Auckland Transport (AT) says the proposed introduction of congestion charging would be an important tool for creating a more efficient road network and a more productive Auckland.
Officials from six agencies in central Government and Auckland Council, including AT, have been working on a project called The Congestion Question (TCQ) to identify how to get people moving more efficiently in Auckland. Initial key findings have been released in a technical report which looked at 26 options.
The report finds that congestion pricing would bring significant benefits for all Aucklanders, including more reliable journey times across the city, increased business productivity, improved air quality and lower vehicle emissions.
The suggested charges would improve the performance of motorways and main roads by eight to 12 per cent and have about the same impact on overall road efficiency as seen during school holidays.
“While congestion charging is just one tool in a larger toolbox, it’s still important for creating an efficient and integrated transport system,” says AT board chair Adrienne Young-Cooper.
“We’re pleased that this technical report has been released today. The findings in The Congestion Question follow years of data-based research to help start real conversations, and now it’s time to set up a process to engage with Aucklanders and stakeholders to find a solution that works for all.”
The benefit of congestion pricing over current road pricing methods is that it would incentivise Aucklanders in private vehicles and who have a choice to travel outside of times where congestion charges apply, or walk, use public transport or bicycles, or other low impact modes.
The report found that having an access charge for private vehicles to enter key areas of the city during peak times from Monday to Friday would have the most impact and be fair for all.
Priority-based and distance-based charges were considered but using access charges means travellers who live in outer suburbs without access to public transport are not faced with higher costs for longer trips.
AT chief executive Shane Ellison says, “When we look at cities such as Stockholm or London, it’s clear that congestion charging works to improve the efficiency of the roads. This report makes it clear the same would happen here.
“But before we can introduce any charges, we need more high-quality public transport. People need choices and that means the City Rail Link and other fast and frequent public transport options need to be up and running.”
The recommended first phase of the congestion pricing scheme is in 2025 with a comprehensive rollout over the following ten years.
Young-Cooper says comprehensive public and stakeholder engagement needs to take place to make sure Aucklanders support a scheme that prices congestion and its benefits and have a big say on how any such scheme would work.
“Additionally, the government should make sure that the system does not unfairly penalise low income earners. There should be a discount scheme that reduces costs for those on low incomes.”
AT’s board looks forward to working with other agencies and Auckland Council on the stages of the Congestion Question project.