It was very much a case of déjà vu all over again yesterday, as Auckland received yet another round of torrential rain, resulting in flooding and significant disruption. Some parts of West Auckland received over 100mm of rain, mostly within just a few hours.

Thinking back to the Anniversary Weekend floods, that makes two 100-year rainfall events in just over three months; with a torrential cyclone in between.

Obviously, rebuilding our city to fully waterproof it for these kinds of rainfall events is not something that can happen overnight, or even in a few years – if at all. But if there’s one area we really can and need to put some focus on, it’s our transport system.

Armed with the memory of January’s floods, combined with the civil defence alert, many people headed home all at the same time. As could have been predicted, chaos ensured – because a transport system focused on the movement of cars is simply unable to cope with massive spikes in use.

There are reports of people taking many hours to get home, or sometimes even just out of a carparking building. A classic reminder that cars are great as long as everyone else isn’t also trying to use them at the same time. The experience will undoubtedly have caused significant stress for many people, especially those living in flood-prone areas or trying to get home to pick up kids from closed schools and day-care centres.

In the city centre, especially, there was extensive carmageddon with many intersections completely gridlocked by impatient drivers

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The disruption and congestion went beyond just the city centre, with flooding and crashes on many key roads across the city, including the motorways.

If you were looking for alternatives to being stuck in traffic in an unfolding disaster, you were largely out of luck. Unfortunately, the combination of flooding, gridlock in the city, and also the time of day, all played major havoc with the public transport network – with many people waiting hours for buses.

In the image of the Northern Motorway above (and oddly, not mentioned by Waka Kotahi in the tweet), you can see that the Northern busway was also flooded. This forced buses to use congested local roads to avoid deep water, significantly increasing travel times and reducing the overall capacity of the busway.

The busway issue happened to be what affected me the most. To get home, I had decided to use the Upper Harbour bus rather than risk the rail network. But the delay to busway buses meant I missed an easy connection, and combined with the 120 bus only running every 30 minutes, I had a bit of a wait at Constellation Station. At least there’s a fully sheltered indoor area to wait in, unlike all those stuck out on the streets.

The buses that were around often struggled to get to the few bus lanes that exist and outside of the city, many bus lanes weren’t operating as they only do so in the morning or afternoon peak.

Meanwhile, the train network wasn’t much help either. It was one of the first parts of the transport system to go down. Parts of the Western Line succumbed to the rain just after 11am, and by 1pm all services from Britomart were suspended.

By now it should be clear that there’s a high likelihood we will continue to see severe weather events in this city, causing widespread disruptions to our transport system. And of course similar disruptions can also happen as a result of crash in a key location.

Our city as a whole is strikingly fragile in this way, vulnerable at any given moment to disasters both large and small.

We might not be able to prevent the rain or stop every crash, but it is critical that we make our public transport system more resilient and able to (mostly) operate normally even in the face of significant road disruption.

It’s not just about helping people get around more safely and reliably during emergencies. The simple truth is that the methods to fix this will also make the public transport network more attractive to more people, more available for a much wider array of everyday trips.

And in turn, that will help improve access across the region, and make everyday travel safer and more efficient for everyone, while also reducing congestion and emissions – the latter of which, of course, is contributing towards the frequency and severity of these kinds of weather events.

What days like yesterday make clear – and what everyone can see, any day of the week – is that Auckland is drowning in cars. So we all have a strong interest in rapid, smart fixes that diversify our transport system, to help us out of the deep water we increasingly find ourselves in.

A couple of thoughts:

  • Will Kiwrail’s network rebuild help address the flooding issues that were experienced? If not, what needs to be done so the rail network doesn’t break every time there’s high humidity or heavy rain?
  • Do we need to raise the busway on the small stretch between Akoranga and Smales Farm, so the busway can continue to operate even when the adjacent motorway is flooded?
  • We need more bus lanes, period. This should also include better connecting up of the often fragmented existing bus lanes.
  • Those bus lanes need to operate 24/7. It is absurd that many key arterials still have on-street parking (often even unpriced), but still no bus priority and/or bike lanes. All day bus lanes will help speed up buses throughout the day, helping to make them more attractive to use.

  • We still need more and better communication. AT certainly did better yesterday than they did in January, but more clarity and reach is always valuable.

