Christchurch traffic woes to ramp up this winter

SHELLEY ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014
traffic control
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ

PROBLEMATIC: Christchurch’s Northern Motorway from 7.15 every week-day morning is under close scrutiny from CTOC manager Ryan Cooney.

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Christchurch motorists face big traffic jams this winter as the roading network struggles to cope with post-quake travel patterns.

The city's roading system was built for people living in the outer suburbs and travelling to work in the central city, but the earthquakes have pushed many workplaces to the suburbs. Many people have also moved house and the roading network is struggling to cope.

The Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC), an alliance of organisations involved in the rebuild, says motorists face a challenging winter on city roads.

CTOC manager Ryan Cooney said making big changes to alleviate the congestion would be counter-productive.

The city was still forming what would become typical traffic patterns and faced a seven-fold increase in the amount of roadworks.

"Pre-earthquake we had about 140 planned and unplanned roadworks a month. Now we have more than 700 each month," said Cooney.

Over winter there would be about 2100 planned and unplanned roadworks. More than 1400 have been booked so far.

CTOC has 140 traffic cameras and a variable message sign system that tells it where congestion is.

Cooney's team concentrates on making smaller changes to improve traffic flows, like altering traffic signals to the network to speed travel up.

They know Blenheim Rd, Brougham St, Riccarton Rd, Bealey Ave, the Northern Motorway and Carlton Mill corner intersections are the worst hit areas because 50,000 central city workers now work mainly in the suburbs.

People had also moved out of red zones and into new suburbs or townships, including Rangiora and Rolleston.

Cooney said the Northern Motorway was bad - Waimakariri traffic had experienced seven years' growth "overnight".

Motorist Caitlin Macpherson's daily commute from Kaiapoi to the College of Education in Ilam takes her more than an hour - she said it should take her 25 minutes.

"I drive on to the ramp to get onto the Northern Motorway. I am at a standstill before I even make it on," she said.

Rachel McClung has travelled into the city from Rangiora for 16 years and said a trip that used to take her 25 minutes now takes more than 90.

"There is a serious bottleneck at the Waimakariri Bridge and then again at either Belfast or Marshland - no matter which way you go," she said.

Cooney's team is running scenarios on fixing the problem. They suspect making the right-hand turn from Tram Rd on to Main North Rd easier may solve it.

But it is not just North Canterbury.

Lincoln University Student Association employee Marcella Herrera's commute from St Albans to work has morphed the normally "calm, caring person" into a "Gollum-like creature".

Cooney said:

"We are completely dependent on people emailing us [about congestion] from the Transport for Canterbury site.

"Tell us where the congestion is and we can try to do something about it."

TIPS FOR DRIVERS

-Merge like a zip – it keeps traffic even on both sides.

-Pay attention to traffic signals. Inattention at a green light can stop several cars getting through an intersection.

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-Don't run red lights. A single car running a red light can delay up to four others.

-Use lanes available. Don't stack one lane as it creates congestion.

-Email Transport for Canterbury to report traffic congestion: tfc@ccc.govt.nz.

- The Press

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