Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tolling Auckland not user pays


Aucklanders might ask the following questions about Transit’s plan to charge tolls to fund the Avondale motorway extension:
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1. Whether it is right that users of three projects already fully funded by Land Transport NZ, from fuel tax/road user charges revenue, should pay tolls to pay for a different road. The Greenhithe Deviation (under construction for the last couple of years), Mt Roskill Extension (under construction for several months) and the Manukau extension (approved for funding over two years ago) are likely to be tolled to pay for the uneconomic Avondale extension. Why? Because tolling the Avondale extension would raise little funds in itself – in other words, the project doesn’t deliver enough value to road users for them to be willing to pay for it – so Transit wants to force others to pay for it. How do you benefit from the Avondale extension if you drive from North Shore to Waitakere?
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2. Should the final part of the Western ring road - the Avondale extension (going to Waterview) should be so heavily greenplated (tunnelled) that its no longer economically efficient? Does it need to be in a tunnel, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to its total cost?
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3. With that “greenplating” the project now has a benefit/cost ratio below 1:1 Why should a project that – dollar for dollar – generates less benefits for users that it costs – be such a high priority? Once the other segments are completed, it may become more economic as traffic queues between Mt Roskill and Waterview, but meanwhile instead of being tied up in this project, the money will have generated far higher benefits elsewhere. Can you think of better ways to spend that money – such as roads in Waikato that are accident prone?
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4. Note that the private sector isn’t interested in financing and tolling this road as a viable proposition – unlike toll roads in Sydney and Melbourne. This tells you that it isn’t about user pays, there isn’t enough traffic willing to pay tolls to justify the exhorbitant cost. When the private sector stays away, doesn’t that give a message? No it isn't the legislation doing it, despite Opposition claims.
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5. The government commissioned a report on road pricing in Auckland. It came out resoundingly against tolling existing and future Auckland motorways to reduce congestion because it would see large amounts of traffic diverted onto parallel roads, which cannot handle the traffic well and expose pedestrians and local residents to safety and pollution risks. The Ministry of Transport/Treasury commissioned report says it is a bad idea to do, on a large scale, something Transit is going to do on a smaller scale. What is the effect of tolling going to be on parallel local roads, and the economics of these projects which were originally appraised as untolled roads? Why is nobody saying anything about this?
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6. Why is the billing system for toll roads in New Zealand being funded from your petrol tax and road user charges, and not from borrowing against the future income from toll roads, like it is in Australia?
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Now I support tolling new lanes - that makes sense and is user pays (and increasingly being adopted in the USA), and have no problem with tolling new roads as long as tolling raises enough money to pay for the road (the road not needing to be subsidised). Simply, there are a lot of questions that need asking - and they should be asked. You're being consulted on this. If I were you, I'd ask these questions, and continue until you get straight answers. I suspect the answers are:
- Avondale (Waterview) Extension is not economic of itself, but is politically and strategically appealing because it finishes a line on a map.
- There is enough money to fund every other stage of the Western Ring Route untolled.
- Tolling Avondale (Waterview) Extension will divert traffic to parallel roads and generate little revenue to fund it.
- Government has told Transit to build this road come hell or high water.
- Avondale (Waterview) Extension could have at least 30% of its costs removed if it wasn't being "greenplated" to meet legislative requirements.
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UPDATE 1 – Loony lefty Auckland City Councillor Dr. Cathy Casey is opposing tolls too, not because of the dodgy economics but because:
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We don’t want fast roads for the rich and slow roads for the poor. It is the government that should be funding roads, not the people of Auckland – they have already paid their taxes.”
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The poor have cars? I suppose she likes poor people in Christchurch paying over the nose for road maintenance through petrol tax (it’s cheap to do it there) while rich people in Gisborne underpay? She also seems to think the government doesn’t take money from Aucklanders, and that taxes have “been paid”. The people that should be funding roads are those who use them – people without cars shouldn’t, and they are more likely to be poor.
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“Dr Casey says that “user pays” is unfair and penalises people on low incomes.”
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Well duh, because they aren’t earning enough and it is an incentive to get them to be innovative and work to do so, unlike Dr Casey who has the economic intelligence of an imbecilic squirrel. So food and clothing should be paid for communally – hey sounds like North Korea, that works a wonder. Let’s abolish user pays, everyone can pay for everyone else – or maybe it could all be free… (now all sing and pass the drugs so you can keep evading reality).
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“There are many low-paid workers who drive across this city every day from outlying districts where they are forced to live because of escalating house prices. They already have to pay increased petrol and parking fees. Paying a toll on top of that is just not an option.”
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“Forced to live”? Well no, they live where they can afford- they could live in Invercargill instead. House prices escalate because of the sort of planning policies reality-evading morons like yourself put in place restricting supply of land for housing, and housing people want – don’t forget the rates you like imposing on people as well. You might also wonder why Auckland City Council doesn’t reduce parking charges and abolish its small 0.66c/l petrol tax to “ease the burden”, but I guess you like tax because it isn’t user pays, it’s “force everyone”.
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Remember, even with my doubts about the road, it still is a new road – people driving now could stay on the current routes instead of using the new one. What a foaming at the mouth socialist halfwit she is - but hey, some of you voted for her!
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The Greens are opposing it because it is user pays too - sort of - they don't like people paying tolls if the money is used to pay for roads, because roads are bad m'kay? In other words, the Greens would love it if the tolls were used to pay for a NZ only TV channel or hip hop music videos.

3 comments:

P-Style said...

Just a minor reflection,

I was in Auckland for the first time in about a year just this week. While trying to make my way from Ta Atatu to the Airport I wondered to myself,

"The would be a damn site easier if there was a motorway from West Auckland direct to the Southern Motorway"

So I guess if it were constructed, at least one person in the world would see some benefit. Anyways, I'm back in Wellies now and we've got our fair share of trasnport issues too ;)

uk_kiwi said...

This is part of the problem- NZ has lost it's will to do public works projects of any kind- they just get bogged down by parasitic politicians, lawyers, consultants and accountants.

This kind of project should unquestionably be built, even with the looming oil crisis. If nothing else, it will build a skills base and a generation of roadworkers who don't have to sell P to make a living.

Kiwis are all talk and no action.

libertyscott said...

Well the Mt Roskill extension is funded, economic and should be competed - that gets people from near Avondale to South Auckland.

Uk_kiwi - the NZ road contracting sector is booming already, big road projects all over and there are plenty being trained - tons of action. I'd argue it is overheating putting the price up. Once the other parts of the road are built, then serious consideration can be given to the final link - but $1.6b is a lot of money for that final stage.