A few days ago the AA released their latest Auckland newsletter and in it they focus, for the third time, on congestion charging. The issue includes the result of a survey of their members on the topic and I found some of the responses quite interesting.
One of the reasons for the focus is they note that by the end of the year the government is expected to make a decision on whether to push ahead with the legislative changes needed to enable congestion charging and then designing the actual scheme.
The proposed scheme
The debate about congestion charging, sometimes called road pricing, has been going on for many years, with numerous studies and proposals. The latest of these was released back in 2020 and proposed a phased rollout of a scheme that would make use of number plate recognition cameras on key roads. This is an area charge type scheme for trips that take place within the charging zone, as opposed to a toll cordon like in some schemes overseas where you pay if you cross a certain line, so trips within the charging area would pay too.
Anyone passing any camera would need to pay a charge that varied depending on what time of day they were travelling. Below were the indicative prices mentioned at the time but they would almost certainly change as more work is done on implementation.
While there are still issues to resolve, such as ensuring it’s equitable, we think the scheme itself makes sense, and provide a lot of benefits to Auckland. As such, we supported it during inquiry into it by Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee. That committee unanimously supported the proposal and it’s worth noting that one of the members of the committee at that time was current National Party Leader Christopher Luxon.
The AA Survey
The AA surveyed its members in April and they received almost 7500 responses, though they note they received “a lower proportion of responses from people aged 18-34 compared with Auckland’s population and a much higher proportion of responses from males aged 55-64 than for other age bands“.
However, as you’d expect, their members aren’t thrilled about the idea of congestion charging with just 14% liking the idea, though that does appear to be up on the 11% in their last survey. They also note that support was higher (at 24%) for just a charge on the city centre. Unsurprisingly, opposition to the idea was also much higher for those that would most likely incur the charge due to their current travel patterns.
The two aspects that caught my attention the most, though, were about discretionary trips and how people would respond if congestion charging was in place.
First, on discretionary trips.
We asked regular commuters to indicate what proportion of the trips they make at peak times could be avoided or changed in some way. The results surprised us.
Around half (53%) of city centre commuters indicated none of their trips are discretionary. This suggests the remaining (47%) could change the time or mode of at least some of their trips.
The results were similar for motorway and main roads commuters. Just under half (46%) said ‘none’ of their trips were discretionary, implying just over half (54%) have at least some scope to change the time or mode of at least some of their trips.
Around half of all trips being classed by respondents themselves as discretionary is a huge number. The only caveat to this is that because the AA is under-represented in the 18-34 age groups and the responses they did get suggested those groups drive at peak times more, so perhaps the actual Auckland percentage would be lower. But even if it was half that, at around 25% it’s still a huge number.
I also wonder how many of those ‘discretionary’ trips are in the half of all trips that are less than 6km – from the congestion charging report.
What’s important is how people would respond to congestion charging and while most people will still drive, a large number of people would change when or how they travelled, or would not travel at all. That’s significant and exactly the outcome congestion charging is intended to achieve. Also, while 10-13% mode shift to PT and active modes may seem like not that much, given stats NZ data from the last census showed around 3/4 of all trips are in a car, 10% of a large number is still a large number.
Note: somehow the responses add up to more than 130% for each of the two trip types.
When you also include time-shifted driving, it adds up to a significant shift in peak travel patterns, much more than the 8-12% the Congestion Question report hoped to be achieved through the introduction of congestion charging.
While the survey itself is interesting, the some of the recommendations are all about stalling the idea and even include this gem suggesting we should use revenue to in part widen roads.
Spending on the right stuff
Congestion charging revenue should in the first instance be used to fund alternatives to paying the charge. It is also likely that some revenue would need to be spent on minor road improvements to address displaced congestion. (Before implementing congestion charging, London invested in road widening around the charging zone to ensure the scheme would be successful)
Calling for more roads to address congestion is nothing new for them and they did so in May after releasing a congestion report.
And even if the government agreed to that, where would you even be able to widen roads within or nearby the congestion charging areas above?
The cost to build and run the congestion charging scheme is such a waste of funds. Also many of the areas are not congested.
It would be much cheaper to implement and and more effective to extend the Road User Charges to all vehicles. This could be priced on a scale based on the CO2 emissions of the vehicle.
Yeah I agree. I would rather they tackle the bigger problem that cars are not paying for all of the costs they impose on society, rather than just trying to decrease peak traffic for rich people. To me the congestion itself is a much fairer charge than a monetary one would be; if you are prepared to spend an hour stuck in traffic then the trip must be important to you.
To me Congestion Charging is looking at the problem from the wrong end.
At present there is a growing, while relatively small at present, problem with the charging of Road User Charges.
The present RUC system can be broken down in to several groups of charging.
1) light petrol only vehicle – included in the petrol price at pump
2) light hybrid petrol vehicle – included in petrol price at pump, but only for petrol that is used.
3) light diesel vehicle – purchased separately
4) heavy petrol (over 3.5 t) – included in petrol price plus separately and then petrol portion is refunded
5) heavy diesel (over 3.5t) – purchased separately
6) heavy non traction (trailers) – purchased separately.
7) light electric vehicle – currently exempt.
So at present people, like myself, who have invested in an electric vehicle are not paying in to the Road Users fund, and those who have gone half way to an electric vehicle will a hybrid are also not paying their fair share.
So how do we implement a scheme that is fair and equitable for all road users.
One answer is to shift the whole system in to general taxation where most of the funds are currently coming from, but then you have the boogeyman of congestion charging popping up again.
