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Potential Danger lurking in Road Pricing Study

February 15, 2007

Potential Danger lurking in Road Pricing Study

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney has expressed some concerns about the next phase of the Ministry of Transport's road pricing study for Auckland.

"While we are supportive of further work being completed," says Swney, "reading between the lines is a lurking danger that the ministry seem to have stronger preferences for one particular scheme, a central Area Charge, than they are publicly divulging."

One of the options examined in the ministry's ARPE Study mirrored the London congestion scheme and proposed charging up to $5 per day for car movements into, out of and within an area including Auckland's CBD, Ponsonby, Sandringham, Mt Eden, Remuera and Newmarket.

"An area charge like this is in effect a selective and unfair tax against people who live and work in those suburbs and the CBD," says Swney, "while thousands of other Aucklanders with road congesting driving habits are let off scott free."

Every international study we have seen tells us that in the same way that night follows day traffic will migrate to free roads when they have a choice and we all know that free roads beyond our central area isthmus will only add to our tag of world champion of sprawl.

Heart of the City considers that it would be very dangerous to introduce any road pricing system to constrain demand for travel to the CBD at peak hours unless, and until, much improved passenger transport services are provided and there has been significant growth it its uptake. This means the public transport infrastructure and services to and around the CBD, and around the region, must be developed to an extent that they can provide that alternative before road pricing is introduced.

Spokesperson Greg McKeown says that further studies need to focus on congestion on motorways and major arterials throughout the region rather than the central isthmus and Spaghetti Junction. "Congestion on State Highway 20 between Manukau City and Waitakere, as an example, will not be greatly relieved by area charges in the CBD," says McKeown. "We will be supporting more ambitious improvements in passenger transport throughout the region," says McKeown, "which will require greater levels of central government funding than in the past."

With regard to road pricing schemes, Heart of the City supports:

- a more detailed study being undertaken to examine the effects of various road pricing schemes on the economies and urban form of Auckland, with a significant focus on the CBD;

- a programme of significant public transport infrastructure and services is agreed, funded and implemented prior to the introduction of road pricing, with increased public transport commitments from central Government;

- analyses going forward focus more on modifying travel behaviour on a region-wide basis, take a longer term view beyond 2016, and take better account of emerging technologies; and

- all net road pricing revenue (if a scheme is introduced) being reinvested in Auckland transport infrastructure and services, through an entity that is accountable to Auckland.

ENDS

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