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Friday, April 28, 2006

Taking it up the ARPES

Treasury's long-term plan of introducing road pricing tolling on public roads inches closer today with the close of public submissions to the Ministry of Transport's $2.3m Auckland Road Pricing Evaluation Study (ARPES).

The officials of the Auckland City Council are as cock-a-hoop as Treasury about charging people money for nothing in return. And as the officials will also expand their bureaucracy as well as revenue what else would you expect. NZ Herald reports the usual council bitch/fight:

Last-ditch pleas by members of the council's centre-left majority for the whole charging idea to be scrapped because Auckland's public transport system was far too inadequate to replace car trips failed to head off a 10-6 vote to crank up investigations.
They were unable to sway their team leader and Deputy Mayor Bruce Hucker, who called for more road-pricing investigations to learn how to wean Aucklanders off their "love affair with the car".
But the council watered down a draft submission from officers which would have accepted the desirability of introducing road-pricing to Auckland, rather than just studying it in greater detail, as called for in last night's vote

So it seems Hucker has been successfully captured by the officials it seems - not so his fellow travellers (or should that be commuters?). There's more reservations than Las Vegas:
Senior Labour councillor Richard Northey led a rearguard effort to wipe road-pricing off the map, saying roads were part of the public domain on which people still needed free access.
Cathy Casey said road-pricing was "weasel" language for tolling and it would discriminate against city workers forced by high property prices to live in far-flung suburbs.
"We are completely out of touch with the public mood."

But the right wing less so:
Mr Milne said he would like to think roads would never have to be charged, especially if Auckland received the money it deserved from the Government, but it was crucial to gather more information.

More information on how to screw ourselves over? More information that will waste thousands and then millions of dollars on paying officials and Deloittes for more reports on things that we don't want? What is he thinking? Hmmm... maybe: How to get all those yucky poor people off the roads and into the risibly substandard, under-resourced, ill-considered, poorly-planned public transport so The Man in his 4 litre company car can get a clear run into town? And Hucker's motivation? A trip around the world studying the "options" perhaps?

What about rationing cars so that eco-friendly ones don't have to pay? Environmental concerns? No. What about getting more people per car? No. No - it's all quite explicitly about only two things: Reduce congestion and Raise revenue.

This is not about solving the morning peak congestion per se - it is about how to implement systems of tolling. So for what it was worth I made my online submission:

(1) Reactions and comments on the study and its findings:

Focus on congestion and revenue totally overwhelms considerations of environmental affects and how to get more people per vehicle as well as no focus on countervailing public transport initiatives.
HOV/HOT lanes are excluded and rejected out of hand as a form of solution - this is neglegent.
Tolling options do not include other reasonable solutions such as improving the internal flow of traffic by improving and widening intersections, tunnels etc.
Seems like the dead hand of Treasury is all over this one.

(2) Whether road pricing is a good idea as a means to manage congestion and raise revenue, given its other potential social, economic and environmental impacts:

No it's a bad idea. It discriminates against those who are not wealthy, taxes a public asset that ought to be free like the rest of the roading system that has already been paid for, holds captive those who must use those roads at that time, has no alternative except shoddy public transport to those successfully excluded from driving through the cordon, will create increased traffic congestion at the boundaries and is a bureaucrats wet dream and a nightmare for everyone else.

(3) If the government were to enable road pricing, are there any areas you have identified in the report that could be improved or problems that would need to be overcome?

Don't introduce road pricing - then there won't be any.

(4) If the government were not to enable road pricing, what other feasible alternatives are there to meaningfully manage congestion, acknowledging the significant investment the government is already making in additional roading and public transport?

The problem is "the significant investment the government is already making in additional roading and public transport" is being mis-spent. The North Shore bus lanes next to the Northern motorway is taking forever and yet an entire new viaduct exit to Nelson Street from the Southern Motorway can be built right next to the existing one that was perfectly good and be completed in less than two years. Money is being squandered. Priorities are askew.

Auckland is beset by too many organisations supposedly looking after public transport. Auckland needs a single transit authority mandated to build and run an integrated rail system using all rail corridors and creation of lines all over the city like any normal metropolis. This authority needs to be focused only on rail - ferrys, buses etc. will just distract and we will end up with what we have now as attention is diverted. A model could be the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority Act 1950 where the lines of accountability, finance etc. are clearly spelled out. It may take 50 years to complete the network - but what will we have in 50 years from now on our current plans? - Road pricing and a few bus lanes.

You cannot propose road pricing without adequate public transport alternatives.

Our outlook must be 50-100 years not 5-10. The councils must stop making ad hoc 1-3 metre strips and must commit to taking 10-15m for the sake of our future requirements.

Intersection improvements are often also mis-handled. The recent Symonds St-Newton Rd-Khyber Pass dogleg realignment doesn't even have a bus lane to go into Khyber Pass. This sort of mistake is negligence. Tunnels could also be made at various points to increase traffic flow as there are many opportunities for this esp. in the area around the outskirts of the CBD.


At 16/5/06 12:51 pm, Anonymous The Greys Ave Watcher said...

The news is even more despairing after Dr Cullen's announcement that he expects Auckland to fund its transport upgrades from rates alone. After years of central government underfunding it would seem that Dr Cullen now wants to add insult to injury.

At 16/5/06 2:52 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

I caught a glimpse of that on the newsstand. The little prick! I'll post on this later today.


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