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.
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.