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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tolling and the new Transport Agency

Further to the Labourite appointments to the Transport Agency as announced last week we have had National claim:

As at Thursday evening there had been 43 government appointments this week. Yes, 43 appointments in four days. That’s part of a tally of 140 in the past five weeks.

I didn't realise the crew of SS Labour had so many lifeboats available.

David Farrar tempers his criticism with the reality that National engages in the same activities:

in some cases it can be useful to have a board member with some political saavy [...] it is understandable that a Minister will want perhaps one or two people on the more critical boards who understand politics to the degree that they can help the Board avoid actions which will put them on a collision course with the Government.

Then again if the government changes you've got a whole slate of political enemies in office until their terms expire and then they can start the stacking with the new government's cronies. Independent appointments, via select committees so we could have some sort of transparency, will never come about while the two big parties control the system.

But back to the new NZ Transport Agency. It seems to be a Transit take-over of the other transport licensing, safety and funding departments. I note that there appears to be no-one with an engineering background on the new board - which is quite an embarassing hole. In the last few days I have become concerned that this round of transport restructuring may leave Transit in the lead position to implement tolling. The most effective way of tolling would be through chips or number plates - and as of Friday Transit controls that too.

With Treasury's Public-Private Partnership concept official policy for some years now, we have had the spectre of the SH20 Waterview extension, Orewa-Puhoi tunnel and Transmission Gully projects (to start with) being privatised - effectively for up to 30 years. I am not convinced this will be anything other than foolish. The government in these situations usually ends up subsidising it (from my understanding). But what of "public" tolling?

With an integrated transport agency it would be easier to implement tolling across the board on the entire national highway system. This is not great news. I do wonder if this may have been a consideration with the merger.


At 28/7/08 2:14 am, Anonymous Kevyn Miller said...

Tolling of the entire road network would be brilliant idea. Then we could have congestion pricing on every road and kerbside parking space. The economic arguments for congestion pricing of roads are well known. The benefits of doing the same around schools and shopping malls are less well appreciated although the principal is the same. If shop workers want to deprive residents of kerbside parking on side streets near malls then they should expect to pay a price for that impact. If parents want to park or stop close to a school rather than encouraging their children to walk then they should be prepared to pay a reasonable price. Knowing which part of the road network is generating the revenue and at what times does allow funding to be dedicated to capacity increases. In the case of kerbside parking the funds raised can be tragetted to streetscape improvements on that stretch of roadside as is down meter money in Old Pasadena Town. Their retailers found that the rationing of parking spaces drove away low spending customers but the streetscape enhancements attrated more high spending customers. Replacing existing meters with congestion pricing means parking fees can be lower on weekends and average parking times are likely to be shorter, essentially increasing the number of usable parking spaces.

The revenue from parking outside schools should reduce traffic volumes but it will also provide a revenue stream to fund safety crossing improvements.

In my veiw the merger is simply a return to the old National Roads Board arrangement which built most of our current highways and half funded most of our tarsealed local roads. The real worry is that the we will see a repeat of the LTSA/Transfynd merger where the LTSA came out on top.

Nobody seems to have questioned the wisdom of combining the agency that is supposed to ensure highways are built and maintained to a safe standard with the organisation charged with spending land transport funds on a whole host of areas other than safe roads and highways. The very situation that has led for calls to split the CAA into to seperate bodies one to fund air safety systems and one to monitor their performance.


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