Congestion pricing has once again hit the political radar, with the news that the Auckland Transport Alignment Project has recommended it as an option to more efficiently manage the transport network. They find that variable road tolls – highest during peak periods on busy roads and low (or even zero) at off-peak times – are the single most effective intervention to improve traffic flow.

ATAP - Interim Report - Manage Demand

On the whole, it looks like support for the idea is on the rise, which is positive. That suggests that the work that Auckland Council’s consensus building group did a few years back has contributed towards a better public conversation on the issue. That’s good, as it’s a challenging idea to sell to people.

The NZ Herald’s editorial on the topic was tentatively supportive and showed a reasonable understanding of the core principles of congestion pricing:

Transport Minister Simon Bridges conceded this week, “we can’t keep building new lanes on highways. We will need a combination of demand-side interventions if we are going to deal with congestion over the next couple of decades”. He prefers the term “demand-side interventions” to taxes, tolls or charges but those are what it means.

Unlike the council, the Government does not advance these for revenue raising but for reducing traffic on the roads. It clearly thinks road rationing is more politically acceptable than revenue raising and the AA agrees. Feedback from members, it says, showed support for tolls as long as people could be convinced it was for congestion benefits, not simply revenue.

However, the Herald’s editorial also exhibits a common misunderstanding about congestion pricing, arguing that free routes must be available as an alternative to tolled routes:

The joint report for the council and the Government this week did not suggest how road travel might be charged. Mr Bridges said one option was to track all traffic with GPS technology which is being trialled in Singapore and Japan. But that implies no roads would be free at times the charge applied. Travel is a basic freedom. We could welcome the chance to pay to use a fast lane when we need one, so long as free lanes remain.

The Herald’s position is basically in line with NZTA’s existing tolling policy, which states that:

…a road tolling scheme may be established to provide funds for the purposes of one of more of the following activities, namely, the planning, design, supervision, construction, maintenance, or operation of a new road, if the Minister of Transport is satisfied that:

  • the relevant public road controlling authorities (including the Transport Agency) have carried out adequate consultation on the proposed tolling scheme;
  • the level of community support for the proposed tolling scheme is sufficient;
  • if an existing road is included in the scope of the tolling scheme, it is physically and operationally integral to the new road in respect of which the tolling scheme will be applied;
  • a feasible, untolled, alternative route, is available; and
  • the proposed tolling scheme is efficient and effective.

However, I think that both NZTA and the Herald are being too hasty in assuming that the untolled alternative route has to run parallel to existing roads. Alternatives can exist in time as well as in space.

Stu Donovan described the maths behind this last week. Transportblog reader Bryce Pearce also dug up a good practical example: apparently Singapore’s road pricing scheme allows people to travel for free most of the day. For example, if you are trying to drive on Lorong 6 Toa Payoh at 8:30am, you’ll have to pay $1. But if you leave an hour earlier or an hour later, you won’t pay anything:

ATAP took a similar approach when choosing how to model congestion charges. As the following diagram shows, the ATAP scheme would increase peak and inter-peak pricing, relative to current fuel taxes, but decrease charges in evening periods. Consequently, people would have options to save money for certain types of trips, for example, by shifting supermarket trips from the afternoon to the evening:

ATAP - Interim Report - Road Pricing Differences

Arguably, being able to travel for free on the same road, at a slightly different time, is even better than being able to travel for free on a different, more circuitous road at the same time.

There are obvious user benefits to the approach of varying tolls by time of day. It allows people to make better choices that respect their individual preferences for time, timeliness, and money.

But there are also important system-wide benefits from variable tolls between different time periods. Because congestion can be quite sensitive to changes in the number of cars on the road at a given time, encouraging even a relatively small number of people to shift the time at which they travel can lead to large benefits.

That’s nicely illustrated in the following graph of Auckland Harbour Bridge traffic volumes. The AHB is essentially free-flowing during the middle of the day, when there are around 1300 vehicles per lane per hour. But it is considerably slower during the evening and morning peaks, when the bridge carries more like 1500-1700 vehicles per lane per hour.

Lane Capacities

Because the peakiest bits of the peak are relatively short – perhaps 2.5 hours in total across an average weekday – you could improve the performance of the bridge by charging tolls during a few short windows. People could still travel for free (or at any rate a lower price) during the remaining 21.5 hours of the day.

From my perspective, that’s a pretty good alternative for drivers! But what do you think about the issue?

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  1. Pretty good alternative? Are you joking? You really think the poor who live off public transport routes are going to suddenly change their work hours to suit tolling changes? And it is the poor and their families you will hit with your flawed ideology. They are already struggling with food, rent, etc (you would see this if you bothered to look). The rich wont care. And nothing will change – but keep recommending penalties, shows a total lack of creativity. How about making the existing roading more efficient? Too hard? No its not. Quit with the endless penalizing and come up with something that the masses would welcome and that would ACTUALLY help.

    1. Q: How do you design road pricing to be progressive? A. Recycle revenue in a progressive way, e.g. via per household payment.

