What Greece’s motorways mean for NZ

No one could say that Greece’s heavy spending on motorways directly caused their default crisis. I’m certainly not saying that.

There were many factors at play, though certainly borrowing to pay for projects that were not the best at reducing transport costs certainly didn’t help.

From 2000 to 2006 alone Greece spent nearly half of its European Development aid on transport, and most of that on motorways.

During that time the international oil price more than doubled. By 2008 it had doubled again.

There is little doubt that when fuel prices increase much faster than inflation (and the fuel efficiency of vehicles), the economy takes a hit. This is because transport isn’t an economic activity in and of itself. It is necessary for economic activity to take place, and if the cost goes up, that eats into any profit margins.

So, what is the Greek lesson for us?

Quite simply that fancy new motorways are not up to the heroic task of creating economic growth, especially given the current oil price situation.

Of course, the National Government and all the pro-Roads of National Significance (RoNS) acolytes repeat a familiar mantra that these projects have been chosen because they “are linked to New Zealand’s economic prosperity”.

From the NZTA website:

Infrastructure development is one of the Government’s key planks for economic growth. A key departure from road planning in the past is that the RoNS projects represent a ‘lead infrastructure’ approach. This means the Government is investing in infrastructure now to encourage future economic growth rather than wait until the strain on the network becomes a handbrake on progress.

We have seen a 50+ page RoNS communication strategy from the NZTA that specifies statements about economic growth and productivity as “key messages”. However, no amount of OIA requests or oral questions has found any underlying analysis or evidence that significant economic productivity will be created by the RoNS.

While National MPs and business lobby groups may ardently believe that a few higher standard highways are worth $12 billion (75% of the spending on new infrastructure over the next decade), the international evidence from transport planning suggests that new motorways are the least effective way (PDF) to achieve the critical aim of moving more people and freight at lower cost. There are steeply diminishing returns from duplicating or replacing an existing link in a road network.

The RoNS are being rushed ahead over this decade to prove that this Government is “getting on with it”. But this decade is likely to be the least opportune to throw billions at a few big motorway projects. Traffic volumes on state highways have been stagnant for over 5 years, oil prices are high, and the fleet is not becoming any more fuel efficient as most households & businesses don’t have the cash (or credit) to buy new vehicles.

It’s the perfect time to catch up on investment transport projects that will actually substantially reduce costs to households and business, while simultaneously reducing peak hour congestion. For a fraction of the RoNS budget, we could massively increase public transport, walking and cycling, and still have plenty left over to look after our existing roads. Rail freight and coastal shipping deserve a whole lot more attention as well.

In addition to building a lot of motorways, Greece also invested a lesser amount in urban transport and rail. Gerry Brownlee tried to claim the latter were responsible for its default. The test of the effectiveness of the investment must be in the use now, though, and it is the motorways in Greece that are nearly empty.

If we continue down the RoNS path, we may well be in the Greek situation of having a number of flash motorways that won’t get much use, and that can’t be a good outcome from a massive infrastructure investment.  Ordinary New Zealanders may well have to look to the Greek people to find a cheaper way of getting around.

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57 Comments Posted

  1. Roman, windfarms are a very good investment in the right place. In spain the windfarm structure can generate electricity for 25% of the country a windy day.

    But it is obvious that Greece (like Spain) have spent too much in roads and construction instead of trying to create industry and revive the economy. Once the roads are finished there’s nothing more than roads.

  2. I prefer Photonz’s system because it doesn’t mount cameras except on the mobile cars and parking scooters and it isn’t able to be turned into a universal speed control system. Did you not notice how much OTHER control you are handing to the nosies? There are serious downsides to that sort of vehicle tracking.

  3. bjchip:

    I think mine is cheaper if you want many toll gates, and especially if you want the system to cover parking charges as well. A cellphone in the ground is surely going to be cheaper than a mounted camera. But no matter – if we ever we go down this road (ignore pun) different formats could and should be looked at, to see which is best. Ultimately congestion-charging in today’s world is vastly superior to the old days of manned toll-gates, and revolutionises the feasibility of demand control.


