It’s mid-January and many of us probably wish we could still be out enjoying the sun rather than sitting in an office (for those of us who work in offices). With people back at work, also back is Auckland’s traffic, not that it effects me as I breeze past it on the Northern Busway enjoying the view from the top of a double decker. And the traffic is only going to get worse as more people return from leave and in a few weeks schools and then universities return. The period from mid-February through to mid-April, when school holidays start again, is the busiest time for transport in Auckland. The roads are busy, public transport is busy and our cycleways are busy.
While there is still a lot to do to build out the quality and capacity needed on our public transport and active mode networks, and many of the projects already or about to get underway will be transformational, experiences here and overseas show our roads will still be congested and it is not possible to build out way out of it with more roads. We also know that if we want our roads to be freed up we only really have two options.
- We follow the path of Detroit and have a failing economy.
- We introduce a form of road pricing.
On that second option, this recent video is great at explaining why road pricing works.
One comment I liked from Jonas Eliasson who helped introduce road pricing in Stockholm was the four building blocks cities need:
- Attractive public transport
- Make it easy to cycle and walk
- Compact land use
- Some kind of restraint or road pricing
If we compare Auckland against these building blocks we can see we have all four in progress.
Attractive public transport
Auckland has dramatically improved its public transport over the last 15 years and the next 10 will see a lot more improvement, especially in the attractiveness stakes with a number of rapid transit projects planned, many of which will be well underway or completed within the next 3-4 years.
Make it easy to cycle and walk
Auckland has been improving it’s cycling network over the last few years, including cycleways that have put us on the map like Lightpath. The coming decade will a lot more of money spent on cycling, although not as much as we’d like. Still, we should see some good quality cycleways built and based on the recent projects, we’ll see very strong uptake.
Compact land use
The Unitary Plan has helped unlock housing in many areas and the results are already being seen with construction booming across the city and over half of all new consents being for attached homes.
Some kind of restraint or road pricing
We will be seeing both restraints and finding out more about road pricing feature this year
Late last year the council unanimously voted to trial closures of some roads in the city centre and for a plan called Access for Everyone which will see city streets prioritised for pedestrians, bikes and buses with the aim of reducing the number of cars in the city.
Road pricing is something currently being looked at by the Ministry of Transport and other agencies under the name of The Congestion Question. We expect to hear more this year about what the preferred solution would be for implementing such a scheme and how long it will take to implement it properly.
The regional fuel tax that was introduced last year is also intended to only be temporary until an actual road pricing scheme can be implemented.
If Auckland does manage to keep developing in the direction it’s heading, we might even see a city in which people stop complaining about the traffic, wouldn’t that be a novel outcome.