      P.s. Ricardo we deleted your other two recent comments because they violated our user guidelines. One was racist and the other was moaning about the blog. Please abide by the rules or we’ll chase you out of the village with pitchforks. Hokay?

    2. I guess you think it’s better to endlessly raise rates and fuel taxes, which are both relatively regressive taxes that low-income people can’t easily change their behaviour to avoid, to build MOAR ROADS.

      On a separate note, I’d appreciate it if you would read our user guidelines. Your comments are usually in violation of user guideline 4 (“General moaning about the blog and its editorial direction is extremely boring”), 6 (“Opinions, while welcome, are not facts, so do not assert them as such”), and 8i (“No obsessive arguing in a thread or threads”).

      While we do appreciate having a diversity of views in comments, and a robust debate about ideas, I’d recommend you read the guidelines and think about how you can raise the quality of your comments.

    3. I kinda do this already for travelling on trains. I adjust my work day to travel on less congested services and my wife adjusts her work time to go to work at 10 and finish at 6:30 to minimise time in traffic. I know several people who do this. I think there should be free times and cheaper (more subsided PT). This would allow a carrot and stick approach. Then you have a choice pay more for driving ur car, take PT or drive outside peak times.

      1. from a financial perspective peak charges and off-peak discounts are equivalent.

        That’s one reason I find the debate quite strange: People tend to support off-peak discounts for public transport, without realizing that’s equivalent to advocating for a peak surcharge.

        1. It’s almost like people’s behaviours are affected by the way choices are framed. We should let the rest of the economics profession know about this.

        2. What, start a whole new field called something like “behavioural economics”?
          What a shocking thought that people might be irrational enough to not be 100% compliant with optimising their utility functions 🙂

    4. Forcing the less well off to own cars (or second or third cars in a household) just to get to work or study is a lot more regressive than introducing congestion pricing, as well as improving public transport coverage and frequency.

      As others have said, congestion pricing needs to be part of an overall plan that makes both the existing roading, active transport options, and public transport more effective.

    5. Much better to whack another 10c/litre tax on petrol like the goverment recently did to fund their RoNS. Doesnt matter what time of day they travel the poor cant escape that! Even better, as the poor generally drive old gas guzzlers, they get to subsides the rich in their fancy modern economical European vehicles.

  2. I’ve never understood why people think for roads to drive cars on there must be a free alternative but this doesn’t apply to any other essential services. For instance, why can power companies charge peak rates without providing a free alternative? The same applies to food – shouldn’t Pak’n’Save be Pak’n’Free if Countdown is able to charge?

    Making poor people pay for huge duplicate roads – as we do today – is in my opinion the least caring approach to their poverty.

    1. well said and I’ve never understood it either.

      I think the concern for people’s welfare is genuine and a decent consideration, but the belief that low income households benefit from all this excessive infrastructure subsidies is just crazy.

      A higher proportion of low income households don’t have jobs, let alone own a car. And if they do then they tend to drive less.

      On this basis. road pricing is likely to be progressive compared to things like fuel taxes. So provided the scheme is 1) sensitively designed; 2) well signaled before being implemented; and 3) recycles revenue in a progressive way then I would have thought that low income households would be well and truly better off.

    2. I guess you can pick your comparisons to go either way. Should we have congestion charging for health care for example?
      And with power companies, most people do pay the same amount on peak as off peak even though there are alternatives to that

      1. We already have systems that ration health care through a combination of need and ability/willingness to pay.

        In the public health system, patients are triaged according to the severity of their problems – i.e. someone suffering from a heart attack will get treated much more promptly than someone suffering from a hangnail.

        If you have the financial ability, you can avoid waiting times for non-critical treatment (e.g. elective surgery) by paying for care in private hospitals.

        Reasonable people could disagree about whether we’ve got the balance right in the health care system, but it hardly operates the same way as our transport system, which rations *solely* by queues.

        1. Lets exclude private health care and private roads from the debate, the market should sort those out.
          With public health care rationing is done by need. With congestion charging we are talking about rationing based on both need and ability to pay.
          We are effectively gifting lots of land to road users and then allowing the rich to have priority at peak times. Is this fair?

        2. There are a lot of services and infrastructure that are more accessible to the rich, such as public water supplies (metered all the time, so even worse). A new parallel tolled route is very unlikely to cover all costs and receive a subsidy from other road users, so in effect the status quo means the poorer help pay even more for infrastructure that is only ever available to ‘the richer’ as they generally have a 24 hour toll. If being regressive is the concern, there are much more effective ways of helping people than what we do today with cross-subsidised road building, which as Stu points out has regressive attributes.

    1. In the tolled area? Obviously congestion outside the tolled area is irrelevant for the purposes of your assertion.

      1. Although if only motorways are tolled in Auckland then the “outside the tolled area” will include all the other roads in Auckland.
        I think tolling is a good idea for the most part but I am very concerned that it will simply lead to people using local roads instead and blocking them up. This can have a big impact on businesses and perhaps unfairly impacts on people going for a shortish drive in their own area – eg driving to the supermarket.
        This is why it will be VERY important that the council makes a huge PT push BEFORE tolling is implemented. By push I am talking about increased services/capacity, perhaps even holding back on fare increases that year, and a big advertising push/education programme. More buslanes will also be needed to improve bus trip times/keep schedules.
        The best outcome will be say a 10% reduction in motorway traffic with a corresponding (by numbers) increase in PT usage. This will mean that local streets don’t become anymore congested.
        I feel like the North Shore is going to probably have the biggest negative impact from this due to it’s relative lack of PT (which bar the NEX and ferries is pretty woeful).

