MOTORING

Raft of new approaches advised to cope with coming growth-generated congestion

Tuesday 26 April 2011, 4:28PM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development
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Some 66% of New Zealanders now do not believe it is possible to eliminate congestion by building more roads and motorways.

They now support paying fees to use fast lanes to manage congestion peaks, according to a report on the country’s Freight Future released today.

Published by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, the report says freight volumes will grow 70 to 75% during the next 30 years to cope with current economic growth rates.

“We can only do that if our exports and imports grow even faster,” the report says.
It says if the country is serious about catching Australian levels of income, then freight volumes will need to grow by more than 100%.

To achieve these growth rates, the country will need a better performing freight sector – and more efficient supply chains.

Even greater volumes will be generated if New Zealand wants to match Australian material living standard. The economy will need to need to grow about 2% each year faster than Australia for the next fifteen years or 1% faster each year for the next 30 years.
Told of these required growth rates:

- 84.2% of New Zealanders believe traffic congestion will worsen over that period, 66.3% believe private trips will take longer
- 69.9% believe their travel times will increase
- 60.2% of those whose main vehicle use is work related believe their trips will take longer
- 69.1% believe more freight will be delivered overnight instead of during the day
- 35.4% believe more freight will be moved at peak hours
- 81.1% believe ports will expand.

The Business Council says no country can build enough roads and motorways to overcome congestion and smarter and better use of infrastructure is needed.

It proposes a raft of possible policy options, which it says 45 project participants, including most of the top companies and organisations in the freight sector, want to sit down and discuss with the Government to start work on a shared vision and agenda for action.

This includes greater use of information technology to manage traffic congestion, make freight movements more efficient, the creation of special freight fast lanes, which shippers and other motorists can opt to use for a fee, with fees applying to non-freight users at peak hours.

The Business Council says only 5.5% of New Zealanders live in households without a car, 86.9% are driving a vehicle each week. For 50.2% employment is the main use for their vehicle each week.

At the same time only 30.9% live within 10 minutes’ drive or walk from a railway station, and only 15.9% use public transport each week.

To overcome access issues, the report says door-to-door public transport could be considered, allowing people to text mini-buses to take them to public transport, and from public transport stops to their final destinations.

Other ideas on its “agenda for action” include:

• Incentives to reduce congestion by encouraging more people into each car during peak commuting times, which may be the greenest option available
• Fees for opting to use fast lanes at peak times, with fee exemptions for those carrying three or more in a vehicle
• Special fast freight lanes built between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga – the “golden triangle” expected to have to cope with more than a 75% growth in freight volumes.

The Business Council says efficient freight supply chains are needed to allow for growth to lift living standards and improve our quality of life.
New Zealanders are prepared to pay fast lane fees or tolls, and to use this to build new infrastructure:

Generally more people agree (51.6%) than disagree (23.2%) with a toll being charged to build new roads and motorways faster than planned, provided there is an alternative free route.

51.7% are in favour and 24.1% are opposed to paying for the use of a new road or motorway, built earlier than currently planned, if it reduced their travelling time.
51.7% agree that tolls are a fairer way of funding new roads because the costs are paid by users, while 14.9% believe they are less fair.
58.1% agree that tolls are fairer because future users, not just today’s users, pay for them, while 14.1% disagree.
Asked if they would agree to paying $1 each time they used a motorway:
- 55% agreed if traffic flow on motorways improved during peak periods
- 55.6% agreed if an alternative free route was available
- 45.1% agreed if the motorway funded would be publicly owned once paid for
- 40.2% agreed if new motorways were to be built earlier
- 38.6% agreed if the motorway is paid off, the toll income is used to pay for another new motorway
- 21.5% would not agree with a toll under any of those circumstances.

Close to twice as many support than oppose introducing fast fee road lanes for freight only at peak times (42% support, 23% oppose).

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says New Zealand needs an efficient freight system because the country’s prosperity largely rests on its ability to trade. However, long distances to overseas markets are imposing an economic penalty: It is estimated that exports decrease by 2.6% on average for every 1% increase in distance between New Zealand and the country it exports to.

The year-long Freight Future study found a number of challenges within the current supply chains. They were highlighted in discussions with stakeholders and reviews of international trends. They include:
• The need for a shared long-term vision by government and the freight sector;
• Inefficient landside access to ports;
• Rail not achieving its potential;
• Inadequate capital investment; and the
• Inability of supply chain participants to consistently co-ordinate to optimise efficiency.

A number of exciting opportunities now exist to lift the freight sector and supply chain productivity, including:
• Real-time management of traffic flows;
• Real-time reporting on freight movements;
• Time-specific charging for congestion, accident, noise and other externalities;
• New funding sources and mechanisms, including tolling, public private partnerships (PPPs), a national motor fuel tax surcharge available to be allocated for regional roading;
• Hub and spoke networks, super-sized container ships, and deeper ports; and
• Substantial investments in rail to boost transit speeds and reliability.

These innovations, if introduced appropriately, could see New Zealand benefit as it did from each of earlier freight innovations, like refrigeration on ships, to enable the export of frozen meat, the advent of containerisation, the introduction of long haul jet aircraft for tourism, and the corporatisation of our ports and subsequent workforce reforms.

The “Freight Future: An agenda for action” report is at www.nzbcsd.org.nz, along with a full technical report summarising research findings and ShapeNZ poll results.

The Minister for Transport, Information and Technology and Associate Minister of Infrastructure, Steven Joyce, is being invited to meet with the project participants in May or June to discuss the “agenda for action”, after all parties have had a chance to consider the findings.