Why Auckland's traffic just keeps getting worse

The Waterview Tunnel had a large, but only temporary, impact on Auckland's congestion problem, a new AA report shows.

After the multibillion-dollar road opened in July last year, commuters in the notoriously gridlocked city saw up to 11 minutes shaved off their rush-hour trips.

"Everybody noticed it. It got easier right across the network, both on the motorways and the arterial roads," AA spokesman Barney Irvine told The AM Show on Thursday morning.

"Eleven minutes were shaved off the trip in on the Southern Motorway, post-Waterview. That's a pretty big change."

Airport-CBD trips were seven minutes quicker, and commuters coming from Albany and Westgate via the Northern and Southern Motorways respectively saved five minutes each.

AA Auckland map
Photo credit: AA

But those gains are already being eroded away, with around 43,000 more people moving to Auckland and 40,000 more cars on the roads in the past 12 months. The average Aucklander now drives just over 9000km a year, up 189km.

"It's going to get worse, no question about it," said Mr Irvine.

In March 2016, the average speed on Auckland's arterial roads was 37km/h. A year later it was 32km/h. In the second half of 2017 speeds began to surpass those of 2016, as the Waterview Tunnel eased stress on the network.

But by November 2017, speeds were back down to 2016 levels.

The average rush-hour commuter now loses almost 80 hours a year to congestion, according to the AA.

AA speed map
Photo credit: AA

The average speed on the city's main motorways is around 43km/h, and it's even worse on arterial routes. Tristram Ave on the North Shore slows to a 13km/h crawl, while cars on Onewa Rd in Northcote average 16km/h and on Grafton's Khyber Pass Rd, 18km/h.

"Think about that in terms of time with the family, time doing the things you love, rather than something you absolutely hate and sucks your will to live - not to mention the impact on productivity," said Mr Irvine.

AA Auckland figures
Photo credit: AA

While public transport use rose 7 percent, the AA says it still only accounts for 5 percent of total kilometres travelled. Private vehicles make up the bulk of the 14.6 billion km travelled in the last year, up 700 million km from the year before.

The AA wants the Government to invest heavily in more "big projects" like Waterview.

Other ideas include:

  • setting "firm targets" to get congestion down to levels seen in Australian cities like Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth
  • a "small-scale practical trial of a congestion charging scheme"
  • introducing "smart traffic lights" that can adjust their signalling to traffic conditions
  • setting up more park-and-ride facilities
  • walking and cycling safety initiatives, particularly for schoolkids.