We’ll be posting less frequently over the next couple of weeks. Happy holidays!

Increasingly the city centre has become a magnet for people to celebrate the arrival of a new year, like as happens in so many other cities around the world. Yet at the same time those New Years Eve celebrations have become a symbol of Auckland’s struggles to throw off the shackles of auto-dependency.

Just a few years ago, with tens of thousands of people having descended on the city centre to celebrate, police were out in force trying to keep people on the footpaths so a few cars could continue to drive unimpeded.

But the sheer numbers of people couldn’t be held back and they and eventually took over the street.

Last year it was promised things would be better with Queen and Victoria streets closed to traffic for the first time. But unlike most cities which close streets in the early afternoon, Auckland Transport decided to leave it to the last minute to do so and only close the streets at 11pm. That was too little and too late leaving cars mingling with the tens of thousands of pedestrians.

By 11.45pm on Monday, MacLean said Auckland Transport had closed off Victoria St by putting traffic cones across the width of it.

“Cars could no longer enter, but neither could any of them leave,” MacLean said.

“They sat for at least the next half hour stranded in the street as pedestrians swirled around them.”

On top of the issues during the celebrations, AT have also struggled with making it easy to get to and from the city not in a car.

A Stuff article highlighted some of the problems people faced getting home:

Albany woman Colleen Fairweather said she was one of hundreds milling around Britomart after midnight, waiting for only a handful of buses.

Fairweather had travelled into the CBD by bus to watch the fireworks and thought her trip home would be easy.

Her route planner app showed there were plenty of buses to the North Shore scheduled, but few arrived, she said.

Instead, there were queues snaking along Quay St and around the corner up Queen St – including older people and children, she said.

An Uber home would have cost her $160 due to surge pricing, so she waited.

Fairweather said only three northbound buses arrived in 90 minutes, each quickly filling with passengers.

It was 2.30am before she got home, she said.

“It was such bad planning. They know people will be out [on New Year’s Eve].”

Jamie Killick, from Sandringham, gave up waiting for a bus after an hour and Ubered home for $60.

“I know there were in fact massive delays … The buses were just disappearing from the board and not coming at all,” he said.

He said that a No. 70 bus scheduled for midnight arrived about 1.30pm, while he was at the bus stop.

Overseas cities take New Year’s seriously, offering free travel in London for a few hours and putting on thousands of extra services in Sydney.

So what is happening this year.

The good news is AT are closing off a few more streets this year and doing so a little bit earlier, from 10pm – although it seems the issue in the image above could still occur as the map below lists the High St/Victoria St as having managed access. So they’re still not doing it properly and just closing these streets from the early afternoon. they should also be looking to close other popular vantage points such as Hopetoun St.

When it comes to public transport, there are some extra services but they’re unlikely to be enough to cope with large crowds. They say bus services are operating to a normal Saturday timetable with these additional trips.

Like last year, these are likely to be hampered by a lack of bus priority so services will struggle to get through the city increasing frustrations. Also if you are catching a bus, make sure you check where they’ll be as there are some bus stop changes.

The rail network is once again heavily impacted by works with the Western line is closed and the Southern/Eastern closed from south of Penrose/Sylvia Park. There are some later services. I appreciate we need some of these works for things like the City Rail Link to happen but I do wonder if we’ll ever have normal services. As a Western Line user, I think I can only recall one or two years in more than a decade it hasn’t been closed for weeks over this period.

More details on NYE buses, trains and ferries is here. Of course, with services so poor it will further encourage people to drive to the city instead, thereby making congestion worse and making it harder for those buses.

What seems to be ATs general lack of interest in providing good experiences for the event is also reflected in how AT communicates the event. There’s been very little public information and about it and what does exist is ‘hidden’ in multiple pages across ATs site. For example:

  • The PT service information is under their Events section within the PT pages.
  • Bus Stop changes come under the Service Announcement section within their PT pages.
  • Street closures come under the Events causing delays section on their news and events on the About Us pages

In addition, none of the pages have any graphics, and limited/no links between each other. I don’t get why it’s so hard for AT to deliver clear information about what’s happening (or not happening). It’s almost like AT don’t want people to know – which might well be the case as they’re probably trying to limit demand for the few extra services they are running.

If Auckland is to become a less auto-dependant city we need AT to start getting this stuff right.