In terms of immediate response, making our PT network faster and more resilient should be Auckland Transport’s top priority.

Of course, there was one mode that was largely unaffected by the issues with congestion and public transport yesterday: those on bikes. Depending on the quality of their rain gear, they might have gotten a bit wet, but they got home in the same time as usual.

True, not everyone loves riding in the rain; even with traffic slowed to a crawl, other risks remain, like slippery surfaces and visibility issues. That’s all the more reason that a safe, connected cycle network is needed, to make the option more viable for more people, in fair weather and foul.

As yesterday showed us – once again – we can’t always predict when and where disaster might affect our transport system, but when it does, the ripple effects run far and wide. Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail must pull together fast to save us from this built-in fragility, because are all in the same damn boat and it’s taking on water.

Share this


  1. Clearly asking everyone to leave work at the same time makes no sense. Of course you are going to have this problem. This time waited it out and had a quick drive

    1. I biked home with my rain coat, over trousers and bag cover- was not a problem…some deep puddles to go through

      1. The only real issue for me was avoiding the huge numbers of worms crawling across the causeway. Sadly one may have gone under my wheels.

  2. I’m just going to leave this here.

    “Be clear! We are not building a shuttle to the airport for travellers. We are developing a brand new travel choice to make the city’s transport network more robust. It will give Aucklanders another option to cars, buses, heavy rail, ferries and walking and cycling for their travel around the city.
    Trams share the same road as others – drivers, cyclists and walkers. The added protection Auckland Light Rail will provide comes from an important difference: as much as possible, it will be separated from those other factors. That makes it less vulnerable to congestion and more resilient to other risk factors, including the weather and crashes. ”

      1. Compared to what, Hiker? Irreversible climate change? Citywide gridlock? Repeated flood damage?

        1. Compared to a surface option (rather than tunnelled) that repurposes traffic lanes to dedicated Light Rail lanes.

  3. It is just so crazy that there are not 24/7 buslanes through the CBD particularly on Customs to fanshawe, etc. The amount of delay even on a good day with the selfish drivers and taxis just parking up is huge.
    Put the lanes in and some cameras with decent fines

    1. In addition, Fort Lane needs to be closed for cars or through traffic. So many times cars exit Fort Lane halfway onto Customs street which is at a stand still and blocking the bus path that theoretically would be there.

  4. As well as transport that helps people get where they need to be in an emergency, a resilient city would plan ahead for multiple places to shelter if you’re stuck somewhere (or already unhoused and vulnerable).

    Thinking of all the images from yesterday of people standing at bus stops for hours, with no cover from the rain.

    In those moments, public spaces like libraries, schools and community halls become refuges All the more reason to resist the kind of austerity cuts that would weaken these places and undermine the people who keep them running.

  5. I was in Newmarket, our office was told to leave after the alert – I live in Takanini. The 70 bus was delayed, and extremely crowded when it arrived… but it moved a vast number of people quickly down the bus lanes as far as Greenlane. My switch to the 321 at Ellerslie meant I was stuck in the same traffic as cars on GSR. At Otahuhu station there was not a staff member in sight to tell us which platform to wait at (at a fully staffed station?!), there were no announcements, and the signboards were turned off.

    My point here is that the journey took nearly 4 hours, but with bus lanes the length of Great South Road it might have been half that. It could be achieved tomorrow* with linemarking trucks (*can’t put paint on a wet road). So the bolder ideas are wonderful, but this one is cheap, simple, and massively effective. Feel free to steal it, Wayne and AT!

  6. I cycled home as per normal. Took the same time. Only problem was someone decided they didn’t want to wait in the car queue to turn left from Nelson St into Victoria St and drove down the cycle lane. Not much fun to see a car coming at you. Luckily we avoided each other. Too agitated to get rego number.

    1. If a car can physically access a cycle lane, it’s a badly-designed cycle lane. A bit of bollarding and collaring is definitely needed on some of our lanes.

      1. Most of Germany’s and the Netherland’s cycle lanes are physically accessible by cars (not meaning they have no protection – just that drivers CAN certainly enter them if they tried. It’s our culture of cars first which makes such behaviour so much more acceptable, and thus causes it to happen, up to the point that the police and Council just shrug and say “Not a real problem, mate”.

