Readers' Views: Auckland road pricing

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This week the Herald outlines four schemes being considered to cut congestion on Auckland roads. Our readers respond:

In general:

It amazes me that some experts compare Auckland traffic problems with London. London population is twice that of the whole of NZ, and the metropolitan area population is over 12 millions. Yet London does have an efficient public transport system. As well, price of petrol in UK is over $3 per litre. The message is, get a public transport system. Toll cordons are a bureaucratic nightmare, and quite unnecessary in a city as small as Auckland. Bump the price of petrol and put the resulting billions into public transport and petrol/diesel replacement technologies, and include all of NZ so it doesn't seem like we are all subsidising Auckland which has only one third of NZ population, look, the rest of us have car problems too, so I would happily pay $3 a litre in Christchurch if I thought our leaders had a coherent plan.
- W. Little

Motorists have got to become politically organised. Priorities must be shutting down local government, especially the Auckland City Council and getting rid of the Labour Government and Transit New Zealand. We must also destroy any organisation that supports or even does not actively oppose the manipulation of the behaviour of what was once a free people who lived in a free country.

We must never accept any interference in our freedom of movement from anyone. In a free country people make their own decisions. They are not made for them by regulations or by behavioural manipulation.
- K M Findlay, Chief Tea Lady, Campaign Against The Campaign For Public Transport.

For residents in Auckland and within the cordonned area, the imposition of the toll system is nothing more than another opportunity to gouge ratepayers. Recently we have endured rates increases and seen little more than new trees in Queen Street for it. The proponents of these tolling schemes need to understand a little about geography when comparing Auckland and London. Auckland is on an isthmus, London is not. To get from the South to North, or vice versa, one must go through this cordon. In London one can skirt the entire city. "There are times in leadership where one has to be prepared to take the people where they ought to go, rather than where they want to go" Well, Dick, you "want" to do this, which is going to cost us personally? In response it is time to boycott Hubbard Foods, methinks.
- Alan Litchfield

I am not against the introduction of tolls but we have to have an adequate public transport system put in place first.  To kick people out of their cars we need to have a viable alternative in place beforehand. That system also needs to be properly funded. People who actually drive for a living (couriers, truck drivers etc) should be exempt from such tolls as it is commuters we're trying to get off the roads. London is not the model to look at as it has been horrifically under-funded for years now and is a shadow of its former glory. Perhaps we need to look at somewhere like Hong Kong where they operate ferries, buses, trams and an underground system. These are cheap to use, efficient and clean. Given Hong Kong is a harbour city with similar challenges to those facing Auckland, perhaps its experience would be more beneficial to us than looking at somewhere like London.
- B. Donovan

The cordons and tolls will not work since they will target only those who cross cordon lines at certain points and who use motorways. These ideas simply shift traffic on to suburban back streets, making them more hazardous. We need responsible spending of road and petrol taxes on improved roads and public transport at a cheaper, subsidised rate. To journey from Glendene to Epsom each day is impossible by public transport.
- Graham Foster

Even though I will have to pay, I support the proposal. It is time to get realistic about the cost of private vehicle use and this initiative will make public transport more viable and attractive. The Government needs to show some courage in tackling congestion and not simply continue to build roads which only fill up shortly after completion anyway. It's time for some bold action.
- Kelsang Wangchuk

How can officials justify spending $2.3 million on studying road pricing in Auckland where there is no viable alternative means of transport? Anyone can tell you it will not work. It's so fundamental. Who made the decision? The question whether Auckland's road congestion problem is better tackled by road pricing or improving public transport is a no-brainer. Everyone is better off by having an efficient and cheap public transport system. Everyone is worse off with road pricing. Aucklanders get poorer, the cost of commuting goes up and Auckland becomes even more uncompetitive compared with other global cities.
- James Han

Road user pays? Bring it on, I say. I am sick of having my tax dollars used to subsidise everyone in the automotive, oil and civil construction industries from Dick Cheney downwards. As an employer, I have invested thousands of dollars in technology to allow our employees to work remotely from home, reducing road congestion. Yet I haven't had a single taxpayer handout for this investment. This is unfair and irrational. Why should road users and the industries that feed off them get taxpayer dollars to prop up 19th century technology like the internal combustion engine? Charge the driver the actual cost of providing roads by the kilometre, I say. That will pretty soon create a level playing field and get investment and tax dollars where they are needed, into the new, post-industrial economy.
- Shaun Bowler