        1. I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of the “push” rather than just the “pull”. Even when there are perfectly good public transport options people just love to use their cars.

          Taking the shore as an example, this week there have been problems with traffic lights on Esmonde road, causing even more congestion than usual at peak times. I saw a post on Neighbourly from someone who lives in Belmont and travels to the city saying it’s got so bad he might use the ferry tomorrow. Sometimes people just need a bit of motivation to use the PT service that’s right on their doorstep.

          My understanding of the proposed road pricing is that it isn’t motorway tolling, it’s tolling for all journeys based on distance, location and time of day. It won’t matter if you use local roads or not, you still pay.

        2. Bruce, I’ve noticed you’ve made a few comments that the North Shore has bad PT compared to the rest of Auckland, but I can’t get what you mean. The Shore has the best PT in Auckland! The busway moves as many people as any of the rail lines, but it does it super frequently all day long and runs really late into the night. It’s still going every fifteen minutes at 3am on the weekends.
          Plus the rest of the bus network has a lot of service, there is a whole bunch of peak express buses, a system of feeders to the busway, and a whole parallel network of local routes to places like Takapuna and Glenfield. From where I grew up you have the choice of a feeder bus to the busway station, an express bus to downtown, or the local bus that runs up and down between Browns Bay and Takapuna.

          I don’t see how anyone can complain The Shore does poorly, I’d say it get the most service per capita of anywhere.

        3. What North Shore are you talking about?

          I have tried to catch a local bus in Milford numerous times, and most of the time I ended up waiting, and then walking back home to get my car, or walking to Smales Farm instead. It just didn’t work. If you have to rely on those buses you’ll endure delays a lot worse than what you get by driving through congestion.

        4. Besides the NEX (which I also mentioned as an exception) PT on the shore IS rubbish. Try catching a bus across the Shore (if it even turns up within about 20 minutes of schedule!). Buses are stuck in the same congestion as cars (but cars can go alternate routes to avoid it while buses are stuck on their route only). How many km of bus lanes are there on the Shore (besides the NEX)? Pretty much zero. Sure the Shore has the most ferry services but they really only serve those that live right near them since the bus serves to them are too unreliable/infrequent/too slow to make it worthwhile for most. Everyone else has rail it is just the Shore and East Auckland that miss out. Sure you could say the NEX is like rail however unlike rail it does not have a dedicated RT route it’s entire length now does it? The NEX is really about getting people to and from the city with not many using it to get around the Shore itself…why? because the local bus services are shit.

        5. Bruce – I agree what you are describing is poor, but I don’t agree it’s just the Shore, that sounds like most of Auckland to be honest, the bus/transit lanes aren’t exactly widespread south of the bridge and often end just before they get to the most useful bit.

        6. Well, it will do once the new network is bedded in. It’s currently a fairly ad hoc network, NEX and 881 aside.

        7. Why do people love their cars? Because: (1) it will actually bring them to their destination, (2) buses will not bring them to their destination, and (3) cycling is considered abhorrent behaviour (we’re talking about the North Shore here).

          The usual experience goes like this: You may have a 20 minute drive to somewhere, but due to congestion you actually are underway for 40 minutes instead (a 20 minutes delay). Or you can take the bus, which will even in the best of traffic already take 40 minutes, which only leaves in a quarter of an hour, and which is often delayed by a lot more than 20 minutes. That will be an easy choice. For that lady, despite all the congestion, driving might still be the fastest choice—by a large margin. Especially if she has to be somewhere else than Britomart.

          The NEX basically just works, but for some reason the Northstar buses are especially poor—you can catch one at 9 pm and it will still be badly delayed.

    2. Where roads exist, at busy times of the day, there will still be congestion. But if we can avoid huge costs to duplicate the roads by a)changing some travel patterns and b) creating a viable PT/walking/cycling network and c) allowing greater density along these corridors, we provide logical alternatives.

      1. What I LOVE about all this is the same thing I loved about the MedLab/Disagnostics switch, and the NovaPay switch, and the new telecom mobile network in the south island with no controller redundancy.

        We keep talking about making more “efficient” use of our transport resources by packing more people/vehicles into motorways, buses and rail by adding trains, double deckers, more buses, smart cars, etc.

        But seem to completely FAIL to discuss the fact that such “efficiency” creates corresponding DECREASES in the resilience and redundancy of the networks involved.

        I’d really like someone to point me to NZTA/AT documentation for these sorts of projects where they actually lay out their views and contingency for such things.


        This does it. but seemingly only in the context of a “disaster”. What about when someone in Pokeno cuts the line controlling the Auckland rail network because it happens to lead to the control center in Wellington.

