If you ask me what I remember about university, it's mostly Auckland's traffic. Ninety minutes to get to class, sometimes two hours to get home. The traffic was never the same from day to day, so sometimes I'd arrive half an hour late, other days I'd arrive way too early.

That was 10 years ago. The traffic is worse now.

Friday evenings were always the armageddon of Auckland traffic for anyone trying to head out of the city. Now, you can't get into the city either.

Auckland commuters lose 20 working days a year sitting in jams, according to the annual Tomtom survey released this week. In Australasia, only Sydney-siders suffer more than us.


Before you tell Aucklanders this would all go away if we start using public transport, let me tell you we are.

We caught the bus more, we caught the train more, we caught the ferry more. All those extra trips add up to 5 million more public transport journeys last year than the year before.

Aucklanders come to the public transport party, only to find the authorities haven't put on much of a bash. No one has fixed the train timetabling holes that turned me off using rail a decade ago.

The trains between Britomart and Pukekohe run too infrequently. Over the weekend, there's one train an hour. In fact, nowadays you can't even catch a direct train - you have to get off at Papakura and, if you've timed it badly, wait 27 minutes to continue your journey.

Contrast that to the city I've lived in for most of the past decade.

The trains between Wellington central and Upper Hutt run every half hour over the weekend. You only need to catch one train to make the trip. No one turns up their nose if you catch a bus in the capital. If you catch the right service on a rainy day, you might even find yourself sitting opposite a former Finance Minister. The buses run frequently, they stop when you wave at them, there's always one just around the corner if your one is too full.

In Auckland, the inner-city link bus doesn't arrive every 10 minutes like the website says it does. When it does finally make an appearance, it doesn't always stop. Apparently, if the bus is running late and needs to make up time to get back on schedule, it won't pick up passengers.

Note to Auckland bus drivers: you're not in a Sega game collecting points for passing bus stops within a designated time. Your job is to pick up passengers, so pick up the passengers please.

No wonder a group of young Aucklanders called Generation Zero are calling on frustrated bus users to complain. No wonder they're using those complaints to pressure Auckland Council into lifting bus standards.

Yes, this city has already sucked up millions for new double-decker buses and a flash transport hub called Britomart and the new underground train route that will take us around and around the CBD. But the neglect of our public transport started in the 1950s when they pulled up the tram tracks. Fixing more than 60 years of regression will cost millions more.

We need buses that actually pick people up, more train carriages and drivers, designated cycleways that connect to each other so you can get from One Tree Hill to the ferry terminal without dodging cars.

If you ignore a city's public transport for this long, it takes a lot of money and a long time to put it right.

To anyone even vaguely considering sticking millions and millions into a waterfront stadium I say, forget it.

Put that money into this city's public transport.

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