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46 comments

  1. Isn’t it more a question of whether or not Auckland people will botch up Auckland’s transport at New Year? If thousands of people go into the same place over many hours then they shouldn’t expect to all go home at the same time.
    If people go down to the end of the town, well what can anyone do?

    1. As is clear from the article, put on more than 25 extra buses, have measures in place to let them move efficiently, and have clear information about the services easily available and widely distributed. Like lots of cites do.
      Don’t know why you didn’t understand that from the article.

    2. I can’t imagine why thousands of people would want to go into boring old Auckland City on New Years Eve.

      I’d rather take a slow tram from Randwick to Circular Quay and see a real New Years celebration.

    3. People do that literally every day in Auckland. 150,000 people arrive between 7am and 9am, and depart again between 4pm and 6pm. Every week day.

      All they need to do is run normal daily peak service at the right time.

  2. The road closure are also designed for the last year’s programmed events (none). this year there are apparently fireworks from the harbour.. which won’t be visible at all from the designated corrals

    1. Yes, none of the streets down at the waterfront will be closed and that’s where ATEED’s NY’s fireworks display will be visible from – talk about AT not having a clue about what’s going on.

  3. Last time I parked in the Downtown car park, and I got a family member to line up in the queue at the pay station while I went up to drive my car down. That way we didn’t need to wait at the pay station and THEN queue up to leave the parking building. Was a shambles nevertheless, got home at 2am.

  4. Why don’t AT close Queen St to all traffic at midday instead of 10pm , that way any cars that are parked in Queen st will be long gone by the time all the punters turn up for the festivities at midnight . And those silly traffic cones don’t stop no-one , just put in those larger ones that seperate traffic lanes on motorways . And any cars that haven’t moved by say 9pm clamp them so the owners can’t drive through the crowds as they build up .

    1. David most of what you say sounds good but suggest tow rather than clamp, as sends a clearer message and resolves the issue completely.

      Definitely makes sense for portable barriers too in regards to meeting safety and security needs.

    2. While in the city today I saw a sign on one of the poiles outside the Strand Arcade telling people there is no parking after pm until I think around 8am the following morning . Hope they have the barriers up around that time also to stop cars coming in and just have 1 exit out .

  5. Are they actually tearing up tracks during the shutdown or would it be relatively easy to open everything up just for New Years Eve? I assume freight trains are still running.

    1. A lot of the shut down is for Sleeper replacement, so trains won’t be running through those sections regardless of whether it is freight or commuter.

      1. Thanks. I’m guessing this is catching up for years of deferred maintenance? Oddly I noticed a line of sleepers ready to go between Panmure and Glen Innes but that section remains open over the break.

        James – given the shut down happens at the quietest time of the year for passenger trains I’m guessing AT have quite a big say.

        1. Some deferred maintenance, some CRL related stuff.

          I’ve seen a ton of sleepers on the southern line. I suspect they got a bunch ready for the next time the eastern line is closed. I swear they only did that area 2 years ago.

          Also, there is closures thanks to Otahuhu/Puhinui station works.

          And I would bet AT has a say on the shut downs. They will be forced to take them, but they probably can manage to have some partial line running (like what we are seeing). Kiwirail could just ignore them if they wanted

  6. On the Western line theres just 2 rail replacement buses after midnight. Hows that appropriate? Last year they were full at Britomart with 100s left behind… what a joke.

      1. Why would you take the risk if going to town. Safer to park in Ponsonby, Parnell or Eden terrace, bus to town and walk back to the car.

  7. How about close the streets where the most people congregate from midday New Year’s Eve to midday New Year’s Day (to allow time for safety barriers etc to be set up by people who probably then want to go to the New Year’s Eve events themselves, then time for them to get home/sleep/return to work and take them down the next day). Then run the frequent network at least on its standard (frequent) timetable through to say an hour after the bars/restaurants close (as their staff have to get home too).
    Perhaps in places where people congregate that don’t already have lots of food shops, bring in some food trucks to encourage eating & non-alcoholic drinking? Maybe even alcohol ban areas to create safe spaces for families and those who can enjoy themselves without getting drunk?
    Isn’t there a Council owned organisation that is supposed to organise events like this for Aucklanders?

  8. Of a similar nature but slightly off topic, the very public, popular Quay St is a fiasco. I appreciate the fact the sea wall is bring replaced.,Buuuutttt….

