Improve public transport before congestion charges: AA

Improve public transport before congestion charges: AA

Motorists need to to see big improvements in public transport before accepting a new congestion charging scheme says the New Zealand Automobile Association.

According to the AA, its Auckland membership is open to the idea of congestion charging but is not yet ready to sign up to it.

That’s the main finding of a newly release AA survey, following the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) call for considering future congestion charging in Auckland.

Close to two-thirds of the survey’s 1300 respondents say that they were open to congestion charging – encouraging changes to commuting habits by charging people extra to drive on congested roads – either now or in the future.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine says that once explained; people get the principles behind congestion charging.

“AA Members recognize that dealing with Auckland’s congestion problems will take some pretty bold approaches and some frequent changes to how people use transport,” says Irvine.

But that is counterbalanced by concerns about fairness.

“Our Members are also anxious about the impact that any congestion charges would have on poorer households, and on people who have no choice about when, how and where they travel,” says Irvine.

He says that there is still strong resistance to the idea of paying tolls on existing roads, even though these would be a necessary feature of any congestion charging scheme.

This skepticism shows just how complex and controversial congestion charging is, says Irvine, and the AA supports the incremental approach put forward by ATAP.

“Where congestion charging – and any form of road pricing – has worked around the world, there’s typically been a long process to develop public awareness and understanding first,” he says. “Until we have that here, it’s too early to introduce any new charging schemes.”

Irvine says that much more work will need to be done to show the Auckland public whether and how congestion charging could work in the real world, and a big part of that would be demonstrating clear benefits.

“That means improved driving times for people who pay new charges,” he says.  “Paying more to sit in the same traffic jams is no one’s idea of a livable city.”

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