Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan: Now only road tolls can save us from ourselves

Photo / Natalie Slade
Photo / Natalie Slade

Often, driving in Auckland, I feel like I'm in a failed state. Have warlords taken over? Did they bomb all the roading to cut off our supply lines? Well, I don't mean to sound like a coward, but we should surrender at once, because whoever's attacking has won the war.

Between gridlock, standstill, and freeze-frame, Auckland traffic is like a YouTube clip that just won't load - except you are the video. On pause. It's ridiculous that Aucklanders can't text while driving, yet pedestrians can. Which one is moving faster?

An observer might take one look at Auckland, and think: what an urban success. Look at all the parking! Then you'd have to tell them: No, that's not a carpark, that's the Northwestern Motorway.

Auckland needs a CBD transplant. Stents aren't doing it. The blood is so thick, traffic has congealed into blood sausage. It ain't never gonna flow.

But a CBD transplant is tricky. You can't just order people to move to a nether region. And besides, there's so much right with Auckland.

The roads go exactly where they're meant to. Look how they all connect up. That's good planning. The cars, however, are driving at the wrong times. Cars are behaving like herd animals, all flocking together. Nobody gets anywhere during the five hours of morning peak and the six hours of afternoon peak.

It's not the roads. It's the cars. It's not the Government's fault. It's the citizens. The solution? Ask not for whom the road tolls. It tolls for thee.

Tolls to use the motorways, which cost more at different times of day.

Like tax on a smoker, a toll would stop this vice of communal, herd-mentality driving.

If it's more pricey to drive at certain times, then budget-minded motorists would spread out during the day. And who doesn't love a bargain?

Think of all the unused road capacity at, say, 3 in the morning. What a waste of silky, empty road! It's like a warp drive on Star Trek. Imagine if you drove to work then. You'd be singing how super the council was, all the way to market.

Imagine how much more you'd get done! The smugness you could exude when the others arrive. And parking is cheaper too. Well, it probably isn't, but parking wardens have to sleep some time.

And if lots of people are out and about at 3 in the morning, think of all the extra bed space which is suddenly unlocked to sort out the homeless! There could be a whole other shift living in your house! That's two crises sorted at once, just from the magic of road tolls.

This Government has thought of everything.

Some would object. The bleaters would say this is just a revenue grab, and worse than that, a reward for creating this disaster in the first place. Our taxes built the roads, and now we have to pay to use them?

But let's take the Government at face value. If blocked roads are a crisis, then driving is a sin and drivers are the sinners. The Government is morally obliged to do everything in its power to discourage us from it.

The best option is the same we take with smoking. No advertising, plain packaging only and health warnings.

Cars should no longer be advertised in Auckland. Auckland cars should all be the same colour, like plain-packaged cigarettes, whatever that camouflage, bad-omen vomit colour is. Auckland cars should be taxed, say 200 per cent, like a vice. (This would obviously create a black market in cars which don't have the electronic monitor which tells The Man that you're driving, but that can't be helped. Sinners gonna sin.)

Auckland buildings should sport billboards which show cars at a standstill, the consequence of your sin. (A mirror would do the trick.)

And advertisements, instead of showing sexy cars swooping on empty highways, would show the reality of passive driving.

I suppose there's one more option, but it's way out there. I mention it only for completeness. It's a little bit sci-fi. Imagine tolling people by creating a network of underground trains, and calling the toll a "ticket" or "fare". This underground network doesn't exist, obviously. It would take time and money. And when completed, it would take virtuous Aucklanders underground to do their commute, and underground is where Satan lives. Devil get out! So strike that option.

- NZ Herald

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Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan's books of humour include ‘America on 5 Bullets a Day’ and ‘An Asian at my Table’. Before comedy, he graduated with honours in law and his legal research was published in the New Zealand Law Journal. His TV work includes a documentary in which he trained to be a casino croupier. He once held his breath for 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Visit RaybonKan.com

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