Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Submit. Please.

Sorry about the lateness of this, faithful readers (both of you).

The Auckland Council's Consensus Building Group on alternative transport funding is seeking feedback on proposals on how to raise revenue to fund the transport projects outlined in the Auckland Plan.

The group has drafted a discussion document (here) detailing the issues and the proposed funding packages. If you have time to read the document please do. It is easy to read, having gone to some lengths to avoid the usual cliche-ridden jargon that plagues most council publications. If you don't have time there's an executive summary at the front. 

Aucklanders discover a more efficient way to move freight
In essence, the problem is that Auckland's population is growing (two-thirds of this growth is natural population growth and internal migration so we can't, as some talkback listeners have suggested, pull up the drawbridges), and the level of transport investment outlined in the Auckland Plan is not even going to keep up with this growth. Yet there is still a funding shortfall of about $12 billion (yes, you read that correctly). The two revenue raisers that have been selected from a large suite of options are a cordon charge, similar to what is in place in London; and a motorway network charge so people will pay to use the motorway. The details of these schemes is beyond the work of the group but it is likely that the motorway charge will vary according to the time of day (off peak would be cheaper). The nice thing about these is they also act to manage demand on the road network. The downside is that some people can't avoid them, and low-income earners who work in far-flung places and have little choice about when they work will effectively be hit with a regressive tax. But they will probably get to work faster, so there is a trade-off there.

The group was not tasked with evaluating the merits or otherwise of the projects in the Auckland Plan, and for the transport activists among you that is a battle for another day (we'll keep you posted), but - and this is a significant step forward in Auckland's transport planning - the discussion document talks about the need to front-load improvements in public transport and cycling and walking.

So the point of this: please read at least the exec summary and make a submission. As a cyclist and bus user I would encourage people to endorse the idea that public transport must be improved as a priority. And even though no one likes paying, a motorway network charge that moved some people out of cars would be good for people's health and the region's economy. The decision is yours, of course, but one way or another we will all pay, either directly or through sitting in traffic. Please make a submission (here) so your voice goes into the mix of final options put to the council. Submissions due 7th June.