The annual Farmers Santa Parade is tomorrow. A few weeks ago Luke put together a great post highlighting primarily the issue of AT and the police rushing to re-open Queen St to traffic – which has absolutely zero need to be there – straight after the parade, he also briefly touched on the transport arrangements from last year. Auckland Transport have now published information about how to get there and it pretty much tells you that you should drive.

Join the fun and take the family by bus, train or ferry to the annual Farmers Santa Parade on Sunday 30 November at 2pm.

The parade is one of Auckland’s most popular Christmas events so public transport and roads in and out of the city will be busier than usual.

To manage the parade and public safety, roads around the parade route will be closed and there will be parking restrictions.

There is a range of transport options to get you and your family to and from the city so you should plan your journey in advance and set-off early.

Check services by using this link:

Travel to the parade by bus:

Buses will operate to a Sunday timetable and normal fares/passes will apply. Due to road closures a number of city centre bus stops will be relocated and some route diversions will be in place. Auckland Transport Ambassadors will be on site to assist passengers.

Travel to the parade by train:

Trains will be operating to a special timetable with services approximately every 20 to 30 minutes on most lines into the city from 10.30. There will also be special services from Pukekohe.

Western Line

Rail buses will depart Waitakere between 10.05am and 1.35pm. These services will transfer to trains at Swanson Train Station.

After the parade, passengers can board trains at Britomart to Swanson and transfer back to rail buses operating between 4.30pm and 7pm to Waitakere.

Britomart Station will be busy, ensure you use the Eastern Entrance in Takutai Square and be there early to board prior to departure time.

Southern Line

Event trains will depart Pukekohe Train Station at 10.30am, 10.58am, 11:30am, 11.58am, 12.30pm.

Return services to Pukekohe depart at 3.45pm, 4.15pm, 4.45pm, 5.13pm, 5.50pm and 6.20pm. Use the Concourse Entrance to Britomart in Queen Elizabeth Square.

Travel to the parade by ferry:

The Downtown Ferry Terminal is located on Quay St, normal fares/passes apply for ferry services. Fullers will be operating additional sailings between Downtown and Bayswater, Birkenhead/Northcote Point, Half Moon Bay and Stanley Bay.

Driving to the parade:

If you are planning to drive, please be aware that road closures parking restrictions will be in place.

Public parking is free at the Downtown and Victoria St car parks for vehicles exiting between midday and 6pm.

So let me get this right, AT want you to join the fun and take PT to the parade however:

  • buses only run to a normal Sunday timetable – which means hourly or worse in some places – and pay for the privilege.
  • trains do run more frequently which is good but I note AT don’t make it clear either way as to whether you will pay to use them.
  • ferries will have some additional sailings than a normal Sunday but like buses you will have to pay to use them.

Alternatively you can drive and get free parking. I wonder which option most families will choose?

The one major downside to the driving option is that parking is only free at AT’s Downtown and Victoria St carparks which have 890 and 850 spaces respectively. A total of 1740 spaces isn’t going to serve very many families compared to how many people go to the event and is likely to lead to them quickly filling up and families having to find alternative and much more expensive places to park. That will likely help create congestion and unhappy parents. In short what the hell are AT thinking offering free parking in the CBD, this isn’t the 1960’s any more.

What AT should be doing instead is putting on heaps more buses, trains and ferries – perhaps even close to weekday peak levels – and marketing the hell out of them. On top of that make the PT options free and charge for the carparking to further encourage people to shift modes.

The charging option also highlights another failing of our current ticketing system, no family passes. These are currently only available from Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Papakura and Pukekohe and they only for trains so they’re useless for many people. The table below shows what a family of four (2 parents, 2 kids) would pay for a return trip to the city depending on how many stages away they are (I’ve limited the number of stages to 6).

HOP family fares

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    1. If you’re smart you’ll realise that while parking is free for the first 2000 or so cars on the day, the rest will end up paying quite a lot – possibly even more than that the PT fare, for the privilege, so you’d be better to drive to the nearest station/bus stop within 2 stages of the city e.g. Orakei, GI etc out East, Ellerslie or closer on Southern then get the bus or train in from there.
      A 2 stage maximum trip for the full family will cost only $18 return according to Matt’s schedule. and 2 stages on the Eastern and Southern Line is at GI and Ellerslie.
      Buses will be similar with regard stages.

