By Don Good, Waikato Chamber CEO
I came across this Stuff article over the weekend, The case for introducing congestion charging, and thoroughly recommend it as the basis for a debate Hamilton needs to have on traffic.
It highlights Singapore where the electronic congestion charging toll system works very efficiently. They manage to juggle traffic for 5 million people living on an island the same size as Lake Taupo. The future may require people to use public transport as much as possible and, for many people, paying congestion charges gives an incentive to shift modes.
The issue of congestion charging has been thoroughly explored in New Zealand. There have been at least five major studies of congestion charging options for Auckland over the past 20 years, all of which concluded that such schemes would be beneficial overall. A recent select committee demonstrated rare bipartisan agreement.
A recent report by the Helen Clark Foundation, in partnership with WSP New Zealand, clearly demonstrates that congestion charging, and fairness, can go together.
This gets even more sensible when you factor in our potential for a ring road expressway. The mayor and councillors need to dramatically increase the pressure on central government for the western expressway bypass of Hamilton, commonly known as Southern Links, to be completed in its totality.
Because when connected to the Waikato Expressway, it gives Hamilton a four-lane expressway ring road.
When the current eastern expressway by-pass opened, the city saw an immediate reduction of 17% in the traffic in the city. If we saw a similar level with Southern Links coming on stream then the dreams of a 20-minute city would become real.
Until then you are going to be beset with traffic snarl ups on Cobham Drive, Tamahere interchange, Te Rapa Rd, the dangerous Narrows Bridge, around Melville, the Waikato Hospital corner, Kahikatea Drive and Wairere Drive. Then you have to add in the effects of the population increase from the huge Peacocke subdivision when it is completed over the next decade.
Add Southern Links to congestion charging and you will change people’s commuting habits in the current working from home, post Covid days.
With Southern Links and congestion charging, you have the makings of a recipe for traffic to flow, rather than the current planning focus on making traffic go slow.