  7. Flooding was mentioned for Britomart and Glen Eden stations.
    Is there any knowledge of Root Causes for these floods?
    Does Britomart need bigger pumps?
    What was the problem at Glen Eden?

  8. 24×7 bus lanes across the City Centre should be te absolute bare minimum and receive the least pushback from the uninformed public. It’s 2023 and we are still talking about things like painted lines on roads for buses, what a world we live in.

    1. Auckland is a global joke on this front. Its the “low hanging fruit” that would make a huge difference, for little cost.

      It should have been done well before now but, you know…Shane Ellison.

        1. Really good point. Get a deluge before a game at EP and watch the chaos of people with tickets missing the match.

          Maybe that’s what is needed for change…international shaming.

        2. “Maybe that’s what is needed for change…international shaming.”

          Response from our city fathers:

          “We learned our lesson. We have begun removing car parking on arterial roads, and will be using that space to add extra traffic lanes. And we understand that this is painful for people – so for every car park en-route we are removing, we will add five new car parks at the stadium and in the City Centre. We will not fail again!”

    2. “World-class transport system” to be completed… Honestly, that they branded CRL with that is just ridiculous.
      I mean, that project is great and all but don’t mistake a basic functional rail network for world class.

  9. Onehunga line was closed for several months to be “rebuilt”. Still fell over at the first sign of bad weather and stayed closed after all the other lines had reopened. Not even a shuttle service.

  10. The mess of lanes at the end of Fanshawe St, Sturdee Street/Customs St W and Lower Hobson created a bottleneck right back to the start of Fanshawe street. It took 90 minutes to get through that horror with many people blatantly ignoring the bus lanes and aggravating the issue.

    1. Absolutely, this whole area is a mess and is meant to bring in the busiest bus route in the country along with all the other north shore bus routes. Yet we have buses being held up in the morning because of cars turning left into that huge monstrosity of the AT carpark – just utter madness. And then all along Customs past Commercial bay and that hotel by MCDs just constant blockages with taxis, utes, etc parking.

      Does anyone from AT see the issues caused everyday? and do they have meetings about how to fix? it’s not that hard.

      We really need proper segregation but with bus lanes that is harder than train lines. Just put a bus ‘superhighway’ through the city North, south, east, west with 24/7 CCTV and large fines + get a few police monitoring the bad spots.

    2. So the plan is to take out the Lower Hobson St viaduct and make the upper and lower roads both 2-way, adding extra phases to the signals at each end. And for PT…?

    3. If people were ignoring the bus lanes there should be a decent amount of revenue to help with more bus lanes being established.

  11. Well, good thing Connected Communities will fix it, and add bus and bike lanes to our arterials.

    No wait, got told by someone in AT that except for the “maybe” of Great North Road, Connected Communities is dead. What a surprise after years of constant nothing.

    1. Really? I’d enjoyed working on those projects for a few years, as mentioned by Rando, quite a few good ideas were developed. Mr Kimpton also was briefly involved at the upper levels, so will be interesting to see what does happen … or rather, will it just be more radio silence like it has been since New North Rd was consulted on.

      1. Maybe some good ideas were indeed developed. The reality though is that nothing is happening. Its been many years since that project was sold as the new solution to our woes. And now even the “shovel ready” GNR has been put on the back burner yet again. Maaaaybe Kimpton will force a change, but I’m depressed about it all. CC was a couple years of talk and whiteboarding, when action was needed.

      1. Did ‘Inside looking out’ correct ‘Harold’ about this…? lol

        If I’ve know this for a month or so then it’s probably very old news.

        I’m amazed it’s taken this long. It wasn’t set up to succeed and the constraints on what the consultants were able to do meant if it did ‘succeed’ it was always going to be second-rate anyway.

    1. Public transport and the transport system in general is the main reason I’m moving to Melbourne in July.

      1. The main reason why I don’t see myself moving back to NZ either! Entrenched car dependency is awful and NZ just doubles down on it.

  12. KIwiRail must focus immediately on future-proofing the Auckland rail network against extreme weather conditions on the tracks, on drainage, signals & power supply.

    AT must now focus on 24/7 Bus Lanes to get the buses moving & have them weather resilient as possible.

