Aucklanders Among Lowest PT Users In World


Aucklanders (and those in Christchurch) are comparatively among the lowest users of public transport and more dependent on cars than in most cities in the world.

This according to a major IBM-funded global Commuter Stress survey released this morning which included motorists in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. IBM surveyed 8,192 motorists in 23 cities on six continents.

Auckland’s driving obsession could be changed easily with better rail and bus services as 51% of those questioned say they wish there was better public transport to give them an alternative. (Remember we about to have higher rates and rail ticket prices thanks to the Government demands for more money. Hardly encouraging a change).

It’s no surprise that New Zealand emerges as a car-obsessed nation. Driving is a weekly occurrence for nearly all drivers in the key cities of New Zealand, with as many as 98% getting behind the wheel at least once a week. Around 8 in ten surveyed drive everyday.

Nationwide, an astonishing 72% drive to work or study alone -  10% carpool, followed by using the bus (4%) and walking (4%). 74% of Aucklanders have one person in the car a time - the figure is worse in Christchurch (76%) but only 50% in Wellington.

For all Auckland motorists’ complaints about congestion and “traffic chaos,” the survey shows the reality is that it actually sits well down the list of major cities - Auckland sits somewhere between Toronto (32nd) and Amsterdam (25nd) in terms of the study’s measurement of “commuter pain.” But 30% of Aucklanders still say the stress is affecting their health. And 47% of Auckland drivers recorded that they have been stuck in traffic for one hour or more in the last three years.

AUCKLAND: Stressful but volumes worse elsewhere

By comparison, Wellington is far more like European cities. Commuters have one of the lowest index scores of all cities surveyed, on par with Melbourne and Houston and ahead of Stockholm (15). Relative to other New Zealand cities, the use of the bus (15%), walking (10%) or the train (9%) is more popular in Wellington than anywhere else.

Those cities leading the way with very low commuter stress - New York City,  Houston, Melbourne, Toronto and Stockholm are all cities the study said have well-developed public transportation systems.

Here is the IBM chart of what cities lead the way with less reliance on cars:

In the three NZ cities surveyed, as many as 31% of those who use a car to get to work or school state that if petrol prices rise up to 30% they will seriously consider other options like public transportation or carpooling. But this is lower than drivers told surveys in other international cities. For example, a 30% petrol price hike would result in 56% of commuters in New Delhi and 50% in Beijing looking at other options.  A large proportion of the NZ drivers (44%) cite that petrol prices are already too high.

As many as 75% of drivers experience travel stress, with Auckland drivers (80%) more likely to feel stressed than Christchurch drivers (62%).

New technology

The survey says much of this stress could be reduced by the greater use of technology in the management of traffic flows and the adoption of more flexibility in the way we approach work.

Overall, 45% of drivers believe that improved public transportation will help reduce travel stress and this can be achieved by sophisticated analytics of transport systems. Greatest interest for improved public transport may be observed among Auckland drivers (51%) whereas Christchurch drivers (27%) have the least interest in this option.  Other technological solutions include working from home (29%) and accurate and timely road conditions information (28%).

The global study points out that today’s technology can make things easier. Systems can provide transportation officials with detailed, real-time traffic information; sophisticated analytics of that information that can predict traffic jams; and thus planners can use the resulting insights to proactively deploy traffic management strategies that would minimize delays and congestion. Some examples of interventions include changes to signal timings, dynamic toll adjustments, incentives to change mode of travel, incentives for changing time of travel, etc. Such intervention can result in smoother traffic flow, reduced emissions and reduced delays.

Around the world, governments are relying on this kind of technology, in addition to traditional methods, to make big improvements in their transportation networks. For example, in Singapore, controllers receive real-time data through sensors to model and predict future traffic flows with 90% accuracy.

Global picture

Like Auckland, we know driving is by far the main way in which Americans go to and from work, but we also know  this is distinctly contrary to other parts of the world.

For instance, while over 90% of the respondents in New York and Los Angeles reported driving to work, only 32% did in Paris, 34% in Amsterdam and Buenos Aires, and 37% in Milan. The worldwide average in this study is 56%, although all Latin American and Asian cities surveyed were below 50%. The only cities outside of the U.S. with comparatively high driving levels were Stockholm (64%), Toronto (70%), Johannesburg (81%), and Melbourne (91%).

After driving, the most popular form of transportation was bus – at 12%. Interestingly, the two cities with the most painful commutes, according to the survey – Beijing and Mexico City – had bus rates of 44% and 32%, respectively – raising the thought of how much worse traffic would have been if so many people did not travel by bus.

