The average Auckland motorist wastes about 85 hours a year sitting in traffic - and it's only going to get worse as the city's gridlock nightmare continues to escalate in coming years.

An Automobile Association report out today suggests there will be another 250,000 cars on the road within the next decade, and says there is little hope of traffic chaos easing during rush hours.

The 2018 Auckland Congestion Report found congestion on local roads eased slightly during the morning peak in the past year. However, the average motorway commuter lost 85 hours to congestion - up from 79 hours in 2017.

The Waterview tunnel helped reduce the weekday morning drive from the airport to the central city from 26 minutes (in 2017) to 24 minutes last year.

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However, journeys on motorways from the suburbs of Papakura, Albany and Westgate to the city took between one and three minutes longer.

People in cars and buses had one or two minutes knocked off their commute along Dominion Rd, Manukau Rd and Great North Rd, according to Google travel time data.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine said the Auckland report looked at future congestion trends and growth figures - an estimated an extra 300,000 people and 250,000 cars over the next decade.

Much of the growth will happen in outer suburbs with limited public transport, work and study options, he said.

"What it all adds up to is more driving, much more, and that means much more congestion," Irvine said.

He said no one was questioning the value of increasing investment in public transport to carry more of the load, but investing billions of dollars in public transport will only see its share of all trips increase from about 5 per cent currently to 7 per cent by 2028.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine. Photo / Jason Oxenham
AA spokesman Barney Irvine. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Irvine said with big question marks around the planning and funding of new projects, such as light rail, the east-west and Mill Rd road projects, there is no way the Government will be able to meet the target of holding congestion to 2016 levels by 2028.

"Aucklanders have been promised so much and once again it looks like they're going to get burnt," he said.

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The AA is calling on the Government and next mayor of Auckland to urgently do five things:

•Include congestion targets in Auckland Transport's KPIs
•Get moving with public discussion around congestion charging
•Bring forward road projects in growth areas and consider widening motorways
•Invest in smart traffic lights, dynamic lanes, clearways
•Change zoning rules to allow for denser development in high growth outer suburbs

The Waterview tunnel is credited with improving journey times from the airport to the CBD. Photo / Nick Reed
The Waterview tunnel is credited with improving journey times from the airport to the CBD. Photo / Nick Reed

Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the levelling off in congestion over the past year, saying a joint Government and council transport package is investing more than ever in the city's transport network.

Twyford said work is continuing on congestion charges in Auckland and in the current three-year programme "we are investing in a third main line, electrification of the track to Pukekohe and widening the southern motorway".

Goff agreed road congestion should be tracked and supports dynamic lanes that have proved successful in Whangaparaoa and the on harbour bridge.

He said more focus is being given to public transport, including the $4.4 billion City Rail Link that will double rail capacity, the Government's $6b light rail programme, more busways like extending the Northern Busway, ferries and cycle use, growing by 7 per cent a year.

"Almost nobody believes today that the answer to rapid population growth is sprawling suburbs and wider and wider motorways," said Goff, saying work is being done to improve the capacity of arterial roads and provide infrastructure for greenfield development.

Congestion along Lake Rd between Takapuna and Devonport. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Congestion along Lake Rd between Takapuna and Devonport. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Alongside the report, a May survey of AA Auckland members that attracted 2500 responses found 63 per cent said Auckland's transport system is poor or terrible, and 78 per cent said it had got slightly or significantly worse over the past year.

The survey also found traffic congestion is the number one priority for Auckland's incoming mayor at October's local body elections, ahead of reducing the road toll and providing alternatives to car travel.

Data released late last year revealed Aucklanders weren't the only ones struggling with traffic.

The Infometrics quarterly economic report, provided by Priority One, showed
congestion on Bay of Plenty roads was worsening faster than in most other North Island regions. Tauranga, driven by a booming population, was leading the way.

A Herald series starting today reveals Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are spending $2.6 billion on transport and outlines the big projects under way to help congestion.

What you could do instead of spending 85 hours in traffic each year:

• Fly AKL - LDN 3.5 times (Emirates new non-stop flight)

• Drive AKL - WGN 11.5 times

• Drive the length of NZ 2.9 times

• Watch LOTR trilogy 7.6 times

• Swim Lake Taupo 8.38 times (record speed)