Packed buses and stalled highways are already upon Auckland, and it is not even March yet.

The peak month for Auckland transport is March, known as March Madness, as about 100,000 university students join the city's commute.

This year many of those students are returning a week early, as the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology start on February 26, and have orientation weeks on February 19.

The month is also filled with popular events, including the Lantern Festival, Pasifika, Super Rugby, the Auckland Arts Festival and Polyfest.


Read more: Simon Wilson: Is Auckland ready for March Madness traffic congestion?

Since last year Auckland Transport has improved bus networks east and west of the city, and are adding 4600 spaces on the northern bus routes through March to cope with the increased demand.

There will be 99 double deckers operating on various routes, as part of the 1300-strong fleet, to help meet demand.

No double decker buses operated in Auckland a few years ago, and about 70 double deckers were in service in March last year.

However, many commuters are already noticing an increase in traffic and delays.

A full bus on Mt Eden Road in March last year. Photo / Michael Craig
A full bus on Mt Eden Road in March last year. Photo / Michael Craig

University of Auckland summer school student Caroline Hales travels by bus to the central city campus from Glenfield during the week.

"It has just been so full. It is crazy, and it is not even March yet."

Several stops after she gets on the bus on Glenfield Road it fills up completely, with not even standing room remaining.


Since the school year began at the end of January, the commute has increased an extra 25 minutes, she said.

"As soon as everyone returns to university it is going to be so full."

Michelle Koizumi works from home in Torbay but regularly catches buses into the central city.

"Often the buses leaving Torbay are full, and they only come every hour.

"If it is full it just drives right past you.

"There are more leaving from Albany but they are also often full.

"I know a lot of people who would catch the bus too but don't because they are full so often and take so long."


In good traffic the commute can take 40 minutes, but some days it can take up to an hour and 40 minutes, she said.

Speedy Couriers accounts representative Nisch Sathyan said the return of schools and wet weather had been causing steady delays.

"We have had a lot of delays over the past few weeks because of an increase in traffic.

"The delays have been 45 minutes to an hour, compared to usual. It just picked up in a steady stream all of a sudden and has not backed off.

"The rain also makes a big difference. More people are in their cars when it is wet, and they drive a lot slower."

Auckland has been drenched already this year with more than one-third of the normal annual rainfall.


The 287mm recorded by Niwa this week is 216 per cent of its normal rainfall for January-February.

The Metservice and Niwa are predicting a wet start to March for the upper North Island as well, as the tropics take control of our weather systems.

Auckland's public transport use has been steadily increasing, with 91.1 million boardings for the 12 months to December 2017, an increase of 7.4 percent, or 6.3 million boardings, in the 12 months to December 2016.

March is regarded as peak month in the year for transport, and two years ago there were 1157 complaints about buses being late, full, overcrowded or not showing up.

Last year AT added 5400 extra spaces on the buses to ease the pressure on the roads and public transport during March.

Auckland Transport media advisor James Ireland said for this March they had built on last year's work.


"We have at least matched last year's extra seats and in some cases added to it."

However, some services will be very busy, Ireland said.

"We are confident our customers will be able to get on services but there may be some queuing. Some people will have to stand and in some cases the first bus might be full.

"We're confident we have sufficient capacity but we will be monitoring key routes and adding capacity where it is needed."

The increases before March last year, and greater capacity provided in June and December as part of full service network upgrades in West and East Auckland, provided a good base for annual transport demand peak next month, he said.

Most of the extra seats would be temporary unless ongoing demand warranted further permanent capacity, Ireland said.


AT had also added 2.6 km of bus lanes and extended bus and transit lane hours on five key corridors.

On trains 1200 spaces were added in the morning peak last year, and during peak all trains on the Western, Eastern and Southern Lines had six cars.

AT would be closely monitoring ferry services, particularly Hobsonville and West Harbour, and a shuttle bus service would be available if needed.

"Operators and AT will be monitoring daily demand and capacity and moving capacity to respond to excess demand where possible," Ireland said.