Hamilton motorists told get on the bus or gear up for gridlock

It will take 10 years at least to ease Hamilton's traffic, and even that will require a doubling of people using the bus or bikes.

Thousands more cars are now clogging Hamilton roads at peak hours and things are unlikely to improve within the next decade.

Indeed, unless twice as many people board a bus or a bike, the increase over the past few years is going to get a lot worse.

At this stage, city officials are resigned to managing rather than solving the problem. 

The city is trying to prevent Hamilton from going down the slippery slope of its northern neighbour, Auckland.

It was announced last week that the Government and Auckland Council will put a record investment of around $28 billion into a 10-year funding package to solve transport woes.

Dave Macpherson, who chairs Hamilton City Council's growth and infrastructure committee, said 48,000 people make the daily commute into Hamilton's CBD from the city's four corners.

Hamilton City Council figures show that commuters from south of the city have increased by over 25 per cent in nine years.

"The pressure is not just from our residents moving around, it's from outsiders coming into town. And that hits you in places like the roundabouts at Hillcrest, Ohaupo Road near the hospital, Norton Road roundabout with the Te Rapa bypass and Gordonton Road," Macpherson said.

In 2016, there were an average 29,500 motorists using Cambridge Road near Cherry Lane.  In 2007, there were 23,380.

By June, it's estimated Hamilton's population will be 168,700. Surrounding towns add another 164,000 people.

Hamilton commuter Mellisa​ Wragg often travels from Hillcrest Road to her workplace at Gallagher Group on Kahikatea Drive. And since 2014, she has noticed an increase in traffic congestion.

"If I leave between 7.40am and 7.45am from Hillcrest and go to Kahikatea Drive, the traffic starts banking up just at the start of Cobham Drive before the bridge.

"I've noticed in the last couple of months, if I am going up to Hillcrest after 4.30pm, the traffic on State Highway 1 is banked up to the Hamilton Gardens roundabout. That never used to happen before, as far as I can remember. That has gotten worse."

In nine years, the traffic flow over Cobham Drive Bridge has increased by nearly 4000 vehicles - making the daily average 30,700 in 2016.

Macpherson said there is no quick fix for Hamilton roads under council's 10-year planning cycle.

"I think it's going to take all of the 10 years to solve and to be honest, when you say solution, we sort of say it's not getting any worse if we can hold it as it is."

To keep the status quo requires doubling the number of people using public transport, cycling, or walking.

The Hamilton ring road project - which was nearing completion with Wairere Drive to be linked to Cobham Drive - saved the city further potential headaches.

gridlocked hamilton road
Gridlocked Hamilton Road
Once finished, the ring road links will allow motorists to go completely north to south or east to west in the city without having to go through the middle of Hamilton.

It has eased traffic on what were once bottlenecks. Back in 2007, Grey Street between Clyde and Bridge streets had an average of 31,000 cars per day.  By 2016, that had dropped by 4600 vehicles. The same number of cars had also disappeared from the Garden Place section of Hamilton's main drag, Victoria Street.

The flipside is that Wairere Drive between River Road and Resolution Drive has become the busiest in the city with 32,000 vehicles a day - increasing from 21,000 in 2007.

A close second is Wairere Drive west of Pukete Bridge, which has increased by 4600 in the nine years.

"The congestion would be miles worse if we didn't have the ring roads that were thought of as far back as the 1960s," Macpherson said.

"The problem is it is a bit like whack-a-mole. You fix one problem and it creates problems somewhere else. Until we can get a really top-notch public transport system, we can't fully offer people an alternative to a car," Macpherson said.

Hamilton's top five busiest roads in 2016
Wairere Drive between River Road and Resolution Drive - east- and west-bound: 32,000 a day
Wairere Drive west of Pukete Bridge: 31,000
Cobham Drive Bridge: 30,700
Cambridge Road south of Tamahere Motel/past Cherry Lane: 29,500
Greenwood Street south of Massey Street: 29,100

Hamilton's top five busiest roads in 2007
Grey Street between Clyde and Bridge streets: 31,000
Lincoln Street between Ellicott and Rifle Range roads: 28,480
Victoria (Bridge Street) Bridge: 27,600
Ohaupo Road north of Collins Road: 26,800
Cobham Drive Bridge: 26,730

From Stuff.co.nz