      And that will give everyone another experience to remember – it might be a good experience or a bad one, but it will be an experience.

      Still with Herald saying 250,000 people likely turning up thats a big event, more akin to a weekday PT and traffic-wise than a Sunday.

      I think AT need to allow for this with future planning of the event and put on free trains all day and run a proper weekday bus timetable, and yeah, hike the car park prices as well to actively discourage driving.

      And I know many of you are saying, well by the end of the event the littlies will be tired and cranky so we need to hop in our car and go home ASAP.

      Traffic will ensure that unless you leave early (and what is the point in that?) you’ll get stuck in the mass traffic jams meaning you simply won’t get home (or anywhere) as quickly as you think.
      So, do a hybrid – drive some of the way and use PT for the rest, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can get into and then leave the CBD when its over.

  1. Well actually while the website doesn’t show it, additional buses will be provided on some services (such as the NEX). Further to that, free shuttles operate to/from the termination points around the city so quite easy to park on the fringe and still bus in

      1. Simple – understate and over deliver otherwise the current system wouldn’t cope (and no comment on current system – I just tell it like it is). And the shuttles are clearly visible on the website – nearly every service to the CBD will stop short and you need to transfer to a shuttle bus to go further. Doing this limits the disruption to the network outside of the CBD

  2. Patrick – I bet the muppet you refer to will be as far away from the Santa Parade as possible and driving a car to get there.

  3. And if you live in helensville/waimauku/huapai/kumeu guess what? No buses on sunday! You would think they would run a Saturday timetable at the very least???

  4. Under ARTA, they ran a Santa Parade train from Helensville, and it was so popular (standing room only) that on a following year they added a second train. That too was so popular, they added two more trains, meaning there were EIGHT services in total (four each way) between Waitakere and Helensville. They too were popular, carrying 300-400 people from Helensville, Waimauku and Huapai. It’s these long distance travellers that are truely valuable to PT as they contribute much more to road decongestion than short distance travellers.

    In 2011 and 2012, AT commenced a process of intentionally running these services into the ground. All of the promotional material that ARTA used to circulate in the communities (schools, community groups, etc) was discontinued. The basic timetable information was only put on their website a few days out from the event, whereas ARTA put it out months ahead of the event.

    That end to promoting them saw patronage plummet. But added to that, AT massively increased the cost of running the services, by having empty buses run alongside all eight trains between Waitakere and Helensville, so they could transfer the passengers into them if the trains broke down.

    In 2013, all eight trains were cancelled, in favour of running a bus, which the communities shunned. Everyone drove instead. It was a clear indication that AT do not want to serve the communities in that region, no matter how popular the trains were in previous years. They also ignore all the other huge events that take place in that area, such as the Kumeu show, and the classic car show, both of which draw tens of thousands of Aucklanders.

    I’m not sure if AT are running a bus from Helensville this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they have pulled the plug completely. So 300-400 on the trains under ARTA, down to 0 on any PT under AT.

    Why is AT so disinterested in people using trains in this area for the Santa Parade I wonder, considering the value of getting 300-400 people off the motorway and 100-150 cars out of the central city?

    1. Yep and now we are left this year without even a bus. Empty rails and no bus when you need one, a usual sight here, AT wants us all out here to use our car it seems.

  5. This goes on year in year out (for at least the last 20 that I can think of) and nothing really changes and the deeper question is why?

    The conclusion I have come up with is that the passenger and any prospective passengers simply don’t register in the equation. Unthinkable?. People who plan and or run these services and who make the decisions sit in high rise office blocks and do not rely on PT, dont use PT and have no intention of ever doing so. Its the only explanation I can think of when every year PT fails to deliver to the Santa Parade for example, or why there are no station announcements when there are service cancellations and passengers are left looking at each other when an empty service passes them by, or why the HOP card works in the anti customer fashion it does or the doomed but potentially successful Helensville train service trial and on and on it goes. Its all about putting some service somewhere because they have to with no thought as to why they are doing it in the first place.

