The Congestion Question (formerly known as the Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project) is a joint project between Government and Auckland Council to investigate whether or not to introduce congestion pricing in Auckland.

Congestion pricing is a method used to ease congestion by charging road users at different times and/or locations to encourage some users to change the time, route or way in which they travel. The project will develop, test and analyse options, and this, together with what Aucklanders tell us, will inform the decision on whether we recommend congestion pricing for Auckland.

At the end of the project, the Government and Auckland Council will have a clear understanding of the requirements and likely outcomes of an Auckland-specific congestion pricing system and be able to make decisions on whether to introduce congestion pricing.

This joint project involves the Ministry of Transport, the NZ Transport Agency, Auckland Council, Auckland Transport, the Treasury and the State Services Commission. For more information see the Terms of Reference [PDF, 211 KB].

Key milestones

The Congestion Question: Phase One Report was completed in November 2017.

The first phase of The Congestion Question project focused on establishing baseline data and  background information to provide a foundation for the rest of the project.

We undertook research into international experiences of congestion pricing to find out what lessons could be applied to Auckland. This looked at schemes that have been introduced in London, Stockholm, Singapore and others, as well as places where investigations into congestion pricing have been attempted but not successful. The full report is available here [insert hyperlink].

Our overall finding from the first phase of the project is that congestion pricing shows real promise as a means to help address Auckland’s transport challenges. We have learnt valuable lessons from international experiences of congestion pricing about the importance of public engagement and the need to take a staged approach.  

Government and Auckland Council have accepted the report’s recommendation to proceed to the second phase of the project, where pricing options will be developed and evaluated.

As the project progresses we will engage with the public and with stakeholders to ensure whatever we recommend is right for Auckland.

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Background

In 2016, the Government and Auckland Council worked together to develop a clear direction for Auckland’s transport system over the next 30 years, through the Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP)(external link). The full ATAP report can be found here(external link).

ATAP found that, to achieve a step-change in the performance of Auckland’s transport system over the next 30 years, we need a fundamental shift to influencing travel demand, alongside substantial ongoing transport investment, and getting more out of the existing network.

In response to ATAP’s findings, the Government and Auckland Council established the Congestion Question project.

What is congestion pricing?

Currently, motorists pay for the use of roads through a range of methods: petrol taxes, road user charges, vehicle registration fees and rates. These charges don’t take into account the time or location of travel – for example, driving on a congested motorway in rush hour versus driving along a quiet road late at night. But the true costs of these two journeys are very different – driving at peak times adds to the congestion on the road, which affects (or has a ‘cost’ to) other road users. These costs impact both on the economy (for example, by adding to freight travel times and costs) and individuals (meaning, for example, people have less time at home with family).

Congestion pricing could change this by varying what road users pay at different times and/or locations to better reflect where the cost of using the roads is higher (i.e. where there is congestion). This could encourage some users to change the time, route, or method of travel, or choose not to travel at all – this is known as demand management. The result is better use of the road network.