    Minister of Transport Hon Michael Wood, Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Duncan Webb, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown & Auckland Transport CEO Dean Kimpton are you reading this????

    1. I wonder if they should cover the tracks somewhat with awnings like they have in schools but on top of the electric wire poles. Kind of a covered railway line. Solar panels along certain sections too

    1. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we can’t implement even these low-cost and high-impact solutions sooner…

    2. In a stroke of genius, Auckland Transport has once again proven that they are the masters of timing. Just when you thought traffic couldn’t get any worse, they have announced their groundbreaking plan to implement central city bus lanes in 2030, conveniently aligning with the year the Transport Efficiency and Reliability Program (TERP) is due.

      Yes, you heard that right! Auckland Transport is taking a bold step forward by introducing bus lanes in the central city, but not until a decade from now. Because why solve a problem today when you can postpone it to a more inconvenient time? It’s like saying, “Let’s wait until everyone loses their sanity from being stuck in traffic before we do something about it.”

      Imagine the scene in 2030: a bustling city with frustrated commuters desperately honking their horns, staring longingly at those elusive bus lanes that could have made their lives easier. But fear not, dear citizens, for Auckland Transport assures us that the bus lanes will be worth the wait. They will magically appear just in time for TERP, which will undoubtedly be celebrated with confetti and fanfare while we sit in traffic, questioning the very fabric of our existence.

      While the rest of the world is speeding ahead with futuristic transportation solutions like flying cars and hyperloops, Auckland Transport proudly embraces the snail’s pace. We have all the time in the world, don’t we? Who needs efficient public transportation now when we can have it in the distant future? It’s like they’ve taken a page out of the procrastination handbook, written by the world’s foremost experts on delay and inefficiency.

      But hey, let’s not be too harsh on Auckland Transport. After all, they’re just following their own unique timeline, where urgent issues are treated with the utmost nonchalance. And who knows, maybe by 2030, teleportation will become a reality, and we’ll look back at those bus lanes with a quaint sense of nostalgia. In the meantime, grab a good book, some snacks, and get comfortable in your car, because the journey to progress in Auckland is going to be a long and bumpy one.

    3. If a politician (or a bureaucrat) promises you something that is more than 5 years away from being implemented, be very, very cynical.

      By then, they will have promised you three other big plans, and hope you have forgotten their last promises, or that they underdelivered and changed the KPIs three times since.

      Despite the Communist-recalling name, we should be having 3 year plans and nothing else. Sure, look at where you might want to be in 10-20 years. But plans for actual physical works? If it’s more than a couple years out from at least starting works, then it’s just wankery.

      1. > If a politician (or a bureaucrat) promises you something that is more than 5 years away from being implemented, be very, very cynical.

        Even less than five years is pushing it. Remember light rail in 2017? First leg from the CBD to Mt Roskill was supposed to be operational by 2021.

  13. I walked from the Rainbow Bridge to Avondale, it took me almost 2 hours but during this time, walking along Great North Road, I saw one bus 18 (double-decker with people standing even on the top floor), one bus 133 (full) and one bus 195 (full). The Rainbow Bridge stop couldn’t handle all the people waiting. It was a complete disaster with cars blocking the bus lanes or using them as parking (on K’Rd) and then trying to reach the motorways which turned into massive carparks.
    Our transport system is completely unprepared for evens like this. And it didn’t help that the trains were not running.

  14. The main reason why I don’t see myself moving back to NZ either! Entrenched car dependency is awful and NZ just doubles down on it.

  15. I left work at Greenlane not long after the alert went out. Figured the roads would be jammed so went for the train. Got to the station, tagged on, then saw the screens saying service suspended. Tagged off and walked through ankle-deep water to the 70 stop across from Countdown, where a 70 bus turned up as I got there.

    Three hours later we were on Anzac Ave with the driver refusing to let us off as we weren’t at a bus stop. After moving about 100m in an hour, somebody hit the emergency door release and we exited the bus to discover the bus in front of us was empty with the driver standing on the footpath.

    Walked to the NX1, where the queue was long but fast moving. Bus lanes worked very well and I had a great run home to Torbay – by that time the busway was working on one lane at Akoranga as the rain has eased. North shore had very little traffic by 4pm.

