It’s that time of year again where tens of thousands of people embark on an annual pilgrimage to Auckland’s city centre to watch the Santa Parade. The parade this year is being held on Sunday 29th at 1pm (it’s been at 2pm in the past).


In the past we’ve criticised Auckland Transport for how they’ve handled various aspects of the parade. In particular this has been the transport arrangements they create for getting to the parade and how they deal with Queen St and people afterwards. So what are they doing this year?

First on the transport arrangements AT have published information about this and while a slight improvement over last year, once again I’m left disappointed.

The good thing is that on many routes extra buses, trains and ferries have been put on and AT are being clear about where these are. Last year AT made it clear about the extra trains and ferries didn’t say anything about extra buses despite actually putting them on – putting extra services on for events and not communicating it has been a common issue for AT. The website lists all the bus routes which will have extra services and the times they will run so well that’s a good thing.

There are extra trains being run too however if you want to catch one keep an eye on the timetables. On many of the lines the extra services are only doing a short run, for example on the Western Line they will only run from New Lynn which means if you live further out you only have the normal half hourly services. When it comes time to head home things may be a little crowded too, out west there’s only one extra train on each of the three main lines to take people home

The downside of it all is that normal fares still apply. Given the $24 family pass can only be purchased from a few train stations it cab makes travel very expensive for many families. For example a family of four travelling from Papatoetoe would have to pay almost $31 for their journey to and from the city and that’s only if they all had HOP cards. If they didn’t have HOP cards that cost goes up to $42.

Note: Stations that you can buy a family pass from are Britomart, New Lynn, Newmarket, Panmure, Manukau, Papakura and Pukekohe.

With prices like those many families will likely opt to drive, especially considering that once again Auckland Transport are offering free carparking in their city centre buildings

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

Public parking is free at the Downtown, Victoria Street and Civic (parking will be limited at Civic) car parks for vehicles exiting between 1pm and 6pm.

Given those buildings combined only have capacity for about 2,000 vehicles it’s amazing that AT once again offered this.

The other main issue we’ve had in the past is a rush by AT and the likes of the Police to shuffle families on just so that they can reopen Queen St as fast as possible to a handful of drivers.


AT haven’t yet stated what time they’ll reopen Queen St to traffic however in my view they should leave it closed for the day, helping encourage people linger in the city. The numbers in Queen St at this time easily eclipse most other days. This can easily be seen from the excellent data Heart of the City collect through a network of automated pedestrian counters and which they publish online.

As you can see below, pedestrian volumes at 210 and 261 Queen St on the day of the Santa Parade were considerably higher than the year before and well above normal (volumes are just for one side of the road)

Santa Parade Ped Volumes

It will be interesting to see what they do about the Santa Parade next year seeing as a key part of the route – up Albert St – is going to be in the midst of construction of the CRL and many other buildings.

Share this


    1. Being a Sunday traffic will be even lighter than normal, and despite the huge numbers of pedestrians all the traffic lights will be set to decrease pedestrian priority (half the usual Barnes dance phases) because it is outside business hours.

      I remember hearing one of the intersections bases pedestrian phases on car counts; lower traffic leads to relatively more car time and less pedestrian time in a cycle.

  1. Shop owners on Lorne and High Streets have been reluctant to make these roads pedestrian precincts in the belief that allowing cars to pass through brings more customers to the shops.

    Wouldn’t it be a good time to gather some hard data in Queen St on whether cars or pedestrians deliver more customers to the shops?

  2. I don’t have too much of an issue with the AT approach.

    The free parking is a tradition. It’s a once a year gesture from AT and hey you can drive to the CBD and see all the traffic lights that AT have erected since last year, analysing the artificial congestion created in the process.

    A few more trains would be good, particularly on the Western line and yes it would be nice to be able to purchase passes from a wider variety of outlets. But the latter is a fundamental issues unrelated to this one off event.

    Overall I’m happy that AT is taking a multi-modal approach to this event where people are free to choose how they travel to and from the event.

    Why anyone would want to attend this event is a mystery to me. Good Luck to those attending.

    1. “is a mystery to me.”
      Quite a number of things are a mystery to you.
      How can one mode being free equal another mode, cost a fortune? Hardly multi modal.

      1. Not sure if you have a car that runs without cost but my experience is that cars cost money to run.

        The cost comparison will differ based on the situation of the consumer as it does with every transport decision.

  3. They really should make trains free for the day, and like you said, close Queen St all day and maybe even have some street carnival like attractions after the parade.

    Why is no one intelligent in charge of this?

    1. Or they should like Sydney have Sunday capped at $2.50 for public transport all year round which is advertised as a family day.

  4. Yeah, Queen can be closed to cars all year, that would be even better!

    Why can’t you buy family train passes online, like EVERYTHING else?

  5. Is it Auckland Transport that are to blame for the free car parking but no free public transport, early resumption of Queen St, etc. or the event organiser and their traffic management team?

  6. On a slightly different event/transport note, I caught the train to the Fleetwod Mac concert at Mt Smart on Sunday evening and it was brilliant. Lots of people catching the trains/ buses. Short 10-15 min walk from Penrose to the event with a great atmosphere amongst people both on the trains and on the walk. I thought I was living overseas again for a while. Train free with the concert ticket too. I guess this is the same as Eden Park events, but well done AT!

    Those family fare costs to the Xmas parade seem prohibitive.

    1. I think that concert organisers pay AT for that, same with the rugby etc, so the cost is built into your ticket. I suppose the same can’t really be done with the santa parade since it’s a free event, but it would be so good if they did that!

