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Aucklanders supportive of tolls if congestion is reduced - survey

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A majority of residents will support low level variable tolls on Auckland's motorways if this reduces congestion and helps fund major transport projects, according to a Horizon Research survey just released.

The survey of 1061 Aucklanders was commissioned by the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development to test views on the costs of congestion and acceptable funding solutions. Weighted to represent the Auckland Council area population the survey has a maximum margin of error of +/- 3.1% overall.

"We commissioned this study to understand the impact of congestion on people's lives and find out how much they might be prepared to pay to address the problem", says NZCID chief executive Stephen Selwood.

"The survey clearly shows that people are fed up with congestion and are willing to pay to improve the situation, provided the solutions work", Selwood says.

"Pleasingly, attitudes to paying tolls were generally much more positive than one would have thought".

To fund transport improvements, respondents were given a choice of increasing rates, fuel taxes, cark park charges, an airport tax on international travellers, a charge on all traffic entering the CBD, and an average $2 toll on the motorway network. Of these, the $2 average toll was the only option attracting more support than opposition: 46% support a $2 average toll; 33.4% oppose and 18% are neutral.

Motorway network tolls were then explored in more detail. It was explained that higher tolls in busy periods would incentivise commuters to drive at different times, use different routes, car pool, take public transport or walk or cycle. This would reduce traffic on the motorways, meaning faster journeys for users of the tolled network, and tolls would also raise revenue for investment in new transport solutions including roads and public transport services.

Under this scenario, 64% of respondents gave in principle support to tolls on Auckland's motorways varying in price and times at which they are charged, if this reduces congestion and helps fund major transport projects. 36% did not support this idea.

Majority support remained strong regardless of household income or political party support. Tolling in principle was supported by 47% of those who use the motorway system twice a day or more.

Of the four pricing packages surveyed, the option of a $2 charge in peak periods (7am - 9am) and $1.50 between 4pm and 6pm, was given the most support overall.

The point at which tolls cross over from being seen as "fair value" to "expensive" overall was: $0.76 in Off-Peak for travel between 7pm and 7am; $1.25 in Inter-Peak for travel between 9am and 4pm; $1.70 in Peak traffic 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm. Price tolerance varies according to frequency of motorway use: Less frequent cross over point $2.70 at peak, 2 x per day users $1.50.

Among frequent motorway users who were prepared to pay tolls, the average maximum was $4.75 per day for cars and vans and $5.80 for heavy commercial vehicles. These levels apply regardless of the frequency with which respondents use the motorway system.

The survey found that congestion is already having a big toll on people and business. Large numbers of respondents believe traffic congestion is getting worse (57.3%) and even more (70.9%) believe it will get worse in the future.

Greatest adverse impacts respondents listed are increasing fuel costs (70.9%), longer commuting times (67.6%), reducing time for other activities (61%), causing stress (60.8%) and stopping respondents and members of their households from travelling at certain times (50.4%). Suffering from road rage, becoming enraged, and harm to their work performance is, in each case, affecting about 20 in every 100 Auckland drivers. 8% say congesting is making them angry all the time.

30.1% say congestion is impacting badly to very badly on the organisations they work for, with another 45.7% reporting slight impact.

"This survey shows that people support the need to invest in Auckland's transport system and that they understand that pricing the motorways at different amounts by time of day will positively influence when and how people travel.

"In that sense direct user pay tolls enjoys much more positive reaction than other funding alternatives the Council is considering."

"This provides valuable insight for Government and the Auckland Council as to how future investment in Auckland's transport system can be funded", Selwood says.

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