The Government has given its clearest indication yet that congestion pricing could be coming to Auckland.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said he would look at all the recommendations from a select committee inquiry into congestion pricing in Auckland, which was published on Friday.
The committee recommended rolling out the charges in Auckland – it also recommended passing legislation to allow other cities in New Zealand to also use congestion pricing.
It puts the ball in the court of Transport Minister Michael Wood and the Government who can now decide what to do with it.
Wood said, “International evidence shows congestion charging can be a useful tool to help unclog cities and having a consensus across the committee sends a strong message.
“It’s really positive to have cross party consensus on this issue and we are considering congestion chagrin as part of our Emissions Reductions Plan.”
Congestion pricing would likely mean motorists paying a fee to use certain high-congestion streets, likely downtown Auckland.
The report suggests charges would apply in downtown Auckland and certain “strategic corridors” in the region. Cameras with number plate recognition technology would monitor and automatically bill drivers as they entered the congestion charging zone, meaning no need for toll booths.
The committee cited earlier resarch saying the charges could reduce congestion on Auckland’s roads by 8-12 per cent.
The fees, which are common overseas, are used to encourage people to use other forms of transport to avoid being charged.
Although the committee only looked at congestion pricing in Auckland, other councils are also keen to implement the scheme.
The Greater Wellington and Wellington City Councils submitted to the inquiry, also wanting the ability to implement congestion pricing.
The committee recommended that the legislation passed to enact congestion pricing in Auckland be left open ended to allow other councils to implement it in future.
One detail that is less clear is whether congestion pricing would lead to the removal of the Auckland regional fuel tax of 10 cents a litre on fuel sold in Auckland.
This fee is to help Auckland pay for the cost of the city’s expensive transport investment.
The committee recommended doing some further research on whether collecting fees for congestion pricing would allow the Government to do away with the fuel tax.
However it warned that the goals of congestion pricing and fuel taxes are different.
Congestion pricing is designed to make people change the way they travel – in that sense it is not designed to raise money.
The fuel tax, by contrast, is designed to raise money to fill a hole in the Auckland transport budget.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has previously said he supports replacing the tax with congestion pricing, but only if the sums add up.
The committee also suggested that money raised from congestion pricing be reinvested in public transport and active transit (like walking and cycling).
The Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan is due by the end of the year.
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