NZTA data confirms slower commute into Wellington from Paekakariki since Kapiti expressway opened
The average morning commute from Paekakariki into Wellington has increased by 10 minutes since the Kapiti Expressway opened to traffic, according to new data.
But while the morning grind into the capital is now worse for some travelling on State Highway 1 south of Paekakariki, those using the new $630 million expressway further north, between Paekakariki and Peka Peka, are shaving a good five minutes off their travel times, the New Zealand Transport Agency says.
Data from the agency, obtained by the Green Party, shows the average travel time heading south between Paekakariki and Wellington's CBD was 63 minutes during peak hour on weekdays between the expressway's opening day of February 24 and March 30.
That same journey took an average of 53 minutes in 2016 and an average of 44 minutes in 2008.
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Since the four-lane expressway opened, some Kapiti Coast commuters have complained it has doubled their commute time into Wellington.
That is largely because vehicles travelling between Peka Peka and Paekakariki now have an extra lane and aren't being slowed down by traffic lights or intersections any more. It means they are arriving at Paekakariki a lot earlier, and at the same time, which has worsened the traffic bottleneck where the expressway connects to the old two-lane SH1.
The four-lane Transmission Gully motorway will eventually connect Paekakariki to Wellington's northerns suburbs, but it is not scheduled for completion until April 2020.
Raumati Beach resident Neels Du Plessis said his commute into the capital had increased by about half an hour.
He used to hit the road about 6:20am, but since the expressway opened he has been jumping into his car at 6am to beat the traffic.
The "only solution" to the congestion problem would be to make commuter trains cheaper and more comfortable, he said.
"It's just too inconvenient to take the train [at the moment]. That's why people take the car.
But Waikanae resident Josh Fallon, who carpools into Wellington with two others, said the new expressway had shortened their journey by about 10 minutes, saving them $25 a week in fuel.
"Some people say the expressway creates more traffic, but if people knew how to merge properly there wouldn't be any traffic," he said. "It's been a complete help."
Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said more roads led to more traffic, and she did not expect Transmission Gully to fix the problem.
"We'll just see more traffic on the road and bigger bottlenecks further south [in Wellington] at Tawa and coming into the Terrace Tunnel."
She agreed with Du Plessis and said investment in more frequent and affordable trains was the answer.
Neil Walker, the transport agency's Wellington highways manager, said reductions of about five minutes had been seen in journeys along the new expressway, while evening peak delays for northbound traffic had reduced significantly.
He pointed out the traffic data for the expressway was from a five-week period between February and March, when travel times tended to be relatively high, and was being compared to a 12-month period that included quieter periods, such as school holidays.
When assessing the benefit of a new piece of roading infrastructure, it was important to focus travel times across the wider road network throughout the entire day, not just during peak hours, he said.