We need smarter ways to get moving, says Patrick Brockie.
We applaud the $28 billion, 10-year ATAP (Auckland Transport Alignment Programme) funding package for transport, of which $16.7b is for new capital projects.
For the first time Auckland has a transport plan which is funded and supported by both central and local government.
It is also integrated with housing development without which we greatly exacerbate our congestion challenges.
A minister in charge of both assists in this approach.
There is real focus by this government and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) on rapid transit options for commuters travelling into the city and delivering on a government objective for urban regeneration.
We now await the detailed business cases for these projects.
Despite all that ATAP should deliver there remains a major issue for small, medium enterprises (SMEs) moving around Auckland in their day to day business.
SME's make up 96 per cent of all businesses in Auckland.
There is an expectation light rail and other projects will reduce traffic on the roads but it has not been the experience overseas with similar projects and it will be several years before these projects are completed.
Meanwhile Auckland continues to lose at least $1.3b per annum in productivity (from the 2017 NZIER study co-sponsored by Infrastructure New Zealand) — an estimate on the light side as it only accounts for weekdays, not weekends.
How do we enable tradespeople (i.e. builders, plumbers, electricians), couriers, truck drivers and concrete delivery vehicles to get from home to their place of work: from one side of the city to the other, from the North Shore to the south, over the bridge and back in a more timely manner?
Many face anywhere from two to three hours in traffic a day, starting their commute from 5.30am to 6am.
They told the authors of the NZIER study they were losing between 20-30 per cent of their productivity — having to hire more staff for the same volume of work or completing fewer jobs compared to just three years ago. Or they were working longer hours.
All this contributes to the higher costs we incur as consumers and customers whether in waiting for a tradesperson or the tradesperson's higher call-out fee and hourly rate.
We have to find smarter ways to get traffic moving.
The solution must include accelerating demand management through tolling.
Why are we hesitating when it is commonplace in developed countries and has been used effectively here for example Tauranga and the Northern Gateway?
From those I have spoken to (from chippies to office workers) the response is unequivocal — they are prepared to pay for a shorter commute.
Various polls by Infrastructure NZ and the AA support this view.
Charging will change behaviour — those who need to be on the road will use it.
In other countries road pricing has created a "disappearing motorist" who doesn't need to travel at peak times.
Offshore evidence points to a 15-20 per cent reduction in congestion when road pricing is introduced.
This has a dramatic, immediate and positive impact on congestion.
Dynamic tolling (which can vary pricing based on traffic flows) allows even greater control over the outcomes our city needs.
I hear the question — is this about revenue collection?
It is not the primary driver but quite simply any revenues derived from tolling should be clearly dedicated to new infrastructure projects (second harbour crossing?) that can contribute to making Auckland the world's most livable city!
● Patrick Brockie is Chairman of Infrastructure New Zealand.