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Solution to New Zealand traffic congestion

Road tolls a solution to New Zealand traffic congestion

New Zealand should introduce road tolls to help fund efficient public transport, walkways, cycleways and safe routes to school for children, according to the Public Health Association.

In a submission to today's hearing of the Transport Select Committee on the Land Transport Management and Road Traffic Reduction Bills, the PHA says transport systems have major impacts on health and it is time to shift the focus to more efficient and safer transport options.

Director Gay Keating says studies in Singapore, Norway and London show road tolls have reduced traffic levels and made inner cities more attractive for walking and cycling. In London part of the congestion charge is used to fund safe routes to schools, as well as improving bus stops and road safety, she says.

"We believe the New Zealand Government should build into the legislation a requirement that some toll money should be devoted to local programmes to build and maintain walkways and cycleways, safe routes to school for children and toward public transport."

A move back to children walking to school, through initiatives such as the successful "virtual school bus" would help reduce car crashes and child obesity, as well as reducing air pollution, stress and noise, according to Dr Keating.

"Weight control and regular physical activity will lead to substantial decreases in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases."

Dr Keating says the PHA supports regional councils having transport plans as a way of tailoring solutions to local transport needs. She says there is a particular need for regional councils to invest more heavily in public transport, walkways and cycleways.

The PHA says efficient public transport systems would reduce road injuries and deaths, as well as reducing noise pollution and the production of greenhouse gases. It says low-income communities have greater need for good access to public transport and it is important those with greater access to private transport do not capture transport policy.

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