It’s groundhog time once again. Every year at around this time, we post a near identical post because every year Auckland Transport makes the same boneheaded decision. This all relates to what should be a cheerful occasion, the Santa Parade. You can see the previous posts below:

First, here’s what AT have to say.

Santa is coming to town on Sunday but the central city has changed a bit since his last visit. Santa says driving into town isn’t a great idea so he’s suggesting you take the family on a bus, train or ferry to the Farmers Santa Parade.

Public transport will be busier than usual but Auckland Transport is putting on some extra services to make sure everyone is in town for the 1pm parade.

On buses, trains and ferries, there will be some selected additional services but not too many and regular fares apply. The fare situation is a little different this year though since the introduction of simplified fares. The family pass no longer exists, although how hard it was to buy in the past – only available at a manned train or busway stations – I suspect it was rarely sold. Instead, a feature of Simplified Fares is that kids with a HOP card loaded with a child concession pay a maximum of 99c for a trip.

As an example, if all using HOP, a family of two adults and two children from the Ishmus or Lower North Shore zones will pay $16.36 for return trip while a family travelling from the Upper North Shore, Waitakere or Manukau North will pay $23.56.

But then they get the part about those who drive to town.

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 car parks for vehicles parked by 11am and exited by 6pm. Exit after 6pm will incur a fee.

So after telling people they shouldn’t drive to town they offer free parking for those that do. Rather than writing the same thing again, I’m largely just going to quote from these old posts. Here’s what I said in 2013 about the same situation.

AT are making two of their parking buildings free for the afternoon. Are they completely insane?

Firstly it completely undermines the any incentive for people to use public transport to get to the city, the one location that would be easiest to ramp up services to. But worse it is likely to cause nightmares on the day. The free parking only covers the Downtown and Victoria St carparks which according to the AT website have 1,890 and 850 spaces respectively so 2,740 all up. Even if every space was taken up with a car carrying the mythical nuclear family of two parents and two kids, that only represents about 11,000 people. That might seem like a lot but would only represent a small fraction of the overall crowd, often estimated at up to 300,000 but more realistically to be around the 80-90k mark.

The problem though is that lured by the potential for free parking heaps of people will then decide to drive to the CBD, after all why pay for a train or bus when you can get free parking in the CBD. Also worth pointing out that it isn’t possible to buy a family pass now unless you are at one of the handful of train stations that still sell them and it is also the same day that the rest of the Metrolink fleet switch over to HOP.

Those car parking spaces will be gone in a flash (probably before the free period even starts) and that will leave the CBD clogged with cars trying to find alternative places to park and will potentially even see people missing the event as a result.

Now I understand the free parking is possibly related to deals done some time ago but what I don’t understand is why AT don’t make public transport free too. I imagine a lot of families would be keen to use it. The main reason I suspect they don’t is they’re too scared their crappy weekend frequencies, even with a few extra services, would be easily overwhelmed.

AT seem to have finally learned to increase PT capacity before the annual March Madness, perhaps next year they’ll learn to put frequent services and free PT on for the Santa Parade.

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  1. Free PT is a Catch-22. Everyone will take the last possible train. Massive queues/congestion, won’t get on. Back to the car. Never use PT again.The should just have half price PT or something and gauge the level of usage. They should also put on more trains.

    1. Alternatively, driving is a Catch-22. Everyone will drive in at the last possible moment. Massive queues/congestion, won’t get through. Back to walking or cycling or PT. Never drive again.

    2. Free carparking is a catch 22. Everyone will leave at the end and massive queues to get out of the carpark and massive queues at the on ramps. Back to the bus. Never drive again.

    3. You ever seen London after New Year’s eve on the free travel on The Tube?
      Free trains & buses in Auckland will be nothing like London just after midnight on the new year – it maybe a tad crowded but some people will be at least looking at shops , getting something to eat etc.
      It will not be that bad.

    4. Offering free parking isn’t really a Catch-22 dilemma because free parking already exists everywhere, it is the status quo. and is first come first serve. Everyone knows this, so you have to get in early to get free car park and you won’t feel bad if you don’t get it because you only have yourself to blame for turning up late. You also know you will get stuck getting out, but the same happens with PT as well.

