This guest post was first published by Nicolas Reid on his Linked In page.

The idea of a road pricing for Auckland was in the news last week as the select committee reported back on its inquiry into the Congestion Question report. In this post I’ve looked into how the Auckland public transport network might look like if road pricing was implemented and the revenue was used to boost alternatives to driving.

What is road pricing?

The basis of the road pricing concept is to charge a toll to drive at congested times and locations, effectively charging individuals for contributing to traffic congestion and the impacts their driving makes on other road users. The Congestion Question proposed a charge of $3.50 at the worst of the morning and evening rush hour, dropping to $1.50 on the shoulder peaks either side, with no charge during the middle of the day or across the evening and night.

The theory goes that without a price, people only make choices around driving based on their own costs of money and time. But with an appropriate price signal for congestion, the costs of money and time externalized to other road users becomes part of the equation. Some people might choose to drive at other times or locations instead of paying the levy, or they might decide to shift their travel to another mode such as public transport, walking or cycling, or in some cases they might just drop the trip entirely if it isn’t that important to them in the first place.

The proposed benefit of road pricing is freer-flowing roads. The mild traffic during school holidays shows that a small drop in driving demand can have a big improvement on traffic. The idea of road pricing is to make that periodic drop permanent, with modelling suggesting that a 5% reduction in driving trips will result in a 25% reduction in congestion delays. This should not only benefit the remaining car drivers, but also make things more reliable for freight, commercial vehicles and buses, and in theory less peak traffic should also make it at least a little nicer and safer to walk and ride on the streets too. So rather than road pricing it’s maybe better to describe it as a ‘decongestion charge’.

Issues and equity concerns

However, road pricing alone is not a silver bullet to fix everything. It doesn’t remove traffic congestion entirely, it doesn’t fix the street network for those on foot and bikes, and it doesn’t fix public transport. For anyone shifting to public transport, the speed and capacity gains for most buses would be marginal at best, while there would be no change for the busway, trains and ferries other than more crowding at peak times.

And of course, the greatest issue is equity. Few people drive in congestion if they can help it, they drive in peak traffic to get to work or study, or to manage their family or personal needs. Is it fair to penalize people for something if they can’t avoid it? There is a painful irony in the premise of all of this. We have spent decades reconfiguring our streets, our homes and our businesses around private road transport, to the point where most individuals have no viable option other than driving if they wish to hold down a job or engage in society. We then acknowledge that the congestion caused by all these individuals is bad for the economy and society, so we propose to charge the individual a fee for causing congestion!

But what about the revenue?

However, there is a subsequent factor at play: the revenue. Road pricing would generate a revenue stream that could be used to fix the alternatives and offset the equity issues. Indeed he select committee inquiry has identified the equity issues and the revenue as critical to the whole concept, and issued two recommendations that directly target these:

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee has conducted an inquiry into congestion pricing in Auckland and recommends that the Government… use any revenue raised by a congestion pricing scheme to: mitigate equity impacts, reinvest in public and active transport in the region where the charge applies use any revenue raised by a congestion pricing scheme to:

  • mitigate equity impacts,
  • reinvest in public and active transport in the region where the charge applies

This direction is clear, use the revenue to reinvest back into Auckland public and active transport and mitigate the equity impacts. So this led me to think, what could that reinvestment look like? What would it gain us and how would that help?

What to do with Auckland’s public transport?

Public transport in Auckland is like the proverbial Curate’s Egg, It looks bad in places but parts of it are indeed excellent. Before the temporary, hopefully, upheaval of Covid-19 public transport carried over half the workers and visitors headed to the city centre each day, including over 90% of motorized trips to the central universities. Buses carried almost half the people crossing the harbour bridge at peak hour, and if you add in the ferries the majority of peak commuters crossing the harbour did so on public transport. Where it works, it works well. Getting to central destinations is quick and easy by public transport, especially at peak times, and often already faster than crawling in traffic and paying for parking in town.

However the same does not hold true for everywhere else around the Auckland region, if you’re travelling in the suburbs in off peak hours it’s a much different story. My colleagues recently published research into transport access and equity. In short, the report identifies the biggest thing for equity would be higher frequency of public transport in off-peak hours to make it realistic to use in all times and places. If you disregard the red herring title about free fares, this article outlines what is lacking with public transport. Just look at the quotes,:

  • ” unable to use public transport as her job is outside the normal 9 to 5 hours… one of an army of off-peak workers facing the same problem”
  • “One of our sites, we wouldn’t be able to rely on public transport because not once have I ever seen a bus”
  • ” people living on the North Shore are being forced to drive to get to the airport [but] we can’t even get our residents in Papakura to work on time”

Now to be fair Auckland Transport has delivered some great improvements with the New Network and have delivered an all-day, every day frequent service network across large parts of the city. But it still has its limitations. You can see this in the map of the network below, here the red areas show the catchment of routes that run at least every 15 minutes from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. That’s not bad, and better than many peer cities. But there are some clear gaps in the frequent network outside the central area, especially with none of the train lines or ferries meeting the 15-minute all day standard. Furthermore, a 15 minute wait is still on the edge of what you’d call ‘frequent’ transit, and infrequent service after 7pm limits a lot of people who don’t follow the conventional commuter pattern.

The purple lines below show the extent of the network that really meets a true ‘turn up and go at just about any time’ standard. These are the routes that run at least every 10 minutes from 6am to 9pm seven days a week. These are basically just the two Link buses in the city centre, the main route of the northern busway, and the No.18 bus on Great North Road.

If public transport is going to mitigate the effects of road pricing, it needs to work well right across Auckland, for a lot more Aucklanders. So I’ve taken this as the primary focus of this experiment: what if we spent some of the road pricing revenue boosting the frequency and hours of operation on the Auckland transit network, what would that look like?

