Road pricing, congestion pricing, time of use pricing, whatever you want to call it, it’s back on the council’s agenda with a report going to the Transport and Infrastructure Committee on the next steps. The recommendation is also that the committee “endorse the creation of a joint Auckland Transport / Auckland Council programme team to implement Time of Use Charging“.
- The joint TIC and Auckland Transport (AT) Board workshop held in August 2023 reinforced previous Council and AT Board decisions that Time of Use Charging is a priority for Auckland.
- It was requested that officers report back to the TIC in November 2023 with a proposal to implement Time of Use Charging as a priority and to potentially coincide with the opening of the City Rail Link in 2026.
- In parallel the Manifesto for Auckland, outlines that the Auckland Deal “needs to include an Auckland Integrated Transport Plan … which will include [among other priorities, the ability to empower] Auckland Council to implement congestion charging, set our own parking fines, and other decisions about our transport system”.
- While enabling legislation is still required to implement a Time of Use Charging scheme in Auckland there are several workstreams that can be carried out in parallel with the path of proposed legislation through Parliament and this could inform the detail of the legislation.
- AT has developed an implementation plan (detailed below) to complete the scheme design and engage with stakeholders in the community with the view to moving forward into procurement and implementation by early 2025.
- While early funding placeholders have been included in the Regional Land Transport Plan (RLTP) and the draft Long Term Plan (LTP), resourcing is needed in FY24 to begin preimplementation activities. Work needs to begin now to ensure a scheme could be implemented to coincide with the opening of the City Rail Link in 2026.
There’s a little bit more detail on what is in each of the proposed workstreams in the report but this shows them and the expected timing if council agree to the recommendation.
These workstreams would build on the work undertaken in recent years, such as The Congestion Question work released at the end of 2020, which also involved the Ministry of Transport and Waka Kotahi. It recommended using cameras to record if people are travelling into or through an area covered by the scheme. It suggested you would only pay this fee once per two-hour window after you’re first detected meaning it wouldn’t matter how many cameras you crossed you’ll be charged the same. It would also likely have daily caps and potentially discounts – or some other structure – to support vulnerable groups.
It suggested a scheme that would initially be rolled out in 2025 around the city centre and then be progressively expanded
The workstreams proposed would help narrow down the specifics on things like how people would pay, the prices that would be charged and the times they apply.
Former Transport Minister Michael Wood even sent this scheme to parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee and they unanimously supported it. One of the National Party MPs on that select committee was Christopher Luxon.
Yesterday Mayor Wayne Brown made some interesting comments to Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan
Brown said he is looking at placing the congestion charges on SH1 between the Penrose and Greenlane on-ramps, and SH16 between the Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu on-ramps.
“Between 7am and 9am, those two motorways jam up and between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, they jam up again,” Brown said.
He claimed travelling at peak times was “easily avoidable”.
When du Plessis-Allan asked about parents dropping off children to school, which would fall in the morning peak hours, Brown said when he was a youngster ”you got to school on your own”.
“It isn’t the law you have to get to school in a BMW,” he said.
Brown added there would be “big discussions” about the price, but he said he thought a reasonable price would be $5 each time the motorists used the specified roads at the peak times.
He claimed the prices would ensure people would start to think, “maybe I should start work at that time, and work a bit later and go home a bit later”.
He called the levies “time of use” charges rather than “congestion charges”, comparing the new rules to those in London.
There was no point building new roads, Brown argued, when the existing ones were “empty most of the time”.
It’s great that the Mayor is so enthusiastic for this but at the same time, he’s probably being a bit of his own worst enemy here too. If they stick to something largely resembling the 2020 scheme it won’t impact many people dropping kids off at school, at least not initially. He’d be better focusing his attention on people driving to the city from places where there are already public transport and active mode options, places like St Mary’s Bay and Mt Eden. This is just one example from the 2018 census data but I’m sure AT has a lot more research they can share.
And given he’s also talked a lot about getting public transport working better, it’s a shame he didn’t mention that as an option for avoiding any charges either.
The other element here is the charging strategy. Getting this is will be the hardest part so as long as there is a robust process to review and change the pricing then it might well be better to start with lower costs than ideal in order to get public buy-in. That might not be possible though if the incoming government remove the Regional Fuel Tax like promised.
Auckland Transport wants to speed up this time frame, explaining in a report it would like to forward funding to design a congestion charging scheme so it can be in place by the time the city rail link opens in 2026.
The mayor, however, said even this would be too slow and wants to implement the charges as soon as possible if the incoming Government scraps the regional fuel tax.
The National Party campaigned on ditching the Auckland tax.
“If the Government are going to take away the fuel tax, we’ll need it the day after,” he told BusinessDesk.
“I want to do it next week.”