Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says a fuel tax won't be enough to tackle Auckland's crippling transport challenges. One consultant is estimating a $600 million annual shortfall.

Auckland Council's 10-year plan proposes spending $11 billion-$12b on transport, but McGredy Winder and Co director Peter Winder says that is "not even close" to what is needed.

In a public debate last night on Auckland transport, he said about $600m more a year was needed to solve the transport issues.

"It is wonderful a regional fuel tax is on the table, but it is not at a level even remotely close to where we need to be."

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Mayor Phil Goff said the council was at its borrowing limit, and that central government had to play a role.

"But we have got to do some of it ourselves. We can't expect the people of Invercargill, Gisborne and Masterton to pay for our transport needs.

"That is why I am proposing a regional fuel tax."

A regional fuel tax would raise about $130-150m a year, he said.

"It makes a difference, but is it enough? No, it is not enough."

Auckland's transport issues are on display this week as "March Madness" officially begins, when about 100,000 tertiary students join the commute and dozens of festivals and events clog the city's roads, public transport and cycleways.

The chaos has been further exacerbated this week by industrial action on Auckland train services.

With delays in the train network, some people have opted to drive instead, adding to congestion on the motorways, which are already at breaking point.

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More than 800 extra cars join 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.

An Automobile Association report released yesterday found Aucklanders were spending close to 80 hours stuck in motorway traffic congestion each year.

Goff said Auckland needed to find the money to invest in infrastructure, and use the infrastructure better.

The regional fuel tax was the fairest form of tax as it related directly to those who used the roads, Goff said.

Responding to how it would disproportionately affect those on low incomes, Goff said other solutions included income supplements and raising the minimum wage.

A congestion tax and road tolls were other options to raise funds.

"But a congestion tax would only work if we got it right and the public accepted it," Goff said.

Another area to address was lifting the occupancy rate in cars on the motorways.

Goff said he drove into the city each day and noticed most cars only had one person.

The numbers of people using public transport, including light rail to the airport, also needed to increase.

"I am encouraging the Government to take that out of the land transport fund."

Despite major infrastructure projects, like the Waterview Tunnel, the council was struggling to keep up as the city grew.

"The Waterview Tunnel was great, but already we are seeing the benefits of that wearing out, because the cars increased to fill the space available.

"We have got to run really fast, even just to stand still, when our population is going to be 2 million people within the next decade."

Other areas to spend the annual transport fund was in extending busways and ultimately a light-rail system across the harbour.

"The next harbour crossing has to be a public transport crossing, because otherwise we are bringing more people onto already-congested roads, and there is no parking in the CBD."

The big projects, including the City Rail Link, would all take time, he said.

"Regrettably we are starting this too late. We should have started years earlier."