The potential budget for transit upgrades

So let’s lay out the budget we could get from road pricing. In roundabout terms, stage two of the road pricing scheme proposed for the Auckland isthmus and North Shore would generate $250m a year in levies. Less the $50m cost of running the system, this would leave $200m a year in in net revenue. For arguments sake, lets split that fifty-fifty between infrastructure and operations. Allocating half of that annual revenue to active and public transport infrastructure would sustain a one-off capital programme of around $2.5 billion. The best way to spend that is whole other story, but it would easily deliver a world class region-wide walking and cycling network, and have money left over for a big package of bus stop upgrades, transfer stations and the like.

So assuming the other half of the budget means a $100m annual boost to public transport operations. What would that buy us? I won’t bore you further with the calculations of boardings per mode, cost rates, farebox recovery ratios, subsidy per service-km etc. (DM me if you are actually interested in this stuff!), but long story short $100m a year extra subsidy would allow Auckland to run 38% more bus, train and ferry services.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s all at the margin where the gains for service frequency and span are very significant. The fact is we do have at least some kind of public transport serving just about every part of the city, so in a lot of cases you can run peak service levels for longer or extend service hours for relatively little extra cost, and get better utilization from the existing fleet and resources.

Q: What would an extra $100m a year do for public transport operations?

A: A hell of a lot!

To test this, I built a model of all the transit lines in Auckland using data from the Auckland GTFS data feed, which is the system that online journey planners like Google Maps use. This feed includes the full timetable every single bus, train and ferry route, including the run times and route distances, so it can be used to calculate the frequency of every line at each hour of the day and day of the week, and the resulting service kilometres, hours and fleet sizes for the whole network. This model allows me to change frequencies and spans of any route on the network and see the corresponding cost to the overall budget.

I used this model to test the cost of adding service frequency to a range of existing routes. Effectively I worked my way through the network line by line, adding service frequency to promote routes to 15 or 10 minute all-day headways, and to widen the span of this frequent service to a minimum of 6am to 9pm. Where routes already ran better than this frequency at any time I left it at the higher level, and likewise all routes continue to operate to the current timetable before 6am and after 9pm. For this exercise I added the extra budget in proportion to the current service levels, so that each mode and area got about the same relative increase. However, I didn’t modify any routings or add in any routes, so it’s probably not as optimized as it could be, and I’ve left some things unchanged where infrastructure problems would prevent major changes.

I expected good results from this exercise but was frankly astounded at just how far the extra funding could go. The map probably explains it the best, this shows the network with extra funding, in this version the purple lines are all at least every ten minutes from 6am to 9pm seven days a week, and the red lines are at least every fifteen minutes, but also from 6am to 9pm every day. Now I don’t claim to have this perfect around exactly what routes should get upgraded, but it does show you that sheer extend of what public transport could achieve with a relatively small increase in operations funding.

To summarise, that funding boost from road pricing would be enough to get:

  • Just about every main radial and crosstown bus route on the North Shore, West Auckland, the central isthmus and across South and East Auckland running every ten minutes all day, every day, on a network linking every major suburb, shopping centre, employment zone in the region.
  • Most collector bus routes operating frequent service every fifteen minutes all day to local suburbs and residential areas in between.
  • The Eastern, Western and Southern rail lines running at least every ten minutes from 6am to 9am, both ways, seven days a week, with the Pukekohe branch running every fifteen minutes.
  • The Devonport ferry departing every ten minutes all day, both ways, and the Waiheke and Hobsonville-Beach Haven ferries every fifteen minutes.
  • Both patterns of the northern busway running at least every ten minutes until 9pm, on the full route to Hibiscus Coast, plus the equivalent bus route on the Northwestern Motorway to Westgate doing the same.
  • Local feeder buses covering Orewa, Whangaparaoa, Kumeu, Whenuapai, Papakura, Pukekohe, Devonport and Waiheke running every ten or fifteen minutes until 9pm every day, connecting to these main train, busway and ferry lines.

The outcome in numbers

To quantify the effect of all these service upgrades, I crunched the catchments in GIS using census data on where people live, work and study in the Auckland region. Overall, this would mean three-quarters of the Auckland’s residents and 80% of jobs and education places would be within 500m of a bus stop, train station or ferry wharf served by routes running at least once every 10 to 15 minutes from 6am to 9pm, seven days a week.

Conclusion (TL:DR just skip to the end)

Spending half the annual revenue from the proposed road pricing scheme on public transport operations would upgrade Auckland’s bus, train and ferry network to a comprehensive connected system with turn-up-and-go services running frequently through practically every neighborhood in the region, from early morning to late evening, seven days a week. This would easily give Auckland the best ‘all day every day’ transit network in Australasia and go a long way to dealing with the equity issues of road pricing.

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118 comments

  1. $100m/year doesnt seem an outrageous amount of money. Can we not be getting this from some kind of NZTA/Land Transport fund thanks to climate change to expand existing services already?

      1. Doubt it would cover anywhere that much, and would create an issue with funding staying steady during periods such as Covid, and with reducing car travel to the City Centre we want to encourage (it would speed that reduction up, but that’s a two-edged sword if you link it like that).

        But the real point stands. It isn’t actually that much money. We pour these sums into motorways with nary a thought or public criticism.

        1. Nope, Max. Parking levies in the city centre, at Sydney’s rates, would bring in about $100m per annum, AFTER making an assumption that 10% of the spaces would be quickly converted to a different use to avoid paying the levy, as recorded in Perth.

          Workplace parking levies at a lower rate throughout the city would be additional to this, and a considerable revenue for covering the expenses of a transformed, low carbon transport system.

          In the process, households would be relieved of the burden of car ownership. The whole system would be so much cheaper.

        2. I guess if you include “private” car parks they might, yes. I was thinking you were talking of public and “commercial” (for rent) spaces.

      2. Why charge some tangential thing Heidi?

        We want to discourage driving / traffic in the city centre. I dont think some apartment dweller who has a car they use once a month for out of town trips, should be charged on top of the (extremely high) purchase price of the park. Especially when they’ll be paying the same for that privilege as someone who uses their car every day.
        Someone storing their car in a park under an apartment tower is doing absolutely zero damage to the streetscape. It’s not a space that could be used for housing, no windows.