So why not introduce GPS monitoring to all vehicles and then zone can be set up, and moved as well, simply by electronically defining the different charging zones. This way all vehicles get charged for road usage, and you also remove the complex off road refunds.
I know, there is the privacy concerns of the government is tracking me, except it would only tracking the vehicle regardless of who was driving and with the right legislation the data collected could be ring fenced and reduced to simply Registration, time entered zone, time left zone, distance travelled in zone.
The government doesn’t need to track you. The box in your car can periodically fetch the pricing boundaries and it can send the bill to the government. The location details would not need to be saved or sent at all, the government would only be told the bill amount (it could potentially be itemised to some extent).
It would be too easy for motivated individuals to shield the GPS so it looks like the vehicle isn’t moving.
We have an existing system for number plate recognition and charging vehicles for using toll roads.
This would be relatively easy, fast and cheap to replicate for zone based congestion charging, assuming zones have a minimum of crossings.
GPS tracking and charging does not exist. It requires boxes to be fitted to every vehicle. Policing is required to ensure boxes aren’t disabled. It would take a long time to get a system like this going and it’d be very expensive.
A good system today is better than a perfect system tomorrow.
While we do have the NPR tech, it is certainly not cheap to implement and maintain, and I suspect a good proportion of the charges collected would be lost in operational costs. AT / NZTA are not exactly known for doing things quickly too so fast would still be 5+ years away. More than enough time for a political kill off.
I don’t mind congestion charges as I (like most GA readers) can afford them. However I think they should focus on the CBD and CMJ / AHB trips.
If the AA is going to quote London on the widening roads (did they really?), maybe they should also suggest following their lead on cycleways? Or maybe it’s more fun to cherry pick.
From what I can remember, the Cycle Superhighways came much later than the Congestion Charge in London – but what they did do in London (because of IRA bombings) was bring in numberplate recognition and restrictions to the actual City of London first, during the 90s, which had a significant effect on lessening traffic through there, as well as stopping bombings and lessening crime. Similar to the phasing proposed by Auckland in the post above. Worked so well that they had to extend it to the other boroughs.
The key difference, of course, is that London has a very highly functioning and extensive network of Tube, Trains, and Buses. Considerable investment in that PT needs to happen before you can bring in restrictions for private traffic. And then massively increase the Congestion Charge, so people feel really compelled to take PT because by then it is cheaper.
This is our moa and the egg conundrum. What comes first? We fail to get good PT as there is resistance/reluctance to add PT priority, if it impacts on car parking or reallocated existing road space, and we should not have congestion charging as we don’t have good PT. Without doing something it doesn’t look good for the moa/planet/city/people.
My main opposition to this is the likelihood of incurring the congestion charge but still having to cop the travel because no alternatives get built, and you end up with no time savings to show for it either.
Based on our current track record of provisioning infrastructure to meet demand before whacking another charge on it, I’d say this can be leveled at ‘incredibly likely/frankly inevitable’.
At this point all we’ve done is created an inflationary charge or reduced people’s incomes and still left them time poor, so I would like to see strong compulsion to actually deliver the rapid transit we’ve spent a half a decade talking about.
The benefits of making sweeping changes across many fronts at once never seem to be articulated. I suppose it’s because the business cases ignore them, so they’re rarely explained to leaders? As part of a programme which aims to invest in substantially increasing travel choice, and enabling mode shift, congestion charging is really useful. And this is why what’s going on with the TERP is interesting. I’m really hopeful they’ll get the scale of change required.
Don’t forget that congestion charging does reduce traffic overall though. So even if it’s not implemented perfectly, or even well, the benefits do start immediately from an air quality, emissions and safety point of view, benefiting the most disadvantaged people (those who don’t drive, those whose health is being compromised, and future generations).
The beauty of congestion charging is that it works and is good irreverent of transport alternatives.
We don’t need anything to stop the Soviet bread line method of rationing road space. People WILL travel less at those times when the cost are higher. This is the base guarantee. And even so, the very nature of decreasing traffic by itself improves most of the city’s PT. (I was in Singapore and rode around in the busses a week ago. Very low traffic, massive density, not the best metro coverage, congestion charging is the key, not the mrt)
Sure it will be politically useful to roll this out when the largest transport investments in NZ history are done. Eastern busway and CRL. But if we had any cold blooded, maximal economic output, economist type people at the helm then this would be frantically being out in place.
That’s… kind of the point? People who don’t have to travel already have a powerful incentive to do so when it isn’t congested – the value of their time. This is a major flaw in a lot of the thinking around here. If there was an alternative, a realistic one, then people would use it – unless your argument is they sit in hours of traffic a week they don’t have to for fun..
So there’s a high chance, that in the absence of the type of transport that works as alternatives, these people are going to just incur a cost with no conceivable benefit in the absence of something they can actually use. I refuse to accept the idea that there should be an even higher tax on mobility over and above the costs of having to run a car – without a viable alternative that doesn’t involve hours at each end of their day commuting. That’s kind of the point of the thing.
totally agree. Planning to do congestion charge in a city with very poor public transport options like Auckland is crazy. Like Jane Jacobs once said the key is not to make driving difficult but to do public transport great first. Then by all means charge cars for everything. But in the situation when we won’t even have that 1 (one!) tram line built in 2025 we are thinking about congestion charging it’s just silly. And that one tram line isn’t even the answer for most people in Auckland that need to travel to the central city. Instead of tackling the problem if public transport some people just want to focus on making life miserable for part of society who are not blame. It’s just baffling. And I hate driving myself and take bus whenever I can even though it’s more complicated and time consuming for me. But some people just don’t have options not to drive (because there is no viable alternative). And other people seem to not understand it or just ignore it because they don’t care.
