There have been some interesting responses to the announcement last week that the government and council would be looking into road pricing, including many with very similar themes to what we’ve suggested.
Simon Wilson published an excellent piece at The Spinoff on Friday highlighting that we can’t afford to wait years for solutions and that there was a lot that could be done in the short-term to make a difference. The options are below and the piece has more detail about each of them.
- More trains and buses
- Focus on the outer city
- Reduce the number of inner-city parking spaces
- Boost the parking tariffs
- Engage businesses and commuters in the plan
- Roll out a big new bike-share scheme
- Create more bike lanes
- Organise ride-sharing
- Reclaim the streets
- Limit private vehicles entering the central city
- Green light the third rail line
- Cancel the new motorway project
- Stop all the other motorway projects
- Improve the quality of public transport
- Sell the idea
He ends the piece with this
But let’s not get confused about this. Doing a two-year report to come up with a proposal is not the same thing as taking action now to resolve a crisis.
Joyce’s plan with the congestion charges study has a pretty obvious subtext: he’s putting off the day when he and his government have to change their approach to Auckland’s transport woes. They must know that what they’re doing is not working and is not going to work, but they really don’t want to talk about it now.
The Herald Editorial on Friday looked at the announcement, ultimately noting that road pricing can only come after other improvements first, such as better public transport.
For road pricing to succeed, large numbers of people must decide it is too expensive for them to drive in rush hour, which could be seen as a tax on doing business or an imposition on many households’ daily routine.
For instance, one of the most obvious contributors to Auckland’s congestion is the crosstown school run, judging from the absence of traffic before 9am and after 3pm during school holidays.
But any attempt to push families into a different home-school-work travel pattern will raise other questions, particularly over Auckland’s inadequate and overpriced public transport system.
Uber-style ride-sharing is an intriguing alternative but still in the very early stages.
If planners want to brandish the road pricing stick at Aucklanders, they will need to come up with plenty of carrots first.
On Saturday, Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly expressed frustration that any decision is still a long way away and we need more done now.
Please. Do something. Anything. Congestion charging. Trams. A rail system that actually serves the whole city. A second harbour crossing. We’re well past the point of being fussy about it. They all need to be done eventually, so just pick one and get the ball rolling. Don’t keep giving us more bloody roads. Don’t leave it another five years. Don’t just agree to “terms of reference to establish a project to investigate smarter transport pricing in Auckland”. Do something now. Put us out of our misery.
When Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announced on television that there would finally be an announcement this week about Auckland traffic, I felt relieved. When Finance Minister Steven Joyce fronted up to the media, I felt hopeful. When he opened his mouth and said, “Any decision on the use of a demand management tool like road pricing is still some years off,” I wanted to scream.
On Sunday, Heather du Plessis-Allan also looked at the issue and ultimately, like others, noted that before we introduce congestion charging we really need some better alternatives.
National doesn’t want to have to deal with Auckland’s traffic this year because there’s an election to win. Saying yes to congestion charges may prove unpopular with thousands of potential voters. Saying no to congestion charges will show – again – how committed the party is to the act of Doing Nothing.
Auckland is gagging for better public transport. If we had it, we’d use it. Take a look at the full buses coming into the CBD from the North Shore. That’s one bus system working brilliantly.
National, forget the congestion charges until you have given us decent buses and trains. Get on with that, please.
And Auckland, next time you’re stuck in traffic, blame National.
The message across these pieces is all pretty clear, we can’t afford to wait possibly 5-10 years for road pricing to be introduced and even if it is introduced, we need better alternatives, especially better public transport. Let’s get on with that.
I just want to end with what I thought was one of the oddest responses to the announcement. Many groups welcomed the announcement that the government would actually look at road pricing and the Road Transport Forum (truck lobby) was one of those but also made this comment at the end of their press release. It’s quite odd given the exact point of road pricing would enable truck drivers to make more trips in a day than they can now and therefore be more efficient. It makes you wonder if they understand the point of it at all.
“The reality is of course that freight rates will be forced to increase with the additional cost of road pricing for Auckland transport operators. However, as a country with some of the lowest freight rates in the world, most consumers will appreciate the necessity of any rate rise,”