        You want to decrease the traffic in the city centre through parking restrictions, the much bigger factor is the short term parking that the council / AT is almost single handedly propping up.

        1. Jack, this is a key lever. It has been successful in many cities; Auckland has an enormous catch up to do. This is a reason why peer cities have far fewer carparks than we do. It shifts the economics of providing or requesting a carpark.

          We need both road pricing and parking levies.

        2. So if they’re only using the car once a month, then they can pay for extra for a trip once a month. If they live in the CBD they have access to the levels of transit service that most other places in Auckland can only dream of. I fail to see why the people with the most alternatives should be exempted.

        3. I’m still not convinced Heidi. Why not pull the other lever harder? (In the analogy) instead of effectively externalising the cost of people driving through the city centre onto people that park there.

          Maybe the argument could be made about charging businesses if they were providing parks (and at least charging them FBT). They’re likely higher use parks.
          But I cant see charging every park in the area as a good solution overall. Sure it might help with getting traffic down. But I think there is a better way to do that. Given what the cost of providing a car park must be downtown, I’m surprised employers are doing it that much. I also think they should be legally obligated to offer the employee money instead of the parking benefit, which would ram home the point about how much it costs.

          This isn’t about exempting anyone Butwizzard, this is about using in my mind a better tool than parking a parking levy. A congestion, or pollution, or toll, charge to control the amount of cars driving into the city centre.

        4. Jack, carparks in the city centre have more effects on society than can be captured with a congestion charge. First, the traffic they induce can happen at all times of day – including when the congestion charge is likely to be small or zero. We need to reduce off peak driving as well as peak driving, and a congestion charge doesn’t help with that.

          Secondly, retaining vehicle access to building carparks is compromising public realm design and transport management. These carparks require vehicle crossings over footpaths in areas where the footpaths should be entirely pedestrian, and sometimes in areas where the whole street could be pedestrianised if it wasn’t for a carpark entrance. We’ve had bad planning for decades, but we can try to fix this up now. Parking levies can lead to more buildings being built with no carparks, and to carparks being completely repurposed to other uses so the vehicle crossings can be converted to footpath again. Or reduced, at least, so that a building may only have one of the entrances to the carpark retained, or at the very least with fewer cars entering and exiting the footpath, improving the environment for people.

          Thirdly, the land or floor area used on carparking in the city centre is land or floor area that could be being used for uses that improve social and environmental outcomes. Poor urban form and poor land use is a cost imposed on society that the people using the carparks aren’t paying for.

          It’s better to split the costs of motorisation into many smaller charges so that motorists can adapt to avoid the charges for privileges they don’t need. Fuel costs to cover pollution, air and water quality impacts on health, and use of fossil carbon. Road charges to cover the use of that public space and road impacts on urban form. Parking levies and charges to cover some aspects of the driving it induces and the parking space and vehicle crossing impacts on urban form. Etc.

        5. Ok Heidi, you’ve convinced me. I’ll have to rethink my ideal property goal though. Or cough up the charge.
          “need” a car to go tramping / climbing (no most tramping road ends are not viable for PT)

          My next question would be how realistic is this under current or possible legislation. Seems like one of those things that would be hard for our current orgs.

        6. In many cities, some people choose to keep a car outside the city centre in secure storage. These are the people whose need for a car for trips out of the city is higher than can be justified by the cost of keeping it in the city centre but who still need it more frequently than a rental or car share would make sense. Another option is to co-own a car with someone (in suburbia) whose needs for that car are complementary to yours (eg they need it sometimes during the week; you need it in the weekends). And another one is to discuss it with your tramping mates and find out what aspect of the trip organisation they’d love to offload to you in return for them providing the car.

          I haven’t looked into the legislation changes needed. I also know this has been under discussion for years, so I hope someone’s got it in hand. The RLTP was endorsed by the Councillors on the basis that changes would be made to land use planning and this is a core part of that.

        7. You need access to a car to go to those tramps, not ownership of a car.

          Also, there a shuttles to a lot of tramps around New Zealand. All of the great walks have shuttles to the nearest big town. Public transport operates to several entry points in the Kaimais.

  2. Combine this with 24/7 buslanes on main roads from repurposed traffic lanes (not slow, destructive, and expensive widening), and hey presto, a viable transit city.

  3. Some extra funding for active transport won’t solve the main issue in Auckland being Auckland Transport’s delivery of projects. Despite having funding to implement cycle lanes, AT have instead chosen not to spend it and thereby failed to implement anything because of an inability to re-allocate road space. PT OPEX is similarly wasted because of an organisation fixated on SOVs and an unwillingness to provide continuous bus priority across the city.

    1. Also, the experience is that all the cycle projects just suddenly have to fix everything else that’s wrong with the street. So the budget for a simple cycleway suddenly balloons once stormwater, services, urban design, car road safety and parking and other improvements are added.

      Meanwhile, when they propose car-specific projects, and we ask for them to add cycleways, it’s suddenly “No, we can’t do that, this project is only for mode X, we can’t add funding for bikes”.

      1. This is something that if better articulated to the public by authorities would be hugely beneficial to gaining support for active modes. Currently public complain that $$$ are being spent on what looks like a bit of paint and the odd protective barrier for bikes. If they were told we are making huge improvements to water and services ( a major concern for many around intensification) and at the same time making it safer for walkers or those on bikes the pendulum might swing ( hopefully!)

        1. For sure. I think someone (not me) should write an article about the specific example of K-road.

          General public seem to think it was a cycleway project.
          Hardly any of that budget would have been spent on the cycleways. Services, streetscape, repaving the road etc etc would have all cost orders of magnitude more than the cycle lanes.

    2. agreed! Decent public transport first. Dont even start talking about congestion charging before then. I remember how we were promised that our fuel tax will go into public transport (inc trams). Sorry but it won’t work. Even if it would work how people would get to work after the charge and before the public transport is improved (assuming it would be at some point).