        What happens when 2 lanes get closed on the Southern motorway because a truck ran into an over bridge again?

        1. CRL Business Case by AT.

          Whole point of that is to improve resilience and capacity by increasing capacity and routing options.

        2. You’ve got it 100% wrong. Congestion pricing is a demand management measure – its aim is to price off a (relatively) small number of low-value discretionary trips. Complementary measures, such as provision of good PT/walking/cycling options, are intended to provide alternative choices about how people travel.

          Overall, I’d expect congestion to increase the resilience of the transport system. The reason for that is that roads clog up *much* worse in response to crashes or weather-related disruptions when traffic is bumper-to-bumper than when it’s slightly more free-flowing.

        3. No, that’s my point. Things like “more trains per hour”, “more buses per hours”, “more cars per lane” – which is what driverless cars are supposed to allow (AND decrease accidents) push the “now” carrying capacity closer to the “maximum theoretical” carrying capacity. which amplifies the effect of a negative event.

          Think of a graph. Y axis = likelihood, X axis = impact. Top left of the curve is 95% likely, some guy cuts you off on the motorway, it costs you less than 1 minute. Curve goes down to the right, 0.01% – truck smashes into bridge and closes 2 lanes on the motorway, it takes you and 6,000 other people an extra 2 hours to get home.

          Adding more cars/buses/trains/carriages has no, or a negative effect on the likelihood, but increases the negative impact by affecting more people. (rail closed because someone jumps in front of a train, more trains per hour = more people affected, more carriages per train = more people affected) effectively moving the whole graph to the across to the right.

          Driverless cars (as an example) might double the number of vehicles that can safely fit in a lane. Double the negative impact, maybe 4x if it in turn increases the scale of an event (10 car pileup instead of 5).
          In the case of driverless cars though, they are expected to ALSO reduce the likelihood of negative events as they relate to the vehicle, so at least they should be a net positive both ways until someone figures out how to hack them and invert the collision avoidance response. (because if you can someone WILL)

        4. This isn’t a blog post about driverless cars, so your point is essentially irrelevant. Congestion pricing will tend to reduce peak traffic volumes, not increase them.

        5. And just ignore everything else I said there because you can dismiss one part of it *applause* well done.

        6. That’s because I was fuzzy thinking and conflated several points before posting.

          I was talking about a common failure to consider and implement redundancy and resilience in all those cases.

          In relation to congestion pricing, I consider it likely to go like this:
          1. We implement congestion pricing.
          2. Peoples travel patterns change.
          3. Because they change, everything gets better -> YAY.
          4. Load continues to build.
          5. No one does anything because it looks fine still.
          6. Negative events (power cuts, accidents, etc) happen and eventually begin to cause significant problems.
          7. Because the load has built more evenly across the entire network, there is less “floating” capacity.
          8 Everything grinds to a halt more quickly and for longer because the capacity is not available to relieve it
          9. We realise we need to do more, but we can’t do enough in time because the load is growing too fast relative to the remaining capacity.

        7. What you have failed to include is that, at the same time, we are / would be building a substantial public transport and walking/cycling/skateboarding network to boost alternative travel modes. This is what Singapoer has done (PT wise anyway).

        8. Also Singapore has more than the population of the whole country in an area the size of lake Taupo.

    3. Within a few years it is projected that there will be more bicycles using streets in the congestion charge area than cars and public transport use improved dramatically after the charge commenced. I’d call that a success.

  3. I’m a fan of the Singapore version compared to London’s congestion zone. Singapore update times/fares on what seem to be monthly schedules so quite flexible.

  4. Which is fine if you don’t have kids at school at certain hours, or are willing to pay a few hundred dollars a week for care for them outside hours, or your employer is actually willing AND able to comply with the flexible works hours legislation.

    Otherwise, you pay the toll.

    1. Huh, did this on my phone and it “failed” supposedly. Maybe it resubmitted more than once? anyway, while it tells you it fails and shows a warning icon, it doesn’t actually tell you WHY it failed.

    2. If you have kids who:

      a) must be at school for certain hours,
      b) have no feasible option except being driven to get to school,
      and you;
      c) cannot move house or change your kids’ schools, and
      d) cannot change your work hours.

      That is a *really* small number of people.

      1. So let’s see
        A – is ALL children by law, try again
        B – didn’t say anything about driving, wasn’t the point of my statement, try again
        C – So drop 900,000 x 6% ~ $54,000 to move house? I and my kids happen to LIKE their school, which is 1km (easy walking distance) away. try again
        D – hmm, yes well, I’d like to. But then again, I mentioned that didn’t I.

        And “really small” number huh?
        1/3 of households have school age children in them.
        I think you’re suffering SWM syndrome.

        1. A – no it isn’t, over the course of schooling I arrived as early as 7.15 and as late at 8.55
          B – If your aren’t driven to school then you are free to leave any time after they do, or earlier if at least one is 14 or older
          C – The 6% is a made up number of no relevance at all to this discussion, you are already close enough that your children can walk, many other parents could simply send their children to a school that is walkable.
          D – A surprisingly large number of employers already do.

