Jack Tame is a television and radio journalist and presenter.

Jack Tame: Our roads to ruin

Traffic doesn't care for fancy cars. It's not moving faster for anyone. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Traffic doesn't care for fancy cars. It's not moving faster for anyone. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Twice an hour, every hour, from 6am through to 8.30. Twenty-five times a week all up, Hilary Barry and I take turns to read the national traffic report on Breakfast.

It doesn't change much. But for the odd crash, Anniversary day, or occasional flooding in Coromandel, you can be guaran-damn-teed that almost every day we'll describe the same congestion on the same motorways.

I can't read the future but I can tell you right now it'll be packed tomorrow morning from Drury to Takanini.

You don't need to live in Auckland to know how frustrating it is to be sitting in traffic.

Congestion is a great equaliser. You can be a multi-millionaire in a kitted-out late European, or struggling to make ends meet with an unregistered, bunged-up, eighth-hand Mitsubishi and it all works the same.

Traffic doesn't care for fancy cars. It's not moving faster for anyone.

Sitting in traffic for hours is such a normal part of the week for so many Aucklanders I can sympathise with people who live elsewhere and turn up their noses at our beautiful harbours and warm weather. It's a serious quality-of-life thing.

News this week that Auckland's congestion rivals Hong Kong's does sound dramatic and The Tom Tom study should be interpreted carefully.

In rush hour, Auckland's traffic might rate as internationally bad, but unlike Hong Kong and Sao Paolo it eases off after hours. I don't meet much congestion when I roll into work at 3.30am.

But it's yet another hurry up (or not, as the case may be) for a city that in so many other ways is a South Pacific paradise.

No city ever solved its traffic problems by building more roads. And with a significant slab of the migration surge focused on the Auckland region, the morning commute won't get much shorter any time soon.

According to the Ministry of Transport, registered vehicles on New Zealand roads increased by 185,000 in 2016. Only so many motorway extensions and tunnels will cope with that kind of growth.

Traffic is Auckland's great shame.

We already know a solution will involve massive investment in public transport. Friends visiting recently from overseas were staggered to discover even a light rail link to the airport is potentially more than a decade away.

This in a city of more than 1.5 million people.

But anyone who suggests there isn't an appetite for change need only consider Auckland's jam-packed city buses and increasingly popular commuter trains.

Who in their right mind would choose an idling first gear crawl over a shorter, smoother, commute to work?

Every morning I read the traffic report and watch our live motorway shots with a mix of sympathy and disdain.

Then I leave the studio, wipe off my make-up, get on my bike and ride home.

• Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB, Saturday, 9am-noon

- Herald on Sunday

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Jack Tame is a television and radio journalist and presenter.

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