A ban on cars entering the city, with commuters using shared taxis and mini-buses, is being investigated to cut Auckland's chronic road congestion.
Using computer models which studied traffic in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, officials from the Ministry of Transport and Auckland Council are studying a range of scenarios which could dramatically reduce both congestion and pollution.
Results of the ministry and council's research are due for release later this year, but the conclusions from Lisbon suggest it is possible to transform the experience of getting into the city centre.
The Government said today that it was "very interested" in the study, but it immediately ruled out banning cars in Auckland's CBD.
Transport officials say the transition to what is called "shared mobility" requires careful management if it is to deliver the gains which the studies indicate are possible.
Shared mobility is shorthand for a future where the private car is ditched in favour of cabs and mini-buses managed with smart technology. Instead of hopping in the car for a long drive to work, commuters use smartphones to contact dispatchers for their shared ride.
Incentives along with a bit of stick in the form of car bans and harsh parking costs designed to push commuters into new forms of transport are some of the ideas floated to reduce congestion.
In the Lisbon study, undertaken by the International Transport Forum, the use of shared taxis and mini-buses instead of private cars with just a driver at the wheel slashed the number of vehicles on roads at peak hours and cut carbon dioxide emissions by as much as sixty two per cent.
The research included scenarios where private cars were banned from entering the city centre.
The work suggested that the transition has to be introduced gradually to keep faith with car owners and commuters to create "a positive perception of the collective benefits."
Bridges told the Herald yesterday he was "very interested" in the Lisbon work and its potential application in Auckland.
"I believe that ride-sharing has the potential to be a very exciting and significant tool for helping commuters and cutting congestion," he said.
"That said, there will be no car bans or anything similar. The focus should be on making shared services a more compelling alternative rather than restrictions on other commuters."
Andrew Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Ministry of Transport, said the Auckland study was quite an exacting piece of work and still had some way to go.
But it indicated that under certain circumstances it was possible that "shared mobility" could bring about a range of other benefits.
In Lisbon, the approach made access to jobs and public services more equitable, massively freed up parking spaces for other uses and increased the use of existing train and bus services. This in turn reduced ratepayer or taxpayer subsidies paid to public transport.
The Government and Auckland Council said last year that they wanted to encourage a significant increase in ride-sharing in Auckland. At present, there are 1.3 occupants per car in the city. A rise to 1.8 people per car would cut congestion by 20 per cent, a joint Government-council report said.
Greater use of ride sharing in the city centre is just the latest proposal to cope with Auckland's growing transport problems.
The Government is expected to make an announcement this week around congestion charges in the city, though road pricing is unlikely to be in place for at least five years.
The council's transport arm also recently joined forces with Microsoft in a bid to make commuting easier. Among its goals are a nationwide payment system for buses, ferries and trains and sophisticated, real-time updates on traffic delays.
-additional reporting Isaac Davison