Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project

While the fundamental purpose of the recently-announced, joint initiative of the Government and the Auckland City Council by way of the Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project is somewhat different, it is nevertheless similar in many ways to the Roading Investigation undertaken in March 1952. Instigated by then Minister of Works, William Stanley Goosman, the eventual report of the Roading Investigation Committee was completed in February 1953.

Of course, priorities were somewhat different sixty-five years ago. One of the main concerns then was not the building of new roads but the strengthening of existing roads and streets so they could withstand the inundation of larger and faster motor vehicles. As the Committee observed, “A comparison of registration figures between those of 1932 and 1952 shows that while the number of cars increased during the twenty-year period from 148,159 to 293,236, the number of trucks increased from 31,319 to 98,668. This means that while the number of cars almost doubled, the number of trucks more than trebled…The growing relative importance of trucks to cars in 1952…indicates a fundamental change in the character of motor transport.”

[Ironically, one of the heavier vehicles to cause a problem was the trolley-bus, so much so that it received special mention by the Roading Investigation Committee: “These vehicles have created special major problems of road construction and maintenance for some of our cities…Contrary to popular belief, trolley-buses, which appear to be the smoothest of vehicles in operation, are in fact excessively severe on road maintenance…Recent developments in Auckland afford even more striking evidence of the effects of these vehicles…In all, twelve streets, mostly with considerable thickness of road formation, have been seriously damaged by trolley-bus traffic and now require extensive reconstruction.”]

Where the two investigations naturally correspond is of course with the issue of local and Government funding. One of the recommendations of the Roading Investigation Committee resulted in the replacement of the Main Highways Board with the National Roads Board and the establishment of a National Roads Fund to finance all road building and maintenance. The Committee recommended that the Fund should receive all road-user taxation as well as a Central Government contribution of approximately 12½ per cent of the nation’s road bill but, of course, that was not to be.

The stated purpose of the Auckland Smarter Transport Pricing Project specifically rules out the raising of extra revenue. Nevertheless, as in 1953, the question of who ultimately pays for this latest roading problem, in terms of proportionality between the road user, local Government, and Central Government, is likely to remain as imponderable as ever.

This imponderability is explored in greater detail in the soon-to-be-published, second volume of Auckland transport history, Gas Pedal to Back-Pedal – The Second Century of Auckland Transport. In the meantime, the scene is set by Waka Paddle to Gas Pedal – The First Century of Auckland Transport, now available as a paperback and EBook from Amazon or as an EBook from Kobo Books.

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