I guess it will price a few poor people off the road for whom going to work isn’t worth it anymore due to the extra cost.
Other than that, how will it possibly work? People can’t switch. Even if, let’s say, people want to switch to public transport. We don’t have the capacity to handle it. And for sure, everyone likes to talk about improving it. But you can’t take all those powerpoints and PDF’s to work. We don’t actually have light rail to mount roskill, or a busway to Westgate. We are too inanely dumb to build AMETI in a straight line along a straight road. For cycling things looked up a bit back in 2016, however by 2020 there seems to have been some coordinated effort to stymie this.
You can’t go roll out congestion charging in a climate like this. It is completely cynical.
How can it work? We stop looking for a chance to build gold-plated networks that consume entire region’s budgets and start building a network everywhere. NW needs buses or light rail – it doesn’t have to be the Orient Express. It just needs to work.
The Central Suburbs need light rail. The same Central Suburbs that had trams sixty years ago but now apparently can’t fit them in, so we have to spend a bajillion dollars and write a decade of case studies to work around it.
I’m not sure what The Shore will get but they’ll be upset if they don’t get it before anyone else.
And once we have those basic fingers of a network in place, watch communities and town centres fall over themselves for the place-making benefits that will come as we add cross-town routes.
The fact getting any of this down in Auckland is a decades-long proposition that spans generations is why I’m extremely averse to the idea of congestion charging first, alternatives later. We’ll just get gaslighteded for decades and nothing will ever happen. But you’ll still have to pay for the pleasure.
Well the busway is already being extended to Albany. So no complaints there. The next steps are the more dull unremarkable stuff like a non-zero amount of cross-town services.
Albany to the city centre is, what, about 30 minutes now on PT? Westgate is roughly the same distance away but it seems to be closer to one hour. It is quite unfortunately that we got extra motorway lanes instead of a busway along SH16.
Roeland -currently reading as 1hr 23 from Te Atatu Peninsula to Westgate by PT – not only did they give more space to cars without provision for PT but they also imbedded car use as the only option for journeys other than to the city.
My gripe with congestion charging remains the same: we have a very expensive asset that we have all paid for and we are effectively renting it out to the wealthy at much less than cost price. Its at an awkward place between user pays and everyone pays, kind of like subsidising caviar. At the end of the day it won’t affect me as I very rarely drive at peak and even if I did I could afford it, but by design someone is going to get screwed and it won’t be the rich.
A city centre charge I can get behind because I don’t think anyone should be driving there anyway. But I would still rather they just closed all the roads altogether instead of making it for the rich only like London is.
So would you prefer to allocate an expensive asset we have all paid for to a few people who get up earlier than others in order to grab more than their share?
The weird things with that timing is it doesn’t even seem to work that way. I can start super early and leave into the evening peak or I can leave in the morning peak and work until the evening peak has passed.
There really isn’t a way to effectively defer your travel. I suspect this is by design.
Yes that does sound fairer to me. Like going to a playground early to make sure you get a ride on the swing, rather than setting a price at a point where publicly owned playgrounds are only accessible to the wealthy.
Maybe the analogy is that if the people who use the playground at the peak time were to pay a small charge, it would create a fund for building more playgrounds so there’s enough space for all when they want it… but, yeah, nah. The analogy isn’t really apt but it’s an interesting one. It falls apart because we should always be providing enough places for children to play when they want to… but is useful because the way to do that is to stop cars dominating the public realm.
The only losers are people who currently make low value trips by car. The money raised can be used to improve alternatives for those who change modes. The charge prices out enough other people so high value trips by car can still be made, but now they are not delayed. Winners outnumber losers and the benefits outweigh the costs. Not charging is why we have overloaded roads and car occupancies of less than 1.1.
We need to remember that the value of time for people does not increase linearly. So, there is another class of people who lose. People who:
– place a high value on completing their trip; and
– place a low value on the amount of time that trip currently takes, and
– place a high value on the additional time the trip would take on the current PT network.
People in this situation are overwhelmingly low income households with limited spare time. They are working parents who would miss bedtime (or daycare pick ups) if they chose PT to get home, people travelling between two jobs, etc.
I think it’s important to recognise that the people who lose out are far more likely to have low incomes and limited opportunities to adjust their lives to accommodate the charge. Perhaps this changes how we reinvest the congestion charge, perhaps we decide that it simply is not equitable enough.
If I remember correctly the Regional Fuel Tax has a limited life in legislation.
Something needs to replace it!
This appears to be left out of all discussion of Congestion Charging.
Is the fuel tax of any real use anyway? It seems to just be paying for AMETI which I thought was going to be built anyway. What else are they doing with it? They made out as if it was going to pay for some new and exciting transport projects…
It was always promised to be done and not done for a decade until the RFT. It seems to be a common thought that what we put in does not have any impact on what we get out, but that’s not the case (clearly)
Busways are boring, but also the most popular PT in the country so take the wins.
Pretty sure it was used to buy trains. That is something.
Isn’t that related to the CRL though, again I thought that was already funded before the fuel tax by the National party.
It feels like the money is being spent on stuff that was already funded and meant to already be finished!
