Auckland public transport numbers highest since August 2021

Laura James
Source: 1News

The days of standing on your peak hour bus journey are back, as public transport passenger numbers reach their highest in nine months.

Auckland Transport says its had an "outstanding" week, with 1.2 million passengers using services across the network.

There were more than 200,000 passengers a day in the work week ending last Friday, which hasn't been achieved since last August.

Auckland Transport acting group manager of metro services, Darek Koper said: "We have seen quite a positive and encouraging increase in our patronage across all three modes, across Metro Services network."

Last week's numbers were a 51% increase on the final week of March, the last before the Government's policy to halve fare prices came into play.

Koper said the half-price fares and people returning to the office "have played a significant role in in that increase".

Additionally, AUT and the University of Auckland returned to on campus learning last week, just as the second half of the first semester began.

Koper told 1News that people are travelling for leisure more over the weekend too.

The trends seen in Auckland are also being mirrored in our other main centres.

Metlink general manager Samantha Gain said half-price fares are clearly helping attract people back in Wellington.

“We’ve gone from 54% of pre-Covid patronage levels in March to 73% in April, which is a very notable increase for just one month. We hope to see this trend continue.”

Environment Canterbury's noticed an "upswing in patronage" too.

"For the last two weeks of April, patronage was up around 8% against the first two weeks," said Environment Canterbury’s senior manager public transport, Stewart Gibbon.

"The first week of May has seen a 10% uplift in patronage."

The Public Transport Users Association wants to see the cheaper fares kept in place, or for them to be made free.

PTUA chairman Niall Robertson said the policy's brought our fares in line with the US and Australia.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said they will continue to review the half-price public transport policy, but says it was never designed to be permanent.

"Obviously one of the things we're trying to do as part of the climate emergency response fund is make sure we can support New Zealanders to make mode shifts," he said.

He acknowledged that takes time and the right infrastructure needs to be in place.

Transport commentator Matt Lowrie says getting passenger numbers up is going to take more than cheap fares.

"I think it's going to take Auckland Transport and other transport agencies around the country to to rethink how we do public transport," he said.

"Traditionally public transport has been focused on trips through the city centre, for people who are working in the city, and I think we we're gonna need to to focus on actually how we serve a wider variety of trips around Auckland.

"We need to increase the number of services and the frequency and the reliability of those services to make it more attractive to use."

Koper said AT is "doing the best we can", adding that they are "working through a number of initiatives in at the moment to introduce more services subject to funding".

He said Auckland Transport aims to recover 80-90% of pre-Covid patronage, but didn't have a time frame in mind.

Lowrie expects it could take some time.

"It's just the question is, how long is that? Is it two years? Is it five years? We don't have five to 10 years to wait to get it back to where it was," he said.

"We need it to be far ahead of that by then."

He acknowledged the problems faced in New Zealand are shared with the world, saying there aren't yet any overseas cities that have seen their public transport networks recover from Covid-19.