Dose of reality for capital commute

SIGN OF TIME: A bird nesting inside a traffic light in the Wellington CBD.
SIGN OF TIME: A bird nesting inside a traffic light in the Wellington CBD.

It won't stop the traffic jams, but it will at least tell you how long you'll be stuck in them.

The New Zealand Transport Agency is to start trialling real-time journey information for peak-hour commuters in and out of Wellington from Monday.

Estimated travel times into the city will be displayed on electronic signs already in place on State Highway 1 from Waikanae, and State Highway 2 from Maymorn, during peak times on weekday mornings.

In the afternoon, northbound commuters will see rough journey times to destinations such as Petone, Porirua and Waikanae.

People heading from Cobham Drive, near Wellington Airport, to the Basin Reserve will also see estimated journey times in the morning.

The three-month trial would help NZTA assess whether the information was of any value to commuters, highways manager Rod James said.

"These signs are used regularly to warn of incidents and roadworks on the highway and other roads, but this is the first time we have used them to report on normal traffic conditions."

The information would help drivers make informed choices about their commutes, including considering alternatives such as parking at the station and catching a train.

Because traffic conditions could deteriorate at short notice, journeys might end up taking a little longer than initially estimated, he said, and one of the purposes of the trial was to help the agency identify how the service could be improved.

"The travel times will be a pretty good snapshot of current travel conditions, but those journey times could end up being a tad longer if traffic snarls up over the course of your journey."

Warnings about incidents and travel conditions would take precedence over journey time messages.

AA general manager of motoring affairs Mike Noon said the move was a good one, and part of a growing trend to use intelligent systems to smooth the flow of traffic.

"There's no point trying to rush if you understand it's congested. It will be saying to people it is a slow run, no point trying to change lanes and duck and dive, which you often see."

Radio stations and Google Maps were now providing estimated journey times as well and, while people were tolerant of a bit of congestion, it helped to know how long they were going to be stuck, Noon said.

The Dominion Post