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Congestion pricing could ease traffic jams

News release

24 August 2007

Congestion pricing could ease traffic jams, new study suggests

Charging motorists travelling on the region’s roads during peak times may be an effective way of reducing congestion, a major new study has found.

The report has been given a cautious welcome by Greater Wellington councillor Terry McDavitt ahead of a meeting of the Regional Land Transport Committee which is due to consider its findings next week.

He said congestion pricing was now ‘on the agenda for Wellington but only in the medium term’ as there was still a lot of groundwork to do, including bringing in the necessary legislation allowing the region to introduce such a scheme.

The report, by consultants Sinclair Knight Merz, explores a number of key issues – passenger transport impacts, technology and costs, social impacts, regional economic and land use impact and social attitudes.

Under the best performing scheme, about 80 per cent of people in the region would not have to pay a charge at all when travelling to and from their workplace.

Congestion pricing, widely used as a way to manage travelling patterns elsewhere in the world, has been mooted as an option for the region since 1996 when it was included in the Regional Land Transport Strategy, and the recently adopted Regional Land Transport Strategy (2006-2016) also contains policies that support road pricing.

Elsewhere in the world experience has shown that congestion charging can work. The London Congestion Charge has significantly reduced traffic in the city centre. In New Zealand, Auckland is working on its own scheme and has commissioned similar feasibility studies.

The study concluded: “Road pricing in the greater Wellington region has the ability to reduce network congestion and be economically and fiscally viable while at the same time having marginal social and regional economic impacts.

“Reducing congestion in the greater Wellington region would improve accessibility and may well improve the regional economy by allowing greater mobility for traffic with a higher value of time,” (For example, freight trucks and commercial vehicles).

Terry McDavitt said: “This study puts congestion charging on the agenda for the medium term so we are at least five years away from any firm decisions. Time is needed to fully consult the public and there is currently no legislation to enable pricing nor any consensus as to where revenues raised should be spent.

“However, we have to face the fact that traffic congestion will get worse in the coming years as Wellington’s population, car ownership and use increases.

“Doing nothing is not an option. We have to develop a range of measures to address congestion. Road pricing could be a part of our toolbox along with public transport, improved efficiency of the roading network, increased use of walking and cycling and other travel demand management measures. However, a lot more work needs to be done on its implications for the community and the regional economy before we reach the stage of making a decision.

“Greater Wellington now needs to get together with our partners, Transit New Zealand, the Ministry of Transport and the territorial authorities – to do more work on the possible role of road pricing on our regional transport network.”

Notes for editors

The report can be found on Greater Wellington Regional Council’s website: www.gw.govt.nz (click on the ‘council and committees’ link) from 4pm Friday, 24 August.


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