How to survive Auckland traffic as school holidays end


Podcasts fill commuters travel time

As schools return to work, Aucklanders prepared for clogged roads once more and contemplate that for most in the country’s largest city, a reality of life is spending large chunks of the working day (and hey, even weekends) stuck in traffic queues.

The Super City can move super slow at times. 

But the most accomplished commuters amongst us have some sensible advice – there’s no point getting bent out of shape by it all. Instead, use the time productively.

As we all get to grips with the return of school traffic, and the opportunities the new Waterview Tunnel gives us on our daily commutes (63,000 vehicles a day using it, bringing smoother runs for those sticking with the old faithful SH1), now is the perfect time to embrace a bit of zen into time behind the wheel.

* Was the Waterview Tunnel worth the wait?
* Alice Snedden: An ode to the mighty Waterview Tunnel

* Which of New Zealand’s major cities has the worst traffic congestion?

We spoke to commuters across Auckland about how they deal with their daily commute.

Some – what is this heresy – even secretly enjoy the down time a commute gives them. Let’s be honest, it’s some much deserved me-time, a chance to think, to learn a language, to simply rock out.

KATY ATKIN Travel Time: 1 hour


Katy Atkin sees her daily commute as an opportunity to listen to her favourite podcasts.  

The commercial producer lives just outside of Titirangi, and works in Ponsonby.

First she drops her youngest son at his in-home childcare in Avondale or at his kindy in New Lynn – her husband usually drops the two girls at school in Woodlands Park. If he’s working an early shift – she drops all three.

Atkin listens to a whole range of podcasts, from This American Life by NPR to Desert Island Discs by the BBC.

“At any one time I have about seven podcasts on the go,” she says. “I listen for entertainment, story telling, a chance to discover new information, hear about interesting people, get a deeper insight into news stories, and listen to opinions from pundits and experts in various fields.

“The radio offerings in the morning and drive time are either shouty DJs or news or talkback, so the podcasts mean I choose to listen to whatever I’m in the mood for,” Atkin says.

“And it feels like I’m not wasting my time just sitting idle – I’m listening and learning. The long commute means I have time to find new ones to review for the radio as well.”

SHANAN HALBERT Travel Time: 1 hour

Shanan Halbert tries to use his commute productively.


Shanan Halbert tries to use his commute productively.

Shanan Halbert aims to use his commute productively by making work calls.

He lives in Birkenhead and works at a tertiary institution in Mangere. The trip takes 45 minutes without traffic, and up to an hour and a half during rush hour. 

“I definitely try to travel outside peak hours,” the 35-year-old says. “I stay at home, get my admin out of the way, then leave. I’m lucky work’s able to accommodate that.

“I have to use the time wisely. I conference call with my hands-free [device]; you have to distract yourself from the traffic or it drives you nuts.”

He is glad to be able to use his time in the car proactively, but admits some multi-tasking is involved.

“You have to be really disciplined. You can’t text and drive – those sorts of things.”

PENINA MOMOISEA ​Travel Time: 30 minutes

Penina Momoisea and her sons Rocky (left) and Jirah, know how to make the best of the traffic.


Penina Momoisea and her sons Rocky (left) and Jirah, know how to make the best of the traffic.

Penina Momoisea sees her morning drive as a chance for quality time with her son, Rocky.

Momoisea is a production assistant who lives in Mangere Bridge and works in Kingsland. Each morning she drops her son at school in Grey Lynn before carrying on to work – a trip that used to take at least 45 minutes, although the Wateriew Tunnel has shortened it to 30 minutes. 

“It makes a huge difference,” the 41-year-old says of the new stretch of motorway. “There’s definitely not as much pressure on the roads as there was.

“On the morning commute we generally listen to the radio – shout out to Nate Nauer and the Mai FM breakfast crew, who entertain us every morning.

“On the drive home we still listen to music, but we also talk about our day, and so it also feels like we spend a lot of quality family time in the car too.”

RUSSELL SIMPSON Travel Time: 15 minutes

Russell Simpson


Although the Waterview Tunnel has improved Russell Simpson’s travel time, commuting is still something he’d rather not do. 

Simpson is a gardener who lives in Te Atatu Peninsula and works in Hillsborough. The 35-minute drive is now down to 15 minutes thanks to the tunnel. 

“I’d usually pass the time by fuming at other motorists as Aucklanders do,” Simpson says, “but generally I just listen to Radio Sport in the car and put up with the chaos.

“I consider myself lucky compared to others’ daily work commute as people have it much worse. I don’t enjoy my commute as such but it’s what you can’t really avoid living and working in Auckland.

“I have a six-week-old and any time saved on the work commute means more time with my daughter.”

PHIL SANDS Travel Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Phil Sands


Phil Sands listens to the radio to pass the time during his whopping one-and-a-half hour commute. 

Sands is a builder who lives in Pukekohe and currently does most of his work in Hillsborough – a long journey through areas of heavy congestion.

“Once you hit Drury, that’s where it tends to queue from the off-ramp.

“Because of the Auckland traffic I’ve always got it on Newstalk ZB, so I listen to the topics on there, and I get the traffic report every 15 minutes.”

The 54-year-old finds it hard to enjoy spending so much time in the car.

“It’s a bit of a waste of time sitting in traffic, innit? And I’m no exception. It’s never pleasurable, not really.”

But Sands tries to look on the bright side, adding: “I’m positive about it. There’s no point getting grumpy and getting road rage every five minutes.”

 – Stuff

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