The Automobile Association wants long-running work on congestion charging made public, as a new survey of its members shows opposition to the idea hardening.
The August survey of 1200 AA members in Auckland and Wellington found 45 percent opposed being charged to drive on selected roads in urban areas.
Auckland has been wrestling with the idea since 2012, and a joint study with the government is believed to be complete but under wraps after four years in the making.
“We should get on with it, this is a long-running debate, this is going to take years, which is certainly what we’ve seen overseas,” Barney Irvine, AA’s principal advisor on infrastructure, said.
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The AA’s previous survey in 2016, when congestion charging was being publicly debated, found an almost three-way even split between support, opposition and indifference.
In the latest survey, 29 per cent favoured the idea, 45 per cent were against and 26 per cent uncertain.
Irvine said some of the opposition raised could also reflect the financial caution expressed by respondents, which was at its highest level since 2013.
More than half of respondents, 53 per cent, said shorter travel times would have no monetary value to them, while 29 per cent said shorter journey times could be worth one to two dollars daily.
Options looked at in an Auckland study in 2014 suggested charges ranging from a flat $2 on weekdays, to a graduated scale rising from $0 off-peak to $2.80 for each peak hour journey on motorways.
While financial pressures due to Covid-19 might have affected AA members’ views, Irvine said the government should release the findings of its work and get on with public debate.
“Right now with Covid-19 we’ve got a bit of breathing space [with lower congestion], and that’s great, but it’s not going to last forever,” Irvine said.
“We don’t want to wait until congestion gets back to pre-Covid levels before we start having this discussion – we just don’t have that time up our sleeve.”
A new, significant round of work on a pricing scheme for Auckland appears to be complete, but both Auckland Transport and the Minister of Transport Phil Twyford declined to provide details to Stuff.
Auckland Transport’s board meeting at the start of September was due to consider an item described on its confidential agenda as “The Congestion Question: Final Report and Recommendations”.
The grounds for it being withheld from public scrutiny was that it was “soon” to be made public, but Auckland Transport said the item was not dealt with due to a lack of time and the report would not be released.
Auckland Transport, through its parent Auckland Council, is working jointly with the government on the scheme, but Transport Minister Phil Twyford declined Stuff’s request for the report.
“No decision has been made about introducing congestion pricing in Auckland or elsewhere, and ‘The Congestion Question’ work is ongoing,” Twyford said in a letter.
“Documents from ‘The Congestion Question’ will be considered for release when ready and appropriate.”
AA members surveyed were more positive about a congestion charge only at peak times, with 42 per cent support, and most backed exemptions for some groups, such as those with mobility parking permits.
In response to a question proposing an $8 a day charge, 51 per cent said they would change their time of travel to avoid it.
Working from home or taking public transport were both favoured by 39 per cent.
A 2014 report by a multi-sector working party, established in 2012 by Auckland’s then-mayor Len Brown, favoured either a motorway user charge or a regional fuel tax as a way to raise $300 million a year.
The charging system for motorway use was estimated to cost about $110 million to set up.
“However, it delivers a comparatively better transport system and aligns the costs with those who use it, and delivers them the benefit in return,” it found.