Here’s what’s listed on the website. https://at.govt.nz/about-us/our-role-organisation/corporate-plans-strategies/regional-fuel-tax/ Be interesting to know what’s gone ahead, what hasn’t. I have tried to shorten descriptions a bit, so it’s not a complete copy and paste:
Bus priority – a ‘whole of route’ bus priority programme:
– Immediate routes that have been prioritised are: Sandringham Road, New North Road, Mt Eden Road, Remuera Road and Manukau Road.
– mitigation works – trees, verandas and poles – to enable double deckers
– new bus station and route at Sylvia Park.
City centre bus infra
– The Downtown Upgrade will create new dedicated bus terminals for central city bus passengers, by building terminals on the eastern side of Quay St for Eastern bus services, and on Lower Albert St for Northern services. Both terminals will offer users street-side boarding and departure points, weather-resistant shelters, and clearly displayed arrival and departure information. Cycle paths will be incorporated into the northern side of the East Terminal, and vehicle access will be maintained for businesses within the Britomart precinct. The creation of bus terminals is closely linked with the calming and streetscaping of Quay St.
– The Wellesley St Bus improvements project helps enable the New Network bus routes to give access to growing numbers of customers into and within the midtown area of the city centre, particularly for North Shore and isthmus services to the Learning Quarter. The project is focused on providing bus facilities along the Wellesley St corridor and providing a new station near the Learning Quarter.
– Airport access public transport improvements – a range of medium term capital improvements to support the provision of enhanced bus services from New Lynn, Mt Roskill, Onehunga and Botany to the airport precinct.
– Puhinui bus/rail interchange – provision of a new interchange at Puhinui Station to provide a high quality connection between the rail network and buses accessing Auckland International Airport.
Electric trains! The RFT will fund a further order of 20 new trains, planned for later in the decade
Downtown ferry redevelopment
– urban high-risk intersections and routes.
– through roundabouts.
– red-light cameras.
– segregated facilities.
– rural high-risk routes in the Rodney, Franklin and Waitakere areas through better signage, improved skid resistance, more roadside barriers and markings.
– Initially, projects are planned for the city centre, city fringe, Sandringham and Henderson.
Network capacity and performance improvements
Growth related transport infra
Hm it seems, when it comes to alternatives to driving, that the programme is quite central-city heavy. If we’re not careful, both the fuel tax and any hypothetical congestion charge may turn out to be a heavily regressive measure.
Gee. It’s nice of them to think of giving us a little bit more paint for the roads out here in the wops.
8 October 2020
As a result of the Auckland Council emergency budget, the Lincoln Road Improvements project is currently on-hold due to no funding available.
There is a large difference between asking people what they would do if something happened, versus observing what actually happens after it has happened. I wouldn’t assume the two are correlated at all.
This is well known to software developers. If you want to know what the most popular features of your program are, you have to implement telemetry (also known as phoning home). Doing surveys is completely useless. People just won’t give accurate answers.
We will soon have an example to see if surveys actually work: surveys currently show that people are driving less due to the high fuel prices. Let’s see if VKT is actually down or not.
You’re right, the best survey is observing what actually happens,when changes are introduced,hard to argue with facts over projections.
This links quite well,with yesterday’s post, allowing changes to be made,then observing behavior over an extended period of time,without “political ” influence,then you have “hard “data.
This could never apply to active mode infrastructure,though,if from day one,it wasn’t instantly at peak,it must be branded as a failure.
Yes, note for example the almost comical contrast between the backlash against things like pedestrianising streets and traffic circulation plans, and the actual measured success of these things.
Isn’t there compelling evidence from overseas studies that something like 10% of all trip disappear and plenty of the rest get reduced/deferred. Stockholm or somewhere?
Anyway, I would implement Access For Everyone (A4E) so that cars can’t stop or go through the CBD and then see what happens.
There is a big report on the circulation plan in Ghent here (in Dutch):
It seems to have been a positive for businesses in the city centre.
The air quality around the ring road is probably a bit worse off but only by a small margin. Overall the air quality improved which makes sense since a lot of people switched to riding bicycles.
FWIW these plans almost always have losers, in Ghent that was obviously people who still drive into the city by car. Another loser were the businesses on the pre-existing pedestrianised streets, since the prospective customers effectively got spread over a larger area.
I lived in London when the Congestion Charge was introduced. I lived West and worked in the East with access to a free car park. I needed to drive in one day, it took 1.5 hours to travel about 10km and I paid (from memory) £8 for the misery. The congestion Charge scheme failed to remove congestion.
A congestion charge that removed ALL congestion would, of course, fail to work – because then everyone would drive instead, as there was no congestion on the roads. So, that is not the aim.
What a congestion charge needs to do is to reduce traffic volumes a bit, so cars can eventually get to their destination but not too fast – and leave the city not completely jammed up. What that then does is introduce a financial incentive for people to take the bus or train – making PT look affordable next to the prospect of being stuck in traffic, burning money.
Its all about Mode shift, not Solving and eliminating Congestion.
The congestion Charge scheme failed to remove congestion for Nick.
It succeeded in removing congestion for people who weren’t Nick.
The city councillor for Nick has been sent a sternly-worded letter from his sole constituent and will act accordingly.
There are lots of reasons to criticise the congestion charge in London, but “didn’t reduce congestion” is not one of them. Total traffic and expected delay relative to free flow are way down as a result of the congestion charge.
I’m being mis-quoted here “didn’t reduce congestion”
But that doesn’t really matter. I failed to make my point clear. It’s the slow journey times that stop me using the car, not the congestion charge.
