Government set to announce congestion charge in Auckland

The government is expected to announce congestion pricing in Auckland next week, paving the way for motorists to be charged for driving on city center roads as early as 2025.

If successful, officials believe the charges could help tackle vehicle emissions and remove 12% of traffic from the city’s congested roads, easing Auckland’s $1.3 billion congestion problem .

A congestion charge in one form or another has been backed by Labour, National, Greens and the Law, but even its staunchest supporters are reluctant to impose more costs on low-income households.

One of the loudest supporters, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, said his support was conditional on the availability of transport options and the phasing out of the 10-cent regional fuel tax from the city. city.

Ministers are expected to announce some form of congestion pricing when presenting their final emissions reduction plan on Monday next week – a congestion charge was proposed in the draft plan published last year.

Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson raised the possibility of congestion pricing last week after the Infrastructure Commission warned New Zealand it needed to make better use of existing infrastructure, rather than continually building more.

The Commission also recommended the government introduce congestion pricing, to which Robertson replied that he was already “reviewing” the policy.

Goff said The New Zealand Herald the charges could reduce traffic in Auckland by up to 12%, roughly “similar to levels seen during school holidays”.

“It would make a big difference in terms of reducing emissions, increasing productivity, supporting the movement of essential cargo and emergency services and improving the quality of life for Aucklanders,” said said Goff.

Its support for congestion pricing was “conditional” on three things: better and alternative modes of public transport like the City Rail Link and the Northern and Eastern Busways, the extension of the Community Connect program which offers half-price tariffs for people with community service cards, and the phasing out of the regional fuel tax, while congestion charges have been phased in.

Most concerns about congestion pricing stem from equity issues and fear that low-income people will have fewer transportation alternatives and struggle to afford the charges.

The Helen Clark Foundation released a report this morning supporting the scheme, but warned the government needed to step up investment in public transport to ensure the public adheres to the charges and to ensure poorer communities are not adversely affected negatively.

The report supported the idea that congestion pricing could be introduced in Auckland without a significant impact on low-income people, “based on commuter travel patterns”.

He argued that most commuters to central Auckland came from the Isthmus or the southern North Shore, while “very few” came from the south or southwest and “relatively few” from the ‘west.

“Public transport and active modes account for 55% of commuting to work in the city centre, which is much higher than for other places and indicates that there are relatively good services in the city” , notes the report.

He warned Aucklanders were already losing up to $1.3 billion a year in productivity to congestion, and it was likely to get worse as the population hits 2.4 million. over the next 30 years.

Officials haven’t detailed what a congestion zone might look like, but the draft emissions reduction plan, an infrastructure commission’s strategy and the recent select committee on congestion pricing have recommended adopting parts of the “Congestion Question”, a 2020 report on congestion pricing in Auckland from Auckland Council and a host of central government agencies.

This report proposed to establish a congestion charging cordon in central Auckland to coincide with the opening of the City Rail Link.

Vehicles would be charged when entering and leaving the city during peak hours. This would be done by cameras that would automatically recognize vehicle license plates to charge people who use the congestion zone.

In 2028, the cordon could be widened to include the isthmus area, although it may only apply during periods of congestion.

After 2028, the charges could again be expanded to include “strategic corridors” as far north as Albany and as far south as Manurewa. This would not mean that all roads in these areas would be subject to the charge, only certain congested corridors.

This research suggested that congestion pricing should vary across time slots, with a lower charge of $1.50 during intermediate periods, rising to $3.50 for peak trips. The report says the peak fee would align with a two-zone adult public transport fare using an AT HOP card.

AA policy director Martin Glynn said his organization would decide whether to support the charges when the scheme comes to light.

He said congestion charging, while common in Europe, had not been tried in American or Australasian-style car-dependent cities like Auckland.

Glynn said revenue from the program should cover the cost of implementing it.

Wellington is another city pushing for congestion pricing, with the city and regional councils supporting congestion pricing.

The Clark Foundation report found the impacts on low-income people of congestion pricing in Wellington were less clear than in Auckland and called for more work.

He said “Available modeling shows that some low-income communities could be disproportionately affected as they will continue to make trips to and through the CBD at similar levels.”

Stuck in traffic jams

Auckland drainlayer and plumbing supervisor Jared McRobie spends around 10 hours a week sitting in traffic to and from work.

“You get used to it a bit. It takes a lot of time away from family matters and trying to engage in other activities like sports.”

Based in Otara, McRobie said work for the coming months will be based in West Auckland meaning he will have to travel across Auckland every day.

While he hopes the congestion charge will get commuters off the road who might otherwise use public transport, he doesn’t know if traders would be willing to pay a fee.

“I think it’s probably more for someone who works in an office and doesn’t need to carry around tools.

“It would help in that sense, but I think traders and anyone using the roads for their work would pick up most of that cost,” he said.

In the UK, the current congestion charge is £15 ($29.03 NZD). But McRobie said he would like to see commuters like traders offered a subsidy.

“No one wants to pay $150 more [a week] just to drive to work because you have to earn that $150 somewhere else.”

McRobie has worked as a drainlayer and plumber for the past eight years and said he always had to travel for work and rarely had a job near his South Auckland home.

Over the past four or five years, he had noticed more cars on the roads.

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