Sunday, April 14, 2024

Auckland traffic congestion plan gets moving

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee has endorsed the Time of Use Charging – Indicative Work Programme, and the creation of a joint Auckland Transport and Auckland Council programme team to progress time of use charging as soon as practicable in a bid to beat traffic congestion across the city.

The committee also noted that staff will report back with updates on the planning and design of the programme, including the impacts on communities and wider issues of equity.

Auckland Mayor, Wayne Brown says Auckland suffers from a terrible congestion problem, which is estimated to cost the city between $0.9 billion and $1 billion dollars a year.

“We can’t just build our way out of the problem; we need to make better use of our roads. We know where and when traffic jams occur, and this will fix them. I was voted in to get Auckland moving. To harness technology to get traffic moving faster. To complete busways and optimise our transport networks. That is what I’m doing,” he said.

“Our motorways functioning as they do in the school holidays all the time; that sounds pretty good to me. A tradie being able to reach eight jobs in one day instead of five, that also sounds good.”

“I’m looking forward to us getting on with it. There has been a lot of work done here already, and we know from overseas examples that this works. I’ll be taking this up with the incoming minister as soon as the new Government is formed.” 

Councillor John Watson, Chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, noted that this is a significant piece of work and will require some pre-work from Auckland Transport and Auckland Council to ensure a fair outcome for all the impacted communities.

“The joint Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting and Auckland Transport Board workshop held in August this year reinforced previous Auckland Council and Auckland Transport Board decisions – time of use charging has been in the pipeline for many years,” says Cr Watson.

“Many Aucklanders are already changing their behaviour and we can see the flow-on effects on congestion. There are many benefits to time of use charging, however, it is important that we have the right public transport in place and, more importantly, bring Aucklanders along on the journey.”

Councillor Christine Fletcher, Deputy Chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee echoes this sentiment while emphasising the importance of equity.

“We recognise that legislation is required to implement a time of use charging scheme in Auckland but there is plenty of work to be done in the meantime, which is why this decision has been. This is the next step forward on a piece of work that we have been working towards for a long time – this is something we must do,” says Cr Fletcher.

“It’s also important that we consider the significance of equity and look to international cities as a blueprint of ensuring that if we do move forward with time of use charging, it is not simply for revenue but in order to create a better and more liveable city for all Aucklanders, in a sustainable manner.”

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have been working on the programme, including developing an implementation plan to complete the scheme design and engage with stakeholders in the community, with the view to moving forward into procurement and implementation by early 2025.

“Peak traffic congestion on Auckland’s arterial roads and motorways is worse than it was before COVID-19. Time of use charging is a relatively low-cost solution which has worked overseas to reduce congestion,” says Auckland Transport General Manager, Services and Performance, Tracey Berkahn.

“Though ‘off-the-shelf’ technology already exists, the enabling legislation is required before we can make time of use charging happen. Work also needs to be done to find the best way it can be implemented in Auckland, and we are eager to get this work underway.

“An important part of this is working with our communities to make sure time of use charging is an equitable and fair system for Aucklanders. Measures like daily caps and concessions could be implemented to support this.”

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee also invited Waka Kotahi to contribute to relevant workstreams, if appropriate, and endorsed the formation of a political reference group to provide political oversight of the work undertaken.

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