Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Drivers unfazed by idea of $5 toll

At current rates, around 800 cars are added to the road every week. Photo / Doug Sherring
At current rates, around 800 cars are added to the road every week. Photo / Doug Sherring

A$5 toll and twice as much congestion wouldn't be enough to get Aucklanders out of their cars.

An Automobile Association survey of 1300 motorists found nearly two-thirds of Aucklanders wouldn't be put off by the deterrents, saying public transport simply isn't good enough and they need their cars for work and other activities.

But overall about two thirds of motorists are coming around to the idea of congestion charging following recent calls for a scheme in the future to help solve the city's traffic woes.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine said more needed to be done to show Aucklanders whether and how congestion charging could work in the real world and a big part of that would be demonstrating clear benefits.

"That means improved driving times for people who pay new charges. Paying more to sit in the same traffic jams is no one's idea of a liveable city."

When asked about different options for road charging, the survey respondents overwhelmingly supported paying $2.50 for a new road and half were willing to fork over $5 for a CBD-cordon toll.

However, 54 per cent opposed a $2.50 motorway network toll and the most unpopular option was a network-wide toll based on distance and the time of day, with 66 per cent opposing that idea.

The survey comes on the heels of analysis by the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) which showed tolls of between 3c and 40c a kilometre would help reduce congestion though the Government and Auckland Council want to do more detailed research before committing to the policy.

Respondents to the AA survey were asked about tolls to pay for infrastructure projects and a third backed the idea but 37 per cent wanted a combination of road charges, fuel tax and rates.

But tolling existing roads was not popular with widespread "discomfort" with the idea, the AA said. One member said: "Tolling roads that are already built and paid for is theft".

Irvine said this scepticism showed just how complex and controversial congestion charging is.

Big improvements in public transport were also needed before implementing a scheme because even if faced with a $5 toll and twice as much congestion as they face now, most motorists would continue driving.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said Auckland's roading and public transport network needed to be finished - including the City Rail Link - before road charges would be considered.

And even then, they would be implemented to change driver behaviour like changing work start times, and not to raise revenue.

At current rates, around 800 cars are added to the road every week.

A 2010 report by the NZTA found congestion in Auckland cost the New Zealand economy nearly $1 billion per year, or about 1 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

- NZ Herald

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