      Free PT is a Catch-22 in the sense that it doesnt exist (often) and if they did do that, the unwashed masses who don’t usually use PT would overwhelm it. Anyone remember RWC 2011 opening night? I was there. It was chaos. The mob would have such a bad experience that they would be put off using PT. So why bother with free PT in the first place because the downside is so much greater than the upside. It is a PR dilemma for AT. I think it is better to just charge a nominal fare to mitigate overwhelming numbers working towards a free events as more regular.

  2. It is not like AT are not putting on extra capacity (and possibly frequency) to cope with the massive crowds, if you tried to get them all on PT it would give the wrong and very negative picture of the whole network.

  3. How difficult would it be to put a discount onto the Hop Cards? or a max fare type deal. This would be to encourage new users, but also recognise the fact that many of these special services will be near capacity and therefore highly profitable.

  4. aaaand, again, push repeat button. TB has hammered the point before that why do they race to give the streets back to cars as soon as the parade has passed, when it would be perfect to test out a whole day of pedestrianised Queen St? imagine the life it would give to retailers who say they suffer when the crowds block their stores during parade itself and nobody buys anything. Demonstrates to them, too, that people, not cars do the shopping.

    1. Perhaps we can draft up a media release for the Taxpayers Union. And while we’re at it, draft a release criticising the wasteful $1.8 billion east-west link

  5. If this isn’t reason enough to change up the current Board of Auckland Transport then I don’t know what is – clearly they are out of touch with the realities of traveling into the CBD. Perhaps by next year they will have actually improved the appallingly bad weekend services.

  6. Ultimately I think it just comes down to what is the best way to move people for the money spent.

    How much does the free-parking cost? Say $10 per vehicle? Multiplied by 2,000 vehicles? So that’s $20,000 for the day to move 2,000 x 2 people per vehicle = 4,000 people.

    How much does it cost to run a train service? Say $500 per run from Papkura to City. That gives 40 additional trips on the train. 4,000 people / 40 trips = 100 people per trip. Basically suggests that if you can take the $20k and spend it on the trains in such a way that the average occupancy of the additional service is at least 100 per trip, then you’re better off spending it on the trains.

    1. You also have not included the high cost of loss productivity with driving during traffic which is inevitable during these kinds of event, not to mention the time spent worrying about finding parking. The time spent in a car can be well spent with family and shopping in the CBD. Public transport during any event is pretty much win-win for everyone. Stress-Free (Until AT fs up again *Never Forget Rugby World Cup*)

      1. here I’m focusing on fiscal costs. Basically saying “if AT had a budget of $20k to get people to the Santa Parade then how can that be spent to move the most people”.

  7. Maybe we should put the Santa parade on out in the suburbs where people live rather than trying to force so many people into a small CBD area which hasn’t had the investment through the years in the public transport infrastructure needed to move such numbers?

      1. Indeed, many suburbs have parades. For example, the Ellerslie Santa Parade is on at 11.00am on Sunday 4 December. It’s a different event to the CBD parade, smaller yes, but still dozens of floats but a more community feel, lots of small community groups involved on the street and off, and local retailers all get behind it with random stalls outside their shops. And easily accessible by PT.

        But it’s by no means a substitute for the CBD parade – different scale of events, different atmosphere. And big events need a big-city response. AT may have put a few more trains on (thanks Bigted), but it’s time for weekday peak hour frequencies with 6-car EMUs. And Queen St should be closed all day to make it a great whole day. Step up in 2017 AT and AC!!!

    1. Yes i can really see Howick coping easilly with the traffic if we moved the parade there. So much more accessible than the CDB for north shore bods. We could even run a special ferry from devenport to halfmoon bay and then a shuttle bus for those that dont want to drive.

    1. There are 6EMUs all day (normal weekends 3EMU), 4ADLs to/from Pukekohe all day (normally 2ADL) one extra train per hour for the two hours (3TPH up from the normal 2TPH) before the start and after the finish. There are also extra feeder buses to/from the train stations.

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