May 2009 Stats – solid patronage growth

The May 2009 ARTA monthly business report has been released and – as per usual – makes interesting reading. Looking at public transport patronage, it says the following:

• Total Public Transport patronage for the 11 months to May 2009 was 8.0% above last year.
• Total patronage for the month of May was up by 2.5%, 2.5% higher for bus, 5.2% higher for rail and 2.6% lower for ferry. However, May this year had one less working day than May last year.
• The Northern Express patronage for the month of May increased by 20.5% on last year.

The most important figure is that total patronage did increase from May 2008 to May 2009, although “only” by 2.5%. Growth for rail was highest – as per usual – with patronage on ferries continuing a bit of a long-term (and somewhat worrying) trend of decreasing. Patronage data is detailed below:

may-patronage May is usually the second or third highest month of the year for patronage – equal with August but below March. This is due to a lack of school or university holidays in these months. It will be interesting to see how patronage stacks up over the next few months actually. From around June 2008  onwards there was a big surge – due to the very high petrol prices we saw in winter and spring last year. I think that petrol cracked $2 a litre in early June last year for the first time, and peaked at near $2.20 a litre by July. So if the next few months of this year can merely hold their own against the very high levels of patronage we saw over the winter months of last year it will be pretty impressive.

One other thing that is very interesting to note is the performance of “contracted bus services”. These are services that operate in quite a different way to typical services – in that ARTA simply pays the relevant bus company a fee to operate the service, but collects all the money and so on itself. This is the system that Steven Joyce is likely to destroy by bowing to the interests of Infratil, but the crazy thing is that these contracted services appear to be some of the best performing in the whole Auckland region. Compared to a 2.5% increase in all bus services, we see the following:

bus-services Now growth on the Northern Express is somewhat expected, as it runs along a pretty new busway. But a year ago (which the data compares with) the busway was open and operational. On the 680-681 routes I don’t know if these existed a year ago (they were more fractured) so an increase in patronage is also unsurprising. But Mt Eden Road is interesting, as buses have been running along there forever. However, since the services became contracted we have seen new buses run along that route, frequencies improve and patronage has responded. This same pattern is likely to spread across Auckland as more and more routes become “contracted”. That is, unless Steven Joyce stuffs around with the Public Transport Management Act.

The PTMA seems to be working from my perspective.

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