    With such a major thoroughfare almost out of bounds for so many why is work on it such gentleman’s hours, pretty much 8 – 4pm, 5 days a week. This bomb site has been dragging on for months with few workers visible. Why aren’t all the stops being pulled out with this project working around the clock?

    Why do public projectss get such poor service?

    1. The trouble with most construction in the city is all the Hotels in and around the city moan about the littlest sound being made before 7 in the morning from construction sites , as their renters of rooms seem to have delicate hearing , then they moan to the hotel management who then complain to the contractors which then growl at their employees for starting early .

      So nothing can be done 24/;7 any more .

  9. The rail Christmas shutdown is an annual event whereby a lot of maintenance can be carried out during a low patronage time to try and ensure reliable operation throughout the rest of the year. It involves rail crews from Auckland and outside, and sub-contractors.

  10. Two questions:

    1) Who will drive the extra buses on January 1st, when most bus drivers want to be home with their family?

    2) Who will pay the double time pay of any drivers who work after midnight on Dec 31st, when that additional cost isn’t factored into the contract price?

    These are the two reasons PT drops off at midnight every Dec 31st. The OPEX sky rockets and the available staff plummets.

    1. Yes it likely costs more but this is a flagship event. Do it well and it can help encourage more people to use PT during the rest of the year. That extra cost should be factored in.

      1. Absolutely – Here in the capital despite rail track work on a lot of the network during this time and all the dramas of the last 18 months we’ve got rail buses/trains running hourly all through the night in both directions on NYE in addition to the Night Buses

    2. I agree. It would be easier and cheaper to tell all the knuckleheads that it will still change to January 1st regardless of whether they pour into town just to stand around in a crowd or not.
      But dumb-arses will be dumb-arses so you can’t ban them, but I see no point in encouraging them.

  11. I just walked home with my Christmas shopping and despite there being cycle lanes on both sides of the road I counted five cyclist riding on the footpath including two Mormons. Number of cyclists in the cycle lanes = nil.Number of light rail projects started 2019 = nil. Number of light rail projects started 2020= ? Anyway merry Christmas everybody hopefully next year will be better than this year.

  12. Auckland Transport couldn’t figure out buses for Round the Bays. Leaving people queuing in the sun of walking back.
    They couldn’t figure out there were lots of events in at Labour weekend. They replaced Southern line trains with a single bus for each service which quickly filled with people trying to get to Armageddon and other events. Full buses drove past waiting people at train stations.
    Why would New Years or other big events be any different?

    1. Alicia
      And what you are saying is most likely to be the case while PT is seen as an adjunct to driving by private car. It’s the mode of transport that you use when it’s not convenient to drive- when the road is too congested or the parking at the end is expensive.

      I have often pondered whether that is the reason that monthly passes are so damn expensive; that AT can’t contemplate that there are regular users who would want to travel everywhere using PT and so it is ok to have higher fares because most people don’t buy them.

      I also note that we are about to be hit by our regular annual PT fare increase. Why is there not a similar mechanism for parking fees? Yeah I know AT has the Parking Strategy that provides for increases, but that is completely discretionary and that document is an almost complete waste of time in achieving its aims. (On review I was too generous; the AT Parking Strategy is a complete waste of time. Certainly in our suburb the figures show that).

      I am wishing for a New Year where AT truly focuses on PT, where the aim is double digit annual growth with the aim of decongesting our roads, reducing emissions and that this will have a commensurate flow on to safety and less spending on roads – all outcomes for the benefit of society.

    2. In looking at the AT website, I see the following Executives that may be responsible for working out what should be happening for events:
      *Customer Experience: Vanessa Ellis
      *Planning & Investment: Jenny Chetwynd
      *Service Delivery: Andrew Allen
      *Stakeholder, Communities & Communication: Wally Thomas
      So other than ultimately the CEO Shane Ellison and the Board of Directors, who of this list is responsible for understanding the major events that happen around Auckland (including New Years), and making decisions about putting on more services? I would like to see an Executive take responsibility, to be upfront beforehand about what they’re doing, and then to be available to media to discuss what went wrong if they didn’t get it right. Given most of the people commenting in this blog are more than capable of identifying the need, the responsible Executive should be put in the spotlight for better or worse.

  13. Melbourne’s NYE is amazing. At midnight there would be over 200,000 people in the CBD, then by 1am it’s only a handful. Nearly all have left by train. Rail works need to avoid NYE.

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