With Zeal: BlipTrack Technology Detects Travel Time Cuts at Queenstown Airport Traffic Project

The first stage of the Hawthorne Drive extension – linking Remarkables Park to Glenda Drive around the back of Queenstown Airport on New Zealand’s South Island – was officially opened to the public.

Simultaneously, Queenstown Airport launched its park-and-ride facilities on Frankton Flats and vehicles were banned from parking on either side of State Highway 6 between the BP roundabout and the Kawarau Falls bridge. The stretch is being policed by a dedicated parking officer.

The NZ Transport Agency also opened a merging lane for Queenstown-bound traffic at the BP roundabout to improve traffic flow. Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult says figures showed the changes immediately improved drive times between the BP roundabout and the airport, most notably during afternoon peak travel times.

The council supplied figures stating the average travel time on that stretch of road was now three minutes, a time saving of between seven and 17 minutes.

That figure was provided by BlipTrack data, a system both the council and NZTA has invested in, which uses sensors to collect anonymous data.

“Traffic planning is normally based on assumptions, simulations and short-term traffic surveys. However, the cost of processing this kind of data by hand means that even the most comprehensive survey can still only ever be a snapshot. As a substantial percentage of vehicles now has on-board Bluetooth systems, faster and more reliable real-time traffic measurement can be conducted. The BlipTrack solution works by placing sensors at strategic points along the roads, which detects the on-board Bluetooth systems in cars. By identifying the devices at multiple sensors, specific and accurate statistical information, such as the travel times, average speeds, dwell times and movement patterns become available,” explains Christian Bugislaus Carstens, Marketing manager at BLIP Systems.

Boult says the road link had been a long time in the making and it was pleasing to see it make an immediate difference to road users.

“This is a step in the right direction and shows the impact right-sizing our infrastructure can have on the day-to-day life in Queenstown.”

The park-and-ride facility, developed in partnership with the Queenstown Airport Corporation and the council, has also been well used.

QAC boss Colin Keel says there is space for 150 cars at present, but this is set to double to 300 when construction of the second stage of the Hawthorne Dr extension was completed in December.

“We’ve had over 344 people use the facility since it opened on June 22 and the most we’ve had at one time was 147 vehicles in one day, last weekend.”

NZTA’s Jim Harland says the projects are part of a wider transport improvement programme for the Wakatipu involving the airport company, council, Otago Regional Council and the transport agency. More projects in the programme would come on stream by the end of this year to get traffic moving even more efficiently in the basin. They included a new subsidised public transport service, enabling everyone to travel for a flat $2 fare with a GoCard.

Earlier this month, the Otago Daily Times reported the new $22 million two-lane Kawarau Bridge would not be completed until the end of March next year.

However, a two-lane option would be available for this Christmas-New Year period, whereby traffic would use the old bridge and one lane of the new bridge to avoid the traditional traffic bottleneck. Boult says while there’s still a great deal to be done, the momentum is beginning to shift in the district’s favour.

Original story posted in Otago Daily Times, additional reporting by Kevin Borras