If the money taken by the Government from car road users was spent on the needs of those users, we would not have a problem with funding essential improvements to our roads. The whole charging regime being proposed assumes people are travelling from the suburbs to the CBD. For those who are, public transport is an option, but for others it is not. Estimates are that "up to 20 per cent" of Aucklanders could use public transport. Why penalise the other 80 per cent by making it harder for cars and subsidising the unaffordable public options? The Auckland area local authorities have become anti-car. I believe the AA should encourage a political campaign at the next local body elections, supporting only those candidates who stand against these attacks on private transport by Auckland's local politicians.
- Jim Center

I am revolted, yet hardly surprised, by the concept that those who get to travel into Auckland by car are determined purely by how many dollars they have, rather than by the need for them to make the journey. Surely those who can actually make the journey by public transport should do so, and those who cannot should not be penalised for the lack of public infrastructure, regardless of how rich or poor they are. It is not a financial problem, but a social one.
- Vik Olliver

I am a 25-year-old professional woman who works in the Mt Eden/Grafton area, and lives on Old Mill Rd in Grey Lynn/Westmere. It takes me roughly 10 minutes to drive to work. I start at 7.30am but have to be there by 6.45am to find a park. In theory it would be ideal to catch a bus to get me there closer to my start time. I could even stay for a couple of drinks on a Friday as I don't have to drive home. I wish it was that easy. I can catch a bus 200m from my house, which will take 30 minutes to get me to Britomart and cost $3. From there I have to wait maybe 15 minutes to get a bus that goes back the way I came to the top of Symonds St and down Mt Eden Rd, where I get off, after paying $1.50, and walk the rest of the way to work (Boston Rd). The total journey takes well over an hour each way, costing $9 a day, or $45 a week. Petrol costs would be about $20.
- Katarien Mulder

There are other options to reduce vehicles on the roads. Car pooling could be encouraged by introducing car pool lanes. Better transport connections could be provided. The council and Government need to find out why the public are driving their cars and give them transport options to enable them to get out of their cars and catch buses. The park and rides on the Shore are a good example of the public using a facility made available to them. Unfortunately, poor planning on parking availability is reducing their effectiveness. I lived in London when they implemented the congestion charge; the company that controlled it made a loss and had to ask the council for extra money. So while the system worked to get vehicles off the road it would not have provided money to facilitate the introduction of further public transport options.
- Tanya Lee

First things first - get the public transport sorted! Mt Roskill Park 'n' Ride depot has been closed for a motorway to go through. What does this tell commuters? East Auckland gets a double cordon charge, even though they often have to catch three buses to get to work or otherwise take two hours travelling by bus to get to their destination. Our lives are already too busy to contemplate several trips on buses that don't turn up on time (or at all) to even try to connect two together without a half-hour or 45-minute wait (and that is in the rush hour) in a shelter that does not provide shelter from weather. With exorbitant carparking, extra charges for cordons or parking and increased petrol prices, where does that leave us - on the dole because it is too expensive to work? Or perhaps we just go homeless, opt out of society or even (hey, this is a good idea) live in the country or go overseas!
- Carole Van Weede

Instead of charging for bridge crossings and entry to congestion areas, why not make a start by charging for cars and 4WDs used for transporting schoolchildren, many of whom seem to have lost the use of their legs? Then, as the North Shore City Council is mooting, put the brakes on infill housing, a move I heartily endorse. Next, put the brakes on metropolitan Auckland's urban sprawl. Ring-fence the existing rural areas within, say, the areas bounded by Pukekohe and Warkworth. As for the tall-poppy syndrome of suggesting that North Shore people are more affluent that westies and those in south Auckland, perhaps the academics who dreamed that up need to get out more. Call me cynical if you like, but I'd be surprised if all of the revenue derived from these ideas would end up being directed to providing useful public transport options any more than the full double taxation of fuel goes into roading.
- Peter Patten

Proposal 4: Motorway tolls, 6am-10am weekdays

I was shocked to read in the Herald that I could be charged $4.80 for driving on the Southern Motorway to Auckland. I drive from Pukekohe to Penrose. It takes me between 60 and 90 minutes every morning with a five-minute stop in Manukau. The motorway is only two lanes until just after Takanini, meaning we sit in stop-start traffic from before Papakura. By the time it gets to three lanes it's so congested from the backlog of people trying to get into the city that it doesn't get any better. I wouldn't mind paying a couple of dollars a day if I was getting some value, but paying $4.80 to sit in that traffic is ridiculous. I will probably resort to trying to go around the back roads, which will then take even longer, but will be more cost-effective. Perhaps they could fix our motorways first so we can commute in a reasonable timeframe, then most of us would see the value in contributing towards it.
- Abby Mills

