Gridlock

New figures show an alarming increase in the vehicle count at 10 of our busiest intersections.

The Bay of Plenty Times today launches Gridlock – Tauranga's No. 1 issue, a series examining what's gone wrong, the chokepoints and how bad they have become and the impact on people, businesses and the wider city.

Dylan Thorne gives his opinion on what is at stake if nothing is done to address the problem.

COMMENT:

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Tauranga is a great place to live, but it is facing a big, unyielding problem – its overloaded transport network.

I, like many others, have had enough of the city's traffic woes.

Each workday commuters face lengthy delays getting to their places of work. Lines of cars inch their way through choke points at the city's busiest intersections.

These lengthening commutes are seriously detracting from Tauranga's reputation as a lifestyle destination.

They're also hurting business, and transport-related issues are already slowing down the city's booming housing sector.

Morning traffic in Bethlehem. Photo / George Novak
Morning traffic in Bethlehem. Photo / George Novak

The city is a victim of its success. Tauranga has enjoyed a prolonged period of growth, but it's clear that the roading infrastructure has failed to keep pace.

The extent of the problem is revealed in dramatic new council figures, released exclusively to the Bay of Plenty Times , which show 767,000 more vehicle movements through 10 of the busiest intersections compared with 2013.

Most of the increase in weekly vehicle movements across all 10 intersections has been in the past three years.

Worryingly there does not appear to be a clear strategy to deal with the problem, and the city council and the national roading authority are locked in a tense stalemate over the issue.

The council suspended millions of dollars of significant transport and safety projects in protest at a "paralysis" of action from the NZ Transport Agency. The agency says the city's plan does not align with the Government Policy Statement and focuses too much on cars instead of alternative transport.

The division doesn't bode well for those hoping for urgent solutions to the problem – nor does the city's status as the most car-reliant centre in the country.

Local councils and the Government appear to be at odds over what needs to be done. In the meantime traffic flows are increasing each year, meaning the traffic jams will only get worse and, consequently, we'll be spending longer and longer in our cars.

There is a human cost to this as well.

Traffic heading into the city, from State Highway 29A towards Turret Rd. Photo / George Novak
Traffic heading into the city, from State Highway 29A towards Turret Rd. Photo / George Novak

Across Tauranga and the Western Bay, parents are dropping their kids at before-and-after-school care providers earlier and picking them up later in the evening.

A counsellor says long days spent in traffic means families are exhausted and stressed – in fight or flight mode.

Mayor Greg Brownless says unless something is done to fix it our city will become an unpleasant place to live.

Many, faced with lengthy delays both to and from work each day, would say that's already happening.

For that reason alone, those in power need to set aside their differences and figure out a long-term solution to the problem.

Read here for dramatic new figures which reveal the scale of Tauranga's traffic woes.
Read here to discover the human impact of Gridlock – Tauranga's No. 1 issue.
Read here to see what the mayor has to say in a special guest editorial.
Tomorrow, we reveal how traffic congestion is affecting businesses, and why it could have a devastating impact on the housing sector.