coming from. We obviously want the cream and not the skimmed milk powder.

    On rail – most expensive way to move the smallest number of people between two fixed points. If serious about public transport – buses, buses, buses. Please kill Len’s train set.

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  12. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    slijmbal – you obviously haven’t thought all the extra buses that would be required to move the people who wouldn’t have a train to catch. It would add to the congestion, not remove it.

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  13. UrbanNeocolonialist (286 comments) says:

    Trying to build trains will look embarassingly short sighted in 5 few years with self-driving cars/taxis about to become a part of life.

    Pump your location and destination in and a computer scheduling system send a taxi to pick you up along with maybe one or two others along the route to your destination (like a micro bus). No driver wages to pay, and no parking required. They will allow us to eliminate buses so that we can get back all the bus lanes for everyone to use.

    There is also the innovative Lit Motors C1 enclosed self balancing electric motorbike. Takes up way less space on the road, or in parking, while retaining safe, comfortable environment for the driver. If adopted en-mass (eg as computer driven taxis) would allow us to run probably twice as many vehicles on the existing urban roading.

    But in the meantime how many more people could also be transported by car if the Loop was instead made into a road, or if that same money was also spent on roading infrastructure improvements.

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  14. Jcw (95 comments) says:

    Dear DPF,

    I think you have made a significant error in your analysis of Auckland rail patronage. The data I have for 2010 shows 9.1 million trips a year for rail patronage rather than the 10 million you quoted. I am interested to know if this is an honest mistake on your behalf or if you are going by a source with different data to my source. If so please provide your source!

    King regards,

    JCW

    PS My data for 2010 ridership came from this blog post: http://transportblog.co.nz/2011/03/25/2010-pt-patronage-%E2%80%93-a-spectacular-year/ You’ll have to excuse my use of a secondary source, I’m not an expert so I don’t have the primary data availble immediately on hand – though I’m sure you can contact the kind people at transport blog if you were uncertain of the data’s accuracy.

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  15. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    @MikeG

    nope – it’s the reduction in cars that matters – the average car has a little over one passenger i.e. the driver – adding buses with passengers reduces vehicle traffic. One bus takes up about the space of two cars on the road so not a lot of passengers required to make a difference.

    similar to Urban’s point but he’s being very optimistic about the timescales and not taking in to account increased traffic that will come about through increased capability of point to point travel. But I do agree it should reduce congestion on balance just not the magic silver bullet it looks like at 1st glance.

    Self drive buses mind – that could make a lot of difference as I think a lot of the costs are the drivers from memory.

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  16. Jim (397 comments) says:

    @slijmbal trains can work in densely populated cities. Auckland’s biggest problem with public transport is its sprawl. It is simply too sparsely populated to make a frequent service self-funding. Frequent service = convenient -> greater uptake.

    Unfortunately we have the pro-sprawl property developer lobbyists quoting the Dempgraphia survey that shows Auckland as one of the most densely populated cities in the world and just needing to expand outwards. More cheap land please!

    Contrast with Seoul where you just don’t need a timetable. The busiest subway lines have a train every 2 minutes 18 seconds – and they are packed! 1.5 million riders a day on a single line, more than 10 million daily rides across the system. Buses are similar. You just walk outside and wait a minute or two for the next. That shit works.

    That kind of uptake only works if the population is dense.

    Auckland needs to either:

    1. Accept that it is an inefficient sparse sprawl and forget public transport as efficient.
    2. Change planning to build dense and build public transport to serve dense population centres.

    In my apartment complex there are ~5500 apartments. My family of 4 live in one apartment. There are 2 subway lines and many more bus stops in walking distance. That’s potentially 10-20,000 people in this single apartment complex alone. There are many others in walking distance. There are ~600 subway stations in the system. 20 million people in walking distance from a frequent train. That’s how you get high uptake.

    If that sounds like hell (it is not!) then nuke Auckland’s trains and build a grid of 20-lane highways.

    Otherwise: let Aucklanders vote on it. If they want to pay to sponsor an unprofitable system then so be it.

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  17. Griff (7,517 comments) says:

    Why dont you people allow us to chose how we live “Auckland needs to”
    Auckland is made up of a million or so individual with a right to choice not a city council with a right to dictate.
    The train set will be an eternal drain on resources and is stupid with modern technology rapidly overtaking the need for the commute.