    Broadway at Newmarket was about 45 minutes from start to end. Kyber Pass and Park Road were great with the bus lane. Symonds street was great where there was a bus lane, but a disaster where it lacked bus lanes. We never made it to the bus lane on Anzac Ave, but it was empty when I walked past as nothing could get to it due to the gridlock.

    We need more permanent bus lanes – especially on Broadway and Symonds Street (and no doubt elsewhere too).

  16. It’s been almost 10 years since I moved to the isthmus and in since then there are still no permanent bus lanes on any main arterial. Instead we get 15 hours of bus lanes per week – less than 10%.

    Forget about cycle lanes! Zero hours of cycle lanes

  17. What is stopping AT building and enforcing continuous bus lanes right now?

    What can the Minister, Council and others do to make this happen within weeks, not months?

    1. > What is stopping AT building and enforcing continuous bus lanes right now?

      AT is stopping AT. It’s kafkaeque.

      1. To be fair to the people in AT who are trying, even “progressive” Council politicians like Goff loved stabbing them in the back for “insufficiently consulting” and similar shit whenever one of their projects caused boomer uproar. Who wants to be progressive when both your bosses and their political bosses don’t give you any support against the shouty brigade?

      2. AT doesn’t control the funding or the ‘expectations ‘. If someone puts those up, AT can do it. But there is the problem of finding a timeslot in City Centre works for sequencing.

  18. This is the result of 70 years of traffic engineering running our entire city. Not a bug but a feature of any all in auto-dependent urban transport system. The discipline is conceptually unable to create an effective city, as it is based on partial evaluation processes that only count things that can spit out one answer = more lanes.

    Traffic engineering, when it reaches beyond pavement technology, bridge structure or other truly civil engineering issues and strays into planning and policy is entirely bankrupt. It just isn’t equiped intellectually and conceptually to deliver what matters: safe, efficient, effective, reliable access for goods and people in cities. Is like trying to play chess with only pawns on your side; totally limited. Like a mechanic with only one tool.

    Control has to be wrestled off this cadre of no doubt excellent arithmetists, to be held instead by people with wider conceptual skills, qualitative as well as quantitative. At the moment we have structures with TEs having controlling sign off at most levels. This is wrong and bad, yes they have important roles to play, but have no ability to fix this with their limited conceptual structures and inadequate box of tools.

    They’ve had decades and decades and billions and billions -> look around, this is it.

    Time to completely change hierarchies in our agencies. Missing modes and urban form at the centre, traffic flow tertiary. Only way to create balance, choice, resilience, equity, safety and affordability.

  19. The simple way to solve this “greater” city’s problems: Redefine “Heritage”, leaky villas occupying the high ground must give way to mid rise intensive housing, alla Europe / OCKHAM etc. Perhaps revert it to an ungreat city as South versus North versus West vs East vs Central etc seems to be unhelpful. That lifestyle block owners have more power than inner city renters is wrong, and the last local election proved that democracy is dead in this city. We simply need to build up, and no longer out. All the plans are in place; have been in place for the last decade, even in my lifetime. Why were things so much brighter in 2014? Because Brasil hosted the Football World Cup? As far as I can calculate. we are just nine years closer to doomsday, so we need to find hope for a generation, the generation after us, who found hope through Warren Maxwell and Fat Freddy’s Drop. We need to give hope our children. The “boomers” have fought their fight, and will gradually learn how to retire, but we were the most privileged generation and it is on us to ensure that our city does not continue to get covered in crap every time a little thunderstorm passes overhead!!!

  20. An open letter to the Mayor of Auckland.

    You campaigned on fixing Auckland, and now elected, it is extremly obvious you have some serious fixing to to do.
    Evidence that things here are indeed very broken is accumulating far far more rapidly then evidence of any fixing.
    And these things are actually broken, more or less, predictably, as a consequence of human induced climate change, historic underspend on infrastructure, and overdependance on private car transport.

    Our roading corridors are the biggest of all the council assets.

    As an engineer you should be striving to make these existing corridors more efficient in achieving their prime function of MOVING PEOPLE, and goods.

    The means of doing this are ridiculously simple.

    Prioritise the movement of the most space efficient modes for this task. Buses pedestrians and micro mobility vehicles.