    As a universal base system it would make sense. No doubt carparks everywhere (not just in Auckland) would be keen to use the (hypothetical) MoT system, because it’s easier and convenient and much cheaper for them.

    And like bjchip says, chipping everyone’s cars is not a problem. It’s ‘too cheap’.
    You’re also laying the foundation for tolling anywhere, without fuss, which is useful. What’s more it could make privately funded roads more attractive to private investors. Though these, no doubt, would be toll roads – not just congestion charged.

  4. The tags in the cars on the Registration Stickers would be “cheap” enough to just do universally. The implementation of charges based on tags would be regional. The person in Gore would not be charged unless he/she drove to Auckland. The tag however, would always be in each registered car.

    Still, I prefer not troubling with them. I like your system better, because it IS simpler and it is simpler infrastructure. I just allow as his could also work.

  5. Andrew – why do people in Gore need to pay congestion charging?

    (or 3 million other people who don’t live in Auckland)

  6. BJ – the problem with that is you’re paying to tag perhaps over a million cars that will never use Auckland roads.

    I’m not against tags – just pointing out that it’s impractical to tag all cars, so like most other places, you need a system that still works for untagged cars.

    So you either need a dual system or one without tags.

    Spending on roading infrastructure in NZ has been underfunded for decades. As has Aucklands public transport system.

  7. Actually Photonz, the tags could be stuck into the registration thing in the window, so they’re always there on every car in the country. Visitors pay same as everyone else.

    I prefer your system, as it keeps things simpler. I have come ’round to the idea that his COULD work. The unfortunate thing for Aucklanders is that they paved everything before they thought about anything, and they never built a decent mass transit system.

    …and in terms of roading infrastructure, I am proposing that 30-50 years ago someone should have set up a bypass for SH1 around downtown Auckland… and conceivably built a bridge or tunnel if one was needed to accomplish the task.

    So in that sense yes. Now I want a tunnel for the trains to reach across to the North Shore and round the harbor…. but I ain’t holding my breath. I am not against ALL roading expenditures.

    For instance, I want them to do Transmission Gully… the elevated ROUTE will exist even after warming takes away the lengths of SH1 and SH2 that live about a meter above MHW – and the kids are going to need that route, even if they were forced back to using covered wagons and horses. Electric cars, rail and trolley bus options are (I hope) going to be available, but that need will exist in the future.

  8. Andrew says “A visitor would use a hire car. ”

    Why would someone from Hamilton or Whangarei or Coromandel or Te Awamutu use a hire car?

    When I used Melbourne tolls, I’d picked my hire car up in Sydney.

    You will always need a secondary system for those who don’t have tags.

  9. photonz1:

    A visitor would use a hire car. The hire car company would have the account, and integrate the payment for the car with the toll costs. No big deal.

    The RF tag would hold the rego’ number only. It’s just an electronic representation of the number plate. No duplication issues.

  10. BJ says “…and I recall some methods of getting over and under things like harbors… what were they again… Oh yeah bridges… and tunnels…”

    BJ – are you proposing spending billions on new roading infrastructure?

  11. Andrew – tags are fine for a main system for regular users, but impractical for visitors. So if you have tags your will still need a secondary system for infrequent users.

    The beauty of a camera based system is the info on what cars have current paid permits is all held on a computer, rather than having to be duplicated again on every individual car.

    And there is one system for all users rather than different systems for regular and infrequent users.

  12. photonz1:

    Tagging the cars is trivial on the scale of things, and the cellphone as a gate must surely be as simple (cheap) as a gate can be – and you want lots of them for the ‘comprehensive’ congestion charge.

    With the gates being so cheap, the total system can double-up as a payment system for parking too (which is a “stationary toll road”).

