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Kerre Woodham: Congestion charges coming soon to a city near you!

Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Nov 2023, 1:32pm
Photo/ Getty Images | File
Photo/ Getty Images | File

Kerre Woodham: Congestion charges coming soon to a city near you!

Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Nov 2023, 1:32pm

Congestion charging... coming soon to a city near you!  

It might be Auckland Mayor, Wayne Brown, floating the idea for now, although he doesn't call it congestion charging. Last night with Heather du Plessis-Allan, he called it ‘time of use charging’, but you know potato, potato. But you can bet the dollars that will be flying out of your wallet that once it's in place in Auckland, other cities will be quick to follow.  

In fact, we had a caller just recently who suggested that Tauranga is looking at the imposition of a congestion charge. But given the red cones in that city, given the road works in that city, it's hardly congested. They'd be desperate for people to come into Tauranga City, I'd have thought, but nonetheless she said that this was something that the administration was considering.  

Congestion charges are designed to free up traffic at peak times, and when Wayne Brown spoke to Heather du Plessis-Allan last night, Brown said he was looking at placing the charges on State Highway 1 between the Penrose and Green Lane on ramps, and on State Highway 16 between the Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu ramps and this is just during peak times. 

According to Brown it's easy to avoid travelling at peak times. He said kids shouldn't be travelling to school in BMW's. It's not the law that says they have to and then he dropped the classic boomer line, ‘In my day you got to school on your own’. Yes, but these days kids are not walking dusty roads in bare feet, are they? Kicking cans and pulling wacky japes with the girls from the classroom next door. They're living in a very sprawled out city, with parents who work. So it's a bit different from back in your day.  

He also says that people should start thinking about when they start work. Maybe they start a bit late and go home a bit later. Which is all very well and good if you have choice in your working hours, but for many people, and generally those who are less well paid than others, who have fewer options than others, the time they start is when they start and there's no negotiation.  

He also said there was no point in building new roads when they were empty most of the time.  Seriously? When are any of Auckland's motorways empty during the day? Does he actually travel out of the inner city? I mean, sure, I accept that there's less traffic from 11pm at night through till about 5am in the morning, but after that she's pretty much choker all day.  

However, be that as it may, do, congestion charges actually work? Do they do the job of reducing traffic on the motorways at peak times? Well, the City of London has had congestion charges for some years, and according to the data, yes, in London they do work. When the charges were introduced by the city's mayor, Ken Livingstone, he hoped the charge would reduce congestion, radically improve bus services, make journey times more consistent for drivers and increase efficiency for those distributing goods and services throughout the city. 

And according to the data, as I say, it's been a success. In 2006, Transport for London reported that the charge reduced traffic by 15% and congestion, that is the extra time a trip would take because of traffic, by 30%.  

Imagine what that would be like if you were one of the many, many drivers delivering goods and services around the city. It would be bliss. And this effect has continued to today according to the data. Traffic volumes in the charging zone are now nearly 1/4 lower than a decade ago, allowing central London road space to be given over to cyclists and pedestrians.  

Other cities have charges. Singapore was the first country to introduce congestion charging. That was way back in 1975, and since then we've had London, Milan, Stockholm, Gothenburg ,and a few other cities who have put in the congestion charge.  

In 2020, the Government, the Auckland Council, and several government agencies produced a report which recommended congestion charges could be phased in from 2025, starting with central Auckland. As I stay starting… once Auckland starts, the others will be sure to follow.  

It found the scheme would generate benefits but cause financial hardship for many households who would require help. And again, that comes back to the point of if you can negotiate your working hours, fine, but for many who are on minimum wage it's take it or leave it. The report suggested prices of between $1.50 and $3.50 during the peak and shoulder hours and no charge off peak. Mayor Brown is talking $5 per trip. And if you were coming into work every day $10 a day, 50 bucks a week, that is going to make a difference, that is going to hit you in your pocket if you are earning a basic wage.  

How many of you have the option of choosing when you work? The hours that you work? Would you choose to travel at off peak times? As Wayne Brown says, start later, work later. How many of you could and would take public transport if congestion charging was introduced? How many of you would just suck it up, pay the money and keep driving?  

According to London, it does work. I imagine that Courier drivers would be thrilled to the boots if we're all on buses leaving the streets free for them to deliver their goods on time without the hassle of trying to find parks or trying to negotiate their way through road works and other motorists.  

Would it change the way you operated in the morning, dropping the kids off at school, then going on to work yourself?  I'd be very interested because it looks like this is going to be something that is introduced, not if, but when. There have been reports, they've been talking about it. It's a bit like the bed tax, not a case of if, but when. 

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