For trips other than to work or school, the profile was quite similar, with the exception that carpooling edged out the bus as the second most popular mode of transportation. Here Madrid led the way with 29%, followed by Stockholm and Mexico City at 20%, and Sao Paolo and Milan at 18%.

Auckland Peak time flows

A contributing factor for the traffic congestion in Auckland is the concentration of movement in peak times.  The time of day most commuters typically depart for work or school is between 7.00am and 9.00 am (63%) and they leave work or school is between 4pm and 6pm (53%).   In other international cities there is typically a greater spread of commuting time, especially late in the day. Only 11% of commuters work after 6pm in Auckland, while the corresponding figure is 14% in Wellington and 16% in Christchurch. In contrast, 65% stay after 6pm in New Delhi, 64% in Moscow and 48% in Madrid.

As many as 81% of Auckland drivers find aspects of their commute frustrating, with start-stop traffic the biggest problem. Nationwide the frustrations are start-stop traffic (51%), aggressive/rude drivers (30%), low speed (27%) and unreliable journey time (19%).

Home commuting - we’re behind world

Only 31% of Auckland commuters ever work from home and that’s low by world standards. Only 20% of those in Wellington ever work from home, and 27% for Christchurch. In many European and American cities around 40% of commuters or more would spend at least one day a week working from home.

Here is how the world cities rate on commuter stress. Wellington is way down the end. Auckland is about midway at 28.

More general survey NZ findings:

  • Among those who believe that traffic has negatively affected their health, increased stress (77%) and anger (41%) are the primary symptoms. As many as 28% of drivers believe that traffic has negatively affected their performance at work or school. This is higher in Auckland (33%) than other cities.  In the last three years, 24% of drivers have found that roadway traffic has been so bad that they turned around and went home. This response to chronic congestion is higher is Auckland (27%) than Christchurch (16%).  These symptoms of chronic congestion are much more common overseas. In Beijing as many as 69% of drivers have been forced to turn around and return home in the past three years and the corresponding figure for New Delhi is 58%.  As many as 37% of drivers have decided not to make a driving trip in the last month. Most of these trips were cancelled due to anticipated traffic conditions (59%).
  • The average commute in Auckland takes 26 minutes and covers 17 kilometres at an average speed of 39 kilometres an hour. Commuters in Christchurch have one of the shortest commutes of any international city. The average commute in Christchurch takes 22 minutes and covers 14 kilometres at an average speed of 40 kilometres per hour. Wellington residents also have a relatively short commute at 25 minutes. The average commute across the range of international cities is 32 minutes, with those in Moscow (42 minutes) and New Delhi (41 minutes) having the longest commute.
  • Traffic delays are a familiar experience for most drivers and 39% report having been stuck in a traffic jam for one hour or more in the past three years. However, while 47% of Auckland drivers have been stuck in traffic for one hour or more in the last three years, the corresponding figure for Christchurch is just 10%. Roadway traffic/congestion is worse in some areas than others, with the main black spots being major intersections (49%), around road works (37%) and school zones (35%).
  • Driving on suburban roads is most prevalent (82%). Driving on highways/ expressways is also common (51%), especially in Auckland (57%) and Wellington (55%), but less so in Christchurch (25%). Driving on downtown city streets is more popular in Wellington (54%) and Christchurch (49%) than Auckland (32%).

Smarter rail
IBM is also working on smarter rail solutions:

The Galaxy research questionnaire was of nearly 1000 drivers aged 18-64 years in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and was conducted in October.

IBM is actively working in the area of Smarter Transportation using a worldwide team of scientists, industry experts and IT services professionals to research, test and deploy new traffic information management capabilities in cities around the world. Findings from the Commuter Pain Survey will be used to assess citizen concerns about traffic and commuter issues; expand solutions like automated tolling, real-time traffic prediction, congestion charging, and intelligent route planning; and serve as a basis for pioneering innovative new approaches to traffic mitigation.




  1. Luke says:

    no suprise when actually 0 money was spent on public transport in auckland from WWII until about 2001.
    nothing to do with personal preference.

  2. rtc says:

    and here we have Joyce claiming upon election that NZ has been overspending on PT and the pendulum needs to swing back to car users….

  3. DanC says:

    I wonder if Joyce will take this on board? Build it and people will use it. I’m looking forward to seeing the timetable once electrification is complete. If at the moment I want to have a few beers in Kingsland and then head to Otahuhu after the train timetable is shocking!

