Last year Wellington’s semi-equivalent of our Auckland Transport Alignment Project was released for consultation. The work was done as a result of the declined consent for the Basin Reserve Flyover which required Central and Local Government to go back to the drawing board.

Many of the issues and problems with the plan for consultation was written about by Matt here, however, what I want to touch upon in this post is the lack of investigation into Smarter Pricing aka Congestion Pricing.

Considering how effective Smarter Pricing was for ATAP with acting as a congestion buster drastically reducing the amount of capital expenditure we would need to spend on increasing capacity. It seems odd that Wellington didn’t consider it especially considering how relatively easy introducing it for Wellington would be due to the limited entry points to central.

Smarter Pricing/Influence Demand – ATAP Car Access
Smarter Pricing – ATAP Congestion
Smarter Pricing – ATAP Congestion by Corridor

The Higher Investment package tried to solve the issue by building more supply, especially around roading, while the influence demand package reduced the number of projects or delayed when they were needed. This meant not only was Influence Demand cheaper it was also a lot more effective. ATAP also aligns with international examples as well which also show around a 10 – 30% traffic volume reductions after congestion pricing implementation.

The fact that the previous Government also considered pricing as acceptable for Auckland makes the decision of pricing for the Wellington network out of scope also strange. If implemented, Smarter Pricing in Wellington could drastically reduce the amount of capital needed to be spent on the roading network while also improving access.

Wellington would also be an easy place to trial pricing because

a) A New Bus Network roll out in July, as well as a strong legacy rail network which will hopefully be upgraded further with acceptance of two budget bids that have been submitted;

b) Limited entry points into the centre.

Stage 1 – Northern Access 

It would make sense to start the trial at the northern access points as northern areas. This is because these areas have access to the existing rail network.

Putting gantries at two strategic locations would result in nearly all northern traffic accessing the centre to pass through them, with one where SH1/2 join, as well as one on Hutt Rd somewhere after Kaiwharawhara Rd.

This will capture nearly all traffic who access central Wellington from the northern areas served by the Johnsonville. Hutt, Kapiti, and Wairarapa lines. Technically you could skip the pricing by going all the way around the back of Ngaio and Wadestown but good luck to you.

Smarter Pricing Gantries Stage 1

The system should operate as a cashless automatic tolling system using for example cameras and number plate recognition. The NZTA already operate this technology on toll roads across the country and just like other toll roads in NZ you would be able to pay in advance as well. The other way is what they have in Sydney have, where in addition to number plate readers you can buy an electronic tag for your car with an account.

The pricing should also not be a flat toll, but dynamic higher at peaks and lower off-peak helping smooth out the peak period, acting as an incentive to switch to PT/cycling/walking while not punishing trips unnecessarily during the off-peak. Pricing could even be set less counter-peak than peak direction.

Stage 2 – Southern Access 

After the implementation of Mass Transit whether it is Light Rail or Bus Rapid Transit creating a suitable alternative to at least Kilbirnie you could consider stage two. However, if Auckland does end up implementing a GPS/Satellite Smarter Pricing system Wellington could just switch to that instead of stage two.

Stage 2 Smarter Pricing 1

With targeted gantry points at Mt Victoria tunnel, as well as any extra traffic tunnel if built, Constable St, Moeller St, Oriental Parade as well as Manchester Street other than going to long way around Southgate and Island Bay, all general traffic heading into central will be covered by a smarter pricing gantry with the exception Mount Albert Rd which I have put in orange as a potential if it would become a rat run.

Some of these streets are which are not arterials but more streets through reserve you could also investigate how to make them non-through routes instead of gantries if preferable.

Stage 2 Smarter Pricing 2

Parking Demand Management

Another way to manage congestion is to manage parking (Excluding Accessibility Parking) you really want to:

  1. Look at the opportunity costs of public parking, would re-prioritising that space to a better use of the resource;
  2. Don’t provide free parking in areas where transit/active modes a viable option use price or timing;
  3. Price parking dynamically or provide time-limited car parking to preference short stay over long stay maximising the resource;
  4. Price parking in a way spaces always free so people are not circling causing congestion;
  5. Remove parking minimums across the region.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to be subsidising congestion.

Tolling Gantry

It was odd that Get Wellington Moving didn’t better consider Smarter Pricing considering the step change it provided in ATAP, especially as all parties in Parliament currently support pricing in some form for Auckland.

Smarter Pricing should definitely be considered as part of any mix for Wellington especially if it can remove the need or delay unnecessary major capital projects, reduce congestion while freeing up city streets for placemaking, active modes etc. especially considering how easy stage one could be done.

