Parliament’s Transport and Infrastructure Committee released its report regarding the inquiry into congestion pricing in Auckland late last month. Infrastructure New Zealand had made a submission on the inquiry back in May supporting the introduction of congestion pricing in Auckland.
The Select Committee has recommended the implementation of a congestion pricing scheme in Auckland. It has gone further to recommend that the Government should progress legislation to enable New Zealand cities to use congestion pricing as a tool in transport planning.
The Select Committee has made eight recommendations that mainly endorse the work and approach of The Congestion Project (TCQ), a joint project between officials from Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, the Ministry of Transport, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, The Treasury and Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission. TCQ itself emerged from an Auckland Transport Alignment Project recommendation in 2016 that demand management interventions should be explored to achieve substantial improvements in Auckland’s transport outcomes.
The Select Committee has recommended broad public engagement “to help people understand the costs and benefits of a specific scheme”.
Like TCQ’s preferred scheme, the Transport and Infrastructure Committee has recommended that Auckland’s congestion pricing scheme should have the below key features:
- a region-wide strategic corridors scheme starting in the Auckland City Centre
- an access charge that would apply once per journey in peak times
- the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to identify vehicles that incur a charge.
The Select Committee’s choice of an access charge is based on vehicles accessing a cordon, irrespective of where the journey originated. The Select Committee’s report does not consider the merits of congestion pricing being based on where a vehicle journey originated. For instance, congestion pricing could be levied on journeys originating in brownfield areas that are close to the city centre and key nodes that have adequate and rapid/frequent public transport services, while exempting vehicle journeys originating in areas where public transport services are inadequate and/or infrequent, with new cordons being introduced in stages as adequate infrastructure and services are provided.
The report has shied away from taking a position on whether the Auckland regional fuel tax should be phased out prior to the introduction of congestion pricing, and instead recommends that research be undertaken whether changes to, or the removal of, the Auckland regional fuel tax may be appropriate.
The Select Committee’s report does not speculate when exactly congestion pricing should be introduced in Auckland, but it does state that the status of projects such as the City Rail Link, Auckland light rail and a second Waitematā Harbour crossing should be considered alongside potential timelines for implementing congestion pricing.
The Transport and Infrastructure Committee’s report can be found here.