    The model I have in my mind is for someone supplying carparking linking-up with a main server at the MoT (where the MoT provides a centralised payment system for all transactions with third parties), so there is no fuss with payments at all. Everyone just gets one ‘master’ bill at the end of the month, and any parking/road supplier can integrate with the centralised national system.
    Hence, I prefer this model.

  13. Actually I like Photonz’s idea. Fixed infrastructure is really annoying to maintain…. and it doesn’t double as a speed camera setup.

  14. Considering New Zealand is less than a 1000 metres across at the Auckland isthmus, there’s not a lot of choice.

    That isn’t where it runs through the center of Auckland though…

    …and I recall some methods of getting over and under things like harbors… what were they again… Oh yeah bridges… and tunnels…

  15. Andrew – you could even go for a really simple system that doesn’t even need sensors in cars.

    People pay by phone or online for the annual, weekly, or daily pass. A couple of mobile cameras simply drive around, automtically collecting rego numbers and spitting out those that haven’t paid. Maybe a few more cameras on main arterials.

    If you put the cameras on parking wardens scooters and there’d only be costs for a few cameras and a payment system.

    I believe Singapores system in the 1970s was little more than a pay and display system.

  16. photonz1:

    Thanks – sometimes I find myself reinventing the wheel. But congestion-charging over a highly detailed area can now be done so cheaply, using a system based on the cell network. My suggested model is as cheap as you can get it.

  17. BJ says “Running SH1 through the center of the city is a plan of such brilliance that it dazzles the senses.”

    Considering New Zealand is less than a 1000 metres across at the Auckland isthmus, there’s not a lot of choice.

    BJ says “..the combined effect is to make any effort to charge people for “congestion” fraught with difficulties. ”

    Not really. Singapore has been doing it for nearly 40 years.

    Australia uses a system where any cars without electronic tags are photographed, rego number is automatically detected, and it goes into the computer, which then knows if there is a pass for that car. If it doesn’t have one (or doesn’t gets one within 24 hrs) then a fine automatically goes out.

    They may need someone to lick the envelope but pretty much everything else is done automatically with zero intervention by humans.

    Whether or not it’s a good idea is another argeument, but technically, it’s all been done before, in some cases decades ago.

  18. Oh. We’ll hypothesise 5c per text, and each text containing records of about 20 vehicle passes (I would imagine). No tax on the existing cell system, because all the records can be posted through at 3am if need be. No problem with this expense unless Telecom finds a legal loophole and works out how to grossly overcharge…or something.

  19. bjchip:

    Thank you for correcting Gerrit.

    The tags should be about $5 each, maybe, to be clipped on at your next WOF. You can’t ultimately make them bullet proof, but you don’t need to…

    If you had an odd hidden camera (doubling as a speed camera) that shoots a photo of your rego’ when you pass through a gate, and the gate does not register your car, then that means your car does not have a tag. Say hello to a $1,000 fine? Also a policeman can easily read a cars tag with a handheld device to check as well – or some other warden, maybe. Easy enough to incentivise the vast majority of people to keep their tags on their cars.

  20. Gerrit…

    Not right. He wants each CAR to have an RFID and each road/toll-point to have a phone and sensor combo. So not so many phones as that.

    Basically wants to handle about 5 million to 15 million text messages per day at his server(s) (SWAG), and gets his texts at some discount rate. Call it 5 cents each perhaps.

    Every car in the country gets an RFID, and that installation will blow out the $20 per vehicle quickly because the installations have to be permanent, and linked to the vehicle registration at installation. They also have to be difficult to tamper with because the obvious advantage of masking or removing the RFID (car becomes un-chargeable) is not going to be unnoticed.


  21. There are two quite separate issues getting conflated in this debate:
    1) a congestion cordon for central Auckland,
    2) replacing the blunt 1920s RUCs/petrol tax with a modern cost recovery mechanism, ie catching up with the way that wholesale electricity has been priced for the past 70 years.

