In a just-released research report, the Helen Clark Foundation and WSP in New Zealand are recommending how congestion charging can be implemented fairly in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Government is expected to announce it will implement congestion charging later this month as part of its final Emissions Reduction Plan.

The Helen Clark Foundation / WSP report is the first of its kind in New Zealand that focuses on the equity impacts of congestion charging. Insights and recommendations from the report include:

  • City specific modelling shows that a congestion charge will meaningfully reduce
    traffic and emissions in Auckland and Wellington.
  • Equity concerns must be front and centre of any congestion charging scheme,
    robust community engagement should be undertaken, and alternatives like
    public transport should be improved before implementation.
  • Analysis shows that if congestion charging is implemented in Auckland’s CBD,
    then low-income communities are likely to be largely unaffected – some
    households in the Waitematā will be better off as they will avoid parking and
    petrol costs by driving less.
  • Further analysis and modelling needs to be done for Wellington as there could
    be equity issues with a CBD charging zone.

WSP Fellow and report author Tom James says congestion charging should be part of the policy mix to improve our cities and help meet our climate goals.
“The reality is we won’t meet our emissions reduction targets without some form of road pricing, like congestion charging.

“Cities that have implemented congestion charging have experienced a range of benefits including up to 30% less traffic, reduced congestion, lower emissions, and revenue from the scheme improving transport options.

“However, given those on the lowest incomes spend up to 28% of their income on transport costs, it’s important that the policy doesn’t end up hitting them the hardest.

“Based on travel data, there seem to be good enough public transport and walking and cycling links to and from Auckland’s CBD to justify a congestion charging zone. But further improving public and active transport is needed before congestion charging is enacted outside of the CBD.

“Central Wellington has some of the highest rates of public transport and walking and cycling in the country, which indicates it is a good choice for a congestion charging zone. However, the initial analysis from Let’s Get Wellington Moving seems to suggest that some lower income households who commute from north of the city will bear the brunt of any charges.

“Further analysis is needed to identify which areas need to have transport alternatives strengthened before a congestion charging zone is designed for our capital.”

WSP in New Zealand Managing Director Ian Blair says international evidence on the environmental and gridlock-busting benefits of congestion charging schemes is crystal clear. What has been less clear up until now is how congestion charging schemes can be designed in a fair and equitable way.

“What we know from overseas is that system design can have a major impact on equity. By learning from our global transport peers and being sensitive to issues of equity from the outset, we’re confident that Aotearoa will come up with its own winning congestion charging formula.”

“We urge the Government and councils to take up our recommendations to make sure New Zealanders get the benefits from congestion charging without disproportionately impacting the least well off,” Tom James says.

The full report is available here.

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