Proposal 3: Drivers charged up to $6 to cross a cordon surrounding the Auckland isthmus, 6am-10am weekdays

I have been advised by Transport New Zealand that I am liable for the cordon levy as outlined in your paper. I live in Westmere and work in Avondale. I travel against the traffic each morning and feel I should not be penalised for living within the area and leaving it. I am not causing any traffic problems and I have chosen to work where I am to avoid the issues you are trying to solve. I should be congratulated, not penalised. I don't have too many issues with people entering the cordon being charged as this will be an incentive to use alternate means of transport. Of course those alternates would need to be improved markedly so it is not inconvenient for people to change their habits.
- Stephen Moorhead

Has any thought been given to through traffic? Cordons will only compound the malignant cancer which throttles the North Island at its neck and threatens to cut Northland off from the rest of the country. Already we have to time our journeys south in order not to get caught up in your mess. Cordon pricing will only add insult to frustration. We would go around Jafaland if we could. Regulate the on- and off-ramps if you must, but please leave State Highway 1 alone as a toll-free throughpass.
- Roger Evans

My wife is one of many thousands of nurses who work at Auckland City Hospital, which is sited within the "inner ring" as per the various proposals. As a shift worker she is unable to use the available public transport. In fact within the "ring" there are numerous emergency services whose staff are also unable to use public transport. In levying a toll - read tax - the Government and city councils would simply be collecting revenue without providing any extra or pertinent services. Make it difficult and they may look elsewhere for employment. So ultimately a road toll may prove a burden on the health service.
- Dave Erson

I object to the proposal for a $5 congestion charge for all motorists driving on weekdays within the congestion zone. I am a pensioner living outside the congestion zone but at times have to travel into this zone for specialist medical services along Remuera Rd (specialists' mile). I am on a very limited financial budget and I find extreme difficulty coping with the higher fuel charges, including the fuel tax, and now I have to pay another tax called congestion tax to see my medical advisers. I object strongly to any congestion charge in Auckland City.
- Joy Mackenzie

I have lived and worked in the cities of London and Riyadh and in neither of those cities did my wife and I own a car. Only occasionally did we miss it. This was because there was a viable alternative. In Auckland I could not imagine my wife and I not having two cars. I often regret that we have to have the expense of two vehicles, but I don't see an alternative. Now those advocating Aucklanders should start paying all sorts of penalty charges to force us out of our cars are either dolts, elected officials who are ready for retirement, or people who don't live in Auckland. It seems to me that there are a number of bright sparks who think it will be okay to invest properly in a credible public transport network once half the city starts using it. Wrong. You need to have a properly viable system up and running first, then it will receive the sort of patronage to make a difference.
- Gordon Love

Your readers have got it right - and the people who put the rings proposals forward should repay their fees. The only way to make any sort of road pricing proposal work is to put good public transport in place first, then penalise people for not using it. We - or our children - are going to have to pay a huge price for the mistake of allowing sprawling suburbs to grow up round the Greater Auckland motorway system. Most European countries (including Britain) grew around railway systems to which motorway systems were added later. Doing things the other way round is not likely to be cheap.
- Robert Sweet

Move Auckland University and other tertiary schools, as well as numerous language schools, out of the CBD and you can solve the traffic congestion in no time. This is proven, as when school holidays come, there are never traffic jams.
- Leanne Li

These proposals are a horribly blunt instrument. I live in the Waitakere ranges and work at the airport. The roading in the ranges is absolutely appalling and no one seems inclined to increase spending there. I have absolutely no viable public transport options unless I'm willing to spend six hours a day commuting. No amount of tolls can deter my motoring, so if that's the express reason for the introduction then it has failed to do anything but cost me dollars. Meanwhile, since I leave the Northwestern Motorway at Pt Chevalier and get on the airport motorway at Hillsborough, I can't see that I'm especially the cause of congestion. For pity's sake, Auckland, stop pouring good money after bad and build us a decent rail system.
- Chris Evans

For the last 50 years Transit NZ and councils have built roads at the taxpayer's expense, but now that drivers are using them it's become a matter of controlling the masses by means of a congestion tax. We have been deceived by the roading authorities over the last 50 years in not promoting a more efficient and alternative means of travel. Auckland residents indicated with some gusto at the last elections to have better public transport. To date we are only fixing up what already exists. Without spending $1 in capital expenditure the biggest factor to change driver behaviour is already happening in the way of higher fuel cost. Pity, however, the lack of public transport choice is just not there for many people. Aucklanders, give your elected officials a wake-up call, tell them to forget about more roads, tolls and other forms of keeping us in financial slavery to the oil companies.
- Dennis Poole

