Auckland consistently ranks highly in lists of the world's best cities but is never number one. So what would it take to turn Auckland into a first-class city? This week the Herald continues its 10-day series examining some of the biggest hurdles Auckland faces, from housing and transport to entertainment and education. We look at what we are doing, what we need to do, and why Auckland's success matters to the rest of the country. In part six of the series we look at transport.
Auckland's business community is alarmed a proposed $1 billion highway and associated roading to ease freight deliveries in and out of the city's industrial hub remain seven years away.
"It really has to happen sooner," says Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association chief Kim Campbell of a Transport Agency plan to build a limited access highway along the Manukau Harbour shore between the Southern and Southeastern motorways by 2022.
"In that period you're going to get another 300,000 people in Auckland, buying groceries and stuff..
"Talking about another four years of traffic studies is in my view a criminal act."
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Transport Agency northern highways manager Brett Gliddon said last week the project was still in its early stages, but 1700 public responses to a call for submissions would be used to help the organisation make decisions "as we move from concept through to detailed design."
Tackling traffic bottlenecks through Neilson St, between Onehunga and Southdown, cannot come soon enough for freight carrier Phil Sims and his fleet of 12 trucks and trailers.
Mr Sims, who is based next to the Port of Tauranga's inland port on Neilson St, says his drivers generally waste about an hour a day stuck in traffic in that corridor.
He believes that equates to lost revenue of more than $200,000 a year.
The National Road Carriers Association says operators of the 8000 or so heavy vehicles delivering goods on Auckland roads each day are collectively losing $100 million a year in congestion estimated by traffic consultants to the Transport Agency in 2013 to be costing the wider economy $1.25 billion annually.
Mr Sims, who began his working life as a courier driver before building up his fleet truck by truck, says the industry has been doing what it can to find ways of moving freight during off-peak hours.
He says some major manufacturers in the southern Auckland industrial belt are moving goods at night to staging posts such as at Albany and Avondale, to make it easier for smaller trucks to distribute them to retail outlets the next day.
"I've been working out of Onehunga here for 16 years, and in the last five to eight years it's slowly got worse - the traffic has got heavier and heavier," he says.
"Now it can take you 20 minutes to get down Neilson St."
Jane Dowdeswell, one of his 14 drivers, says she leaves home in Howick at 5.20am each day in time to start her first truck run from Wiri by 6am to get ahead of the worst congestion.
"If I left it until 7am, I probably wouldn't get to the North Shore til 8.45am, whereas if I leave at 6am I can be there in 35 minutes.
Spending much of her working day perched high in the cab of her 44-tonne-capacity truck and trailer combo, Mrs Dowdeswell gets a bigger picture than most other road users of what's happening in the traffic ahead.
"It take it in my stride," she says of traffic delays
"You can't do anything about it, you've just got to go with the flow, but I can see a lot of improvements that could be implemented with the way people drive."
Her pet hate is car drivers who zip in front of her with little apparent thought of how much room a heavy vehicle needs and how unnecessary lane-changing can interrupt traffic flows, slowing everything down.