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  18. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    @Jim

    Trains ONLY work in densely populated areas (I’m sure there’s the exception to prove the rule). Lots of more successful public transport is based around bus/tram/underground combos with many cases of no underground or minimal train.

    I’ve lived and worked in high urban density areas with good public transport and did not need even need to own a car until I came to NZ but here I’m with Griff. Plenty of workers in London choose to commute enormous distances to live in an environment of their choosing and not be apartment dwellers or similar.

    Griff’s point around reducing commutes is also relevant (admittedly I’m in IT) and started work this morning at about 7:30 at home and will travel in to the office outside of rush hour (taking 15 mins) later today from our private in bush property.

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  19. Jim (397 comments) says:

    @slijmbal ok, we’re in agreement then. Trains can work, but an underground in Auckland is never going to make sense unless the population density ABOVE ground changes by a factor of 10 or so.

    That or the local government pours money into a big hole in the ground to sustain some train fantasy. I’d rather they put that towards fixing the basic stuff the city should provide, like drainage that can handle a spring shower.

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  20. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    slijmbal – you didn’t actually read my post did you? Train patronage is growing, and my argument is that if those extra 3000 people who took the train (using Farrar’s figures) drove instead. That would put close to 3000 extra cars on the road, or quite a number of extra buses.

    Where would all the cars park?

    Where would the extra buses go? 3000 pax @ 50 per bus = 60 buses. That’s one per minute for an hour!

    The current trains are full at peak time. Extra capacity in the form of larger trains (the electric ones) will help, but it won’t be long before extra frequencies are required – that’s were the CRL is essential.

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  21. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    @Mike G

    yes I did read your post and understood the fallacy involved – I think you did not understand my post.

    “Where would all the cars park?” you say – I am saying there will be LESS cars.

    “Where would the extra buses go? 3000 pax @ 50 per bus = 60 buses. That’s one per minute for an hour!” – you say – 3000 pax = approx 3000 less cars – That’s 2998 per minute per hour! LESS.

    oddly enough if you wish to move lots and lots of people you need a fair number of buses – the average train carriage CAPACITY is a bit over a hundred – so one nearly full train carriage carries two buses worth by your argument. I have never seen an Auckland train with more than 7 carriages. They’re also amazingly more expensive than buses by an order of magnitude per pax and have fixed destinations and pretty much fixed capacity without huge cost.

    As buses replace road traffic they have the ability to use existing capacity of which there is lots. I suggest rather than believing someone does not read your post you try a little harder to understand the response.

    The argument for major spending on trains as public transport in Auckland is nonsensical and buses much more sensible.

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  22. Griff (7,517 comments) says:

    Where would the extra buses go? 3000 pax @ 50 per bus = 60 buses. That’s one per minute for an hour!
    :lol:
    except the figures are not over an hour are they.

    Trains are fixed forever. The investment is captured only by the system not shared with any other transport medium The capital cost per passenger is huge for the numbers they shift. Upgraded to reflect new technology is expensive and involves the whole system at once.
    Buses can change in a day reflecting changing demand using existing shared infrastructure. The technology is cheap per passenger. Upgrading a fleet easy with little cost. they can be changed or upgraded piecemeal as technology warrants.

    Trains are technology obsolete in the 1900’s you are dreaming if you believe otherwise.

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  23. slijmbal (1,230 comments) says:

    Oops

    “That’s 2998 per minute per hour! LESS.” should have read “2998/60 = 50 per minute per hour less!”

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  24. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    I look forward to you guys advocating for more bus lanes!

    @Griff – I used Farrar’s figures of 3000 extra pax, which he calculated based on two trips per day and assumed that those were in peak hour.

    If buses are so efficient why are there so many pax getting off buses at Panmure to get the train into Britomart. I guess it’s because it’s faster.

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  25. Griff (7,517 comments) says:

    The bus lane on the northern motorway is just as fast and way more efficient due to the reason I listed.
    my view on agw means I must support more efficient transport. For a ex rev head that hurts but is the future reality we live under.
    I dont think trains are the answer they are to monolithic to respond to the changes in technology and society we must have to survive

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