          You have given no reason that the majority of people cannot shift their travel. You have given four, rather unconvincing reasons that you cannot. For example; from what you have said, you still have the option of cycling to work, or catching PT, or leaving early, or changing jobs, or moving house to somewhere which is closer to your work and has good schools.

        2. I’m guessing you’re not allowed to leave a kid younger than 14 home alone then. Sigh.

          You are actually allowed to let a kid under 14 walk or cycle to school without supervising him, right?

        3. 5-6% is the standard realtor sales commission on a property.
          Since I own, if I moved house I would either
          1. – Sell and buy – there’s that 6%
          2. – Rent and rent out – that MIGHT be cost neutral, but has it’s risks around property damage, etc.
          3. – Buy and rent out – doable, maybe, but I’d be carrying even more risk because I’d also be assuming risk around interest rates by doing so.

          7:15? really? I don’t know of any school in my suburb that opens it’s gates to kids that early.
          I can pay to have someone take my kids by then, but sadly so do a whole lot of people, so by 7:15 the transit time is already approaching peak levels (it didn’t use to a couple of years agi, but does now)

          No I don’t have an option of cycling to work, that would be ~20km, I don’t have enough time in my day to do that. Especially not to pick kids up by 6pm, which again A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE TO DO.
          I can take the train. I do if I’m not going to client meetings that require travel – this doesn’t affect a lot of people, but then train access probably does.

          And yes employers SHOULD allow flexible working hours. totally agree. BUT. there are valid, and legislatively protected reasons for NOT doing so.

          Can I leave early? Early FOR work or early FROM work? FOR – already outlined why not, FROM, yeah, IF my employer agreed and I either made up the hours, or reduced my income.

          Can I change jobs? Yes I could. Every other option you outline (except PT) gives me a choice between – pay $500 / year in congestion changing and pay oh, $50,000+ to move hour, or $12,000 per year in child care fees, or take a pay cut, or work until midnight, or … i.e. I have choices, but all those choices are actually more expensive. which means that they are not real choices at all.

        4. “Our research shows that real estate fees / agents fees / real estate commission in the Auckland region generally range from 2.95% to 4% of the first $300,000 and then 2% to 2.5% thereafter. A base fee is charged regardless of the sale price this ranges from $0 to $500. GST is also charged on the above percentages and fees*. Now that you know the fees, how are you going to choose the agent ”

          Yeah, 6% hasn’t been standard for decades if you have paid that recently, then I suggest you complain to the REAA.

          You forgot your other choice – use the additional hour you save each day by not sitting in traffic to work an hour longer and earn 10-15% more as a result. That way you earn more (even after paying for congestion charging and use no extra time.

        5. Ah, so not $50,000, but a mere $9,000 + $12,000 = $21,000 (at the low end) Adding tax at 33% = $28,000
          hmm, I’d have to save about 3 MONTHS of work for that to be cost effective.
          At an hour a day, assuming 0% inflation and 0% use of money, 220 days per year, hmm, yeah, I can make a plan based on a 3-4 year payback.

    3. I see what you’re saying, but those are all issues that are better solved by different policies.

      First off, people don’t *have* to drive their kids to school. Children have legs; they can use them to get to school *if* there are safe walking and cycling facilities available to them. I’ve written about this in the past. If we do that, a lot of parents will be able to avoid making discretionary trips to drop their kids off.

      Second, if employers aren’t willing to comply with legislation, the appropriate way to address that is to improve enforcement and/or increase worker bargaining power. We can’t expect our transport system to address every single failure with labour market regulation. That’s like arguing that electricity rates should be lower between 7-8am because that’s when most people have to boil their kettle while preparing to go to work.

      1. I said NOTHING about driving kids to school, both Peter and Sailor Boy are stretching things to avoid admitting it’s a reasonable argument.

        My point is that no SANE person sends a 5 year old to walk to school alone.
        Because, you know a young child cannot be trusted to not do things like walk onto a road because they saw a dog on the other side.

        Or because hmm, let’s take recent events from within my extended family – a person with a mental disability attempts to kidnap them from just outside the school gate? Or the school has reported suspicious behaviour outside the school gate in the last week?

        My point is the someone has to be with the child. That’s “me”, “someone I pay”, or “someone I trade the service with” (i.e. take turns taking kids to school)

        And I said WILLING and ABLE in regard to flexible working hours. I won’t get into which is which because that’s office politics territory where I probably agree with you.
        but ABLE is in fact part of the legislation,
        Recognised Business Grounds are:
        •inability to reorganise work among existing staff
        •inability to recruit additional staff
        •detrimental impact on quality
        •detrimental impact on performance
        •insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
        •planned structural changes
        •burden of additional costs
        •detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand.

        Conflicts with a collective employment agreement

        Employers must refuse a request if the proposed new working arrangement conflicts with the provisions of an employee’s collective employment agreement.
        Situations like this could arise in a number of sectors and industries.

        However, there are also likely to be instances where a compromise can be reached between the employer, the employee making the request, and other employees in the workplace.

        Employers, employees and unions are encouraged to discuss these issues with a view to developing procedures for dealing with such conflicts before they arise.

