24 Nov 2023

AT tries to ease Black Friday congestion after traffic chaos last weekend

From Checkpoint, 5:50 pm on 24 November 2023

It's the biggest retail event of the year marking the start of the festive season's shopping.

But after last weekend's traffic chaos at Westfield Newmarket, when motorists queued up to three hours in the carpark, Auckland Transport has tried to ease congestion this Black Friday.

Last year Kiwis spent $350 million during Black Friday week and $67m on the Friday itself. 

Chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association Mark Knoff Thomas is predicting this year could be the biggest yet. 

"Well, going by last year, Black Friday was the busiest retail day of the year for us and it actually exceeded Boxing Day by about $1 million and that trend has continued." 

Some shoppers RNZ spoke to had already spent up large before lunchtime. 

"It's just the best time of year to come shopping," one person said.

"I've just started and I've already got something here," said one woman holding up a Marc Jacobs handbag. 

Another shopper joked he'd made the mistake of coming to the mall on Black Friday. "I'm just here to kill a bit of time."

Last Saturday thousands of shoppers descended on Westfield Newmarket causing traffic chaos with queues up to three hours long to exit the carpark. 

Shoppers reported having panic attacks and were unable to get anything to eat or drink, or to use the toilet.

The congestion had some concerned about Black Friday bargains causing another snarl-up. 

"It put me off but we thought we'd just try anyway," one shopper said. 

Another said she'd avoided parking in the Westfield carpark building, "I've parked down the road partly because of the chaos last week." 

Knoff Thomas said his business association has been working with Auckland Transport and Westfield to try and avoid lengthy queues.

"We've got more staff on hand to help with traffic management inside the centre, outside on the streets as well, so I think we'll be okay, this time." 

If there are lengthy delays like last weekend, Westfield said they would be providing food and water to people waiting in their cars and vouchers for those who chose to abandon their car and come back for it. 

Auckland Transport is encouraging shoppers to use public transport this weekend and in the weekends leading up to Christmas. 

It is asking shopping malls to manage their onsite parking by having clear signage when car parks are full and to remind customers what public transport is available. 

To help with this, Knoff Thomas said 500 Hop cards would be given away loaded with $5 credit. 

"So people can make some choices around catching a bus or a train instead of coming by private passenger vehicle." 

But on Friday, many people RNZ spoke to still favoured their own four wheels to make their way to the mall. 

Auckland Transport said public transport will allow shoppers to avoid being stuck in long queues this weekend. 

But that was not a popular or practical option for some shoppers. 

"I probably would use it... unless it rained, of course, in which case it's a pain in the bum," one shopper said.

Another said she wouldn't be tempted, "I just would use my car regardless." 

Another said it depended on what they were shopping for. "If you have a lot of bags, probably the bus isn't going to be my first preferred transport." 

Another shopper said others should make an effort to use the bus. "It is possible you know you can catch the bus with bags, I don't want to hear any excuses."