Bus and ferry demand increases to beat motorway congestion

Commuters on Auckland’s North Shore are starting to make better use of buses and ferries to beat the long queues of traffic travelling over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, but there’s still plenty of capacity available.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Auckland Transport are encouraging more people to switch from their cars to public transport to travel between the city centre and North Shore.

“There are some good signs that people are adjusting their travel patterns and using buses and ferries instead of their cars. Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is working with Auckland Transport to help Northern Expressway buses run reliably and to provide a bus priority lane northbound on the motorway during the evening peak time,” says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Senior Journey Manager Neil Walker.

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison says there are no capacity issues. “It’s great to see people on the North Shore trying out their local buses and ferries. We still have seats available despite the jump in numbers this week.”

Bus patronage on the North Shore increased 10 to 15% per cent this morning compared with the day before. Monday saw a 5% increase on the previous week, People are also travelling earlier, both in the morning and afternoon, and more passengers travelled during off-peak time.

This is on top of increased ferry patronage. Yesterday, Auckland passenger numbers on ferries increased by 85% compared to last Monday. The Bayswater service was up 121%, Birkenhead up 284%, Devonport up 106%, Downtown up 93%, and Hobsonville up 38%.

Auckland Transport says the ferries still have room to take more customers. Ferries have been operating regular services with larger vessels.

There was heavy congestion on the motorway network again this morning with queues forming early on State Highway 1 to the bridge. By 6am citybound traffic on State Highway 1 was queueing from Tristram Avenue.

Many motorists also chose to avoid the bridge by going via the Western Ring Route (SH18/SWH16 and SH20).

Traffic data shows southbound traffic across the bridge for the 24 hour period from 10am yesterday to 10am today was 16,500 vehicles or 60% less than at the same time last year. Northbound traffic was down 39%.

On Upper Harbour Drive (SH18) southbound traffic was up 39% and northbound was up 9%. Waka Kotahi advises motorists to check the real time traffic data on our website at  to see which is the quicker route before leaving home.
“Our advice remains to consider working from home if possible. For those who must travel we encourage you to leave your cars at home and use public transport. We also advise motorists to use the Western Ring Route, via SH20, SH16 and SH18 as an alternative to SH1 and the bridge,” says Neil Walker.

The priority lane for buses from Fanshawe Street in the city and along the northbound motorway will be in place again today for the evening peak to help buses bypass queueing traffic.

“The bus priority lane is to improve bus journey times and reliability and encourage more people to use public transport. Buses carry more people than cars on the motorway and help reduce congestion.”

The Curran Street onramp will remain closed today to allow the bus priority lane to operate.
“We have prioritised the buses but acknowledge the Curran Street closure caused congestion when it was introduced yesterday. We have taken steps to improve signage and move the closure point back to Sarsfield Street.”

Work begins tonight to install a temporary repair on the load-bearing strut on the Auckland Harbour Bridge which was damaged on Friday when it was hit by a truck. The repair will allow some lanes on the centre span to reopen while work continues on a permanent repair.
The southbound clip lanes will be closed from 9pm to 5am and Auckland Transport says there will be no north or southbound bus services over the bridge. Customers will need to catch a ferry to or from Birkenhead and shuttle buses will take them to Akoranga Station to resume their trip.

Ferries will run:

  • From Birkenhead at 7:25pm, 8:25pm, 9:25pm, 10:25pm and 11:25pm
  • From the city at 7:10pm, 8:10pm, 9:10pm, 10:10pm, 11:10pm, 11:40pm

The ferries will also run on Wednesday night if the bridge repair work goes to a second night. COVID-19 Alert Level 2 measures remain in place for Auckland.

The best place to find the latest information about the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand is on the Government’s special COVID-19 website.

To find out more information about transport during Alert Level 2 visit Auckland Transport’s COVID-19 page.

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