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Road Pricing in Akld Will Spur Passenger Transport

Road Pricing in Auckland Will Spur Passenger Transport Development

Solutions to Auckland’s increasing traffic congestion depend almost entirely on money.

Money to build roads and money to develop and sustain an efficient and effective passenger transport network.

Obstacles created by the Resource Management Act can be overcome by changes to legislation – but money to pay for transport infrastructure is not growing on trees.

However there is the $700 million or so of excise duty and other road user taxes which currently goes to the consolidated fund. That should go into the transport fund bucket for a start

No doubt the government would find it necessary to recoup that ‘lost’ income from general taxation – but that should not create any violent out-cry.

A bit of belt-tightening on government expenditure would help.

But additional funding would still be needed if Auckland is to have both a completed motorway system and an efficient passenger transport network.

The options proposed in the Auckland Pricing Study all have flaws – some more glaring than others.

Nevertheless the basic aims of the study are valid – to reduce congestion in the shorter term and provide funds for long term solutions, both new roading and public transport

Consider the size of the problem

Congestion is increasing throughout the region – and not just in central Auckland.

We know the roading solution – complete the motorway network.

Public transport is more complex but we do know that rail passenger transport is the most expensive solution – in terms of both capital and operating costs.

Buses are the most flexible form of public transport – and bus fleets can be expanded much more rapidly than rail rolling stock.

In terms of implementing solutions in the foreseeable future the need is for immediate steps to slow the increase in ‘discretionary’ car use and commence the rapid expansion of the bus network.

Much of the opposition to road pricing is qualified, quite correctly, by claims that there is no viable public transport system in place.

The can be done by implementing the Auckland Passenger Transport Network Plan [PTNP]

In the current debate there has been little reference to this Plan which is currently open for public consultation.

Those who have commentated tend to decry the Passenger Transport Plan because they do not believe it will be implemented – and/or it is overly biased towards rail.

I do not wholly share this scepticism.

The Plan can be implemented – and any bias towards rail can be shifted in favour of a bus network – provided there is sufficient funding.

And that funding can only realistically come from some form of road pricing.

Of the pricing options offered in the Pricing Study I believe that some form of single cordon proposal is the right place to start.

It should be cheaper and quicker to implement than other options.

A cordon charge would have an immediate effect on easing congestion by removing some ‘non-essential’ private cars from the roads at peak travel time.

The charge would also produce adequate funding for public transport development.

I believe the other options on offer will either disadvantage too many people – or will take too long to implement.

Decisions need to be taken now and those decisions implemented rapidly.

We should not have to wait until gridlock becomes reality.

Public aversion to any form of additional tax – tolls, parking levies and congestion charges – would be softened if an efficient public transport system was being developed at the same time.

Finally, any congestion-busting programme must be controlled by professionals rather than local and regional politicians who have shown over the years that they are not capable of managing the implementation of previous congestion-busting plans.



[David Thornton is a former - North Shore City Councillor, Glenfield Community Board Member, member of Auckland Regional Land Transport Committee]

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