      1. Wouldn’t you say that “first” we need safety for people on foot and bike? It’s a human right. And we don’t have it.

  4. This is a great analysis. But… why not just spend the $100 m anyway, rather than wait several years for road pricing? We have only 7-8 years of emissions left to remain within the +1.5C target.

    Even better (i.e. even quicker to implement) how about creating safer walking and cycling routes to schools (with simple, tactical improvements and 30 km/h speed limits) and traffic-free drop-off zones? Noting the improvement this would deliver to congestion: “The mild traffic during school holidays shows that a small drop in driving demand can have a big improvement on traffic.”

    1. Yes. AT are working on some of this but it’s too little, too slowly. We need management to ensure the safety teams don’t face barriers at each stage. And we know from international efforts last year, that school streets can be delivered fast. London now has 300, for example.

      What I’m not seeing AT do is accept responsibility for the injuries. Children are getting seriously injured on their route to school, and for easily preventable reasons.

      It would be helpful if they gave more Road Safety Visibility about these crashes so advocates can demand systemic improvements without having to work in a vacuum of information. They committed to improved visibility but haven’t delivered on it.

    2. There’s no reason apart from politics that we aren’t already doing all of this.
      We can easily afford it. And cheaper now than in 10 years time.

  5. The Auckland fuel surcharge raises $150m a year for AT. Earlier it had been suggested that this would be cut if congestion pricing were introduced, although the select committee didn’t come down one way or the other.

    Although environmental benefits were part of the terms of reference of the congestion charging study, they didn’t really get much attention. CO2 emissions predicted to fall by less than 1%, and some of that comes from less idling so VKT would fall be less again.

    1. Yes, the fuel surcharge. The imagined benefits of improved PT never eventuated, in fact fares have gone up year on year but we all pay 11 cents more per litre anyway.

      Sure as hell built a lot of judder bars though! And some plant holders and spray painted roads.

      1. It would be good to get a breakdown of exactly where the RFT has gone, wouldn’t it? I don’t think there’s any plant holders and spray painted roads being funded by it, though. Certainly not the Innovating Streets fund. Nor the city centre works, I think?

        But I have seen intersection widening projects funded by it, the bastards.

      2. RFT has funded lots capital projects like Puhinui station. It has not, however, funded Innovating Streets, that’s from NZTA.

  6. Many people complain “but the bus system in Auckland isn’t good enough” to justify all their driving. This article points out that you *could* give everyone the public transport system they want for an amount that is small beans given the need for rapid transition away from car use.

    Of course AT would find reasons to disagree and obstruct, and when finally forced to action, would spend all the money and more years on endless business cases, before finding a variation that everyone could hate.

    As Abby H says: take road lanes, make them bus lanes, get this done.

  7. Those big service holes south and east of New Lynn could be filled by just one bus route, the 195, becoming a frequent service.

    Filling the (many) other service holes in the boosted map may be just as straight forward.

  8. Hi Nicolas, great piece of work. Many thanks for sharing.
    What gets me about this is… Here we have Nicolas, working on his own presumably, using public domain data and he has developed a pretty appealing argument for getting value for money out of a congestion charge. This is just one of the options.
    Presumably AT has many times Nicolas. Just what have they being doing with this proposal and their time. Why aren’t they floating three or five different versions of this from spend it all on more ROADs to everyday free fares and everything in between.
    Public discourse on these options would help engage and move people to deeper understanding of the tradeoffs in the eventual decisions. Are AT just scared of this sort of discourse or am I wrong and they don’t have the capability or imagination to do what Nicolas has done.
    Thanks again for your contribution.

    1. And then there’s Mr Plod asking the very question that the CEO and Board should be asking. 🙂

      There is ideology at the upper echelons of AT that cuts off most of the ideas for change at the ankles or knees. Planning and investment decisions are decided by people who solidly believe that driving modeshift can’t change much and that their job is to accommodate it. I SPECIFICALLY proposed this sort of investment and the decision-maker who was defending the emissions plan which involved continued vkt/capita pooh poohed it because:

      “the 70% driving modeshare means it is difficult to get public sentiment to change rapidly.”

      “Interpeak trips often involve disperse patterns and trip-chaining and so are very hard to shift to public transport.”

      This guy is wrong. And you can’t change culture without displacing obstructive decision makers from their positions, and no one is prepared to do this.

      And although there are lots of people in AT who know what needs to change, they get worn down by all this. So instead of building a head of steam and overthrowing the obstructive people, there’s a turnover of staff.

      This problem needs solving before Auckland can fix its problems of equity access and decarbonisation. It also needs solving to provide a workplace that’s healthy.

    2. Mr Plod
      You are right in asking why AT are not doing this. It is appalling that AT only review the bus network every few years. Have they heard of the public sector concept of continuous improvement?
      I am convinced that considerable savings could be made if AT optimized the current network, looking where they can run it as a network rather than often poorly utilised end to end routes.
      As we know they are conflict averse and one or two complaints derail change, when often that change will benefits hundreds by providing better frequency.
      And Nicolas, great work. It is always so refreshing to see what might be achieved, rather than simply saying, it can’t.

  9. Road tolls. They will certainly fleece the population of more money, worse still if run by AT.

    But until the Covid dragon is slain, which appears years away and especially since we all now know the Delta variant loves enclosed poorly ventilated spaces in which to spread itself, PT, being the epitome of that, is off the menu.

    Wait and see before carving off huge sums of public money our councils don’t have and committing those who work and travel to more taxation.

    Perhaps funnelling that expenditure into purpose built quarantine facilities to mitigate the Covid risk would be better at this time.

