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Aucklanders Are Up For The Congestion Pricing Conversation – New Research

Aucklanders are open to the idea of congestion pricing, and are ready for a constructive, pragmatic conversation about the form a scheme in their city might take.  

That’s the main take-out from new research commissioned by policy and advocacy organisation the Northern Infrastructure Forum (NIF), and delivered by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, a think tank and research centre at the University of Auckland.

The research involved exploring the views of the community on congestion pricing, or time-of-use charging, using deliberative democracy principles.  A panel of 30 Aucklanders was randomly selected, and its members met four times during April and May to learn about the issue, ask questions of experts and stakeholders, and listen to each others’ perspectives on the range of trade-offs Aucklanders face.

At the end of the process, they developed a set of principles to help inform the design of a time-of-use charging scheme, which was presented to Auckland Council and Auckland Transport, and shared with central government.

NIF Executive Director Barney Irvine says that, while panel members supported congestion pricing in principle, they also had concerns.

“All panelists could see the potential game-changing benefits of congestion pricing for Auckland, and the consensus view was that it needs to be brought to the table.

“At the same time, they’re wary of the new costs it will generate – both in terms of financial cost and in inconvenience – and they want to see steps taken to reduce the impact on the most vulnerable.”

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Mr Irvine says the purpose of the research was to provide insights to policy-makers as they work on the design of a congestion pricing scheme in the coming months.

“The clear message is that Aucklanders are up for the conversation: they know that what we’re doing now isn’t working, and that we need to consider new approaches.  Policy-makers can take a lot of heart from that, and so can business groups like ours that really want to see the debate move forward.

“The onus is now on Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and the Government to listen to the feedback and come up with a scheme that can work for Aucklanders.”

That means delivering clear de-congestion benefits (to enhance Auckland’s productivity and liveability), sensible use of discounts and exemptions, and using revenue generated to provide more public transport alternatives for Aucklanders.

“It also means getting the balance right when it comes to timeframes,” says Mr Irvine.

“We want the policymakers to move this forward with real purpose, but they also have to give Aucklanders time to get their heads around what would be a massive step for the city, and the adjustments that individuals and households will have to make.”

Dr Anne Bardsley, who led the project for Koi Tū, says the deliberative democratic approach results in a more informed and considered public judgement than what can be provided by typical surveys, which capture top-of-mind views.

“The process was evidence-informed and provided the opportunity for the panel to think about the full range of public and stakeholder impacts, both positive and negative. This is important for decision-making on an issue like time-of-use charging, which has really complex technical and public values components, all of which must align,” she says.

The principles and criteria set out by the community panel are summarised below:

  • The primary objective must be to reduce congestion
  • Strategic use of discounts and exemptions to mitigate social impacts
  • Revenue must be used exclusively to provide transport options for Aucklanders, particularly public transport options
  • Keep it simple and transparent:
  1. People need to know what they’re paying and when, and timing and pricing should be reviewed regularly
  2. Initial geographic boundary for charging zone must not be too complex
  3. User-friendly and reliable payment systems
  • Clear communication of benefits, particularly de-congestion benefits

The Community Panel report can be sourced here: https://www.informedfutures.org/congestion-community-panel.

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