        1. Yeah so if you MUST travel during the peak you have to pay. In return you get a fast commutte as those who can change, do. Remember you only need a small percent to change their patterns to have a significant effect.

        2. Sorry, Roger, but I was walking to school at age 5. By myself (well, with my other friends).
          Also because of the way zoning works in NZ, parents can almost always walk their kid to school in <15 minutes.

        3. Different era then, and was that in Auckland?
          I was in the country and took the bus.
          and I still remember finishing high school and counting up that I’d been in a fight for EVERY SINGLE WEEK of my life to that point.
          And had a DEATH THREAT for EVERY SINGLE MONTH of my life at that point.

          It’s nice that your childhood seemed safe to you. Your experience however is NOT automatically a typical one anymore than mine was.

          And as I said in another comment
          “Or because hmm, let’s take recent events from _____within my extended family______
          – a person with a mental disability attempts to kidnap them from just outside the school gate?
          Or the school has reported suspicious behaviour outside the school gate in the last week?”

          And yes, I can certainly walk my kids to school in 15 minutes (or drive in 3 + 5 minutes to cross the road)

          3 times people have managed to ignore the “IT’S NOT ABOUT DRIVING TO SCHOOL”

          but I (or someone) STILL have to be THERE AT THAT TIME in order to do so.
          Gates open at 8, Gates close at 3:15

          So I can take a (full) peak train, IF my work happens to be in one of the 2 locations convenient to a train station that I commonly work at and I don’t have any meetings else where in town.
          or I can drive, in peak traffic.

          and I can either have someone look after my kids for 3 hours every night, or I can leave work 3 hours early and make it up by working 2-3 hours every night after my kids are in bed (depending on whether I bothered to eat lunch).

          Or some sliding scale between the two.
          Or I suppose my wife could quit work and look after them? Oh wait, that’s ALSO effectively paying someone to look after them in terms of net income.

        4. Roger, you’re taking your own personal circumstances (and perceived constraints) and extrapolating from them. This doesn’t make for a very good discussion.

          I would encourage you to also think about:
          1. How other people’s circumstances may differ, and whether they may behave differently in response to similar policies
          2. How the transport system *as a whole* will function with or without congestion pricing
          3. What congestion pricing will do to the overall cost of providing and running transport infrastructure. For example, under congestion pricing you might have to pay a $2 toll every day that you don’t have good options to avoid. But *without* congestion pricing you may find that your rates will go up $500 a year in order to build more roads. Hypothetical numbers, but I think you get the point…

        5. So you recognise that you have options, but you would choose to pay the congestion charge. That is exactly how it is supposed to work. It may even be that some days you do pay and some days you don’t, or that your wife starts late and you finish early some days, or that you leave a car at work to get to meetings in the day so that you can catch the train in. You have all of these options yet you would rather pay a toll than take them.

          It is not required that everyone avoid the toll for every trip they make every day for it to work. You also forget that if you choose to drive then you save time that can be spent with your kids.

        6. @Peter
          Funnily enough, I have actually done some study on human cognitive bias.

          I find it vaguely amusing that you are taking me to task for “reasoning from a sample size of one” (cognitive bias) in providing a counter example to Early Commuter’s comment “reasoning from a sample size of one”
          But of course, he is supporting your position (oops, that’s confirmation bias in operation right there)

          I’m more than aware that people differ from me. As far as I can tell the vast majority of the population differ from me.

          Yes, congestion pricing will produce positive outcomes.

          What I’m pointing out is a countervailing view that “not everyone actually has a choice in their travel”

          Just like no one likes to mention the DISeconomies of aggregation here.

          Or to discuss the negative potentialities of increasing the number of trains per hour

          Or that while driverless cars will improve things most of the time, there are conditions under which they can produce extreme negative events
          (Normalcy bias? Subjective validation bias?)

          I can also point out that I may be subject to status-quo bias and/or negativity bias in this discussion.

          Oh, and $500/year in rates vs $2/day toll? That’s pretty much net neutral to me. Make it $3/day and I’d logically prefer the rates for personal gain. I’d still VOTE for the toll though.

        7. “not everyone actually has a choice in their travel”

          You haven’t actually demonstrated that though, you have given us at least 10 options that you have, but decided that you prefer to pay tolls.

        8. @Sailor

          No. I’m pointing out that it’s not really a choice at all when all the alternatives incur HIGHER costs.

          And I’m not saving time by driving that I can spend with my kids, vs. the train it’s pretty much neutral when I can use it.

          I’m saving time to reduce the work I have to do after my kids are asleep so that I can sleep.
          and yes, you can tell me I’m “doing stuff wrong”
          I know I’m doing stuff wrong.
          I know WHY I’m doing stuff wrong.
          I sometimes even know WHAT I’m doing wrong.

          Thing is, sometimes you end up trapped in local minima, and you need to obtain sufficient excess before you can exit it.
          There was a really fascinating book a Walmart / service industry worker wrote about all the how/why “poor people make bad decisions”, wish I could remember the title, it’s well worth reading.
          I’m not money poor, but I’m in serious time/attention deficit, and the net result is very similar.