    1. I’m with Keith on this, if commuters are “forced” (congestion charge) onto public transport, with at this stage ,unknown health outcomes, it could be disastrous.
      Delta loves,lots of people, confined spaces,poor ventilation systems,everything PT is.
      Road reallocation for active modes, bus lanes will be fiercely resisted as a health issue,perverse l know,but it’s the seen against the unseen

      1. PT is busy during L1 and moderately busy during L2. It’s basically empty at L3 and L4.
        Surely, rather than not improving PT frequencies, and implementing congestion charging, the question should be, how do we manage the alert levels? People are often in crowded places, it is what cities basically are right? Population density.
        If we take your analogy to the extreme, then we shouldn’t be allowing church services anymore, or supermarkets should always have number limits on them.

    2. Driving is subsidised by ratepayers, by taxpayers, by the future, by the health system, by the environment. It has a long long way to go before it comes close to paying its own way.

      Call me a user pays conservative but i say let’s start with full cost recovery, internal and external, before we look elsewhere for funds to fix our cities and transport systems.

      1. ” It has a long long way to go before it comes close to paying its own way.”

        Uh, I’ll bite. Citation needed. I assume you can back this up and point me to local modelling that takes into account the reduced access to employment opportunities, lost family time and discretionary mobility (read: discretionary spending) that having access to a vehicle helps overcome?

        1. For who? Surely if the system currently demands that a vehicle is *needed* for those people, the analysis will show that the reduced access to employment opportunities, lost family time, and discretionary mobility for those who *don’t drive* will be absolutely enormous, weighting the solution towards delivering the access via modeshift. Especially as this also delivers for those who need to drive.

        2. Well probably the shortcut to what you seem to be claiming; no subsidised driving, no succesful economy, is to compare to all those places with much lower driving rates and levels of subsidisation and stronger economies, like Singapore, Denmark, Japan, etc etc.

          We have an unbalanced transport system which is a burden on our economy (as well as health system, environment, balance of payments etc) as evidenced by our high driving rates and relatively weak economy.

          In short we drive too many low value/negative value trips. Taking the SUV <2km to pick up a couple of lattes (my neighbours) , is a value destroying waste of everything from time to forex to liveable biosphere.

          Why? Cos these trips are all underpriced and incentivised, causing the alternatives (in this case a nearby cafe, safe bikeways) to be suppressed.

          We’re all just working to keep Saudi Princes in gold taps and bone saws, dumb.

        3. ‘ as evidenced by our high driving rates and relatively weak economy.’
          So cars are the reason for a relatively weak economy (is it really?) too now.
          It’s all getting a bit boring.
          Tell ya what though, I’ll support you’re user pays system if you extend it to all modes. Yeah?

        4. “Tell ya what though, I’ll support you’re user pays system if you extend it to all modes. Yeah?”

          Awesome, glad to hear you support charging drivers 10 times more and paying people to cycle.

          Cycling has a net positive benefit. Driving destroys roads, destroys the air, destroys bodies of water, destroys people’s health, destroys people’s social lives, destroys families. Currently drivers just about pay the cost of road maintenance and that’s about it.

        5. You have workings to show how you got to 10x right? Cause you’d never pull bullshit straight out of your arse now would you?

          You also know that roughly a quarter of all road users taxes over the next 3 years will be spent on walking cycling and public transport.

          So, who’s subsidising who?

        6. Also. Driving cars doesn’t destroy roads. Neither does it destroy peoples health or their social lives.
          It occasionally has a huge impact on families.
          It also negatively impacts the environment but so does just about anything else associated with a city.

        7. https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fassets.bwbx.io%2Fimages%2Fusers%2FiqjWHBFdfxIU%2FibaOIGTwYSmw%2Fv0%2F1000x-1.png&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bloomberg.com%2Fnews%2Farticles%2F2015-04-07%2Fan-interactive-tool-measures-the-social-costs-of-driving-and-transit-in-vancouver&tbnid=mh5DTNUK4dbsjM&vet=12ahUKEwjRwe7vsvDyAhUEsksFHXzPAowQMygAegQIARAR..i&docid=P4p8oGIQ8ofSvM&w=1000&h=706&q=denmark%20study%20social%20cost%20of%20driving&ved=2ahUKEwjRwe7vsvDyAhUEsksFHXzPAowQMygAegQIARAR

          I rounded 9.2 up to 10 for brevity.

          Driving does destroy health. It spews chemical and particulate pollutants into the air which kills hundreds of new Zealanders each year.
          Driving makes public streets unsafe which reduces how much incidental exercise people can get through transport, leading to diseases of inactivity.
          All activities cause pollution. But driving causes 1,000s of time more than walking or cycling.

          The amount of road user charges and fuel tax being spent on protecting people walking a cycling from the adverse effects of driving is a little under 4% (1/25). You have conveniently ignored all of the subsidies that society pays to motorists.

        8. “It also negatively impacts the environment but so does just about anything else associated with a city.”

          Internationally, the average city dweller has much less an impact on the environment than the average rural person. I’m willing to bet the same is true here. The vehicle km traveled for services in the country is inherently much higher than the city. Based on the talk of how much people “need” utes, the ownership rates of large vehicles must be higher.
          All totally ignoring the different business that people tend to own / work at.
          Per hectare clearly the city is clearly worse, but per person the country is clearly worse.

        9. Lol sailor boy.
          That’s the kind of bullshit chart the anti car brigade use to spin their rubbish. If it costs me $1 to drive and society $9.20 then it actually costs me $10 odd to drive not $1. Since I’m am also the rest of society. It’s typical of the bullshit trotted out by those who want to control our actions.
          And the numbers are almost guaranteed to be rubbish too.

        10. No, you aren’t the rest of society. You are benefiting from your own driving; the rest of society pays for it. Sailor Boy’s image has enough source information for you to locate the research using a quick Google search. It’s six years old and there have been many pieces since that explore the externalities of driving. You can respond to that data – or show a more up to date piece of research.

