This way OR that way
The electric train launch for the Onehunga Line can be rated a success despite some issues picked by Radio New Zealand recently. Looking at bus and rail patronage over the last few months we see continued growth along these modes with rail even breaking records such as the 11 million trips as of the 12 month ending March 31 this year. Later on this year we see the Manukau Line get the electric trains which will be sorely needed as passengers at Meadowbank and Orakei Stations get left behind from full morning services pretty much every day Monday to Friday. That said I hope with the Manukau Line morning peak services will immediately start with the EMU-6-car sets (so a double EMU set) that has capacity of 750 passengers so we are not leaving passengers behind any more.
While the above is happening Auckland Transport is about to update the legally required Statement of Intent document which is before the Budget Committee tomorrow. In the SOI (and on page 221 of the Budget Committee Agenda) for public transport patronage targets I see that Auckland Transport has lowered the bar again. Taking a look at the revised SOI patronage target for rail we see Auckland Transport have revised the target down some 15% for 2016/17:
This handy graph from Transport Blog’s Lower the Patronage Targets – are you crazy? outlines where we are with the SOI target and actual patronage levels:
After being above the 2012 target before some slippage leading into the 2013 SOI target list. However, we are seeing a strong trend back up with rail patronage on the back of a strong start to the year which is only getting stronger. With the new bus network on its way (which does place emphasis on feeding into the rail network for medium and long commuter trips in Auckland), the roll out of the electric trains, and increased frequencies on the rail network from October this year and most likely next year (when the Southern and Western Lines go electric) I see no reason for the patronage not to reach the original SOI target of 17,758,000 rail trips.
So why is Auckland Transport lowering the bar again? Does this send a message that Auckland is serious in reaching the 20 million goal for the City Rail Link? The answer seems to be no.
I hope the Budget Committee tomorrow rejects the lowering of the SOI targets and give strict instructions to AT to pull their socks up and pull all the stops out to reach the 17,758,000 target by 2017.
We shall see tomorrow
Tomorrow I will be at the Budget Committee Tweeting live of the morning’s proceedings. Stay tuned on Twitter at @BenRoss_AKL
Full report will go up on Friday