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  1. a lot could also be achieved in Wellington by removing onstreet parking along key arterials but the nimbys seem very vocal here. Many arent really wide enough for onstreet parking and safe flow of traffic as it is.

  2. Good to see discussion of Wellington at GA. Wellington’s layout makes PT and road pricing a perfect fit.
    Note Wellington City is currently reviewing its parking policies, although they haven’t given us the scope yet.

  3. Great article. I agree pricing or congestion charging should be in the mix.

    The back route from Johnsonville towards town probably would need a gantry. It is very high use for what it is, which is not ideal given it is really a suburban street by design and the railway runs alongside it. You can’t really calm it, though, I guess, as it is also the alternative route out, as we have recently been reminded.

    In terms of the Southern side, people already rat-run a huge amount to try and avoid the major bottle necks. Biting the bullet and doing some proper traffic calming to really slow down those informal alternative corridors might be the order of the day to get the most mode shift out of any pricing – especially along the South Coast, which is nicer for actual residents and active mode users, anyway, if they aren’t being buffeted about by columns of cars.

    Now, if only we could get a high school in Karori, and some weekend PT routes to actually serve the sports grounds…

  4. This looks good. For the sake of equity if we’re going to price those entry points, we might as well go the whole way and price the southern and western entry points too. There’s only about 5 more and that would prevent all rat runs.

  5. Yes road pricing was wonderful for the authors of ATAP. They were able to claim it would fix all sorts of problems so they didn’t have to. Better than that they recommended we use technology that doesn’t exist yet so they didn’t have to really push the issue at all. But best of all they could dump lots of existing issues into the second and third decade, claim they had a plan and even get paid for their report.

  6. Geography makes Welly the easiest city to cordon. Good place to start.

    AKL I feel could have a two layer cordon: 1 city motorway noose 2 the Isthmus, as defined by the zone 1 PT area, virtually an island…..

  7. The whole LGWM project has descended into farce,
    3 of the 4 options (B,C,D) have been torpedoed by the Government ruling out additional Tunnels for Mt Vic or the Terrace,

    So in reality nothing will come of this process and after 4 wasted years we will be back to square one

    1. @ Greenwelly – Better to have nothing come of a bad proposal than force a bad proposal through, just so you can say you’ve done something. If those 4 years have finally resulted in the death of City-to-airport RoNS then they were not wasted. Square one is a better place to be than square “-100”, which is where we would be if more $$millions are poured into more traffic-generating road schemes.

      But I wish I could share your confidence that we are back to square one. It seems to me there is still a lot of pressure out there for “four lanes to the planes”, and not to “waste” money on rapid transit – particularly now that there will be *moar* traffic feeding into Wellington thanks to the various Kapiti motorways.

    2. From what LGWM have said so far about the consultation outcomes it sounds like the final program of work will be a mixture of things people said they want rather than one or more complete scenarios. So it’s very possible that all the stuff we want from LGWM could happen and the torpedoed bits we didn’t really want anyway will be left out.

    3. “3 of the 4 options (B,C,D) have been torpedoed by the Government ruling out additional Tunnels for Mt Vic or the Terrace” – your source for this, Greenwelly?

        1. Thanks, Greenwelly, I missed that.

          But remaining “on hold” means that they have *not* been “torpedoed”: they’re still there, lurking in the background.

        2. When you are running the narrative that there is not enough money being spent on core public services. A major multi billion $ roading project being “on hold” is fairly terminal.

          And it certainly means that LGWM cannot recommend a course of action that it knows the government will not implement..

        3. I’d like to agree with you, but to my mind “on hold” is much more likely to meant to be read as “pending LGWM” – which could of course be sending a message to LGWMers, who doubtless have a finely honed ability to read political tea leaves and would not want to produce proposals that just get shelved.

          We’ll see!

  8. I agree congestion tolling would work well in Wellington due to the topographical constraints.
    NZ needs to get on and introduce simply gantry based congestion tolling in Auckland and Wellington.
    The satellite based GPS systems can follow.

  9. Or alternatively, spend the money that road users pay in road tax on roading, and perhaps actually make roading a national priority, nice to know government is doing something productive with the money they bludgeon off of the working man and the businesses…

    1. Alternatives to driving benefit drivers by taking others off the road e.g. into PT and onto bike lanes. Since this is good for drivers, it’s legitimate to spend fuel tax revenues on it.

  10. I’m all for the idea of congestion tolling in Wellington but I know that an awful too many Wellingtonians have entitlement attitudes and would moan until the cows came home if it ever came in.

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