Congestion in Hamilton increasing as city grows
Hamilton's about to get the sort of traffic monitoring once needed only by our gridlocked cousins over the Bombays.
Waikato motorists are saying it's about time as the daily commute time for some has almost doubled in the past 12 months.
The Hamilton City Council is working on getting a Transport Operations Centre (TOC) running by the end of the year to monitor traffic flow at peak times across 12 hours of the day.
It would allow officials watching major intersections to tweak traffic lights to give motorists a smoother run.
Council network operations team leader Robyn Denton said the system is about keeping the city moving rather than punishing wayward motorists.
"It won't be used as a traffic enforcement tool," said Denton.
"The great thing about traffic signals is that we can see what is happening live with live data coming from them and also get cameras set up so we can see what's happening.
"So if there are areas of concern, we can get information back out to the public quickly so they can organise to go a different route or delay their trip."
Nipping across town in five minutes during rush hour has become a distant memory as Hamilton's population tips 161,000 and increasing numbers commute to work from satellite towns.
Figures published by GPS navigation company TomTom show Hamilton has also seen a 5 per cent increase in traffic congestion in the last year, equating to over 12 extra working days of commuting each year.
But we've still got it pretty good compared with Auckland, whose commuters spend the equivalent of four working weeks every year sitting in their cars.
Stuff asked six commuters heading into Hamilton from neighbouring towns on the same day to time their journey and compare it to their previous experience.
Most reported traffic thickening noticeably over the last year and a longer drive to work.
Cambridge resident and District Health Board member Mary Anne Gill drives 30km into Hamilton daily via Kaipaki Road, SH3 and through Glenview.
She estimated her 7.30am Thursday, March 16, trip of 40 minutes was nearly double the run of 22 minutes last year.
"It was quite a good run from Cambridge to Kaipaki, but there was a steady stream in front and behind me and we were all travelling in a well-ordered line. The new roundabout where you begin to mix in with the Te Awamutu traffic, was quite busy.
"If you live in Leamington and commute to Hamilton, it can take you quite a long time if you go through Cambridge, as there is no northbound entrance for the expressway for those in Lemington."
The Hamilton City Council works with the New Zealand Transport Agency and Waikato Regional Council to plan Waikato and Hamilton roads for best effect in a project called One Network.
Denton said the best solution to congestion is being proactive. "We want to ... make sure that we are optimising the network and making sure we get the best out of it and preventing an Auckland0type situation, which I think is the challenge for us as we look to grow. "
The daily commute
We compared the battle these road warriors faced on March 16.
Matamata to Hamilton via SH27, SH29 and SH1
"I normally leave Matamata at 5am and it takes me 45 minutes to drive to work, but this morning I left at 7:30am and it took me 1 hour and 11 minutes to get to work.
"The majority of the trip was with heavy traffic - cars trying to overtake trucks and so on."
Morrinsville to Hamilton via Piako Rd, Waverly Rd, Holland Rd
"It was 42 minutes with heavy traffic at Ruakura Road at the university and again at Clyde Street/Anzac Parade."
Te Awamutu to Hamilton via SH3
"It took 40 minutes, with traffic slow-moving and roadworks in Ohaupo."
Mary Ann Gill
Cambridge to Hamilton via Kaipaki Rd and SH3 in 40 minutes.
"The queue began at Glenview New World and it was a snail's pace from there right through to Palmerston Street. Most days the queue can be right back to Chinaman's Hill.
"There has been a noticeable increase in traffic in the last four to five months. I think Cambridge traffic is a major contributor which is mainly those living in Leamington."
Raglan to Hamilton via SH23
"It was a 35-minute trip with the heaviest traffic when coming into Dinsdale. Since they've changed the roundabout, it backs up quite a bit."
Huntly to Hamilton via Waikato Expressway
"It took 34 minutes. We've been doing it now for six months and traffic is definitely picking up with more people moving to the Huntly, Ngaruawahia areas and then travelling into Hamilton everyday. Previous to the expressway, it would have been 30 to 35 minutes' commute time, but now you can get into Hamilton in under 30 minutes. It's definitely cut down the commute time by about seven minutes."
* Leon Green, Jody Magee, and Jason Douthett work for Fairfax NZ
- Waikato Times