Auckland Council makes moves on congestion charges

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 24, 2023

Auckland motorists can expect to see congestion charges in place as early as 2025, with local councillors voting in favour of an indicative work programme.

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee met on November 16 and endorsed the Time of Use Charging – Indicative Work Programme, voting 18 to 2.

The initiative is the creation of a joint Auckland Transport and Auckland Council programme team to progress time of use charging as soon as practicable.

Work has already begun on developing an implementation plan to complete the scheme design and engage with community stakeholders, with the aim of moving forward into procurement and implementation by early 2025.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said Auckland’s congestion problem costs the city close to $1 billion dollars a year.

“We can’t just build our way out of the problem; we need to make better use of our roads,” Brown said.

“We know where and when traffic jams occur, and this will fix them. I was voted in to get Auckland moving. To harness technology to get traffic moving faster. To complete busways and optimise our transport networks. That is what I’m doing,” he said.

“Our motorways function as they do in the school holidays all the time; that sounds pretty good to me. A tradie being able to reach eight jobs in one day instead of five, that also sounds good.”

Brown said overseas examples of congestion charging have proven to work. He said he will be taking it up with the incoming transport minister once the new Government is formed.

Councillor John Watson, Chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee, noted that this is a significant piece of work and will require some pre-work from Auckland Transport and Auckland Council to ensure a fair outcome for all the impacted communities.

“The joint Transport and Infrastructure Committee meeting and Auckland Transport Board workshop held in August this year reinforced previous Auckland Council and Auckland Transport Board decisions – time of use charging has been in the pipeline for many years,” Watson said.

“Many Aucklanders are already changing their behaviour and we can see the flow-on effects on congestion. There are many benefits to time of use charging, however, it is important that we have the right public transport in place and, more importantly, bring Aucklanders along on the journey.”

Councillor Christine Fletcher, Deputy Chair of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee echoed this sentiment while emphasising the importance of equity.

“We recognise that legislation is required to implement a time of use charging scheme in Auckland but there is plenty of work to be done in the meantime,” she said.

“It’s also important that we consider the significance of equity and look to international cities as a blueprint of ensuring that if we do move forward with time of use charging, it is not simply for revenue but in order to create a better and more liveable city for all Aucklanders, in a sustainable manner.”

Auckland Transport and Auckland Council have been working on this programme, including developing an implementation plan to complete the scheme design and engage with stakeholders in the community, with the view to moving forward into procurement and implementation by early 2025.

“Peak traffic congestion on Auckland’s arterial roads and motorways is worse than it was before Covid-19. Time of use charging is a relatively low-cost solution which has worked overseas to reduce congestion,” said Tracey Berkahn, Auckland Transport General Manager, Services and Performance.

“Though ‘off-the-shelf’ technology already exists, enabling legislation is required before we can make time of use charging happen. Work also needs to be done to find the best way it can be implemented in Auckland, and we are eager to get this work underway.

“An important part of this is working with our communities to make sure time of use charging is an equitable and fair system for Aucklanders. Measures like daily caps and concessions could be implemented to support this.”

The Transport and Infrastructure Committee also invited Waka Kotahi to contribute to relevant workstreams, if appropriate, and endorsed the formation of a political reference group to provide political oversight of the work undertaken.