    1) is impractical, both technically and politically
    2) is technically so cheap, simple and available that implementation could start this year, unfortunately it would be political suicide if not sold very carefully and cleverly. The current Government has been able to hide its fiscally neutral/don’t piss off the insurance companies response to the Canterbury earthquakes behind a PR veneer of generosity/leadership, so it should be easy to sell something as positive as eft-paygo.

  22. Andrew,

    Bought the cheapest cellphone this morning to replace my “drowned” one (dont go sailing with a cell phone in your pocket when we have 30 knots of wind).

    $60.00 Now that is retail, lets say wholesale at $20 each per car.

    How many vehicles in New Zealand 2.5 million? (you have to do every car, and truck for you never know when they might travel to or be sold to an Aucklander).

    Getting close to an outlay of $50M just to equip the natioanl car fleet. Now add the underroad ones at each intersection, then add the software, capital cost of roughly $100M?.

    Operational costs include the rental to utilise one of the cellphone networks (possibly both as coverage is not 100% across Auckland.

    Add staff costs for administation.

    Still dreaming?

  23. And yes you will have to maintain it. It’s all solid state electronics. Maybe the batteries in the cellphones will have to be replaced after 10 years or so. If you’ve got, say, 1,000 toll gates then that will cost maybe $10,000 plus labour. Or maybe someone wants me prove that it won’t cost $200 for each cellphone, and won’t need to be done every 3 months? PERSPECTIVE AND COMMONSENSE, PLEASE.

  24. You link the cellphone number to the geographical location of the ‘cat eye’ cellphones. This way when the text for the tolling information is sent, the central computer knows where exactly it was sent from. Very cheap and simple stuff.

    You will have to write a programme to automate the records and billing. This will cost some cash. If it costs $10m or so, then the council or NZ govt is being severely ripped off.

  25. We are talking about setting up charges in AUCKLAND, not Santiago, and urban roads, not arterial routes, are what we mostly have available to us.

    Running SH1 through the center of the city is a plan of such brilliance that it dazzles the senses.

    There are other shortcomings here, but with Auckland as spread out as it is, the combined effect is to make any effort to charge people for “congestion” fraught with difficulties.

    Which makes 2 Engineers now, who are telling you that it ain’t as easy or cheap as you’re making out.

    I won’t say it “cannot” be done. I won’t even say it wouldn’t be worth doing.

    What I am saying is that it isn’t going to be as easy/efficient or cheap as it was for London, would be for Moscow or could be for NYC. Which may be ONE reason why it isn’t as popular with the city council as you think it ought to be.


  26. Gerrit says “problem with congestion charges is that they simple get added onto the cost of doing business and find their way into overheads either through higher wages or higher costs passed on.”

    In London, they’ve found the cost savings because of time saved, is greater than the total cost of the charges.

    In Chile, they’ve had fully automatic electronic tolls on arterial routes since 2004, which vary in cost and time of operation depending on time of day.

    They’ve spent the money on new roading infrastructure and their arterial roads flow really well. Rather than upgrading motorways AFTER thay are badly needed like we do here, they build new multi-lane motorways, tunnels, viaducts etc, to new suburbs, BEFORE they are needed.

  27. Andrew,

    You a strategist, sure dont sound like one.

    Your $50 cell phone sensor requires a back office computorised tracking system covering (if the Kevyn theory is to be instigated) every road junction in Auckland. Hooked up through the cell phone network (privately owned so a user charge applies).

    So what is the “back office” infastructure cost? What are the maintenance costs? What are the operational costs? Bit bigger then your $50 per unit I would say.

    If we go with the Kevyn theory, congestion charges would apply if the roads were gridlocked.

    So a Mt Eden resident would be charged to go home when the All Blacks are playing at Eden Park and people are flocking there (seen the number of buses that clog the venue, game time?.

    Remember we are already paying $0.48 per litre petrol for road usage charges. We pay at the pump, diesel users through the RUC system.

    Will these disapear?

    Being state revenue collections for ALL New Zealand road users.

    Will the Auckland Council add the congestion road user charges on top of the ones alrteady collected by the state?

