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Tackling Auckland's congestion problems

28 April 2006

Media Release

Business leaders: Tackle Auckland's congestion problems with a portfolio of measures, not just pricing

Auckland needs a package of measures to solve its congestion problems, not road pricing alone.

For too long many commentators have suggested the answer is either more roads or more public transport. Alone, neither can fix Auckland's traffic congestion problem, according to the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Business Council says the Government should keep working on the road pricing concept.

However, the business leaders say it should be used as a tool to ease peak demand, not for revenue raising for more roads or public transport. Increasing regional petrol tax will be a better way to fund Auckland's transport network completion.

In its submission to the Ministry of Transport today on road pricing proposals, the Business Council says it acknowledges the substantial increases in transport funding commitments made by the present government.

"There is, however, a danger of permanent lock in of Auckland's current development patterns if the only substantial action taken is to complete the planned roading network," Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says.

"Auckland's pattern of development has essentially been driven by the relatively low cost and convenience of private transport. It is a development path that has proven itself to be unsustainable. A circuit breaking approach, involving a portfolio of measures, is needed to help ease peak demand on roads."

The idea of congestion pricing should be kept on the table – but it needs to be complemented by a "full roll out" of other measures, like completing the road network, boosting public transport, fast lanes for high-occupancy vehicles, the walking school bus programmes and moving tertiary related travel to off-peak.

However, the Business Council warns that additional roading and public transport could provide an inducement for more people to travel in private cars as journey times and congestion reduce. So some form of congestion pricing will be needed in a portfolio to "decouple" demand from these inducement effects.

Business wanted a drop in peak hour traffic volumes of about 15% - to "school holiday levels".

"Technology breakthroughs mean we are the first generation to make a conscious choice over whether or not to put a price on roads. It will take great leadership to overcome the historic mindset that roads are 'free' as well as the economic legacy created by decades of under-pricing private transport. The total portfolio of solutions to Auckland's transport problems may be more important than the popularity of any individual component.

"The Business Council supports keeping the current proposals on the table and preparing a package that will provide tangible benefits for the overwhelming majority of road users in Auckland, now and in the future," Mr Neilson says.

The Business Council says the impact on the environment is also an important outcome as motorists do not currently face a price for making a choice that creates pollution. Transport is the country's second largest source of emissions but also the sector where it is easier to look at making reductions.

"Air pollution in Auckland is becoming a significant health issue. Reducing the total volume of traffic will reduce these environmental costs. The Business Council notes the positive impact that the study predicts road pricing will have on the environment and welcomes the inclusion of these indicators in the assessment criteria."

The social impact of road pricing measures also needed more work, along with possible uneven impacts on some retail areas outside the central business district.


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