That wasn’t meant to be a direct quote, sorry I should have used single quotes “failed to remove congestion” = ‘didn’t reduce congestion’.
You personally might have chosen not to drive due to congestion, but we have empirical evidence that a large number of people choose not to drive because of the congestion charge.
The journey time was my motivation to avoid driving, not the congestion charge.
Same in Auckland, I’ve don’t drive at rush hour because the travel times are too slow. No congestion charge required.
Should just charge within the CBD (the area surrounded by motorway/the 30km blanket area).
It’ll be interesting to see whether this will be popular or not with the public. I suspect it won’t be, and if so what the political impact will be.
How can you believe it might be popular? No one wants to pay anything that contributes to their use of roads and car parks, despite the fact that they will pay up to tens of thousands for their car and probably more for the garage. That does not mean it isn’t worth doing.
Parents dropping kids would still need to pay the congestion charge because schools are quite inflexible about drop off pick up time.
This is the main reason most parents forced to go to work at the same time after dropping their kids.
Since some office works now allow working from home, I see no reason why school cannot adopt flexible drop off and pick up time.
This can be resolved more holistically, by fixing the streets so kids can get there actively themselves.
Heidi, the strange thing is that many of those streets look exactly the same as 30 or 40 years ago when kids managed to walk. I walked along a street that was the arterial for trucks going to a Watties food factory. I quickly worked out that if you ran onto the road behind passing pea trucks you would score dropped peas, whereas running in front of the truck you were likely to get pea soup.
The main road I cycled to school on now has a cycle lane. My mum worked a near my school, but I still cycled (even in the rain). I genuinely don’t understand the expectation to be dropped off at school. I enjoyed my freedom. Hmm, perhaps I’ve answered my question, it’s not the kids it’s the parents.
It is possible that other things shifted around. A few days ago when dropping off my kid at school I encountered a car that was sunk into the verge. Maybe it became more common for people to appropriate footpaths as parking. Maybe back then it was also more common for people to look out for pedestrians when turning.
It is also possible that walking has objectively become more dangerous. There are these things called smartphones. Some cars (and not just Telslas) have big infotainment screens right in your face when you’re driving. Cars are bigger than back then. And it has become socially awkward to actually drive carefully around pedestrians.
It is also possible for social norms to shift around. Is it still considered ‘responsible’ to let your kid walk to school?
Other people have made the same observation about cyclists. How did we ride bicycles back then without protected bike lanes? Why did this change? Two answers I have heard on this site are painted meridians pushing car traffic towards the edge of the road, and the proliferation of on street car parking. A lot of streets also got reconfigured to 2×2 car lanes.
Also, there are just a lot more cars (in many countries, I dont have NZ data to support this).
bigger cars, more traffic, less space, and too many drivers (but not all) who are hostile to other users, especially cyclists.
Yes and no. Footpaths are still footpaths. A handful of years ago our kids negotiated their way across Wellington every day to school, Thorndon to Mt Cook. We didn’t care how they did it, walk or bus. It seemed to help build resilient young people who could fend for themselves; to travel at a very young age, to find themselves jobs, and to get out and do things. I don’t think that the school run does much for kids ability to cope in the world.
So not walking to school means less resilient kids. Sounds like a stretch.
If they introduce congestion or area charges the fees should:
a) be ramped up over time to give users the opportunity to adjust
b) be set at a specific level once they have the desired effect on congestion – arbitrary values ($3.50) should not be used
c) be reviewed every 6 months and adjusted up or down as needed (Singapore – best practice)
To your list KOS I would add, and have multiple zones. If you choose to live in Albany and work in Highbrook you might expect to pass through at least two zones. Equitable I imagine because it won’t be the cleaner or the process worker who is making that journey.
Yeah costs are rising at the moment and owning a car is one of those costs. It’s no point blaming the mayor or the government, but oil will become more expensive. It will become so because there will be an ever increasing carbon charge on it, as users pay the cost of their emissions. No one is ever going to say that poor people can avoid that charge and pollute as much as they like. The sensible thing is for people to adjust their life style to reduce their costs. Is your kids walking or biking an option?
Unfortunately Auckland has an economically dysfunctional transport system. For many people not owning a car would be the most rational economic choice. No purchase cost, registration, insurance, depreciation, wof, servicing and that is just the fixed costs. We have a modest car and all this costs us $1800 per year and the car hasn’t even left the bloody garage yet. And despite that car only leaving the property two or three times a week I spend about $1600 of my rates bill to build new roads and repair roads that I don’t use. If you want to do something really sensible you should advocate for the best damn public transport there is, something like Vienna, and then you shouldn’t need a car. And then I won’t bitch that you driving everywhere is screwing the planet, and I am paying the cost of that; higher rates, higher taxes, higher insurance.
Planning to do congestion charge in a city with very poor public transport options like Auckland is crazy. Like Jane Jacobs once said the key is not to make driving difficult but to do public transport great first. Then by all means charge cars for everything. But in the situation when we won’t even have that 1 (one!) tram line built in 2025 we are thinking about congestion charging it’s just silly. And that one tram line isn’t even the answer for most people in Auckland that need to travel to the central city. Instead of tackling the problem if public transport some people just want to focus on making life miserable for part of society who are not blame. It’s just baffling. And I hate driving myself and take bus whenever I can even though it’s more complicated and time consuming for me. But some people just don’t have options not to drive (because there is no viable alternative). And other people seem to not understand it or just ignore it because they don’t care.
The best time for a congestion charge was 30 years ago, the second best time is now.