    Double taxation to use the roads the customers have already paid for?

    Cant see the Greens having that election promise in 2014.

    But keep sitting in your ivory towers, you may see it one day from an engineering, operational perspective.

  28. Gerrit:

    An engineer? You certainly don’t sound like one. Engineers can tell the difference between details that need to be looked at, or not, depending on what you’re talking about and the level the discussion is operating on.

    I never said details are irrelevant. I said they were irrelevant relative to the points I was making. Can’t you see that?

    I’m talking about a system where toll gates are reduced to about a $50 dollar structure because they are literally nothing more than a simple cellphone + solar panel. Try yourself to visual the system I am talking about. Engineers are suppose to be visual people.

  29. Road pricing would greatly help to reduce traffic. Pricing could be in proportion to the vehicles class/weight. Not only would it generate revenue which could be used for maintenance or public transport, but it would save on road maintenance costs, delay/avoid any road upgrade requirements, and increase productivity because of the reduced traffic.

    You could have free allowances to allow normal use, but those clocking up the kms in heavy vehicles would have to pay dearly.

    And as they do in other parts of the world, you have enforcement cameras that can detect when a car passes, and if no transponder is detected you get a fine in the mail.

  30. Gerrit, You are continue to conflate congestion charges with road pricing. They are entirely different things. As you rightly say, a London style of cordon charge is not an effective means of dealing with congestion, especially with Auckland’s layout. That is why the solution has to be electronic tolling of the entire road network, with charges set according to temporal and spatial variations in demand. There are absolutely no practical barriers to this and, contrary to your claims, this approach was thoroughly investigated by the road pricing study in the 1990s and found to be vastly superior in every way to the existing funding mechanisms.

    The only barriers are political ones not practical ones.

  31. Andrew,

    On a different planet to you alright.

    I’m an engineer.

    I’m one of those who takes acadamic theories and has to make them work in a practical reality on planet common sense.

    Details are irrelevant?

    Great strategic planner you are.

    Detail is everything for that is what makes any stategy a success.

    You know those little action steps that detail where to start, where to go and how to measure achievement.

    You wont discuss because you have no details to sell your theories on.

    No wonder no one takes your suggestion for congestion charges seriously.

  32. Gerrit,

    I was just pointing out vested interest. Don’t try to make me look like a conspiracy theorist dick for it. The world is mostly RUN by the function of vested interests.

    Any new development requires co-operation among parties and detailed analysis on application – obviously. You are trying to turn the essence of the discussion into something that it’s not, by going into details that are really irrelevant to the premise of whether or not we *should* be congestion-charging. I have no control over political will – I wish I did. The point of whether or not you can get the powers that be to agree with congestion-charging is another discussion.

    If you can’t see that something as straight forward as modern electronic congestion-charging can be implemented, and economically, then you’re on another planet to me. If your perspective is that far out then I’m not going to discuss this anymore with you.

  33. Andrew and Kevyn,

    Yep, it is one great conspiracy by interested parties (notably the road users) OK, to stop this congestion charge.

    So you establish that it is technically posible, Yea, good on you acadamics.

    Now start thinking about application and operation.

    Go on, get the council and the state to argree on which roads you will charge to use, which areas to target, how much to charge, etc., etc.

    But as you cannot even answer on simple operation question on congestion charges, I have doubts you are practical people who can implement any strategy.

    Maybe just maybe, smarter pratical people have looked at this congestion charging for Auckland and deemed it as unworkable (though technically feasable).

    Taking RUC from trucking requires state legislation and will effect ALL of New Zealand. Whilst congestion charges only apply to the cities.

    Would think the rural folks will raise a glass to that notion, not sure if the urban folk will though, having to shoulder the full RUC replacement levie.

    Here is an acadamic question that will reduce congestion. Stagger school opening hours.

    Commuter congestion is marketly down during school holidays. So if we spread school hours over a 16 hour period, the need for mum and the kids to be travelling on congested roads is spread throughout the day.