I live in Northcote, North Shore City, and I travel to work each day in Mt Eden. The proposed fee of $5 a day would significantly affect my already tight budget (made tighter by recent petrol price increases). In order to travel to work using public transport I would have to catch a bus to the city centre and then catch another bus out to Mt Eden. Or I could drive to Fishermans Wharf, catch a ferry to the city centre and then catch a bus out to Mt Eden. I know of several people who have had their cars broken into while parked at the ferry terminal and at least one person who has had their car stolen. I would use public transport if I could travel directly to my work destination. If you would like to compare Auckland to London, maybe we could have an underground train system to the whole of the so-called congestion zone so that people wouldn't have to wait around in the cold, rain and dark for numerous buses to finally get them to where they want to go.
- Alison Green

After returning recently from London I find it unbelievable that Auckland still doesn't have any positive direction for its transport woes. These new submissions concerning congestion charges can't possibly work till a decent public transport system is set in place. The public need a reliable, organised and multi-directional link across the city. In London, for example, there is a bus, tube or train stop within 5 minutes' walk of your front door. Maybe it's time we became one city under one mayor with regional deputies to get one positive direction forward.
- Cameron Cook

I for one would gladly get out of my car and on to a bus if I was able to sit for the length of the journey, the bus ran on time, there was no chance of the bus being so full it couldn't stop to pick me up, and drivers were customer-friendly. Auckland should first and foremost do something about improving the public transport system so that people are able to get out of their cars - maybe then this discussion would not be necessary.
- Anne White

When will this lunacy stop? The sheer hypocrisy of councils, that in their greed for rateable income allow rampant subdivision to take place without the appropriate investment in transport infrastructure. As if petrol wasn't dear enough. Now they want to tax us out of using our cars and force us into alternative transport systems that could in no way cope if we all left our cars at home. For starters, how does the system discriminate if you (unfortunately) have to pass through Auckland from, say, Hamilton to Whangarei? Do tourists in hire cars pay - if so how do you enforce this? Significant investment in alternative transport systems must come before any tolling regime is considered.
- Dave Chambers

I am mortified by these clumsy proposals to solve our traffic woes. How can they compare Auckland with London? It seems incredibly basic that central and local government need to bite the bullet and implement a robust modern pubic transport system, so that the community have options. They have been putting this off for years. Auckland City needs a sound heart, and this means people, to enjoy its wonderful facilities, the vibrancy created by commerce and the $4.4 billion a year generated by Auckland University, but these ill-thought-out proposals will only drive the community out of the city, leaving a vacuum behind. It's time our central Government stopped their blinkered view of Auckland.
- Roger Thorburn

Most of the options to reduce traffic congestion in Auckland seem to relate to charging. Being well-off, it's going to be fabulous for my motorway commuting times that the Government will allow the poor to be forced from their cars to make way for me. However, I don't believe this is particularly fair, and also strongly believe that all Auckland motorists want to be left alone from the we-know-what's-best-for-you squad trying to force them from their cars. The best, simplest solution is to leave everything as it is. Because in coming years the excessive travel times due to congestion will endear greater numbers to public transport anyway.
- Rob Simpson

Proposal 2: Area charges of $5 a day if motorists drive through a 40sq km 'congestion zone' during morning peak hours.

I believe that the Auckland road pricing is a humungous joke! What sort of comparison does Auckland have with London's roads? In London, with a population of 7 million and efficient public transport, driving can be unnecessary. What we have in New Zealand is expensive and inadequate bus routes that don't take you to the places intended. Driving a car costs more or less the same as public transport.
- Agnes Wong

The proposed congestion charge to tackle traffic congestion in Auckland is flawed. The Third World public transport system in the Auckland region is poor as only 7 per cent of the workforce use it, compared with 85 per cent using a first-class one in London. Until the Auckland region has a complete, reliable, competitive and alternative public transport network to use instead of private motor vehicles, traffic congestion will only increase in other areas around Auckland not affected by congestion charges. There will be no public acceptability of road pricing schemes without offering much needed improvements to public transport.
- Patrick McFarlane

