Balloons event free bus problems to be reviewed

Punters wait hours for free buses home

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
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Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

NOT SO GLOWING REPORT: The regional council says issues including safety at bus stops and parking being available close to the event contributed to traffic frustrations.

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Balloons Over Waikato organisers will review their traffic management processes around their NightGlow event after a stuff-up resulted in punters waiting hours for free buses to take them home.

People took to Facebook to complain about the service put on by Waikato Regional Council to try to alleviate congestion from the event which attracted a crowd of 80,000.

"We took the free bus and had to wait until the fourth one came until we could get on," said Joanne Gerrand. "It took two hours and then it was not pushchair-friendly."

"On the negative side, took an hour and a half to get on the bus to be dropped off," said Leanne Hyde.

Rebekah Kenny described the car parking arrangements as an "absolute disgrace" and it took more than 90 minutes for her to travel a distance usually covered in 15 minutes.

Regional council acting public transport operations manager Ben Barlow said the council had staff at the event and understood the frustration at having to wait to board buses.

"In our view the event's traffic management plan did not adequately provide for an efficient and timely bus service for passengers," Barlow said.

"We'll be meeting organisers in the next couple of weeks to discuss how these issues can be addressed ahead of next year's event. In particular, we'll again ask for our buses to be given priority over other traffic - something that didn't happen this year."

Barlow said the council would also be asking organisers to reconsider the provision of parking close to the event, restrict pedestrian access through bus stops to improve safety, allow buses to stop and depart in a timely way and put in measures preventing bus stops from being used as drop-off sites so buses were not delayed.

"While we had about 5000 more people using the free buses compared with last year, we noticed there was a huge uptake on parking which had been created by organisers close to the venue.

"With this increased traffic, it was difficult for our buses to arrive and depart in a timely way. Unfortunately, putting on additional buses would not have resolved the delays, due to the heavy traffic around the university."

Balloons Over Waikato general manager Michele Connell said she had not received any complaints.

"I have not got all the feedback from everyone yet," Connell said. "It was our biggest NightGlow yet. When there is any amount of people wanting to leave at the same time you are invariably going to get waiting time. You can't get 80,000 in over five hours and all out at the same time."

Connell said organisers were yet to be debriefed on how things had gone. That would happen over the next couple of weeks.

Anyone wishing to have their say can email info@balloonsoverwaikato.co.nz.

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- Waikato Times

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