Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland Council needs more support from the Government to fix the city's transport woes as "March Madness" officially begins.
Today marks the official first day of the busiest time of the year on Auckland's roads, public transport and cycleways, with the chaos further exacerbated by industrial action on Auckland train services.
Auckland Council's 10-year plan proposes $11b -$12b in spending on transport, but it is estimated much more is needed to make any progress.
"We have got to really run fast, just to stand still," Goff told the Herald.
There are more than 800 extra cars on Auckland streets a week, and the average central city commute time of an hour is expected to increase 55 per cent by 2020.
Congestion is estimated to cost Auckland businesses $1.9b to $2b a year.
A congestion report from the Automobile Association released yesterday, found Aucklanders were spending close to 80 hours stuck in motorway traffic congestion each year, described as a "noose" around motorists' necks.
The AA is calling for a raft of initiatives to tackle the problem, including encouraging parents to send kids to school on foot or by bike to put a brake on the number of cars.
Goff said Auckland needed to find the money to invest in infrastructure, and use the infrastructure better.
"Central government has a role to play, which they have acknowledged, but we have to do some ourselves."
Up to $150m a year could come from a regional fuel tax.
A congestion tax would only work if it was done right and publicly accepted, he said.
The funds would be spent on infrastructure, including extending busways and light rail.
"Problems that have been in the too-hard basket for too long are now being addressed," Goff said.
March Madness technically began at the beginning of this week, as about 100,000 university students started the academic year a week early and joined the city's commute.
But the dozens of festivals and events during the first month of autumn only add to the transport pressures.
The Auckland Lantern Festival, which starts tonight and runs until Sunday, is the country's largest cultural celebration by numbers.
More than 200,000 people are expected to visit Auckland Domain over the weekend to celebrate the close of Auckland's Year of the Dog celebrations.
Hundreds of lanterns will light up the Domain for the 19th annual festival to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Many roads will be closed around the Domain for the festival, and attendees are encouraged to use public transport to avoid parking problems.
Public transport pressures have been exacerbated this week due to industrial action by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU).
Auckland Transport announced on Saturday that until March 16 train services would run on a 20-minute frequency during peak time on weekdays due to the action.
This is a change from the usual 10-minute frequency.
On Monday the schedule changes caused delays for many commuters.
A deal between the Auckland rail workers and train operator Transdev could be reached on Monday.
Staff are refusing to work overtime in protest at plans to remove compulsory train managers, and replace them with transport officers.
Transdev managing director Michel Ladrak says they're forging towards a compromise.
But he's disappointed they didn't make more progress at a meeting yesterday.
The rail union says the industrial action could be called off, if a meeting on Monday goes well.
A survey by the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) on train passengers found overwhelming support for retaining train managers.
Of the 601 train passengers surveyed at Papakura, Britomart and Henderson stations, as well as online, 84 per cent disagreed with plans to remove the train managers.
"Many survey respondents had experienced or been scared by violence and aggression on the Auckland passenger rail network, so felt we need more security, not less," PTUA chair Christine Rose said.
With many commuters opting to drive rather than risk delays on the trains, congestion has only increased on Auckland's motorways.
This morning crashes have caused chaos, contributing to the already heavy congestion on motorways into the city.
Herald reporters tested the various modes of transport from New Lynn to the CBD and found cycling the winner, by a long shot.
Tristram Clayton had plenty of time to spare, arriving in 41 minutes, well ahead of Alice Peacock on the bus in an hour and 6 minutes, while Brigitte Purcell took an hour and 8 minutes driving and Carla Penman an hour and 11 minutes by train.