Surprise! Auckland Peak Hour Traffic Congestion Is Easing


Traffic congestion in Auckland when motorists are driving home from late afternoon is - surprisingly - getting better, not worse, according to official research.

Travel times in the evening peak have in fact declined for the past three years.

The ARC says it’s too early to tell if this is a long- term trend, noting that traffic congestion in Auckland shows considerable variability.

Over the last five years, a survey has been undertaken to research the average minutes of delay per kilometre on samples of Auckland’s strategic road network at various times of the day.

The results show considerable variability since monitoring began. However, the results for last year are “positive” overall for motorways, with reductions in the inter-peak, evening peak and average delays.
For other highways and regional arterial roads, the results show that after reductions in delay times in March 2008, these had increased again by March 2009. The delay times recorded in March 2009 on the state highways were, overall, still better than those recorded in 2007 apart from the morning peak period.

This chart shows the average delay in minutes per kilometre one day in March in years 2004-2009:

A common indicator of pressure on the roads pressure is an estimate of the total Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT). However, this does not take into account the amount of traffic congestion experienced or improvements in fuel quality or efficiency, so it must be considered in conjunction with other indicators of transport pressure.

Between 2001 and 2008, the total VKT in the Auckland region is estimated to have increased by about two billion kilometres, about 20%. In the past five years (since 2004) the VKT increased by about one billion kilometres (9%).
The VKT has also been increasing on a per person basis by about 0.5 per cent each year, on average. This indicates that people within the Auckland region are motoring more.

However, in common with the data on traffic congestion and vehicle ownership, this trend has shown some tapering off in recent years.

The ARC’s state of Auckland report says that some of the recent improvements in the levels of traffic congestion reflect a tapering off of growth in the VKT in the Auckland region, significant road transport infrastructure investment and increasing use of public transport.

This chart shows VKT travelled in the Auckland region 2001-2008:

The average engine size of the vehicles we’re driving is increasing.

In 1960, a typical family car had a 1.5 litre engine. By 2000, the average engine size was just over 2.0 litres and currently
it is near to 2.3 litres.

Nationally, there was steady growth in the engine size of vehicles between 2001 and 2007. However, this rate of growth declined for both New Zealand-new and used imports in 2006 and 2007. March 2008, these had increased again by March 2009.

This chart shows average vehicle cc in NZ 2000-2007:

Vehicle ownership rates throughout the country rose dramatically during the late 1990s. This coincided with a period of significant reductions in the real purchase price of new and used vehicles: this was associated primarily with the removal of vehicle import tariffs and restrictions on parallel importing.

Strong growth in private vehicle ownership has continued, with the number of light vehicles per person increasing by around 9 per cent between 2001 and 2007. This growth reflects a number of factors including the high value of the NZ dollar, high employment and a buoyant economy.

Nationally, vehicle ownership increased from 641 vehicles per 1000 people in 2001 to 698 vehicles per 1000 people in 2007. The Auckland region is likely to have experienced the same or a similar trend.

However, ownership rates levelled off in 2006 and 2007, possibly in response to increasing oil prices. Interestingly, the New Zealand-new component of the national vehicle fleet has a significantly larger engine capacity than the used imported component, due mainly to new Australian- made vehicles that are imported into the country.

The age of the vehicle fleet also has an impact on the fuel efficiency and the amount of pollutants generated by road transport. In 2007 the average age of the New Zealand light fleet was 12.0 years, compared with 11.6 years in 2000.




  1. jarbury says:

    In terms of congestion, 2008 stands out very clearly as the year when congestion was lowest. What happened in 2008? Oh that’s right, high petrol prices.

    Q: How to fix congestion?
    A: Raise petrol prices.

  2. Joshua says:

    Also in 2008, it was argubly one of the most attractive times for PT, some of the slight investments were coming through, however not as much disruption to the network as last year. This Year would have had the potential to be even better, with new stations opening on the train network, the central connector opening etc, however the constant disruption has been a bad start.

    Hopefully we can rectify this by the year end.

  3. Nick R says:

    Jarbury, you might want to add in some public transport, walking and cycling improvements in conjunction with increasing petrol prices.

    Sure expensive petrol alone will reduce the amount of driving, but without an alternate way to take those trips what cost to the economy and quality of life?

  4. jarbury says:

    Good point Nick. There have to be viable alternatives, but you do need a bit of push to go with the pull if you want real change.


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