The charge will (long term) shift development and travel patterns. People will be less likely to purchase far flung properties and commute across the city. The congestion charge does not need PT alternatives to be useful.
But also the goal posts keep shifting. 5 years ago someone would have said “If crl and the eastern busway, northern busway extension, pukekohe stations and electrification, general bus and rail improvements are done then that would be a good time”, now its multiple tram lines on top of that?
yes, congestion charge doesn’t need pt alternative. people do. money will be flowing you’re right but majority of people will be worse off. I gave an example of tram line. And that one is not enough. People need transport wether the trams you mentioned or buses or trains. whatever it is the alternative for driving os needed. viable one not the theoretical one like right now. i dont know why is it so hard to understand
“This is an area charge type scheme for trips that take place within the charging zone”
It has not been proposed in TCQ that an area charge be implemented in Auckland, it is a city centre cordon (an area charge adds next to nothing in benefits, and costs more) and corridor pricing (with some parallels to Singapore). There were area charge proposals proposed in the ARPES (2006) and ARPS (2008) reports, which were considered in TCQ, but rejected in the shortlist assessment for various reasons.
Please read: https://www.transport.govt.nz//assets/Uploads/Report/TheCongestionQuestionsTechnicalReport.pdf
The thinking here is wrong and based on the ways people always used to do things. In the time it takes to create all this infrastructure, self driving autonomous vehicles will be widespread. With them will come the ability to set up much more effective shared point to point public transportation. Removing the human element from driving also substantially helps traffic flow. In terms of adoption getting people to use shared use electric vehicles is a much easier proposition than persuading them to e-bike everywhere or use infrequent and inconvenient bus services.
An electric car already uses substantially less resources per person mile than a lightly loaded bus. And walking or riding a bicycle when the food fuel for the rider is included is already less efficient than a carpooled electric vehicle because humans are not efficient at being engines and their “fuel” typically has quite a high carbon footprint in comparison to renewable electricity driving electric cars and e-bikes
For that reason conventional bikes (like ICE cars) should carry a polluters fee on purchase with the money being used to subsidize those who buy e-bikes. Cyclists should pay a RUC equivalent, easily billed through the type of camera surveillance being proposed to cover the carbon and capital costs of cycleway construction, maintenance and usage. If you think roadway congestion charges are potentially high or contentious, consider what pro-rated cycleway usage charges will need to be.
In terms of long lasting infrastructure that will take decades to fully create and be expected to persist indefinitely it’s clear investment should be going to roads that can carry smaller autonomous vehicles and dedicated bus lanes will over time become a thing of the past.
Autonomous vehicles will allow point to point shared service. Larger shared autonomous passenger vehicles like buses only serve a purpose for trunk routes where ridership demand justifies it. Rider convenience also benefits from a stream of smaller shared vehicles vs larger and less frequently scheduled alternatives.
One need only look at Auckland’s northern busway to see how much potential capacity is wasted there compared to (in the future) filling it with a stream of autonomous vehicles offering more convenient, personally scheduled, point to point or hub and spoke service. That would have a much lower carbon footprint than trying to blanket a city the size of Auckland with buses that are only a more environmentally friendly alternative when substantially full.
When the time comes one could selectively toll old ICE cars, non autonomous EVs and conventional bikers to get them off the road. Appropriately charging users of almost empty buses could de-incentivize the most polluting bus trips and drive people towards more eco friendly options.
I started to copy and paste certain sections of this diatribe before I realised it was pointless as the entire thing from start to finish is just absolutely hilarious
What element do you find to be particularly hilarious? Self driving vehicles will be the biggest revolution in transport systems since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Most people do not understand just how inefficient humans are when used as engines when promoting walking and cycling as being green alternatives. Most people can however understand that 10 people in a diesel bus are using more energy and have a greater carbon footprint than the same 10 people in 2 smaller electric vehicles. The problem with large buses is you need 100 people all going the same direction at the same time to maximize efficiency. That may work during peak hours and on core routes but is not a general solution to the problem. Even then capacity of the busway system is largely determined by loading/offloading capacity at stations. Platooned electric vehicles (a coordinated train of 20 or more electric vehicles driving at freeway speed within meters of each other) avoid some of those bottlenecks and scale up and down better to meet demand. With platooned vehicles the more formal versions of the two second rule and current highway capacity calculations based on unreliable and uncoordinated humans maintaining large separation and accelerating and decelerating go right out the window. You only have to observe the Northern busway to understand how under capacity the roadway it uses is compared to what it could be, even as the system is projected to be nearing capacity. But to really push the capacity you need humans and their reaction times and random pressing of their right foot on the brakes out of the picture. Moving the mass of a bus carrying 5 people will never be the better alternative to moving a smaller vehicle carrying those same 5 people no matter how green the bus becomes, if all you have is 5 people to move somewhere. But in the case of cycling moving 5 people in an efficient vehicle vs 5 people on individual vehicles with inefficient human “engines’ is a net energy saving. Self driving vehicles offer the ability to tailor routes and schedules as needed, to order a pickup from your current location with drop-off to a trunk station or final destination if it’s local and to have only the capacity out there that you need at any particular instant. It also solves the last mile problem and scheduling problems of needing to move people in 100 unit chunks for peak efficiency. Given just how long it takes New Zealand to get anything done we’d be talking decades to put in full coverage of busways, cycleways and so on. And none of those alternatives do much to solve adoption problems. By then the infrastructure will have been built around last century’s capabilities and alternatives.