  4. Andrew says:

    @DanC: No, he won’t. He’ll find some tiny statistic in his favour and inflate it to justify his pre-determined point of view. Joyce’s reaction to the CBD tunnel business case shows that he is not as rational, let alone as balanced and reasonable as he made himself out to be.

  5. Joyce hates public transport says:

    Joyce is not open minded….very much closed minded….probably due to the roading and truck lobby donations to his National party.

    He will never a) endorse PT and b) increase funding for PT.

    He will, however, take PT funds and put it into National’s next big white elephants…Roads of little Economic Significance.

  6. Patrick R says:

    The Herald helpfully reported this this morning but was sure to cut the ’51% of Aucklanders want be PT’…. such a fine organ.

  7. Matt L says:

    I do think that buying a house near a rail line was one of the best decisions we made. I don’t get any stress sitting on a train to work unless there is a break down which ithankfully is much more rare these days. By comparision, last week we had to drive in one day and it was so frustrating sitting in a line of traffic crawling along.

  8. Matt says:

    Christchurch commuters are stressed, yet have the shortest commute of all the cities. Commuting must be a really awful 10 minutes out of every Cantabrians day.

    Wellington and Ch’ch are really small cities compared to the others on this list. It’s a bit like apples and oranges. I would hazard a guess and say in Wellie there is more stress on those living north of Ngauranga than those living south, and once the rail improvements, and associated delays, are over stress levels will fall.

  9. Chris R says:

    I’ve worked from home for about 18 months now and I wouldn’t like to have to go back to commuting (I was a rail traveller) or working in an office.

  10. Cam says:

    Yet again this will be used by the likes of Joyce as a rationale for not investing in PT, and the vicious cycle continues.

  11. Mark says:

    is there a link to the report?
    Also did they compare basic city structures? Auckland has a very mixed economy that impacts on type of jobs and travel patterns.

    Auckland tends to cover the whole spectrum - major port / cbd office / light manufacturering / major warehousing etc. Some cities like Melbourne will cover similar areas - but a lot of Uk or european cities have seen entire cities “specialise” - and so transport needs are also different.

  12. Jon C says:

    I have got from IBM the graph of the comparisons with the different countries in terms of more reliance on public transport and have included that now. Let me know if it’s not able to be read.

  13. Jon C says:

    @Patrick R That is why this site does its own independent reporting!

  14. greenwelly says:

    To be honest in terms of PT use this study is totally lightweight,

    I mean looking at Melborne’s numbers.
    no one catches the Bus or train to work!!!!!

    But also if you look at the Press releases, it notes that it only surveyed drivers……..

  15. Nick R says:

    Yeah those Melbourne figures look pretty crazy. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures quote 18% of journeys to work across Melbourne by train, tram or bus, and up to 80% in the CBD.

  16. Mike G says:

    @greenwelly & @Nick R
    I had the same thoughts. I assume that trams fall under either buses or trains and I’ve caught all three in Melbourne. I know during rush hour that the number is much bigger than 0%!

  17. Matt L says:

    Whats the bet the government will continue to use the same old line of, most people drive so we should put most of the money towards improving the roads for them. What they fail to realise is people use the roads because thats what we have invested in for 60 years, you build better roads more people drive, you build better PT then more people will use it.

  18. Brendan says:

    I’m always fascinated when surveys repeatedly give Melbourne good marks for traffic and commuting pain. I’ve lived in Melbourne for two and a half years after coming from San Francisco, and I’d argue that traffic here is far worse than any city I’ve lived in previously. I’m moving to Auckland on Saturday… I gues I’ll find out what the story is there, too.

  19. John Dalley says:

    It is time for the Auckland Council to put the pressure back on National by advocating the re-introduction of the petrol tax that National kindly did away with and may be a congestion tax as well.

  20. Matt says:

    According to the ARC, for the year ended September 2009 Auckland’s GDP was roughly $48b. Taking the conservative estimate of a 2% drag on the regional GDP to congestion, if the CBD tunnel can alleviate even a quarter of that (or 0.5% of GDP), that’s a benefit to the economy of $240m/year. Over a 40-year lifetime of the tunnel that’s $9.6b in increased GDP, and given the crossroads nature of the area most-affected by the tunnel I think that’s a very conservative guesstimate.

    So, why wouldn’t the government want to get in on this? It’s not like the council gets much income benefit from GDP going up, but the government absolutely does because it taxes income not just property value.


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