In reading about the proposed traffic levies for the central Auckland area it has occurred to me that this system will be unfair on those who have early hospital appointments. It looks as though both Auckland City Hospital and the Greenlane Clinical Centre will be included in this zone. Now we all know how long it sometimes takes to get an appointment in the public health system and if that appointment happens to be at 8am or any time within the restricted period you will have to pay the levy. Many of those whom this will affect are not able to use public transport because of their health or disability and therefore drive themselves or have family that do it for them. Is it fair that in an attempt to force people to use public transport to gain access to the CBD, others who can't use public transport for varied and legitimate reasons are being penalised in the process? Instead of placing a levy, which is really to gather more tax and punish those of us who dare to use our cars, why not think of the reasons we do use our cars and don't use public transport? Public transport in Auckland is not efficient. It's too expensive and never runs on time, and the quality of service to the passenger is poor to say the least.
-Carolyn Peat

I am a registered nurse and work night duty at Ascot Hospital, starting work at 8.45pm and finishing at 7.15am. I would be in the charge area when I came home from work, as I live in Meadowbank. Why should I be penalised $5 for driving about 5kms after working at night? I am not going towards the centre city. I would have no idea if there was a bus that could get me to work and home again. It is just ludicrous to say that I would have to pay $5 to drive home! Because Ascot Hospital is in the charging area, anyone getting on the motorway and going south would also be in the charging zone. Would there be exemptions for leaving the zone?
- Glenys Redditt

Before the Government even dreams of filling up their coffers with even more taxes from us they should do their homework first. It's all well and good to dream of reducing congestion by forcing people into public transport like in London. But our public transport system is a disgrace, and no comparison should be made with London. I have opted to drive a motorbike to help reduce congestion. There is no way I would ever own a car in Auckland. But the real problem of congestion is all the parents who think that their children will die if they have to walk or cycle or catch the bus anywhere. So they get lazier by the day and are chauffeured around or, even worse, drive themselves to school at the age of 16. If it is user pays, get the schools to collect a levy for the Government. During school holidays the congestion isn't really an issue is it? I also think it would be a good idea if people's bus fares to and from work were fully tax deductible, like in some smart European countries. The shortsightedness of New Zealand astounds me. No wonder people get fed up living in this country.
- Heidi Napflin

Another example of council and central Government's inability to find a long-term solution to Auckland's transport congestion. Central Government lacks the foresight to see the consequence of an immigration policy that has contributed to the problem as the infrastructure fails to cope. Another attempt at best may contain but will not solve the problem long-term.
- Paul Collins

I had imagined that the Government would tread slowly the steps between dog microchipping and human microchipping, but it appears that Aucklanders are already in their sights. In what is supposedly an egalitarian society full of liberal freedoms, both public and private, a policy whereby people are economically targeted to be priced out of the option of private transportation seems rather at odds with such a concept. If the Government wishes to attempt to reduce traffic congestion in Auckland, perhaps they should begin with an attempt to give us some semblance of a working public transportation system, rather than the pitiful and contemptible excuse for it that all Aucklanders suffer every day. That seems a much fairer policy for all concerned under what is supposed to be a Government for the people.
- Daryll Roberts

Proposal 1: Parking levy of $10/day (on top of existing charges) in central Auckland, Newmarket, Takapuna, Henderson and Manukau between 6am and 10am weekdays

It seems Auckland city is going to put the cart before the horse. First we had a large increase in parking fees to discourage us from using our vehicle within the city boundaries. Now we have levies being suggested. It appears Auckland has a long way to go before it provides a comprehensive public transport system covering the entire Auckland area. Since the introduction of the increased parking fees a few years ago I have not noticed any increase in park and drive carparks on the city perimeter (other than the recently completed and very successful North Shore ones). The bus lanes are a poor substitute for a dedicated lane through to the city, or better still a light rail/train option.
- Valerie Moran

 I have every sympathy for your correspondent Wayne Parleviet's quest to decrease his 60-minute trip from Massey to the city by 10 minutes. Some years ago, Takapuna bus commuters sat in gridlock for up to 30 minutes before they merged into the motorway. The Esmonde Rd bus lane now enables their ride into the city centre to be a mere 20 minutes (13 in the school holidays). However, the council has ignored the petition of 400 peak-time commuters from Baywater and southern Takapuna and is replacing this lane with a cycle lane finishing before the motorway. The much-vaunted proposed busway bypasses this area. Morning buses in Esmonde Rd will revert to the snail's pace of the gridlocked cars.
- Jan O'Connor, Takapuna

How decent of the Government to allow Aucklanders until the end of the month to make submissions on various levies designed to force us on to public transport before it imposes charges, which will simply be another tax. The reality is that most of us would use a decent public transport system if one existed. The success of the North Shore express bus system proves that. Unfortunately, quality public transport is not an alternative for most. If the imposition of the sorts of charges being touted were successful in forcing people on to public transport, the public transport system simply could not cope.
- Ted Hart, Glen Eden

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