Auckland Council backs more work on road tolls
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Road tolls will not work in Auckland without a thorough investigation of the options and public support, says Mayor Phil Goff.
He was commenting today on a report that says Auckland's gridlock is set to dramatically increase by 30 per cent at peak hours and 50 per cent off peak.
"We have to address this," Goff told today's planning committee where some councillors "nervously" supported going to the next phase and concerns were raised about the effect of tolls on poorer communities.
In the end, councillors voted overwhelmingly to take work on congestion charging - a term for road tolls that are not about raising revenue but changing people's behaviour - to the next phase.
Goff said the council was a long way away from making a decision, saying if the council did not undertake proper analysis and look at the options "it is never going to run".
Officers told the meeting that public support that was crucial for the success of any options for tolling.
Goff praised officers for producing a "warts and all" report that frankly set out the pros and cons of congestion charging.
Despite the Government spending $27 billion on transport in Auckland over the next decade congestion is going to get a lot worse, he said.
"We can't ignore that face, we can't hide from that fact. We have to address it. One of the solutions and not a silver bullet solution is to look at demand management.
"I don't underestimate at all how hard this is and politically for us and the Government," Goff said.
South Auckland councillors Daniel Newman and Efeso Collins raised concerns about the effects of tolls on their communities, Newman saying 85 per cent of people in Manurewa relied on cars as a means of transport.
"I have real concerns about the idea of pricing behaviour without an alternative. It is not fair and I don't believe it will be supported," he said.
Officers said once the council gets closer to drawing up options, expected by August, it will then look at significant engagement with the public.
Said councillor Linda Cooper: "It maybe slow but you wouldn't want to risk it because it is very contentious and will hit people in the pocket."
The report said tolls could be up to a decade away.
The report is the first in a three-step project which could lead to motorists being charged at different times of the day and in different locations across the city.
The report is the first phase of investigating ways of easing congestion by charging motorists to encourage them to change the time, route or way in which they travel.
The first phase updates the growing congestion problem facing the city, looks at models overseas and recommends moving to the next phase of developing options by August.
The third phase is expected to recommend a final option. No date has been given for the final report.
While the first phase found congestion pricing would have a greater potential impact on transport than any transport project, the report said Auckland was heading into "uncharted territory" when it comes to introducing congestion pricing.
If Auckland does proceed with congestion-busting tolls, the report recommends a "bespoke" approach reflecting the city's geographic, social and transport characteristics and introducing any system in steps.
Automatic number plate recognition is likely to be the most suitable and cost effective form of technology, and necessary for enforcement purposes.
Four options for congestion pricing have been examined - an area-based system like London where motorists are charged to cross the boundary or be within the boundary at certain times; a cordon-based system like Stockholm where motorists are just charged to enter the area; a corridor-based system like Singapore for specific roads or routes;and a network-based system charging for congested roads.
The report said a number of international cities have successfully introduced congestion pricing but "no 'New World' cities with dispersed trips patterns and relatively low density of housing has yet introduced congestion pricing".
- NZ Herald