Weekends 'worse than rush hours'

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 16/03/2014

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Motorists are being driven mad by the rise of the weekend rush hour.

Sports-playing commuters, weekend workers and shoppers are causing weekend congestion in the main centres since the country emerged from the recession.

And in the past year alone, an extra 300 cars per hour have hit some of Auckland's main motorways compared with 2011, according to figures from the NZ Transport Agency.

The biggest rush occurs in the middle of the day but doesn't completely die down until evening.

Statistics from TomTom, a manufacturer of car GPS devices, found similar trends with weekend traffic increasing across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Driving in the three main centres is about 20 per cent worse on the weekend compared to overnight or free-flowing traffic.

Wellington resident Gary Scott finds travelling through Island Bay can take longer on Saturday mornings than the weekday work run.

"There are times on Saturday if you want to get out of the suburb you have to think again."

The dad-of-two often finds himself taking his children to sports matches or driving to the city. But the suburb's major football park sits on the main road out of Island Bay, meaning traffic chaos when the 200 children finish their football games on Saturday morning.

"Driving through there and into town is just like rush hour on a weekday, or even slightly worse.

"More people are going out to eat and socialise with family and friends. A lot of people with kids go to sport. Saturday is a busy time in the city and there are problem areas."

Sarah-Marie Ward experiences Auckland traffic headaches when she drives from her home in Onehunga to her workplace on the North Shore during the weekend.

"There's lots of people on the motorway between 8am and 9am on a weekend. It surprises me that it can be so busy on the motorway. You wouldn't expect it to take so long on Saturday and Sundays."

AA traffic spokesman Phil Allen said technology can help avoid the worst of the weekend traffic jams and advised motorists to use navigation devices, mobile GPS applications or the AA roadwatch website to receive live updates. "The live traffic technology is very good. It tells you where the build-up is and in a number of cases you can bypass it."

He has also noticed increased weekend traffic, especially on Auckland's North Shore.

"I have noticed significant build-up on certain parts of Auckland's motorway network on the weekend. It surprises me because we used to think of [congestion] when just going from work to home."

NZTA national journey manager Kathryn Musgrave said traffic congestion dropped off during the recession, from 2009 to 2011.

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However, in the past few years traffic levels have been returning to pre-recession levels across the week and weekend.

There has also been an increase in public transport use in the past few years, she said.

"We are hoping to see a flattening out of car usage and people moving into public transport so the type of congestion we're getting is no worse off."

- Sunday Star Times

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