          “You also know that roughly a quarter of all road users taxes over the next 3 years will be spent on walking cycling and public transport. So, who’s subsidising who?” Everyone else is subsidising drivers. Drivers should, but don’t, pay the costs of keeping other people safe from motor vehicles. Drivers should, but don’t, pay the costs of ruining urban form through way too many car parks and major interchanges creating severance and long distances. Drivers should, but don’t, pay the health care costs for all the people suffering from the lower air and noise quality and physical inactivity due to the car dependent system. Drivers should, but don’t, pay for the climate damage they are causing.

        11. Yes Heidi I am the rest of society as is everyone else who drives. That’s most of us.
          And the charts from Canada right? So is irrelevant to nz.

        12. Graham, since I do not drive, does that mean I am “not a part of society”?

          If the Canadian infographic is somehow so irrelevant to Aotearoa NZ’s situation, would you mind providing data of your own to prove that?

        13. Course it doesn’t that’s the point.
          You can’t separate 1 person from society and claim everyone else is paying the rest. It’s ridiculous.

          Perhaps you could ask sailor not for evidence of relevance since he’s making thy e claim. But just some food for thought. Do you think Canada’s taxes rates and transport system is identical to ours?

        14. Given that you called a graphic summary of peer reviewed academic research “the kind of bullshit chart the anti car brigade use to spin their rubbish”, I’m guessing that no amount or quality of data will convince you.

  10. I did not read every word of this, but did not see any mention of the effect of those tolls on the cost of having to drive during peak hours – especially goods vehicles and business users. That means increasing costs, inflation of prices, and increase of cost of living for all. Is that not a consideration? Also, I do not think the improvement in bus frequency would be as dramatic as indicated. The bus I frequently use arrives about every 20 minutes. Showing an improvement to 15 minutes may be technically correct, but from a practical standpoint I don’t care. Just a few minutes extra to wait, maybe!

    1. Almost undoubtedly this would be a win for good vehicles / any businesses that have to drive at these times.
      The cost of that heavy truck spending extra time stuck in congestion will absolutely be higher than the charge to get it out.

      say the charge is pretty steep at $10, if the truck saves 20 minutes (conservative estimate, depending on where you’re going). Then you’ve got the wages of the person you’ve hired sitting in the truck, the extra costs of employment (acc etc), the wear and tear of extra running hours, the opportunity costs ie that truck would have had an extra 20 minutes to do more work, averaged over a whole fleet that means you could do more work, or have to own less trucks.

      The same could be said about tradies, their time / their businesses time is absolutely worth more than my example of $30 an hour. In fact the cost could be a lot higher or the congestion still a bit worse and they’d come out on top, considering how much most tradies charge.

      Absolutely this is a pro-business policy.

    2. Mike, can you think of any bulk goods, business or trades that couldn’t switch to travel outside of peak hours?

      With the exception of the most perishable goods (cut flowers, seafood?) is there any excuse for goods vehicles to be knocking around at peak hours?

      Haulage firms have some excellent route planning and fleet management systems, which I’m sure could be patched to account for something as predictable as congestion charging.

      As to other business users, the most obvious group is taxi drivers. They would most likely pass the cost directly to the customer, where it belongs. The sort of person who gets a cab at peak hours is unlikely to modeshift into public transit for that kind of money.

    3. The absolute minimum cost to employ anyone, once you factor in ACC, recruitment costs, training and leave is $40 and hour. If a congestion charge saves 6 minutes of travel time, then the company is already better off than before.

    4. The counter argument that has been bandied about is that by reducing congestion, trucks and business vehicles are able to travel faster and be more productive over the day more than making up for congestion charges (eg a truck trip might be worth $200 but over the course of the day they save an hour and can fit another trip in. $200 less $3.50 x4 = $186 gain).

  11. When the investment is done to increase frequency and mode shift starts to occur, farebox recovery is likely to go up and increase the amount being generated by services.

    Success breeds success.

    It is also likely to bring forward the large infrastructure projects (NW Light Rail, Botany to Airport Light Rail), as the increased demand and services would reach a limit, as shown by the city centre and the large number of buses that need to dealt with during peaks.

    How will we deal with the success?

    1. Yes! And Auckland’s successful resurrection of passenger rail, the Northern Busway and the New Network have put us on this positive improvement loop. The more pieces we can put into place, the faster that complete transformation can unfold.

  12. Is increased frequency really going to help that much. I live on a frequent bus route route 15 minutes and it really isn’t that well patronised. In fact it has taken years for numbers to slowly build. The busiest time is 3 to 4 in the afternoon with mid day also being popular. However traffic congestion is worst from about 4.30 pm till 7.30 pm and the bus is relatively empty in this period. So this suggests that working people aren’t taking the bus in any significant numbers. Its more like retired people, school pupils and shoppers heading off to the mall.
    Covid is working its way through the Greek alphabet when it gets to Omega it will either disappear or get so bad the human race will become extinct. I can’t see bus patronage or traffic congestion improving too much until this is resolved. The former would be preferable to the later.

        1. Better but he doesn’t define productivity per unit service cost so I can’t be sure what he is trying to display and there is a huge disclaimer statement under the graph. ” Frequency tends to be deployed where it will succeed.” So bus routes that can attract ridership will tend to be more frequent I would of thought that was obvious. I don’t know if I would call it evidence.

        2. “Better but he doesn’t define productivity per unit service cost”

          Yes he does. He defines it as average occupancy, noting that operating costs per unit time are almost identical for all services.

      1. Good point bus 31. The sort of proof I would accept is patronage numbers from a bus route that has its frequency doubled. Not 100 pages of pure sociological crap.

        1. The new network increased patronage because new routes were introduced. Its not the same as doubling the frequency on an existing route which is what is being proposed in this post.

        2. The new network increased ridership without spending any more money. It is even more impressive than doing so by spending more on the same routes.