        9. Book is called “The Poverty Trap” I think. While I completely agree about your point regarding local minima, this argument is a bit like the new network. It is slightly worse for some, far better for many. The argument about equity should be whether we can make this equitable, not whether it is inherently equitable.

        10. Poverty Trap sounds right.
          Congestion tax is not equitable, it can’t be MADE equitable without godlike oversight.
          That’s because it’s pretty much impossible to accurately assign the costs to the real beneficiaries.

          That’s kind of my point. I keep seeing posts on here that go “that one’s bad because ….” and “this one’s good because …”
          But not “This ne is mostly good because …, but you have to also consider …, and if X changed then …”
          I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate as a result. I could argue the opposite direction as easily, but there’s no need to.

          There are those who will bear a cost because of constraints they cannot avoid, or because those constraints would cost more to remove.
          That’s “choice”, but not “good choice” because it means that no matter what they must bear an increase in cost.
          There are those who will reap benefits out of all proportion to their contribution (WINZ and the Puhoi Tunnel spring to mind with their refusal to refund staff the cost of the toll despite the fact it saved FAR more in wages than the toll cost)

          But it will be BETTER than not having it.

        11. Roger, you say that: “I’m not money poor, but I’m in serious time/attention deficit, and the net result is very similar.”

          But you’ve spent the entire working day posting almost twenty comments on this post. Your first comment was posted at 10:30am, and your most recent five minutes ago. During that time, you’ve dominated the comments section. You’ve got a fair point, which is that some people may not have good options to avoid tolls, at least in the short run. But others also have a point, which is that most people *do* have choices, and that setting prices in a way that encourages them to make slightly different ones is not an inherently bad thing. (In fact, that’s how most of our economy works.)

          At this point, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained from further discussion. Everyone has had their say. I recommend you put down the keyboard for the night and, before coming back, take a look at our user guidelines, which discourage “obsessive arguing in a thread or threads” (8i), among other things.

        12. Equitable doesn’t mean returning it to those who pay, it means returning to those who need it most. Charging congestion pricing and returning it as a $400 per person stipend is clearly more equitable than not as those with disposable income are far more likely to pay the congestion charge

        13. @Peter It’s nice that you get to say that Peter, does make things a little lopsided though.

          And yes, I don’t smoke, I seldom drink or eat fast food, I don’t do drugs, but occasionally I get drawn into wasting time I don’t have on things I shouldn’t. Like this. It’s a cognitive trap I’m aware of, but sometimes I fall into it regardless until I gather enough focus to divert. Which I’ll be doing shortly.

          @Sailor. We may be using slightly different meanings for equitable. My definition as “fair” would be that the cost falls primarily on those who receive the benefit. Yours seems … hmm, not sure how to articulate it. Redistributive maybe? As valid as mine, but still not “completely equitable”. Probably my perfectionism at work there.

        14. Roger
          1. If you live in the country and go to school in the country you won’t have to pay
          2. If you live in Auckland, because of zoning the school will be 15 minutes walk away

        15. I mentioned children being driven because it is important. All four of the things that I said must be true if you are to say that you are forced to face congestion charging. Everyone else has a choice (if not a very good one).

        16. No Sailor. The driving does NOT relate directly to the school. I can walk my kids to school. I usually enjoy doing so, depending on the weather and how the kids are behaving.
          TIMING relates directly to the school requirements.
          And TIMING is the congestion issue, since part of the solution is “make people drive at other times where possible”.
          DRIVING relates to other constraints around location and occupation, and needing to get to client meetings, etc.

  5. What I see as optimum is congestion charging and flexible parking costs as well.

    Drive in at 0545 = free
    All day parking if you arrive at 0615 = $5 or something

    Drive in at 0745 = $5
    All day parking if you arrive at 0830 = $25

    Suddenly, not only are you altering movement patterns, you are also incentivising the “early bird” behaviour that makes good citizens as well!

    No, it doesn’t work for everyone, so you combine it with better PT as well.

    1. You don’t mention the drive out time! Is 3:30pm a good time to drive home?
      Shouldn’t we actually promote people to start work at 11am and leave at 7pm?

  6. Why should road space be free? Why should society allow people who get up first to form a queue on a road and delay everyone else behind them? Why should people be allowed to steal time from everyone else without paying society a small fee in exchange? Why do we allow low value trips by people who could use a bus to block high value trips like ambulances or couriers with time sensitive cargo? Nobody expects to use a cellphone network for free or to use electricity for free. We even charge for water for people to drink. So why on earth should we tolerate a situation where people can block the passage of other people and freight without some mechanism to allow essential trips, and work trips, and trips of value can occur?

    1. Remember we do pay to use roads through fuel tax.
      I pay the same rate for electricity no matter how high or low the demand is. I pay the same rate for cell phone usage no matter how high or low the demand is, I pay the same rate for water usage no matter how high or low the demand is, I pay slightly more for road usage at peak as I use more petrol.