There, I highlighted what would be way more efficient than selve-driving cars.
There are a lot of resources on why self-driving cars are not a good solution to traffic issues. They most definitely CAN play a role in the future but certainly not in the next few years and certainly should not be the singular form of transport that you propose. Just one problem with any type of car is that they also create microplastics from tyre use that gets washed into streams and the ocean and eventually can end up in the food chain.
You forget many points when comparing very efficient cars and bikes but let me just point out two:
1) Even if cars have a more efficient engine than regular bicycles, they will need to transport often more than 1.5 tons compared to 0.1 tons of a heavy cyclist on a heavy bike.
2) Wear and tear on roads scales with m^4. So that makes a vehicle with a mass 15 times higher (1.5 tons v 0.1 tons) damage roads and bridges over 50000 times more.
For the rest, I have to agree with Kraut and I cannot shake the feeling that I just responded to satire.
In case anyone is actually wondering. One point of reference is this: An e-bike will go perhaps 50 km with a 300 Wh battery. So, give or take 150 km per kWh.
A common figure for electric cars is around 15 kWh per 100 km, or around 7 km per kWh.
The problem of needing enough people to be travelling in the same direction seems to be worse for smaller vehicles. Note that Uber did not figure out how to solve this, and basically operates as a taxi service now. So realistically 10 people are going to be in 8 or so cars, and those 8 cars will have about the same fuel consumption as that bus.
The problem with trains is the last mile problem, time lost in transfers and the fact that you need even larger batches of people going the same direction at the same time. It works in London where you walk down to a nearby tube station with little thought to schedule, jump on a train that quickly arrives, perhaps quickly transfer to another line then pop up again near your destination. But that experience doesn’t transfer to Auckland. Auckland is a geographically large city with a low population density by global standards. For example even with Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area it ran a fairly infrequent schedule which in itself was a problem. Companies I worked with ran shuttles to meet Caltrain and deliver employees to and from their campuses. That was in addition to the substantial private local shuttle and bus network we ran that was tailored to taking employees specifically between our buildings and to suburban park and ride transit points. If you make things convenient you can get people to use public transport, but few people for their daily commute were going to walk a mile or two from somewhere where no bus service ran to a Caltrain station. We had to fill that gap for it to even be an option that most would consider. We also paid for public transport passes so public transport was a free option for commuting for our employees so cost wasn’t even a particularly important factor in decision making. But honestly people were more likely to board our bus that ran the same route as Caltrain or BART and would take them to the same park and ride lot the train would have brought them to since they got on once at source and settled in for a safe and transfer free ride to the destination. You could consider our network to be a somewhat more manual and not quite complete implementation of a point to point option.
And you can’t run a train everywhere. In a city as spread out as Auckland you still need feeder networks to bring people to train stations which is where a 40 seater bus at 11 pm carrying 5 people to board the nearly empty 2,400 person train then at the other end loading them on a few more 40 seater buses that drop them half a mile from their house may not be the best choice.
Also right now if I have to drive myself somewhere, I’m totally consumed during that time driving. Time sitting in traffic is waste and frustration. Once level 5 self driving cars are widely available I don’t think people will care quite as much about sitting in a vehicle if they are already watching TV, browsing the web, enjoying a drink, video chatting with friends, napping, playing with their ps5 or finishing up the last few bits of office work allowing them to shorten their in office day. And if those vehicles are coordinating to move efficiently and not impeded by human driven cars they would most likely beat a human driven bus point to point, certainly when transfers are taken into account. And even if the bus is faster, how much faster, cheaper and more convenient do they need to be to erase the convenience of that point to point option in a personally owned self driving vehicle? Should the bus save you 10 mins? meh. 20 mins? 30? maybe doesn’t matter much if I’m spending that time doing some other thing I enjoy. That puts even more pressure on the public network to be convenient and/or use some of the same technologies. Others have mentioned above that the time spent driving is actually more of a disincentive to making the trip by car compared to the congestion charge. With level 5 autonomy for many people that time disincentive vanishes.
To many people that sounds like science fiction, but level 5 autonomy will come to pass within the timeline of many of these projects proposed for Auckland.
In California the kind of subsidies new Zealand is just starting to offer on hybrids stopped a decade ago with the push then being to get people out of hybrids and into in PHEVs or true zero emission options. The big carrot was HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane access. Cynically I think every Tesla owner I know would have brought theirs even if it ran on baby seal oil provided it got them in the HOV lane. Being green to most people was just a bonus, the real driver for the purchase was reducing commute times.
And of course larger vehicles can play in the same ecosystem where their capacity is fully utilized and needed, but you need a self driving bus or platoons of self driving buses. Human bus drivers would require significantly more lane space, drive slower and brake and cause delays down the entire chain of self driving vehicles. And with platoons of self driving buses the bottleneck will shift to how quickly you can get people on and off them, not how quickly you can get them down the busway.
for 1) above, the numbers show, when transporting even including the mass of the vehicle and rider, for one person an e-bike is the most efficient when all inputs are taken into account, followed by a push bike followed by an electric car. Diesel buses with 10 people in them to amortize the energy used are not even close. but the push bike is only about twice as efficient as the electric car given the the extra inputs to fuel the rider and relative inefficiency in converting food grown to motive power. Therefore a shared use electric car model with occupancy of two or more 2 people has a much greater potential to reduce emissions than most other options. Emissions savings from electrification are even greater as most bike users will revert to some other vehicle for longer journeys, wet days etc. And an environmentally conscious person given the choice between a push bike and a e-bike, price no object, would definitely not do their own pedaling but would use renewable electric energy powering an e-bike instead. The push bike is far from a bad option in the continuum of options handily beating an ICE car or a lightly loaded bus but is not the best in class choice. Walking also rates worse than all forms of biking.