        3. One of the basic rules of science is to change one thing at a time and observe the effect. If you change half a dozen things at the same time then you will never know how much each change effected the outcome of the system. That is what I am saying happened with the introduction of the new bus network. The fact that it became a network rather than just a series of unconnected bus routes probably had the biggest effect. But the network effect is all banked so we need evidence that doubling the frequency on individual bus routes will improve patronage. That is what I am doubting. You are just dumping everything in together and labelling its as evidence and that is not right. Its not evidence based research its dressed up ideological dogma dreamed up in an echo chamber. I call it sloppy thinking.
          Echo was a forest nymph who could only repeat what others had already spoken she fell in love with Narcissist and committed suicide when he couldn’t return her love. Things were not much better for Narcissist though he fell in love with the image of himself which he saw in a forest pool. He was unable to break away from it and faded away into a flower. Mythology and science I love them both but we need to be able to distinguish between them.

        4. Science also needs to work with data from bus networks in the real world. Individual bus route changes can occur but there’s never a proper control – other changes to the city always occurred at the same time so on its own that one bus route change is not proof. And usually, cities will need to make multiple changes to a network for a number of reasons including efficient use of analysis resource and of marketing and communications resource. It’s not wise to do the analysis that shows multiple changes are required and then dole them out one per year.

          To arrive at the evidence base that the sector has, researchers use broader statistical analysis. Which isn’t as easy to read.

          Where you confuse me, Royce, is that I would’ve thought you could understand this from a user point of view. You’ve lived as a bus user, as I have, through periods where connection to most parts of the city was way lower than it is today.

          Increasing frequency to routes that intersect transformed Auckland’s network for me. Trips I was doing once a week, where my start time was restricted, the connection in the middle depended heavily on luck, because if the first bus was delayed, the wait for the connecting bus would make me late for the appointment, have become trips that are now far less cumbersome, because the frequency of the two routes means the transfer is not a stress. Trips that I wanted to do once in a while but weren’t possible at all have become possible (even if most of Aucklanders, at this time, wouldn’t be willing to take three buses and spend that time). I thought your enthusiasm for the buses would’ve had you experience this enormous improvement, too. It is the frequency that has achieved this. The route changes were – to some extent – only there to enable the frequency improvements within the same opex.

        5. Heidi I am not denying that greater frequency will improve trip time however I am questioning the premise behind this post that increased frequency will increase the uptake of workers using the service and decrease congestion especially out here in the south. The culture of taking a car to work is deeply engrained. The more frequent bus routes run mostly on the arterials. The industrial areas are largely not serviced by bus some areas that used to be accessible by trains are not anymore because of the five stations that have being closed. Improving frequency on a suburban feeder route will not increase worker passenger numbers if there is no access to there workplace. Most CDB workers who live in the south are already using the train. Increased frequency on the present suburban feeder routes will be good for pensioners, non workers and shoppers but will make little difference to total number carried as these people tend not to be time sensitive. The number of circulating near empty buses will become disturbingly obvious leading to a counterproductive political backlash.

        6. Royce, more than 50% of travel at peak time is not travel for work. So servicing non-work trips still reduces peak hour congestion.
          Yeah, most frequent bus routes are currently on arterials. Heidi and I are saying that far more bus routes should be frequent.
          There are already buses serving the industrial areas of South Auckland. Plus, the fact that there aren’t buses there now is a terrible argument against introducing frequent buses there. https://at.govt.nz/media/1986491/j006345_southern_guide_dle_jul21_v20-web.pdf
          Most non-work trips are time sensitive. Why on earth do you think a student wouldn’t care about their time?

          I think you need to really challenge yourself over some of these myths you believe.

        7. I guess you could see the frequency effect in action from the NEX. Frequency keeps improving and the patronage has subsequently grown even more! Now there are likely other factors in play, but the main principle is that frequency does play a large part (especially when it’s the kind that makes a timetable irrelevant).

          Improved frequency alone isn’t going to solve Auckland’s problems. The fare side of the equation also needs work… specifically in terms of daily/weekly/monthly caps. Do that and you’ll see more usage of PT off peak (when there is spare capacity). Monthly passes should really be around the $150 mark (roughly $5 per day). Should be able to add ferries (except Waiheke) onto that for another $150 (or if it’s just the shorter routes – Devonport/Birkenhead-city then less).

        8. Realist a significant proportion of the population are payed weekly. I would suggest a weekly pass not monthly would be more appropriate. Lack of budgeting skills or sheer lack of money make monthly public transport a thing only for the better off. That is just another benefit for the haves paid for by the have nots.
          And this post isn’t about the busway its already frequent its about improving frequency of non frequent buses.

  13. So that first map basically confirms that the western half of the isthmus is currently the only area where PT is flexible enough to actually use it for casual stuff.

    ‘Flexible enough’ meaning that the frequent lines are actually a network, i.e. you need lines in more than one direction.

    That second map, yes that makes you wonder if it is worth it to just do it. Currently those 30 minute headways everywhere are debilitating.

  14. Auckland already has extra fuel taxes, dedicated to improving Auckland’s transport system. An average citizen if asked would struggle to identify benefits gained for the tax on them.

    Only recent Ministerial-level intervention has stopped a few of the more egregious pieces of stupidity proceeding, spending more of this tax.

    Aucklanders should at least be asked if they want a road tax dedicated to public transport. The post above believes that if only this tax, this time, will be the cure.

    It’s just compounding one more lie over another.

      1. GST on fuel is regressive.
        Auckland fuel tax is regressive.
        Congestion charges are regressive.

        Naturally the author of the post doesn’t answer his own question which is: even if all of an Auckland congestion charge was hypothecated solely to network frequency, would poor people on multiple jobs stop using their cars?

        The author immediately dismisses free HOP cars, but could at least admit that all those off peak free cards are working pretty well for over 20% of the Auckland population.

        If the author is that confident in such congestion charge causality, he should be able to model it by Deprivation Index, or even just age.

      2. “even if all of an Auckland congestion charge was hypothecated solely to network frequency, would poor people on multiple jobs stop using their cars?”
        Yes. The rate of peak period car use amongst lower income people would decrease at a higher rate than people in higher income groups. Even better, improved public transport would allow low income households to own fewer cars.
        Auto-dependent land use, transport infrastructure, and services are regressive. Let’s remove those things.

