Like most Auckland school students, 13-year-old Brooklyn-Rose Timu usually comes to school by car.
"Normally my nana drops me off in the morning and my mum picks me up in the afternoon," says Brooklyn-Rose, a Year 9 student at South Auckland's Mission Heights Junior College.
"It's on the way to work for Nana. It's like a 7- to 10-minute drive. The bus takes 20 minutes."
This year 45 per cent of the 8600 Auckland students who took part in the online Census At School got to and from school by car.
Auckland Transport data shows that 58 per cent of students at its 400 Travelwise schools got to school by car, including 12 per cent who were dropped off nearby and walked the last stretch of at least 400 metres.
Nationally, 34 to 37 per cent of the 23,000 students who took part in Census At School got to school by car in every biennial survey from 2009 to 2017, but that has jumped this year to a record 42 per cent.
Brooklyn-Rose's experience suggests a major reason is parents or caregivers are driving to work anyway so it's easy to drop children off on the way. Nationally 83 per cent of workers, and in Auckland 84 per cent, travelled to work by car or motorcycle in the week of the 2013 Census .
At Mission Heights, principal Ian Morrison says "the vast majority" of students are dropped off by car in the mornings, although some have to find their own way home in the afternoons when their parents are still working.
"We'd have more students dropped off in the morning than picked up in the afternoon. Many walk home from school," he said.
"A lot of students would like to cycle or scooter, but we don't have any cycle lanes around the school so it isn't as safe as at other schools that do have cycle lanes."
Who's responsible for that cyclists vs schoolkids dispute?
At the moment Brooklyn-Rose is actually catching the bus home because her mum is pregnant.
"Ever since she's pregnant I say, 'I can do it,' because it will be easier for her," Brooklyn-Rose said.
"It makes sense to catch the bus for older ages. For the younger kids, it's understandable, if I was a parent and I had a little kid catch the bus when they were young, I'd be scared. And it's too far to walk."
Census At School found 27 to 30 per cent of students across the country caught the bus between 2009 and 2017.
This year that has dropped to 23 per cent nationally and 22 per cent in Auckland, the first time the data has been broken down by region.
A similar 26 to 28 per cent walked to school from 2009 to 2017. This year that's down to 23 per cent both nationally and in Auckland.
Only between 4 and 6 per cent have biked to school in every survey. This year it was 6 per cent nationally and in Wellington, 11 per cent in Canterbury, and just 4 per cent in Auckland.
In 1989, 42 per cent of NZ children aged 5 to 12 walked to school, 32 per cent went by car, 13 per cent by public transport and 12 per cent biked.
By 2014, the last year in which data was collected on the same basis, only 29 per cent walked, 57 per cent went by car, 11 per cent by public transport and just 2 per cent biked.
The change was not quite so dramatic in the high-school age group, where public transport and walking have both held steady at just under 30 per cent each. But cars have jumped from 25 per cent to 37 per cent, and cycling has plunged from 19 per cent to 3 per cent.
The ministry data, unlike Census At School, indicates that car travel peaked early this century and has actually declined slightly since then, while walking and public transport have recovered slightly. Cycling, however, has kept heading downwards.
Mackie said the rise of the car was driven by a flood of cheap second-hand cars after import controls were abolished in the late 1980s, and by education reforms that removed school zoning for a period in the 1990s.
"Now people are living in one place and going to school in another place, and when you have that big a journey that has a massive effect on whether people walk or take a car," he said.
The flood of cars, in turn, made roads more dangerous and scared children away from walking and, especially, cycling.
Councils now encourage students to use "active modes" instead of cars. Auckland Transport says three-quarters of Auckland schoolchildren attend " Travelwise " schools which use multiple strategies to promote road safety and "active" transport.
"We are starting to get more pedestrian crossings around schools, more cycle lanes and slow speed zones. All of those things are important," said Mackie.
"If you look at a lot of roads, there is a lot of space on them. We could decide to have parking up and down each side and two traffic lanes and a large berm. Or we could reimagine how we use that space."
• Monday : Screens
• Tuesday : Exercise and diet
• Today : Getting to school
• Thursday : Bed times
• Friday : Opinions and diversity