Benefits from Auckland road decongestion

NZIER report to the Employers and Manufacturers Association, Infrastructure New Zealand, Auckland International Airport Ltd, Ports of Auckland Ltd, National Road Carriers Association
Roads Transport Urban planning Traffic congestion Cost-benefit analysis Auckland

This report commissioned by the EMA, Auckland International Airport Ltd, Infrastructure NZ, Ports of Auckland Ltd and the National Road Carriers Association took a detailed look at the social and economic costs of congestion to Auckland’s lifestyle and economy. The report found that if Auckland’s road network could operate at its designed capacity during week days it would benefit the Auckland economy by nearly $3.5 million per day.

Scope of this report

This report estimates the benefits of reducing congestion in Auckland which should be weighed against the cost of reducing congestion depending on the policy or policies implemented, such as packages as identified by Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP). Our approach to estimating the benefits of decongestion goes beyond travel time savings, to one that accounts for wider benefits of decongestion. The true cost of congestion touches many sectors and areas of society. Congestion affects the competitiveness and liveability of Auckland, which in turn affects how New Zealand as a country can compete on the world stage. We show how Auckland traffic congestion has far-reaching implications given the importance of roading transport in the supply chain, as well as the broad-based impacts of congestion on Auckland households.

Conclusion and recommendations

Decongestion would benefit the Auckland economy…
Research to date on the impact of decongestion on labour supply is not definitive, but overall suggestslower commuting times have a small positive effect on laboursupply. This leads us to believe the benefits of decongestion are more likely to be towards the lower bound of this range. However, the literature findings are from a range of cities with different levels of congestion, which limits the comparability with Auckland’s situation. These benefits from bringing traffic flows to the current network capacity could be achieved through investment in policy initiatives such as better traffic management technologies and smart pricing. Achieving benefits beyond this would require further investment into expanding the Auckland road network beyond what is already planned. If the average speed across the Auckland network was close or equal to the speed limit, which is considered free-flow, we estimate the benefit of decongestion at between $1.4 and $1.9 billion (1.5% to 2% of Auckland’s GDP). Achieving free-flow speeds across the network would likely be very expensive which is why we have not chosen it as our main scenario. Our key focus is on the benefits from managing traffic flows so that the Auckland road network operates as intended. The impact of decongestion in Auckland would flow through the wider New Zealand economy, given many regions (particularly in the North Island) depend on the Auckland transport network to operate effectively.

… and improve Auckland’s liveability
Auckland residents have been adjusting their behaviour to cope with increased congestion. Beyond the economic effects we explore here, congestion has reduced firms’ and households’ ability and willingness to travel within the Auckland region. Decongestion would make Auckland more accessible and less polluted, thereby improving the city’s liveability. In addition to the increase in wages as a result of the Auckland economy growing faster, workers will be able to choose to spend at least a portion of their newly-found spare time with their families or on leisure activities.


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