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Published: 2011-04-04 00:00:00

The record popularity of this year’s Balloons Over Waikato event has been reinforced by data showing that buses carried more than 16,000 passengers to and from the event, a 65 per cent increase over 2010.

The total of 16,077 passengers carried on Saturday compared to 9,733 last year and 8,500 in 2009, said Waikato Regional Council transport group manager Vaughan Payne.

“We estimate that during most big events other than the Balloons, such as the V8s and the World Rowing Championships, we have carried up to three per cent of attendees.

“But, during Saturday’s Balloons, it’s estimated we carried more than 20 per cent of event goers, almost certainly the best ratio on our records.

“The contribution of council-supplied buses reinforces the key role they have to play in making events in Hamilton run smoothly.”

The council operated a series of Park and Ride sites around the city where event goers were able to drop their cars and bus to and from the event for free. Despite the extra crowds, operations went smoothly, said Mr Payne.

“It was clearly busier than previous years and we had concerns about the end of the night. But all sites were clear in good time by 10.15pm despite larger queues.”

Mr Payne paid tribute to staff of Hamilton City Council, Allied Security, AgResearch, Go Bus, the event’s organisers, police and Waikato Regional Council staff who contributed to the smooth bus operations.

“We estimate more than 5000 cars were off roads near the event because of the Park and Ride sites, a huge contribution to reducing congestion and the overall carbon footprint of the event.

“With predictions of further growth in crowds at the Balloons, we will work closely with partner agencies to make sure we can continue to help the event run smoothly.”