2) Electric cars are indeed heavier and more damaging to the road network than ICE cars if the same size vehicle is chosen, buses and commercial vehicles even more so.
The future is not doubling down on car congestion, just in an electric vehicle. Its horses for courses.
Some routes will work best for mass transit. Think Dom Rod going to CDB and also (eventually) down to Airport. Or Northwest. Or East Auckland via the planned A2B. A huge number of people each day are heading broadly to the same area, albeit for different reasons.
Then we can compliment these with a comprehensive network of bike/e-mobility lanes and buslanes, timed to interact, which solves your last mile problem. BTW, why do people complain about last mile and time lost in transfers, but have no issue with wasting time circling for a carpark, paying an extortionate amount for the privilege, nor factor in the time to walk given that most parks won’t actually be next door to where you are going? Its little different on PT, probably just cheaper.
The rest can be left to cars and government policy around emissions/congestion charging to facilitate people changing to EVs, moving to the other options or just sticking with the status quo.
Its not just about trains.
“The problem of needing enough people to be traveling in the same direction seems to be worse for smaller vehicles”
I don’t see how that would be If we just kept the old school “walk to the nearest aggregation point” model and a stream of more regular self driving minivans pulled up at bus stops instead of buses and frequency and capacity were calculated correctly they should all achieve better than one rider per van. I still contend that offering a door to door service (minivan or small people mover picks me up from my driveway) would be the right way to go to drive adoption. And destinations don’t need to be exactly the same, just within some reasonable distance of each other. Computer algorithms can match riders to achieve that.
This is something that wasn’t really practical before the ability to order a ride through an app and track it’s progress to you existed. Before that the best technology is to walk to a thing called a “bus stop”, having read a “timetable” printed on some dead trees containing an estimate of the time a bus might be coming past, and wave your hand at the bus to let it know it needed to stop for you. Sure some elements have been updated and modernized a bit e.g better estimates of bus arrival shown real time but that model is still ~360 years old, pre-dates the ICE and in that model the fixed schedule and fixed route are still king. The big difference now that computers and automation can let the service tailor itself to the locations and needs of the riders vs the riders needing to confirm to the rigid timetable and pickup locations of the service. Timetabled services still work just fine where pickup and drop-off points are convenient compared to where you are going, buses are frequent enough that you don’t have to wonder when the next one will be and ridership is high to keep the buses full enough to overcome their greater energy requirements. But that wouldn’t describe much of suburban Auckland, and describes even less of Auckland outside peak hours.
Uber offers you the ability to save up to 20% by getting a random ride partner and potentially adding up to 8 minutes to your trip. I can see how many would be ah, what the heck it’s not worth a 20% discount to me.
If Uber offered 83% off for 6 people in a self driving government subsidized people mover which only needed to cover subsidized running costs and not have to pay a driver salary it might have better luck attracting ride sharers. Also with Uber it’s a choice you as a rider can make, spend more, get exclusive use. On a public network it’d be something that always potentially happened.
Uber is heavily invested in the concept of self driving vehicles, albeit having divested its self driving division. Cynically it sees humans driving vehicles as an interim strategy, one it will use until appropriate automation exists.
“So realistically 10 people are going to be in 8 or so cars, and those 8 cars will have about the same fuel consumption as that bus.”
Lets take that analysis to be true: If those people get door to door service (or door to transit hub to transit hub to door service) so actually use the service rather than driving a personal ICE vehicle because they find the bus too inconvenient AND it is environmentally no worse than a bus that’s still a win. I know which one I’d bet on if trying to increase ridership.
But you are highlighting that adoption is one of the biggest issues. And convenience is one of the biggest barriers to adoption. And self driving cars will soon make getting yourself from A to B through congestion a whole lot less inconvenient and return that time spent to you. That will increase demand for trips and reduce demand for public transport unless public transport adapts to that new reality (or the private trips are taxed out of existence).
“but have no issue with wasting time circling for a carpark”
With a self driving car you will jump out and tell it to go find a park and park itself and recall it when you next need it. It can park in a smaller space and coordinate with other vehicles for more compact parking usage. That’s assuming you are not using a shared infrastructure one, which you will most likely never see again.
A cynic would say congestion could get worse because why pay for a carpark when you can just tell your car to circulate for 8hrs and charge itself at free public chargers but maybe use less dollars in electricity than an inner city parking charge. (other cities have laws against this in anticipation of the problem).
“The future is not doubling down on car congestion, just in an electric vehicle”
Fully autonomous coordinated electric vehicles of all sizes have the potential for as much as a 5 times throughput increase in an existing lane due to increased speed, reduced following distance, the consistency in not propagating waves of braking back through the traffic and the vehicles being able to execute consistent coordinated maneuvers with less space than nervous humans require. Communicating vehicles can ensure they co-operate to manage congestion in a corridor. The same is also true of self driving buses and if all vehicles in a lane are coordinated and traveling quickly the need for dedicated but sparsely populated bus lanes is much reduced and that further increases capacity. Mix unpredictable humans in and that’s where the problems start and the throughput drops. But it does require thinking about how to build arterials to accommodate that vs same old-same old.
Self-driving cars will be one of the solutions, sure. Along with trains for our busiest routes.
No one is suggesting its one mode for all.