    In fact if we had schools doing 2 shifts per day, for three days per week, we would have huge congestion easing everyday.

  34. Kevyn,

    Thank you. Apparently we have about 2x as many trucks as we would otherwise need on Auckland’s roads today, due to congestion. I would imagine that trucking companies might oppose congestion-charging simply because they won’t want to be landed with a glut on what they supply. Indeed, there could be many vested interests who want Auckland’s road kept ‘sick’ for their personal sake (rail is one them!). Status-quo’s are hard to change if only because there are so many with a personal dependency on them. Threaten someone’s livelihood and they will fight like a b****!

  35. On congestion charging, none of this is hard.

    Singapore sets standards for the minimum speed traffic should flow on roads, when it gets below that regularly it puts a gantry up and charges only at the times when traffic is heavy. It’s been around since 1998 but for whatever reason (I suspect latent xenophobia around non-English speaking European cities doing it) this is ignored.

    The revenue should be used, for starters, to replace fixed charges that bear no relationship to road use. Rates for example. An argument can be made that people who don’t drive, but own property, shouldn’t pay for roads (except perhaps in rural contexts where so few vehicles exist to bear those fixed costs), so it would be fairer to redistribute road costs from ratepayers to road users, giving ratepayers a little money back. Beyond that, it would make sense to replace fuel tax at least down to a level that means fuel tax = price of CO2 (fuel tax isn’t much use for reflecting anything else).

    Operating costs can be very low, the LKW-Maut distance/weight based system in Germany now achieves opex of 2% from revenue.

    Congestion charging works most clearly in Singapore and Stockholm, and Oslo effectively has such a system in practice (if not in name). Bad examples are Tehran (charges too low), Dubai (charges too low and too many gaps). London suffers from having reallocated road space to other road users, so whilst bus and hackney carriages have done well, general traffic is no better off (and the zone is relatively tiny).

    However, Auckland can really only practically go for two options:
    – A central city cordon charge (which wont make much difference);
    – Full network charging over time (effectively expanding RUC to all vehicles electronically with a GPS system on board).

    The latter over the long term will deliver the best results, but I can’t see a party that is dedicated to growing the state and increasing tax take overall convincing people that it is a good idea.

  36. Gerrit, Andrew began by discussing “comprehensive congestion-charging”, That is a completely different concept from having access charges to enter central London or Manhattan Island. What Andrew is proposing is similar to the technology developed by Taits for fault monitoring on Orion’s network so we can safely say that the tech side cheap and available. The economic side is to replace the existing “dumb” RUCs and excise duty with “smart” priving based on marginal utility economics so that you pay for the cost of the road capacity needed to provide free-flow at that time and place in the network. It’s simple market economics so of course it will work. And of course those who are currently getting free ride will vigorously oppose it, but that’s communist capitalists for ya.

  37. Andrew,

    What I get is you talking theories but no practical application.

    Who controls where the demand has to be tolled?

    By what authority? Central government controls the state highways, council the local roading network.

    Where does the revenue go?

    What are the administrative costs versus operational revenue?

    If you answer practical and operational queries you might just get people to take you seriously.

    Have any examples where congestion charges actually work?

    London is a bad example for Auckland as they have a circular ring road around the city to enable people to choose to enter the congestion zone or not. They can easily bypass London.

    In Auckland we have linear state highway roading where the main north, south, west transport artery goes through the centre of the city. How congestion charges can be implemented to only catch those people moving in and out of the CBD you still fail to answer.

  38. Gerrit,

    Come on. Don’t you get it?

    It’s about the principle of congestion charging – you put the gate wherever the demand needs to be controlled. Where exactly? Let the transport authorities work that out.

    A degree of policing would be obviously necessary to ensure people’s cars are tagged. Just like we police for WOF and rego’. This also can be an automated process – a camera here and there to sinc license plates to tags when passing a given gate.

  39. Andrew,

    Still with the fluffy theory on HOW to work a system.