    1. For people paying the fuel tax, benefits are likely to be indirect.

      Reductions in congestion through improved transit might not be noticed at all.

      We only remember the day we are caught in a snarl, not the months of fair flow.

      Those who get direct benefit from the spend might not directly pay fuel tax, but are they not also ‘average’ Aucklanders?

    2. What Ministerial-level intervention stopped the spending of the “extra fuel taxes” on egregious pieces of stupidity are you referring to, Ad?

      1. There’s a few. East-West Expressway from SH1 to SH20. Mill Road expressway. Light Rail. Harbour Bridge cycleway.

        Government have today announced the NLTP priorities. That’s the better start.

        This government should show it is reflecting on how much transport funding is really necessary when demand is going to continue to be interrupted over successive years. Not piling another regressive tax upon the rest.

        1. Ta. Yeah, transport spending is out of control.

          Transport change shouldn’t be about spending more on sustainable modes while continuing to spend on the same old regressive road building stuff. That’s weak leadership.

          However, if we could design the funding and the spending from scratch, road pricing would be included.

    3. None of this is about money. It’s about culture wars. Generally it’s about the values that were instilled in white middle class Aucklanders, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, where cars were associated with freedom and progress.

  15. How about a road pricing dividend instead of spending the money? It costs money to use the roads during peak times, but then all the residents in an area get paid an even share of the money. That money could be used to pay for public transport, or buy an e-bike. Those who commute by active modes are then effectively paid for not contributing to the car congestion.

    1. So inner city residents who have forced development out into the fringe where there is less in the way of transport would then get a road dividend for everyone having to commute along their road?

  16. Hi Nick
    Do you have the data or source behind
    “Buses carried almost half the people crossing the harbour bridge at peak hour,”
    My understanding is 10,000 cross the bridge in vehicles at peak hour. Is there also 10,000 on buses at peak hour?

  17. The NZ Transport Agency Ministerial Briefing Note BRI -1270 13th September 2018 says

    In the morning peak period (Which I think is 7-9am), around 31,000 people travel southbound over the AHB- 20.000 people travel by car and 11,000 by bus.

    Of the 31,000 people travelling southbound, around 14,000 have City Centre destinations. Of these around 6,000 people (42%) travel by car and about 8,000 people (58%) travel by bus.

    I feel bus would have increased after this with traffic remaining steady but to be 50% we would need to have 10,000 per hour in buses. This is doable at 42 people on a bus every 15 seconds but I do not know if we have reached these level yet.

      1. There are a lot of busses that aren’t double decker’s, and quite a few that run unusual trips. There could be a number of underperforming peak time busses in there. I have only been counter peak through there though so I don’t have any anecdotal experience about the peak.

      2. Yes it is doable but is there an official report around anywhere to back what we believe it can do (and if no official report, there should be)

    1. You need to like to the document you are quoting. I really struggle to believe 20,000 by car southbound in 2 hours in 5 lanes.

        1. Thanks for getting back to us with the link. I’d love to know the methodology they’ve used to get those numbers!

  18. Great to have that frequency increase to every 10min. But I fear that many, many people will still argue that (a) PT is to slow, and (b) that “it doesn’t go where I need to go”.

    As someone that uses PT over the whole region (from choice), my own experience is that it IS indeed very slow, and my conclusion is that we won’t see a rapid transition to PT use until we get the Rapid Transit Network sorted out – ie dramatically increase the number of lines. I’ve argued before for a rapid implementation of the entire proposed RTN as a matter of top priority, using express, limited stop buses on 24/7 bus lanes as a kind of proto-RTN. Over time, these can be converted to full separation, light rail, whatever as appropriate.

    If we wait for the RTN to be completed at the present snail’s-pace rate, it will be many decades to achieve something we need NOW. So I’d be putting a good chunk of that congestion-pricing dividend toward building bus lanes, including separating them off with rubber lane dividers to discourage cars, and the construction of a plethora of “super-bus stops” at locations which will eventually become RTN stations.

      1. My strategy would be to implement crosstown RTN routes to connect up the radial routes which form the RTN at present – creating a network with “net” in it. Most of the people I hear whine about poor PT are people who don’t work in the CBD, and there’s precious little for them in the present network. So I’d start with

        * Te Atatu-New Lynn-Onehunga-Penrose -Sylvia Park-Pakuranga (connecting to the current/imminent RTN at all these places)

        * Constellation-Westgate-Lincoln-Henderson (again linking existing RTN routes)

        * Airport-Puhinui-Manukau-Botany-Howick

        Just for starters…

  19. Always great to see solutions to the “we all go to the same place at the same time ” problem.

    Maybe we need to rethink out Mon-Fri 8-5 paradym. Could be a really simple fix to congestion. Early-school and late-school ?? Hey – we could even just do it for next year, but that would be a waste of so many potential forums discussing congestion charging…

    1. “Early-school and late-school ??”

      So are you doubling the amount of teachers or asking them to do a double shift? Extra funding for either? Or are you proposing some schools do later and some do earlier? How to decide? What about parents with jobs which aren’t flexible to the change?

  20. “Always great to see solutions to the “we all go to the same place at the same time ” problem.

    Maybe we need to rethink out Mon-Fri 8-5 paradym.”

    Maybe some sort of charging for people travelling to an 8-5 job could encourage peak spread. Maybe, seeing as we want the peak to spread because of the congestion that occurs at peak, we could call the charge ‘congestion charging’?

    1. One problem with this is the people who can shift their hours already have a huge incentive to do that: not sitting in congestion. Charging people who don’t get to set their own work hours seems like you’re aiming the penalty at people who might have the least ability to do anything about it.

        1. Yes. And you’re charging them for it, regardless of whether it’s something they can afford. Let’s not forget the cart before the horse of the regional fuel tax being put in before equity concerns could be fleshed out unless the equity bit really just doesn’t matter at all.

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