Congestion charges won’t solve the mass transport problem

Efficient public transport would remove the need for congestion charges, says the car review website
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says:

“The biggest reason people drive is because public transport is mostly crap. Public transport in cities like Auckland is inconvenient, unreliable, expensive, unsafe and fails to cover many transport routes for much of the time. Is it any wonder that people drive cars?”

“Congestion charges don’t solve these chronic public transport problems. Instead, congestion charges allow wealthy people to avoid public transport entirely, while forcing poorer people to put up with a third-rate public transport system that rarely matches the needs of its customers.”

“My local bus stops don't even have shelter from the weather. The buses won't carry bikes. The trains regularly break down, stranding commuters. Local governments in cities like Auckland have done everything to make life hard for car owners, without providing anything resembling a reliable alternative.”

“Throughout the country, large buses are generally used at all times, even though these buses are largely empty during quiet times. Why is this? It’s simple: the system is set up for the convenience of the bus companies, not the commuters[1]. Large buses on quiet roads waste energy, damage the road surface, are a far higher safety risk and often put out far more pollution.”

“Bus companies should be required to run minibuses during quiet times. And, the routes should be chosen for the convenience of the passengers, not the convenience of the bus companies[3].”

There's no reason that public transport can't be both comfortable and convenient.

Matthew-Wilson believes the fastest way to reduce road congestion is to sort out public transport and strongly encourage ride-sharing[2].

“Restrict the fastest lanes to vehicles that carry three or more occupants. Restrict the next fastest lanes to vehicles with two or more occupants, then make the slowest lanes available to cars with only one occupant.”

“If vehicles carrying multiple occupants get to work quicker, then all drivers – rich and poor alike – have a powerful incentive to share their vehicles.”

“We need a system that encourages all people to share their vehicles, rather than a system that heavily favours wealthy drivers.”

“If the use of cars has to be restricted, then restrict all cars, not just poor peoples’ cars.”


[1] In terms of fuel economy and emissions, the number of occupants per vehicle is one of the most important factors. Because of their size and weight, buses use a huge amount of energy and are therefore responsible for a large amount of emissions, even if they’re electric. When a bus is full, these emissions are spread over 60 or so passengers, so full buses are very efficient compared to cars. But if buses are empty, they're less efficient than cars. And remember, if a bus is full in one direction but empty in another, it’s much less efficient overall.

[2] By 'ride-sharing', we mean commuters sharing their cars with other commuters. We don’t mean semi-taxi services such as Uber, which have been shown to increase, not decrease congestion.

[3] Because they're privately-owned, most bus operators don't publicly report their profits. However, 2019 financial statements from NZ Bus showed a $75 million profit.   



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