I attended the One Day International Cricket match at Eden Park yesterday. While game was outstanding, and finished in a stunning nail biting tie, what really let things down was the post match public transport. The whole thing was a disorganised shambles. The rail network is of course closed all Anniversary Weekend for major electrification works, so public transport was by buses.
In the last few years the rail services to major events have become quite popular, and many people expect their to be trains going to most major events, this being especially true of Eden Park. For example these are the statistics for the last All Blacks game at Eden Park where an impressive 47% of people used special event public transport services.
The crowd at the cricket was reported at 28,612 so while not at the level of the highest profile All Blacks games, still not insubstantial, and also much higher than the Super 15 crowds which have excellent provision of public transport. However the Public Transport provision fitted a crowd a handful of that number.
After the game finished at 10.15pm most people heading back to town flock towards Kingsland station, as they are now used to having trains lined up ready to go on both platforms. However of course there was nothing, with no special signs telling people how they could get back to town. There were the normal platform signs telling people they needed to go to New North Road to catch rail-replacement buses, which is the case all weekend. Though noticing all the confused people walking around the signs clearly weren’t enough, and there were none at the New North Road bus-stops telling people where to go.
The only special event buses organized running direct to Britomart required a wristband for boarding, which is great for efficiency of loading. However these wristbands had to have been purchased at Britomart on the inbound services, and there were not being sold at Eden Park. So there was no way for anyone without a wristband to get on the bus. This is plain madness. Many people may have arrived at the ground by other means, and want to head into town afterwards. For example I caught a bus from Symonds St near the University as it was more convenient for me, but as these buses are infrequent in the evening I was relying on a special event bus to get me home. Anyone without a wristband was simply told to cross the road and wait for the next normal rail-repalcement bus. However this was ridiculous as there were only a handful of buses, and people waiting at the stops in Kingsland would have packed out the buses.
The only normal rail replacement buses heading towards town were at 10.02pm (too early), 11.02pm and 12.02am. Note that the game finished at about 10.15pm so this would have meant an unacceptable 45 minute wait. There were also the regular buses running along New North Road (the 221 and 223) though these were running at there normal (rubbish) frequency of every 30 minutes. I did see one of these buses loading up straight after the game, but saw that people were already standing in the bus, so no point joining the queue of 50 people, most of whom would fail to fit on the bus. So overall in the hour after the game there were a total of 4 buses (all small ADL’s) that people could catch towards town unless that had pre-purchased a wristband. This picture from 10.55pm highlights the mess that this left. Note that this scene was repeated for at least 3 different bus-stops in Kingsland. Also I heard many comments and also saw many people who had given up on public transport and decided a taxi was a safer bet, which in the case it definitely was.
Note there were extra rail replacement buses heading west. However these were not advertised or even on website or timetable, and only confirmed when I asked AT on twitter a few days ago. There was also no signage indicating where to catch the buses from. In the end I gave up on joining the queue, and walked to View Road where I could catch a service from down Dominion Road.
The big question is why was the event transport so badly organized and so stupidly awkward for this event. To see what should of been done we can look on the AT website which highlights public transport options for the Auckland Nines in 2 weeks, and looking to attract a capacity crowd similar to the large All Blacks Test. While they have the advantage of trains running, note there are also special bus services running direct to Midtown, as well as the Northern Busway, Takapuna, Manukau, Botany and Pakuranga. None of these areas had direct buses for the cricket.
The issue is certainly complicated because all the Rugby Union games as well as the Auckland Nines have free travel on special event services by just showing the ticket. However as seen above the wristbands are a very clumsy way to get around this, and excluding and ignoring people who don’t behave by ditching them on an infrequent bus service is not acceptable.
While I don’t like being an endless complainer it is really important that Auckland Transport gets these special event services right. This is because using these services will only be occasional or even new public transport users, If they have a good experience then people will be encouraged to use public transport more in the future. However if they have a dreadful experience, such as being left behind and ignored (like the people in the picture above) then they are likely to be burnt by the experience, avoid public transport in future, as well as shaping anti public transport investment attitudes.