New Zealanders should be complaining much more about our appalling traffic congestion

A congested motorway and unused cycleway in Auckland, New Zealand
Cycling is fast becoming the most efficient way to travel around Auckland. (Getty)

OPINION:  Like our predominantly English ancestors, Kiwis just love waiting in lines - patiently queuing up to take our place in life without argument is part of our DNA.

We do it without complaint in supermarkets, bars, and airports - and on the motorways of our largest cities every day.

We do it because in most cases there is no other way to get to work.

But we're spending far too long in our cars - more than most other countries according to the latest figures. 

Aucklanders spent 45 minutes a day stuck in traffic in 2016 - that's up by one-third on figures from 2015.

That adds up to four weeks of being stuck in congestion every year.

But it's not just in Auckland where commuters have to sit in their cars for up to two hours each day (which is the case from the most outlying suburbs), Wellington was the third worst city in the world for morning commute congestion in 2016, horrific figures for such a medium sized, compact city.

Congestion is also on the increase in Christchurch, Dunedin and Tauranga.

So why is it increasing?

Congestion is increasing simply because there are more cars than ever on our roads. 

To give you an example, new housing developments in west Auckland near Hobsonville have seen an extra 10,000 cars joining the long queues on the Northwestern motorway into the city and back each day.

More people in our cities means there are more cars on our roads and therefore more congestion.

Remember: each car on our motorways usually only has one person in them.

Why do we happily put up with it?

Kiwis should be banging down the doors of our law makers, demanding better public transport options than we have now - which is quite frankly a first-world joke, especially in Auckland.

New Auckland mayor Phil Goff has been sabre-rattling of late about building a new waterfront stadium, but surely getting more busways, train tracks and cycle paths constructed is the more immediate concern.

Simply put, Kiwis need to look at alternatives to driving to work during peak time traffic, because congestion is only going to get worse.

Cycling is fast becoming king

Cycling is now the most efficient way to get to work and back in Auckland - if you live in certain suburbs.

West Auckland is particularly lucky to have a modern cycle path right next to the Northwestern motorway. I use it whenever the weather is conducive to cycling, and the number of cyclists I see on it seems to be increasing daily.

The time it takes for me to cycle from Te Atatu Peninsula to the Newshub building in Eden Terrace is about 40 minutes - in a car the journey can take over an hour in heavy traffic (which is most of the time) and then you have to find somewhere to park.

Cycle specific paths are on the increase in Auckland and Wellington. Auckland Transport is spending $200 million on improving and building new cycleways and a new route to the city from Glen Innes through the Orakei Basin will be a revelation when completed in 2019.

Wellington's Island Bay cycleway may have been a public relations and costly nightmare - but you can't argue with the intentions behind it.

Cycling is already king in European cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen - why can't it be in Auckland and Wellington?

Nothing relieves traffic congestion like tens of thousands of people travelling on bikes. It just requires a change in mindset.

Should we take the train or bus?

There are not enough train routes in Auckland. There are none at all to the North Shore, and there is none to the airport. That is truly appalling for a so-called world-class city.

I've been stuck fast in a taxi for an hour at Auckland Airport just waiting to get out of the place.

A new city rail link is being built under Auckland - the problem is that there are not many suburbs where you'll be able to train to get to it.

In my neck of the woods, the nearest train stop from Te Atatu Peninsula is 5km away in Henderson, but you'd have to cycle, drive or take the bus to get there anyway.

Taking the bus from Te Atatu Peninsula into town takes about an hour in peak time traffic, as there are no continuous bus lanes, and you have to walk up to Eden Terrace from Karangahape Road. 

Are we building enough roads to compensate?

Not really. The new tunnel through Mt Albert in Auckland is opening in April, but there is concern among some motorists that the already congested Northwestern motorway linking to it will buckle under yet more traffic that it will invariably bring.

Wellington's Transport Agency wanted to build a flyover that would flow traffic directly from the Mt Victoria Tunnel into the city but the $90 million project was choked to death by red tape and failed to gain resource consent approval. At least the region's Kapiti Expressway opened this month - ahead of schedule and to apparent unanimous acclaim.  

We don't have to put up with traffic congestion

Kiwis are happy to be stuck in traffic it would seem - does it make us feel like we live in modern, busy cities?

Congestion will continue to worsen while our population keeps growing - what we need to do is find alternative ways to travel.

Is it more efficient to cycle, bus or take the train from where you live? While the alternative options might be limited at the moment, they are getting better.

It's time to ditch the motorway people - it's a road to nowhere.

Newshub.

 

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