    Now WHERE will you place the system?

    What roads and how much? Charge both in and out? Only CBD or around Manukau, Botany, Tapapuna, Albany, New Lynn, etc.?

    Still havent answered regarding SH1 North and South plus spagetti junction where North Westerm meets port access. Nor Eastern Arterial meets Southern.

    Come on be a bit more specific then cheap cellphones buried in the asphalt and a transponder in the car.

    My car in happened to follow a plumbers van and a bit of lead flashing fell of the back of the van and wrapped around my transponder.

    Yippee, Free access to any congested area unless massive outlay in number plate recognition gantries, software and employees to monitor ALL cars to catch me.

    How many gantries do you need around Auckland?

  40. You can do better than this Julie-Anne. Greece’s motorways are empty because the economy is bankrupt due to 30 + years of overspending, a ridiculously over generous welfare state, inflated military, inflated public sector and vast corruption around taxation and public spending.

    To imply that Greece’s motorways were even going to make up for that is utter nonsense.

    Greece also got a fortune spent on an elaborate Athens metro, which vast numbers ride on for free, and that hasn’t sparked off a recovery either.

    Oh and on congestion charging, it demonstrably works in Singapore, Stockholm and Oslo. London it is too blunt. The Greens wont advocate it because they are trying to get mainstream votes.

  41. Well, if they decide to play cops and speeders using the things I know at least one that is only going be functional during my WOF.

  42. Gerrit,

    It’s a function of information:

    No booths – all you need is a stripped back cellphone embedded in the road (like a cats eye) that’s solar powered. With a passive (no active powering) Radio-tag attached to everyone’s cars (and these tags are virtually costless), the “cellphone” can then record where and when your car passed its point. You should be able to make these ‘cellphone gates’ for no more than about $50 each – commission Motorola to do it, or something.

    The “cellphone” then texts a message to the server at the Ministry of Transport, for all its tolling records for that day. Including parking tolling. The computer then calculates your bill at the end of the month, and emails or posts you your invoice.

    The entire process can be completely automated, and involves no disruption to the motion of cars. It can also provide real-time feedback on traffic flows, and with the use of two “cellphones” over a given specific area, it can also function as a speed camera (Maybe we should keep that one quiet?).

    The primary advantage is that we can now cheaply install a network of electronic toll-gates anywhere, and without traffic disruptions, so as to provide a comprehensive network for highly effective demand control. Only now can we do this.

  43. Andrew,

    So where would you place the toll booths?

    On the Southern/Northern motorway? Aukland Council does not have jurisdiction on those state highways.

    Thus the congestion infastructure, maintenenance, running costs and revenue stream will go to the state.

    Or are you envisaging having every congestion spot (say Botany Town Centre with a five arterial routes junction) having seperate tolling booths on every road leading to the congestion spot?

    Can you imagine the infastructure required on the countries busiest intersection (Wiri Station Road, Great South Road at Manukau?

    Or the numerous entry roads to the Newmarket area where you have arterial routes coming in North, East, South, West plus points in between. Similarly for Manukau, Takapuna, New Lynn, Albany, etc.,etc.

    Never mind the fluffy theory, how about some concrete proposals.

    Will the congestion charge be one way or in and out?

    Are you only considering congestion charges for the CBD?

  44. One thing I always find shocking in NZ is the amount of freight on the roads. Why isn’t more done to encourage the movement of freight over rail. The addition of loading / unloading areas at key strategic points would surely reduce the amount of road use.

  45. Gerrit:

    The direct, professional costs of congestion would be far higher than a $2 toll during peak time – especially for freight.


    Comprehensive congestion charging will always work – it’s just a matter of getting the pricing right.


    Imagine this scenario. Imagine waiting behind your oven for 15 minutes every night before you can use it to cook your meal, because electricity is “free” yet under-supplied, so you have to wait your turn to get your ‘electricity credit’ so as to proceed with dinner. And imagine your tax bill just went up by, say, $50 per-week to pay for that electricity because, of course, nothing is really free that costs money to bring into service.

