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Councillor demands research into tolls impact

RAM media release 29.4.06

ARC councillor demands research into social & economic impacts of tolls

RAM councillor Robyn Hughes, one of the Auckland Regional Council's most outspoken opponents of road tolls, recently voted for an ARC submission that calls for further research into tolling.

This ARC submission went to the Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study (ARPES) being run by the Ministry of transport.

"I voted for more research because ARPES did not study the social and economic impacts of tolls," said Robyn Hughes. "It fell well short of any reasonable research standards because it focused very narrowly on tolling or road pricing. I put up a successful amendment that social and economic research be part of any further study, and that was added to the ARC submission to ARPES."

"I believe such groundbreaking research on the social and economic aspects of tolls would show hugely negative impacts on low-to-modest income people, who make up the vast majority of the region's citizens. Yet until we have competent research into this issue, the pro-tolls lobby will continue to claim, wrongly in my opinion, that tolls are a 'fair' way to tackle road congestion."

"If congestion is the problem we're trying to solve, then getting cars off the road is the solution. You can only get cars off the road if there's another way for people to travel."

"I believe that 3,000 extra low-emission buses, to be run fare-free as a public service, is Auckland's immediate solution to car chaos. In the longer term, we should plan for more rail. Carrying out this two-step, bus-rail strategy would take away any need to build more motorways or to impose tolls," said Robyn Hughes.

"This bold but realistic strategy must be funded by a major shift of government cash from roads to buses and other public transport, which will be a much cheaper option than a continuation of motorway mania and car congestion and global warming. Last year alone, the government spent $1.35 billion on Auckland's highways. Diverting only a part of this huge amount into sustainable transport could fund 3,000 fare-free buses, which could be taking people everywhere within a short period of time."

"RAM wants free buses, not unfree roads. I'm very pleased that the ARC recently voted in favour of my motion calling for a feasibility study into a free bus trial, and that the Auckland Regional Transport Authority is moving to implement such a feasibility study," said Robyn Hughes.

"Any systems analyst will tell you that the simpler the system, the more likely it will work. RAM's two-step, bus-train strategy is simple."

"In contrast, the pro-tolls lobby want layers of taxes and tolls and road pricing schemes. These would be hugely complicated, creating a vast bureaucracy, and toll cameras would intrude into the private lives of travellers, all in addition to inflicting a heavy economic and social burden on ordinary people."

"Turning roads into a complex, bureaucratic, unfair money-making business that effectively destroys public ownership of public highways is a disaster waiting to happen. We can stop it happening only by promoting a workable alternative, like RAM's free buses."

ENDS

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