On Monday the government will release their Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) following the release of their emissions budgets a few days ago. A draft ERP was released and consulted on last year and the final version:
“will set out exactly how the Government plans to deliver on the first emissions budget. The Minister of Finance will also outline the first investments from the Climate Emergency Response Fund on the same day”.
Transport is expected to play a large part in the ERP, in part because it was one of the few sectors where quite a bit of effort had been put into the draft ERP. The draft set out four high-level transport targets though there may be changes to these in the final version:
- Reduce vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by cars and light vehicles by 20 per cent by 2035 through providing better travel options, particularly in our largest cities.
- Increase zero-emissions vehicles to 30 per cent of the light fleet by 2035.
- Reduce emissions from freight transport by 25 per cent by 2035.
- Reduce the emissions intensity of transport fuel by 15 per cent by 2035.
In reducing fuel taxes and public transport fares recently the government hinted that the PT fare drop, or something like it, may become permanent. Yesterday the Herald revealed a second likely policy, introducing road pricing.
The Government is expected to announce congestion pricing in Auckland next week, paving the way for motorists to be charged to drive on inner-city roads as soon as 2025.
If successful, officials believe charges could help tackle vehicle emissions and take 12 per cent of traffic off the city’s choked roads, easing Auckland’s $1.3b congestion problem.
A congestion charge of some form has been backed by Labour, National, the Greens and Act, but even its strongest supporters are wary of piling more costs on low-income households.
One of the loudest backers, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, said his support was conditional on ensuring transport options were available and phasing out the city’s 10 cents a litre regional fuel tax.
Ministers are expected to announce some form of congestion pricing when they deliver their final Emissions Reduction Plan on Monday next week – a congestion charge was proposed in the draft plan published last year.
Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson dangled the possibility of congestion pricing last week after the Infrastructure Commission warned New Zealand needed to get better use out of existing infrastructure, rather than continually building more.
The Commission also recommended the Government implement congestion pricing, to which Robertson responded it was already “looking at” the policy.
We’ve long supported road pricing as has the potential to provide significant benefits to Auckland, most notably from providing more reliable journeys but also in either reducing travel demand or encouraging greater uptake of alternative modes. These outcomes will help in reducing emissions, improving safety, improve efficiency for both freight and public transport services, and long-term benefits to our health system as a result of more people using active modes. There is also the added benefit that in reducing demand it reduces or removes the need for large road projects in the future.
Active modes have the potential to play a massive role given around half of all trips are less than 6km in length, a distance easily achievable by bike, while further 25% of trips are 6-12km in length, a distance easily and efficiently served by e-bikes.
Given it’s in the news, it’s useful to have a reminder about just what was proposed for Road Pricing by a joint working group of government and council agencies.
The scheme is initially expected to start around the city centre but expand out to other parts of Auckland over time. The first phase is timed to come after the City Rail Link has been completed and when combined with other PT and bike improvements, will ensure there are good alternative options available for most people – there will always be some that it won’t work for.
It would work by having cameras with Automatic Number Plate Recognition on major corridors and you would be charged if you were picked up on one (or more) of them. The fee charged would be the same regardless of how many cameras you were picked up on. Given most trips would need to cross a major corridor at some point, this would mean there is little opportunity for rat-running – and if rat-running were to occur, it would likely be fairly easy to fix it with the addition of additional cameras. It should also be noted that this is not a cordon like exists in places like London where you pay only for crossing a boundary, and so people making trips that are wholly inside the charged area would still get charged.
As for prices, these were the indicative prices but they would need to be confirmed as part of the next phase and would also likely be subject to regular reviews.
If the government do announce road pricing next week it will still require legislation to enable it and a lot more work will need to be done to fully design the scheme and then roll it out. That scheme design will need to include aspects like how it addresses issues of equity as well as issues like what pre-conditions for expansion of the system are, such as the quality of public transport available.
Given the concept was unanimously supported by Parliaments Transport and Infrastructure Committee there is the potential for the legislation to pass fairly easily.
Finally in some I’m sure not coincidental timing, the Helen Clark Foundation have just released a report into the potential for congestion charging in Auckland and Wellington. It supports the concept with the title of the report even reflecting this, called A Fair Charge for Better Cities. The report has three overall recommendations:
- Congestion charging should be part of the policy mix to improve our cities and help meet our climate goals
- International evidence shows congestion charging can be an effective policy to reduce congestion and emissions.
- Equity concerns need to be addressed before implementation, and robust community engagement and strengthened alternatives like better public transport must be done at the same time.
- It should be implemented alongside complementary policies like investing in frequent public transport services and rapid transit, and creating low-traffic neighbourhoods with lower speed limits – congestion charging will not fix our transport issues alone.
- Congestion charging could be implemented in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s CBD fairly
- City-specific modelling shows that a congestion charge will meaningfully reduce traffic and emissions in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland.
- Analysis indicates that there are sufficient alternatives for those travelling to and from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s CBD, and that lower income communities largely do not commute to the CBD, so a charge will not impact them.
- However, a charge outside the CBD is unlikely to be justified due to the lack of public and active transport alternatives.
- Further analysis and modelling needs to be done for Te Whanganui-a-tara Wellington, as the initial research indicates there could be equity issues with a CBD charging zone.
- Equity should be embedded into the design of any congestion charging scheme in Aotearoa New Zealand
- There should be sufficient public and active transport alternatives before a charging zone is enacted in any particular area.
- Revenue should go back into improving transport options for the city implementing it and funding mitigations.
- Robust community engagement is essential and should not be passive.
- There should be daily caps on charges, and the operating hours of the scheme should be limited to between, just before morning
peak traffic, and after afternoon/early evening traffic to avoid unduly impacting on shift workers.
- Exemptions should be limited to public transport, emergency vehicles, and those who provide mobility for disabled people.
- The above key principles should be enshrined in the enabling legislation.
- A pilot scheme or smaller initial rollout would be helpful to showcase the benefits and monitor the equity impacts.
It will be interesting to see just what’s announced on Monday and what other supporting measures will be included in the ERP.