    Mad of course, but that’s pretty much the Auckland transport scenario today.

    We now have the tools to do to transport what should have been done, in principle, from the very beginning. We can give everyone a transport account and passive-RF tag their cars so as to provide cheap toll-gates, wherever we want.

    Also, those toll-gates can be integrated with pay-parking, making it much easier to actualise Julie-Anne Genter’s ideal of getting rid of minimum parking requirements (which I agree with). It can be single highly practical and efficient system.

    According to my crystal ball, Julie-Anne Genter will be our next transport minister in our next left-wing government. I hope she looks seriously at this possibility then.

  46. Congestion charges would then appear to be useful to alleviate a problem in the short term (change habits) and also to raise some money to make a capital investment in a transport improvement for the longer term (to sustain the change in the one person in a car commuter habit).

  47. problem with congestion charges is that they simple get added onto the cost of doing business and find their way into overheads either through higher wages or higher costs passed on.

    Another problem with congestion charges is that once the congestion has gone the council will be without the revenue stream.

    So councils should not show the revenue stream in any budget expenditure as the volume collected can drop (and is supposed to drop).

    But do we know of any council that will forego revenue?

    In Auckland where would you the revenue collection gantries? On the Southern Motorway? As there is no alternative for the traffic to go North or South that would rightly be considered revenue gathering by the council from a captive audience.

    Though any revenue collected on the Southern Motorway would need to go to the National Roads Board (or whatever the SH1 controllers are called) for financing road congestion relieve infastructure construction (such a three laning the Mt Wellington bridge, improving the on/off ramp system where the Eastern arterial meets the Southern Motorway, three laning to Drury, etc.,etc..

    Not forgetting the alternative route north and south along SH20, Waterview, joining south with the north western.

    Would open up the Helensville corridor to development such as seen along the Waikato Expressway

  48. Congestion charging in London was fabulous, for a while, it really worked.

    Then paying the congestion charge just became part of the cost of living in London. And the benefits evaporated, but of course, the costs remain.

    So ultimately, it seems it doesn’t work as advertised.

  49. bjchip,

    Well, if responsibility for congestion charging (or not) belongs exclusively to cities, then they should not dare ask central governments to pay for their rail systems.

    I think congestion charging could be more popular if only it was properly explained to the public. The first thing to push should be the idea that the money does not just disappear – it pays your rates.

  50. Andrew – Congestion charging is a fine idea which will I think, ensure that any political party (but PARTICULARLY the Greens), who advocate it, lose votes.

    Not that it is wrong, but that it is in that category of things that are particularly vulnerable to attack.

    VERY difficult to actually do because of the negative way it will affect each individual, even though it may work well to improve the congestion problem… it is all stick to the individual and no carrot… and the party that gets behind it will wind up behind in the polls. Not that that has ever deterred the Greens from idealistically charging the nearest windmill, but not deniable.

    Besides which, doesn’t responsibility for decisions like that belong to the cities? ( He said, passing the buck in an obvious way 🙂


  51. Julie,

    Can you please comment on what you think of the idea of comprehensive congestion-charging to mostly eliminate congestion, using modern electronic systems.

    Logically, it will drive bus and car-pooling growth, and better organisation around car usage, and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions from the reduced stop-and-go and idling operation.

    Why don’t you advocate for this as a priority?


  52. In thing I wrote (http://werewolf.co.nz/2012/06/from-the-hood-eurorecovery-made-easy/) I suggested if highways work so well thye might be an idea for Spain. A reader enthused about the Spanish highways “many brand new built quite recently. This allows their produce, people, tourists etc. to be transported around quickly”. Thinking back, the route I bussed down was indeed fine, broad and mostly empty. Anyway, I think the main thing I found on google was the government having bail out the private highway operators.

  53. It could be worse. They could have spent billions on windfarms and have them produce 0% of the power needed.

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