30 Nov 2020

Auckland city centre facing congestion charge of $3.50

6:00 pm on 30 November 2020

A congestion charge of $3.50 to drive through Auckland's central city at peak hours is one option being considered to handle the city's traffic problems.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Main routes in the city could also be subject to charges.

Details of the scheme have been revealed in a just-released report.

According to the report, there could be a peak period travel charge of $3.50 with a lower charge of $1.50 at other times.

A levy would apply Monday to Friday but not at weekends.

The report from July 2020 has been completed by a joint government and Auckland City group called The Congestion Question, set up to see if congestion pricing would work in Auckland.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said congestion charging could reduce traffic in Auckland by up to 12 percent to levels the city experiences during school holidays.

He told Checkpoint he would be one of the people paying the fee for driving into the city from South Auckland every day.

He said the regional fuel tax would need to go if the congestion charge were to come in.

"If we are to introduce something that is an additional tax on people for travelling, then you want it to replace, not be additional to, existing costs that are met by motorists. That needs to be a quid pro quo."

He said the fee would not be introduced before 2025.

"It won't break my bank if I have to pay that, but there are a lot of people out there that are low-income earners and the congestion tax would have a greater impact on them ... you have to have a discount system to cater for equity purposes."

He said experience overseas had shown congestion charging had been an effective tool.

Auckland would also need an effective public transport set-up before the charge comes into force.

Goff said there would need to be "public and cross-party support."

Congestion charges have been introduced in other cities like London, Singapore and Stockholm. Users pay to enter some parts of a city - and often pay more at rush hour.

The report says that with the right design - and improvements to public transport - Auckland could see improvements in traffic flows.

It does suggest helping people who face "unreasonable and unavoidable" increases in transport costs because of charges.

The joint government-Auckland City working group has also identified where congestion charges could be introduced.

It suggests the best zones would be a city centre cordon and along some "strategic corridor" routes - main roads.

The report says setting up charging along some strategic routes would be simple to develop and manage; it could also improve local air quality.

While the working group's report said there was a "strong case" for congestion charging, it also noted the single biggest drawback in charging internationally was a "lack of public acceptance".

It called for discussions with main groups in the city, including travellers and commuters, especially people who may have to pay.

A law would be required but the land Transport Management Act which allows for road tolls could be amended.

A new law could take up to 18 months.

Authorities would also need to work out who ran the scheme.

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