  6. Once again, public transport users in Auckland are second-class citizens.

    C’mon Auckland Transport. We can do better than this.

  7. AT Could get rid of their whole marketing department and spend their salaries on putting on really good free PT for events which would probably be the best advertising money can buy.

    1. Or Jerome could do a tweet about how he will getting to it on PT and see the hordes flock to PT as well in the hope of seeing him.

  8. I just got a text notification of extra services available, arrived 2hrs before the parade starts. I would say that’s too late to be of use in persuading anyone that they should take PT. D’oh!

      1. So AT can’t actually provide a direct link to the appropriate page, and it’s pretty much a repeat of the information above. Along with the news that young train riders tomorrow can’t take helium ballons home.

  9. Such a perfect opportunity to promote public transport. How hard would it have been to have sent out mailers entitling families to free travel aboard any service on that day?

    The fact that they’re running Sunday timetables for most bus services is just absurd.

  10. that fact Auckland’s PT system can be over-whelmed by a god dam parade on a Sunday just goes to show how far we’ve got to go with regards to improving PT in Auckland.

    In real cities special events happen all the time, and the PT system is expected to cope. Indeed, that’s one of the main reasons it’s there.

    I appreciate that at the policy level these things are often more complicated than they appear, but I simply can’t fathom why they can’t 1) charge normal prices for parking (even that is probably too low) and 2) then use the additional revenues to fund additional PT services.

    I’m not convinced that making either parking or PT free is the best the way to go: Maybe just get drivers/ticket inspectors to sell family passes at stations/onboard for the day?

    1. yes the issues are:
      1. not running extra services, although it seems that they are?
      2. not communicating this clearly
      3. encouraging driving by make a small number of carparks free
      4. having no good family PT fare packages

      Charging as normal for all services would be fine if ‘as normal’ included workable family fares, like all children under 12 or similar free for example.

      1. For point 1, they are but its limited to certain services and not much details. There is NO option besides car for anyone between Kumeu and Helensville (Ritchies 060 service does not run on Sundays) and very limited services for other locations.

        For the Santa Parade: Kumeu-Helensville used to be served by a Train, then a bus, now its nothing, feels like we are going backwards?

        Some Sunday timetables run as little as hourly to high population areas and less populated areas can even see services as bad as 2 hours? Bus would probably be full at the first stop.

        1. Peter that’s important for PT users in the northwest, but the issue is much wider than that; this is a badly run event for all 1.5 million Aucklanders what ever mode they choose and wherever they live, even away from small edge communities.

        2. I was referring to the entire scope of Auckland when describing the limited Sunday services… Was not trying to come across as north-west only, the problem is everywhere, its just more extreme the further out you go.

          However the fact that Helensville and even many Franklin locations even have NO Sunday (or some even no Saturday, i.e. Waiuku 479 bus) services is quite poor, especially when there is a big event on.

        3. I think Peter highlights the severity of the problem well with his example. The northwest went from four well patronised trains under ARTA, to nothing at all under AT.

          Promotion of services was pulled, family passes were pulled, and finally the services that were successful because of those promotions and family passes, but lost all their patronage because of those two actions, were also pulled.

          Something is terribly wrong within the organisation.

  11. Why not just run all rail lines at 15 minute frequencys all day?. They are warning people that Britomart will be busy but they want to run a piss poor frequency

        1. Peak services from noon – 5pm – is there any major reason as to why something like this couldn’t have been implemented? Does AT’s deal with KiwiRail not allow them such frequent access on Sundays? Additional freight runs scheduled?

        2. Hang on, I just had a quick look through Twitter, and it appears that AT did add additional services, so I take back what I said. The lack of communication regarding this is quite strange.

      1. @Matt L: Which makes me think that the only reason the trains are free is because AT are worried that their ticketing system won’t be able to cope.

  12. They had additional trains terminating at New Lynn so we only had 30 min frequencies past there and trains packed like sardines full of tired children, not exactly the best way to promote train travel to the masses.

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