Commuters in Wellington may have to pay for the pleasure of driving to work in the future, if the city council’s plans to expedite congestion charges are approved by the government.
The transport and infrastructure committee of Parliament is now investigating the prospect of a congestion fee for Auckland, while Wellington City Council has indicated that it intends to bring a plan out for public input within months.
Congestion charges, which are meant to alleviate peak-hour traffic, have only been implemented in eight cities across the world, and they are already dividing the capital’s citizens and companies.
The Road Transport Forum is enthusiastic about the concept, which it expects would free up routes for freight.
CEO Nick Leggett believes that lowering the number of automobiles on the road will increase productivity.
“It isn’t some amazing solution it’s one of many things that we need to do to improve people’s use of public transport, get them out of their vehicles, reduce congestion on the highways so critical freight can move but so we’ve got a much better transport system which allows Wellingtonians to move around and get on with their day while also improving productivity in the region.”
However, the Automobile Association argues there’s not enough evidence to support congestion charges.
According to senior infrastructure advisor Sarah Geard the council will struggle to get the public’s backing without more preparation.
“It would take many many years to work through how these systems could work and to build public support because ultimately without public support these things can’t be taken forward,” she said.
“Proposals need to be based on really good analysis so the public can understand the benefits that these changes would deliver relative to the costs people would incur.”
On the streets of Wellington some people simply put the proposed congestion rates down to poor governance.
“Absolutely ludicrous, the cities they’re comparing them with overseas probably have decent public transport systems in place and their government probably support those systems, this city doesn’t and they can’t cope with the bus services and the people they have now, it will fail dramatically,” said one member of the public.
“I’d say it’s just another example of massively incompetent local and national government as opposed to getting the money that they already have and using it wisely,” said another.
However, some see it as a necessary step to getting traffic out of the CBD.
“If we want to get vehicles out of the CBD, we need to get people in and the public transport at the moment doesn’t really cut it so we’ve got to do something,” said one person.
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster is glad to see the Government taking action on congestion pricing and thinks that it will help to move traffic in more ways than one.
He said the council would welcome a ring-fenced alternative funding stream to help pay for Let’s Get Wellington Moving, the region’s vast $6.4 billion transportation plan.
Councils are responsible for 40% of the expense.