      1. You are correct, the Warriors don’t pay for this service so you can’t go to their games for free on PT.

        Even just off-peak fares and sensible family discounts would help a lot, but that’s another post!

    2. The Fleetwood Mac concerts were a great chance to showcase the electric trains and the ability for public transport to move large numbers of people quickly.
      It worked very well; positives include plenty of notification ahead of time, masses of electronic signs around the venue (Mt Smart) pointing people to/from trains and buses. Free transport simply by waving concert tickets, was a huge selling point for us. Sing along to Fleetwood Mac songs on the train after the concert was a bonus :-).

      But… we got caught by AT’s largely non-existent late night services which had not been changed for the concert. After misreading the Fullers timetable*, we left the car in Devonport and took the ferry and train to the Sunday concert. Got back from the concert off the train just after 10:30pm and found we had missed the last ferry. Checking on my phone, the AT website was showing fastest trip to Devonport was 7h 20 minutes (i.e. wait until 5.30am on Monday morning). 🙁

      Uber was running high rates, so we ended up just grabbing a taxi for a (reasonable) $60+ taxi fare.

      Yes, we should have planned better, but there were train loads of people being offloaded at Britomart, people wandering around downtown and close to no available PT even at 11pm. Still some improvements to be made if using PT is the simple, easy option.

      *Downloaded the ferry timetable – a PDF on a small phone screen, and didn’t scroll right enough to notice the Sunday timetable, so was looking at Saturday nights ferry times…

      1. Auckland Transport will respond Devonport is a Commercial service not our problem. They need to own this problem and get tougher with Fullers. If Fuller won’t play ball start hiking the rent at the wharves, get the harbourmaster to make life difficult for them, subsidise a competing service. Make them beg to be part of PTOM.

  7. Transport strategies for Christmas events seem lacking. A road closure on Franklin Rd during busy evenings in December would make things much safer and easier for pedestrians who are confined to very limited space.

    It’s also ridiculous that fare products are being offered that are not sold at all stations. How hard is it to get the ticket vending machines to sell family passes?

  8. A little bird tells me it is likely the parade won’t be in the CBD next year…

    And as per the non-advertisement of additional services – it is an unfortunate but known fact that the current network cannot handle a large influx of passengers – I believe AT prefers the softly softly approach for the time being to ensure those who take the bus can actually take the bus while still allowing a little extra room for normal passengers – once the new network is in place then we will definitely see a change in tack – just need to wait a little longer!

    Just hope the weather isn’t too bad on Sunday though…

  9. I’m not sure that the best way to deal with the closures is to stop buses including NEX at Victoria Park, then expect people to walk or to transfer to shuttles. Eastern services aren’t too badly affected, and I’m still trying to decipher AT’s City Centre Shuttle Services map… it appears to be well planned mess.

    1. It’s been done that way so the rest of the network doesn’t suffer the inevitable delays – it’s quite simple really. The bus drops you at Vic Park and from that same stop catch a free bus the rest of the way in – easy!

      1. It’s an extra hassle for people, yet another reason to not choose public transport. To me it looks confusing and complicated. It just shows lack of dedicated right of way for buses. If they have a shuttle running Hobson St, why not send NEX that way? Right, because we don’t have a dedicated way to move buses there and the buses will get stuck in general traffic… pathetic.

        1. It’s all about doing what they can with what they have, even if it is a bit inconvenient. Once CRL is done and the new network in place, things will get a lot different and easier.

          At least AT is trying here…

          1. Yes and they’ll get complaints what ever they do. However just waiting for the CRL to arrive like the cavalry in a cheesy western isn’t an option. That’s too far away even under the best case. And by both encouraging PT use while also stimulating driving they are making it unnecessarily difficult.

            AT still don’t seem willing to accept that congestion is simply a function of vehicle quantity. Reducing the disbenefits of congestion can only be achieved by actively reducing vehicle numbers, while, of course, maintaining and improving access.

            On the one hand announcing free parking, on the other putting on more services and shuttles is to engage in self-undoing and self-delusion. In this it is perhaps a perfect image of the current state of our transport institutions: caught between two ideas, two ages….

  10. Free parking in the city makes it a nightmare, so many more people drive in than can get parks. I was in the city on that day for an unrelated event last year, caught the bus in, and it was carmageddon everywhere! Definitely think they should be subsidising PT and not driving – like they do for the big rugby games etc.

  11. No balloons on trains, by the way, due to danger of electric wires. Which is reasonable, but may also (if noticed) be a disincentive for families to take the train.

  12. So, what was my experience?

    I had to be on Dominion Road that Sunday. Which normally would have been a relatively painless bus ride on eg. the 267 from Queen Street.

    But as we all know, Queen Street was closed. The AT website warned me to check the journey planner. But, both the AT journey planner and Google Maps still told me to catch the bus on Queen Street. Even the real-time arrival board still showed all those services. D’oh!

    So the 267 was actually starting from Princess Street instead. Which for me is unfortunately the other side of the CBD, and outside walking distance. And there was a Christmas Parade in the way.

    But there was a shuttle which would take us around the parade to Princess Street. But, how long does it take? I have no idea, but it’s kind of important to know if you have to transfer on a bus which only leaves every 30 minutes. Speaking of which, I also couldn’t figure out at which of those 30 minutes the 267 would show up. And if we really need to ride that shuttle all the way to Princess Street. D’oh!

    At this point I kind of gave up and took the car. No problems there, as long as I could avoid the mass of cars circling around for free parking.

Leave a Reply