      1. Consumer electricity prices rise during the winter when demand for heating is highest.

        In any case, the problem is that people simultaneously (a) complain about the prospect of tolls and (b) complain about congested roads. You can’t have it both ways. Choose one or the other. Saying that you prefer congested roads to tolled roads is a perfectly valid preference, but if that’s your view please never, ever argue in favour of spending more money on road widening to speed up car travel.

        1. Really? Assuming you mean the unit price, mine doesn’t Though since I should be turning on solar this week, I will be paying for more units.
          (and if the lines/electricity companies think I should pay an extra levy for doing that, well I’m fine with that as long as they stop requiring me to pay the connection and line charges as well, can’t have it both ways)

        2. Yes electricity prices vary across the day and year. Many commercial/industrial users pay the spot price. Residential users not so much because most don’t have time of use meters, although this is changing.

          Anyone with Powershop will pay varying unit prices across the year based on supply/demand.

        3. Flick electric is allows you to pay the spot price. A lot of people have smart meters now as they have been rolled out in the last few years. I didnt even know we had one until I signed up for flick and they told me I was good to go. If you arent paying spot you’re retailer is and they will pass a premium on to you for taking on that pricing risk.

  7. Roeland “(Why do people love their cars? Because: (1) it will actually bring them to their destination, (2) buses will not bring them to their destination, and (3) cycling is considered abhorrent behaviour (we’re talking about the North Shore here).”
    As a Shore resident I can’t let that go unchallenged. Firstly cycling is the only mode, apart from walking, that takes you to your actual destination, a car only gets you to the nearest carpark – which may be further from the final destination than the nearest bus stop! Secondly cycling is not considered abhorrent behaviour on the shore but rushing round in an obese bulging blingmobile is considered fairly antisocial by many. Thirdly on a suburban route that is 20 minutes by car in light traffic but 40 minutes because of congestion it is the bicycle that is “the fastest choice by far” – e.g. Lake road at 4:00 pm. Getting back to the topic it seems to me that parking charges and time limits are also part of the congestion solution. Places where large numbers of people want to park are also typically transport hubs so PT, car pooling etc will be valid options for those destinations.

  8. Does any one know what it would cost AT to provide free transport services throughout the Auckland area? I am interested in this due to the Christchurch free transport proposal. It might be more economical to do this than pay for building more roads and bridges and tunnels or the alternative route proposal here.

      1. Problem is, many services, especially at peak are over-crowded. So you’d be needing to invest heavily in the system just as you;ve slashed income…Perhaps, in keeping with the spirit of this post, it would be better to make off-peak very cheap or free?

    1. Its a few years old but here is an answer

      “In 2012, Auckland Transport had gross operating income to run the system of $755 million, of which ratepayers contributed $323 million, central government contributed $261 million, and “public transport income” of just $46 million (Note 4). Things like parking fees made up the difference”.

      I am sure they do modelling about making it free – but at only $46M for the fares it virtually is anyway. (that figure does sound very low?)

      I used to work for the railways many moons ago and did quite a lot with the passenger transport manager who ran the suburban rail back then. I shared some ideas about increasing work time commuter numbers and he said that was the last thing they wanted as they then would need more capacity and staff – which just sat around during the off peak time. Patrick’s suggestion here about making the off-peak free would be better. For Gold Card holders it is anyway.

      1. Yes fares cover 50% of the operating cost so that $46m fare income suggests it’s $92 mil pa to operate the PT network, 25% from rates and 25% from tax]. The rest of the $755m goes on roads, and a little on footpaths and cycling.

      1. That fare figure is wrong. Is suspect its just rail and a bit of bus and ferry. Most of latter were net contracts so revenue went to operator. Total fate revenue more like 150 million p.a. methinks.

        I.e. lots.

  9. I think there should be an intermediate charge for arterial routes / main roads. e.g. Pakuranga highway, Great North Rd, etc.

  10. I would have thought congestion charging is hard on the poorer folk? Instead from the North Shore at least, would it be good if the busway was shared with a T2 or T3 lane then there would be less cars on the bridge and then the buses would be faster. Would that be practical?

  11. That is an interesting graph re flows on the harbour bridge. Breakdown in flows does not seem to be occurring at all! 1700 vehicles per hour is still “flowing”. Breakdown is certainly occurring on the Motorway itself, which probably rations the number of vehicles getting to the bridge in the first place. When demand exceeds lane capacity, flow breaks down – in the case of the Auckland motorway, demand hits 2000 and flow collapses to around 1100. This is why exponential congestion delays happen in cities with inadequate capacity.

    By the way, breakdown congestion is generally considered by international experts, to occur once demand per lane per hour hits 2300 – but Auckland’s motorways break down well below that. I presume Kiwi drivers lack of lane courtesy is responsible.

    David Lupton generated a flow graph for Auckland motorway, for publication in this paper:

    Far too few people realise about congestion pricing, is that if it is done right, it increases the amount of vehicles getting through at peak, by stemming the demand levels that cause breakdown. Therefore, it is not so much a question of “pricing off” some travelers, as increasing speed of travel, INCREASING the number of travelers BECAUSE the speed is maintained, and getting some revenue in return.

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