November 11, 2022
by Christopher Carey
The mayor of New Zealand’s largest city has said plans to introduce a congestion charge are diverting attention from providing reliable public transport.
Speaking ahead of a parliamentary debate on the issue, Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said introducing a motorist charge would only work when every resident had access to reliable public transport.
“Congestion pricing only makes sense once every Aucklander has the option of catching a bus or train that they know will arrive on time, every time – and we are two years away. of that, at the very least,” Mayor Brown said. .
“If Wellington-based politicians want to help the people of Auckland, they must let more bus drivers into the country and provide faster funding for important public transport projects.
“Congestion charging could be a useful tool in the future if integrated into a functioning public transport system, but at the moment it is only a distraction from solving the immediate crisis. we are facing.”
Thousands of bus services have been canceled in the city due to a shortage of bus drivers.
“This year we have struggled to operate our full bus schedules due to the effects of the national driver shortage, which has resulted in far more cancellations than we would typically see,” Darek said. Koper, Director of Metro Services Group, Auckland Transport.
Last week, New Zealand Transport Minister Michael Wood announced NZ$61 million (US$36.3 million) in funding for driver pay rises in hopes of attracting new talent.
But the city’s trains are also facing problems, with a two-year service outage expected due to overdue track maintenance.
The congestion charge debate in Auckland has been going on for many years, with many studies and proposals being put forward.
The latest, a 2020 government report titled The issue of clutter, recommended the introduction of congestion charges for motorists, ranging from NZ$1.50 off-peak to NZ$3.50 peak.
Former Auckland mayor Phil Goff had backed the introduction of a charge, alongside the national government, which estimates it could lead to a 12 per cent reduction in traffic.
Charges would be applied once in a two-hour window, regardless of distance traveled, free of charge between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Shortage of drivers
New Zealand isn’t the only country facing a shortage of bus drivers – cities in the UK, US and Ireland have also experienced significant service disruption issues in course of the last six months.
But other factors like software issues and route management are also causing disruptions.
In Dublin, passengers have for months complained of long delays, canceled services and so-called “ghost buses” that appear in real time on public transport apps but never show up.
A Dublin Commuter Coalition and its counterparts in Cork and Galway have written to an Irish parliamentary committee investigating the issues, warning that the public transport system is now at “crisis point”.
“For more than a year, public transport users have faced long delays, canceled services and ‘ghost buses’ and, unfortunately, the situation shows no signs of improving,” the letter reads.
“The problem is particularly acute on low-frequency routes where a single canceled service can result in wait times of over an hour. We believe this poor level of service is eroding confidence in the public transport system and undermining the government’s goals of increasing public transport use.
Speaking to Ireland’s Parliamentary Transport Committee earlier this week, Andrea Keane, acting chief executive of Dublin Bus, apologized to customers for the drop in services.
“Reliability of real-time passenger information (RTPI) systems has unfortunately deteriorated in recent months, due to both software issues and a shortage of bus drivers,” she said. declared.