    This does mean heavily deprioritising the public provision of cheap and even, free storage of motor vehicles. Where such provision is made it should be charged at commercial rates, street frontage land in the CPD is currently $10000+ per sq metre, now there a big hole in your budget filled straight away.

    And deprioritise the provision of road space for these same vehicles when they are actually in move mode.
    Turn space over to the much more spacially efficient public transport services. 24/7 bus lanes

    Not rocket science.

    But to fix things you will also need the strength, to break a few things:

    The mindset that transport is about moving vehicles rather then people and goods.

    And the absurd mindset that the council must provide storage on prime land, but only for private cars.

    20% of the time between elections has now elapsed. And what has been achieved?

  21. I can’t now find the link, but there was a story today on two guys who took eScooters (Beam, Lime) from the CBD all the way to West Auckland.

    1. Plenty of those scooters can be found along the causeway on a regular basis- not sure if it the companies doing some “product placement” or users running out of funds halfway home.

  22. Some of the worst spots are well known now eg the NEX near Akoranga, Wairau Rd, etc.
    Where it is practical to do so, measures should be taken to alleviate these issues – so into the busway lay down some concrete pipe to drain it and reseal over the top of it raising the surface by up to a metre.
    Wairau Valley the waterway channel has plenty of room to be widened – it could probably be doubled in size and it needn’t cost a fortune to do it – target rate to properties in the area that would benefit.
    There are likely a lot of similar examples across the city, but simply installing cheap and quick culverts (they don’t need to be big ones) under flash points in many roads would alleviate road closures and save on road maintenance/repair costs. Same goes for rail.

  23. Yes more 24/7 bus lanes so when odd times events happen they work.
    Agree raising the busway through that section.
    Yes bikes are king for consistency of travel time.
    Had a family member walk the whole way home rather than mucking around waiting for pt.
    With most everyone leaving earlier and uni/ school rush while trains etc more down at that time made for it being worse earlier I think. Of course we didn’t know me when the rain would ease for sure.

  24. I think there should be a large “emergency contingent” of buses that can be deployed in a few minutes around the city should anything like this happen.

    1. And drivers, to be permanently paid to be on standby in case something happens? Nah, but more modes of bulk transport, and resilience in those modes of bulk transport is definitely required.

  25. Car bashing again here, but I don’t remember the useless PT system being off much help yesterday either, particularly the trains. Didn’t see anyone using those lovely cycle lanes either. Maybe start investing in things that will make a difference like more roads or better train system to parts of Auckland that need it (north/east) rather than spend money on useless speed reductions and cycle lanes.

    1. Ah, the old saw about how we just need better roads.

      For your information, we don’t have a cycle network – we have some ragged patches. We and this blog have been saying for years that the lack of a safe and connected network is the issue, not occasional (or even sometimes heavy) rain. You can’t magically decide when you are sitting in the office thinking about how to get home fast that suddenly there’s a bike downstairs and a cycleway to get you home safely.

      So basically, your claims about “car bashing” here being the problem are nonsense. The “cars first” approach has failed individuals and the city over and over and over again. We will keep saying that, whether you like it or not.

      1. The above few examples from Twitter (and there were plenty more) also show how resilient biking around town is in situations like this. Beat the queues, avoid the flooded sections. A bit of precipitation? That’s what rain gear is for. Imagine how many more people could do that and avoid these weather carmageddons if there was a properly connected and safe cycling network around Auckland…

  26. What was worst about the whole thing was that rail went down very quickly. The theory is rail is the skeleton and buses are the limbs. We can’t have our skeleton suffering from osteoporosis.
    I don’t know which parts of the rail system failed on Tuesday but it should be part of Auckland and Wellingtons emergency management upgrade that they can act as lifeboats when the cbd is sinking. I think a lot of people might have taken advantage of a system where, in the event of a civil emergency, they could leave their cars overnight and use the rail corridor to get out of the city.
    If that’s not possible (which I don’t think) then let’s finish the rail tunnel at Auckland so it can at least shuttle people out to the Great North Rd and Mt Eden Rd. If that wasn’t already built into the design, it should have been and there’s no better time to fill that gap than now.

  27. And even the afternoon service of the Te Huia was cancelled from Hamilton to Auckland return and they were able to put buses on both ways . Which was good for those that went to Hamilton for the day and the workers and others heading South in the evening ‘

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *