The death of user pays… (or why we are committed to a toll-free SkyPath)

When we first developed SkyPath, the Government of the day said there was no way they would ever make such a significant investment in one project.  SkyPath would have taken the entire (paltry!) $30 million annual budget the Government allocated for walking and cycling across the entire country.

So we developed the idea of a user pays “PPP” facility to fund SkyPath.  However since then, things have changed..

  1. The Government has realised that significant investment in walking and cycling delivers massive and broad benefits: a healthier society, less traffic congestion, more livable communities and an enhanced environment (plus voters like it)
  2. The proposed PPP to deliver SkyPath fell over in February when consortium partner Downer Construction advised SkyPath was too small and unique to work as a PPP.

The Trust is now committed to a toll-free SkyPath for the following reasons:

  1. It doesn’t work as a PPP. Downer Construction advised that SkyPath is too small and unique to work as a PPP when they withdrew from the SkyPath PPP consortium in February.  The estimated cost of SkyPath as a PPP is $248 million over 25 years.   SkyPath’s construction by traditional procurement is circa $40 million (excluding localised strengthening costs for the Auckland Harbour Bridge).
  2. It will provide greater traffic congestion relief. SkyPath’s effect on the Auckland Harbour Bridge is to add an extra lane of peak hour traffic capacity. Tolling SkyPath will reduce the number of users and therefore its effectiveness.
  3. It will provide a greater reduction in greenhouse gases. With the Government’s commitment to the Paris Accord on Climate Change, it would be contrary to toll Aucklanders choosing to walk and cycle.
  4. State Highway projects are fully funded by Government. NZTA’s ‘SeaPath’, the shared path from SkyPath to Takapuna, is to be fully funded by Government, SkyPath deserves the same funding approach.
  5. SkyPath is too important to be a PPP test case. SkyPath is the most critical gap in Auckland region’s walking and cycling network, however Auckland Council’s Investment Office has been given responsibility for SkyPath and they only want to do SkyPath as a PPP.  This is because they need a project to experiment as a PPP which they hope could be the solution to Council’s future funding deficient.

For these reasons, SkyPath is not appropriate nor feasible as a user pays PPP facility.  Responsibility for SkyPath should be taken from Council’s Investment Office and assigned to NZTA, who manage the Auckland Harbour Bridge and are specialists in the funding and delivery of transport projects.


53 Responses to “The death of user pays… (or why we are committed to a toll-free SkyPath)”

  1. 21 July 2013

    Dan Petersen said:

    Quick crossings should be free.

  2. 1 October 2013

    Nick said:

    A toll to walk and cycle, where cars and trucks cross for free?
    This is backwards and would make a mockery of the clean green image NZ is portraying to the world.
    I would like to see this project funded by charging vehicles with only 1 person for crossing.

  3. 17 October 2013

    louis said:

    Typical anything to make money, it should be free. Desperate and uncreative use. Why? Well what a joke and it hasn’t been built yet.

  4. 19 October 2013

    DR said:

    Nick brings home a very good point, but I cannot see new zealand’s car loving citizenry coming out in support of paying for a service someone else uses. Already central government does this with smoking and alcohol taxes and then does not pass enough of it on to supporting the health services that prop up those who paid their habit tax.
    However, quick crossings should be free during certain hours, or a commuter concession, cross ten times and the rest of the year is free access. Remember, there is security planned, and this worked well on Sydney harbour. It certainly made me feel safer crossing with security. A free bridge is no use if the majority are scared to use it.
    Perhaps the Toll could taper out once payback occurs and becomes smaller and more reasonable at that point.
    As for cost why would return cost more than one way? Skypaths quoted statistics suggest a tourist is unlikely to walk across and visit viewing bays and then get off at the other end and then return… they are more likely to turn around near the exit and come back unless they are part of a tour group but the tour operator has no incentive to offer a return trip since a tourist will probably just ask for pickup at the end, so the cost is silly in a city of 1/4 the population of Sydney-which charges only for the viewing experience, and which has less to attract a tourist to pay that extra.
    I would suggest instead, that a city bicycle or pedal quadrocycle be available for hire and/or return at each end, to gather extra revenue and encourage tourists and others to become return traffic. Security could be involve in equalizing the distribution of such cycles when there is a disproportionate or unexpected flow in one direction, and a mounted security guard can see further and travel further.

  5. 19 February 2014

    Katie said:

    Quick crossing or if using as a commute to work should be free. Highlighting exercise and getting cars off the road. Sure if want to use as a tourist destination, charge away. But walking directly across should be FREE
    Why should pedestrians be penalised for reducing congestion? Return fare should be purchased at a discounted rate.

  6. 19 February 2014

    brewdab said:

    Is the road toll being implemented to pay for the sky path . Don’t think it is a good idea . What if the exchange rates drop by 25% . Then we are in trouble .

  7. 19 February 2014

    Michael said:

    I don’t agree with charging a fee for people using the Skypath, it should be free and cars should pay for it. At least cars with only one person as someone said. Also, it should be free in peak times (6-9 and 4:30-6:30) when people is commuting to/from work and we are trying to make safer and quieter streets.
    Finally, I believe that this cross will only be useful for people commuting from northcote/Hauraki/Takapuna because they can cross the Bridge quickly and without spending fuel, however all the people comingo from further areas will still need to use the car which won’t help to traffic congestion. What about letting people to transport their bikes in the buses so they can ride from Britomart to different areas of the city without waiting/paying for a second bus?
    There is room for much improvement here in terms of commute and traffic congestion.
    Kind regards,

  8. 6 April 2014

    Werner Schmidt said:

    Sorry I don’t get it.

    The Harbour Bridge is an integral part of a public road system. Crossing that bridge by car incurs no fee, yet here we have as pedestrians and cyclists have to pay a fee to use a public road. Why do we now have to pay for the lack of vision and commitments of all past and present governments, stretching back to when the Harbour Bridge was built and then made toll free.

    I can cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge for free; why should that be different for Auckland?

  9. 8 April 2014

    david said:

    I reckon that an annual fare should be available for commuters.
    Who’s gonna be willing to pay $4 per day to commute by bike?
    I support this project since I am an avid cyclist but there is definitely a price point that would deter me.
    Perhaps $50 per year would be acceptable?

  10. 9 April 2014

    Grassy said:

    Pimp my ride! Since the initial tolls have been removed they’ve been pimping the Auckland Harbour Bridge without charging a toll, they added the median barrier, flag poles, walkways for maintenance, the bungy, centurion stations for the world cup, strengthening works, etc. Now its time to add for pedestrians also toll FREE.
    The second harbour crossing is prefered to be a tunnel, weve been told for years that the second crossing would cater for pedestrians, I’m sorry but tunnels don’t cater for pedestrians. Therefore the commitment to provide for pedestrians in the second harbour crossing should be transfered to the skypath and be made toll FREE.

  11. 9 April 2014

    Audrey van Ryn said:

    I appreciate the arguments set out by others for not paying a toll. I, however, am willing to pay it.
    Motorists had to pay each time they crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge until sufficient revenue had been generated to pay for the bridge.
    The $4 return (with Hop card) is less than you would be paying in petrol, parking and other costs associated with crossing the bridge in a vehicle.
    The fact is that Auckland IS different to certain other cities, and, yes, we are having to “pay” in a number of ways for lack of planning vision, particularly as regards transport.
    Those who don’t want to use Skypath until passage is free can just wait until it IS free.
    The vision, hard work and persistence of the SkyPath team has provided a solution to non-vehicle access over the bridge, which cyclists and others have been pushing for for quite some time.
    This important project may fail if users are not willing to help pay for it.

  12. 17 April 2014

    ashley holwell said:

    the use of a hopcard should only be incentivised if the data that is being collected by that system is open to all users, and all members of the public. if the public, and those paying the toll for project subsidise a data-collection procedure without this requirement, it leaves them vulnerable to less say in the future of the skypath. without this in place, one would think that the exclusionary stance towards cash could not be justified by anyone other than those who encase the data.

  13. 15 June 2014

    James said:

    So if it should be free, how is the skypath funded? How blindly idealistic some people are. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

  14. 14 August 2014

    Dan said:

    The proposal to charge pedestrians and cyclist/commuters to use this crossing is typical of the uninspired and backwards planning of Auckland and central government, and out of step with equivalent projects elsewhere in the world. This project and other initiatives to improve Auckland’s public transport network and encourage people to leave their cars at home should be funded via levies on drivers using Auckland roads. Bring in a congestion charging for vehicles using central Auckland roads during peak hours. The majority won’t leave their cars at home until the alternatives are significantly more economical and convenient.

  15. 21 August 2014

    Dave said:

    Agreed with all the comments before me, charging for this makes absolutely no sense

  16. 24 August 2014

    Andy Smith said:

    If the Government would pay for construction, operation and maintenance crossing will be free. They are not paying for that; so the user pays. Can you suggest another way?

  17. 25 November 2014

    Bob Snappa said:

    I can see both sides of the coin here.

    On the one hand, someone needs to stump up with the cash to build the walkway, be they ratepayer, taxpayer, walker/cyclist, motorist, or generous benefactor (anyone know who won Powerball last Saturday?).

    On the other hand, if it’s a user pays system and the pricing is not right, judging by the comments above, people won’t use it in sufficient numbers to cover the costs.

    I would have thought that the Skyway Team will have done their research thoroughly with regards to who the potential users are likely to be and exactly how much they’re comfortable paying. I can’t imagine they just ‘plucked’ the fare structure from from a passing motorist’s backside.

    That being said, looking at the comments made above, they might need to go back to the drawing board and talk some more with their potential user groups. There doesn’t seem to be much support for charging a fee with only one out of the sixteen comments above actually stating that they would pay the proposed charge.

  18. 9 December 2014

    Jordan Selwyn said:

    I totally agree that, ideally, we wouldn’t have to pay for it. But at this stage, lets just build the bloody thing! I’d rather pay $2 and have SkyPath go ahead, rather than complain that we ‘shouldn’t have to’ and for it to never eventuate.

  19. 9 January 2015

    KS said:

    Such a great initiative. Would happily pay the toll and totally agree that a toll should be payable. Yes you can drive the harbour bridge without a toll but come on guys this is a great iniative and unfortunately nothing in life is free anymore. You pay $20+ for a gym membership you dont use each week, why not pay the toll and walk to work instead. Do however think you almost need a quick lane for those walking/cycling which be a less fee to those who are visiting as tourists and have a section cordoned off to walk and enjoy the view as they please otherwise it will be very frustrating for a group of tourists to block the way for those commuting.

    Great work guys, totally support it and agree a toll is suitable.

  20. 15 January 2015

    Ben said:

    I agree with most points on here.
    I guess there are few ways that the pricing could be addressed

    1. The toll should be reduced or free at peak times for commuter.
    2. Provide a season pass (month/annual) for those that are regular users.
    3. Add the cost to council rates for all AKL residents over a 10? year period.

    I understand that this needs to be paid for, but there is price barrier – $4/day or $20/wk is too high

  21. 15 January 2015

    Barry Page said:

    Agree with Jordan Selwyn. Let’s just get it done.

  22. 16 January 2015

    David White said:

    Anyone who is commuting now is paying a cost now, either in running a car or on public transport. This is an alternative. It has a capital cost that needs to be repaid. It is fair that the users pay for it.

    There may need to be a dedicated cycle lane, so that dawdling or inattentive pedestrians do not stray into the path of a speeding cyclist, as it is easy to get up to quite a speed on the downhill run.

  23. 18 January 2015

    Derek said:

    The price is ok with me. Ride your bike across the bridge for 20$ a week. That’s a pretty cheap way to commute. You can spend that on one days parking alone.
    This is a business, it’s not govt/council making this happen.
    Skypath can’t just magic up money from nowhere.
    People will winge about anything that costs money, if you don’t want to pay then don’t use it

  24. 18 January 2015

    Derek said:

    30$ yes, still

  25. 19 January 2015

    Ray said:

    Of course users should pay. Why should my granny who will never use it be burdened with an increase on her rates. I can’t believe all those who want everything for free… There’s is no free lunch!
    I will use it at least a couple of times a week and be happy to pay the price. Cheaper than the ferry as well.

  26. 21 January 2015

    Sideburns said:

    The second harbour crossing in Sydney was funded in part by a reintroduction of tolls on the harbour bridge and was time limited. There is also an electronic toll collection for the new crossing that goes to the PPP private construction partner for 20 years until ownership reverts to the transport authority.
    A proportion of the inevitable tolls collected for the second harbour crossing should go towards speeding up paying off the constrcution costs for the Skypath so it can be offered free to return commuters.
    As a potential iconic drawcard and car transport alternative you would have thought that AT and ATEED and central government would put their full weight behind this project – but that would break with a tradition of short-sightedness and mean-spiritedness that has blighted transport planning in Auckland for most of its existence.
    Good on this project for breaking with tradition – I will be paying to use this fantastic addition to Auckland’s community transport infrastructure and look forward to it being built as soon as possible.

  27. 28 March 2015

    Bob Gray said:

    Skypath is a great proposal. The benefits to Auckland are obvious. As far as financing the project goes why can it not be viewed as any other transport project in Auckland where funding is gathered from taxpayers through vehicle registration and state and local funding – there are no tolls apart from the northern gateway. If you are encouraging people to leave their cars at home and walk / cycling then surely it should be prioritised along with all the other transport initiatives in Auckland. Most people in Auckland pay taxes and own cars anyway so we are paying for the transport improvements anyway. If you can get some of these people to leave their cars at home and use the sky path then why charge them extra?
    Lets just get on with it and stick it on the bill and make it free.
    btw I live in South Auckland so would only use it recreationally but still it would be a very popular asset to Auckland and I can just here them saying ‘This is great – why didn’t we do it years ago!’
    Come on Auckland and New Zealand lets use ‘green’ initiative – it has to be our future!

  28. 3 July 2015

    Cain said:

    “Agreed with all the comments before me, charging for this makes absolutely no sense”

    This is a private initiative, and as with all private ventures, costs must be recovered. Otherwise companies go bust. You might be confusing this initiative with a “charity”.

  29. 3 July 2015

    Rob said:

    Not saying I agree with a toll. But the Harbour bridge was paid for by tolls paid by motorists. While I agree with the Skypath in theory isn’t it shortsighted in the overall transport picture? If infrastructure is going to be added to the harbor bridge should’t it be done with a rail link alongside at the same time. Rail will have to go to the Shore at some stage its just a matter of when. Of course it would be more expensive but isn’t it better to dig up the road once rather than several times to put a pipe in. I am no expert in the strength of the bridge or the feasibility of this. But in the desperation to get something happening our urban planning is getting pretty piecemeal.

  30. 3 July 2015

    Chris said:

    Nobody should accept charges for skypath. This charging thinking is behind the eightball.
    Does anywhere in the world charge for pedestrian and cycle access to city centres? I am thinking of London which doesn’t. Ray says his Granny would never us skypath but does she use the local swimming pool or library? But Granny still pays for it. Somewhere we all have to pay for the greater good and getting cars off our roads save us building more roads in the future so for me as a rate payer it is a no brainer. I am not an Aucklander but the same reasoning applies nationwide.

  31. 11 July 2015

    Naeri said:

    Auckland has a traffic problem. Those that commute to work via the Skypath would alleviate that problem. Why charge people to ease Auckland’s traffic problems? It makes no sense.

  32. 24 July 2015

    Gareth said:

    I agree, charging is just ridiculous; can we please see the modelling and focus group research that indicates this will be successful? I can see this going the same was as other PPP (public-private partnerships) in Australia e.g. the Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels. In the case of the former the modelling was bumped up to show that MORE cars would use the tunnel that duplicated the road above before the tunnel was built just so the numbers stacked up! And of course, they didn’t, and the tunnel went broke.

    Do the same for Skypath – put the toll on, and a year later when no one uses it they’ll offload it for a song, government can buy it for a fraction of the cost of what it cost to build, and make it free.

    Or do something good for society – put the toll on single-occupant motor vehicles using the AHB and make it free for those making an effort to have a sustainable commute (e.g. car sharing, public transport or walking/cycling). This would help encourage those contributing to society by reducing congestion, pollution, and the health burden.

  33. 29 July 2015

    Hamish said:

    I’m not going to pay $4 to go for a jog to the north shore.

  34. 31 July 2015

    Hamish said:

    Having said that, I’m really looking forward to its completion!

  35. 22 September 2015

    Thomas said:

    I think that this idea is really smart but i think that it is stupid that we as tax payers have to pay a toll fee to get some exercise.

  36. 22 September 2015

    Toni Walker said:

    I prefer not to have to pay (obviously), however faced with the alternative which is to drive and pay for parking in the city, then $20 a week to ride my bike across the bridge is a reasonable way to commute – I’m all for it. Bring it on.

  37. 20 October 2015

    Kevin Bosch said:

    Get it done. I am happy to pay $2 each way. Based on my current commuting patterns it likely I will be spending $800 a year as I live on the shore and work in town and cycle just about every day. I think it is egg on the face of our town planners to have bridge that tolls pedestrians and cyclists because of a lack of planning. However as an active commuter I would happily pay the toll at $2 each way to use the bridge as my the only alternatives for cycling is a 45Km cycle via upper harbour using the ferry or driving your car with you bike in the back. (yes we do that) I would be a regular. As a side note it would be nice to have a yearly pass.

  38. 15 January 2016

    Tony said:

    I think you should have a $200 yearly pass or something like that. I.e. cheap as possible to encourage commuters to switch from cars to bike (but just expensive enough to encourage them to stick to biking) and let most of the funding come from tourists and the odd user (who won’t mind paying $2).
    If I was a car user but unable to bike, I wouldn’t mind some of the road charges I pay being used to reduce the number of cars on the road to make my journey quicker!

  39. 16 April 2016

    Kim said:

    In Halifax, Canada, the cars pay a toll to cross the harbour bridge but pedestrians and cyclists do not, even though the pedestrian and cycle ways (one on each side of the bridge) were added after the bridge was completed. (They were added in 1999 so Auckland is a little behind on this!) This seems to make more sense to me and I definitely would not have been happy with paying a toll as a cycling commuter relieving traffic across the bridge. Drivers in NZ need to realize that every cyclist means one less car on the road and that cyclists pay taxes too (through their income and the fact that probably also own a car so they pay fuel tax) so are entitled to city services just like drivers.

  40. 20 May 2016

    Dave said:

    Good on you guys for sticking your neck out and getting this thing moving – ignore the typical kiwi response of why is it not free – the answer is obvious; namely it would never get built..

  41. 10 July 2016

    Mitch said:

    Not many commuters will want to pay $4 per day to bike across the bridge. Tax motorists who are polluting an congesting the city to pay for it and we might see a shift to cleaner / greener transport. NZ still too car centric

  42. 24 July 2016

    Kevin Campbell said:

    Some complain about a fee whereas vehicles cross free. It costs a lot more than $4 to take a car to work and back. Someone has to pay for the new pathway and the user is the best target.

  43. 24 July 2016

    Michael said:

    If a covered path was introduced on my daily cycle commute, I’d be happy to pay $4 a day to use it. I think it’s worth remembering that you can have this path direct from Northcote with a toll. Or you can have nothing.

  44. 28 July 2016

    ARVI said:

    While I personally want this SkyPath access for free from Day 1, there will be a good reason why it isn’t for at least few years. We need to pay off of it. If you know Auckland Harbour Bridge’s history, people driving their cars on the bridge had to pay a toll for many years before it went free. So we cannot say it is unfair that cars crossing the bridge don’t have a charge because their grandfathers are charged crossing it.The people who built it need the money for building. Soon enough we will use that SkyPath for free but right now, it is time to pay for our sons and daughter’s free access to the SkyPath.

  45. 8 August 2016

    Alastair M said:

    Great work on getting this visionary project this far. All the best for the hearing in October.
    I’m happy to pay $2 each way, its far cheaper than bussing and than the fuel for driving to work, let alone the other costs of parking, operations and maintenance. I’m surprised by the commenters opposed to paying a small fee, which in many cases will be a net saving for commuters; also it healthier!
    More choices like this will also benefit other drivers – gets some cars off the road.
    Get it built! cant wait

  46. 28 September 2016

    Chris Gold said:

    To whom it may concern.

    My comment is that it would be very unfair to place a transit charge on the skyway crossing. If you look at Sydney as our closest example- The cars are charged and the viewing platform is charged.
    If you consider the geography at each end of the bridge(with Birkenhead, Takapuna/Barrys Pt Rd, Devonport, Glenfield and Albany the business/commercial/industrial areas to the North and the Cbd, Ponsonby, Krd, Newmarket,St Lukes and Penrose etc to the south) and the nature of cycling (efficiency(a to b is the shortest fastest route), generally low cost(the push bike is the most efficient of machines)

  47. 7 November 2016

    Claire said:

    I currently pay $31 a week to take the bus each way to work – no effort, I stay dry when it rains and don’t have to take a change of clothes. Proposing that I pay $20 for the extra effort, risk and expense of commuting by bike makes no sense. Toll the motorists to pay for the Skypath, otherwise its making a mockery of sustainable and public transport.

  48. 10 November 2016

    Juan said:

    Best comment of all: “NZ still too car centric”.

    Public transport is years away from being up to par. Auckland topography and climate make it hard for a large number of people to embrace cycling and walking as a viable commuting option.

    Adding the Skypath is great and glad that it will be there, not only fo commuting but as a tourist attraction in itself.

    Auckland Transport is making a big push for alternative means of transportation. Cycling, rail, etc to reduce the carbon footprint and alleviate traffic.

    why not jump into the same wagon and charge for cars crossing the bridge with one person? you can carpool… catch the ferry… and now, walk or cycle over

    if you want cars off the road, make it harder for them…. dont make it harder for those who want to walk or cycle or use public transport.

  49. 4 February 2017

    Hubert said:

    Nothing is free,someone has to pay it

  50. 26 February 2017

    David said:

    Why not make it useable with a Hopcard?

  51. 25 March 2017

    rob said:

    I live in West Auckland, so for me it would recreational. My understanding and experience is that Auckland has traffic congestion problems! And no less from the North Shore to the city both ways. I am sure there would be a great number of North Shore commuters that would be happy to cycle to the city almost every day of their working year, which would alleviate a good (stats pending) chunk of vehicle congestion? Ive travelled and observed other cities of the world and frankly don’t really understand which planet our city designers and decision makers live on, always seem to be on the back foot. Decades ago Mayor Robbie put forward a strong case for a rail harbour crossing and much more re rail in and around the city, what a visionary,too bad those around him lacked the balls, and so the latter legacy goes on, toe in the water.

  52. 25 March 2017

    Ben Mansfield said:

    Having to pay a toll to walk across the bridge while cars, who belch fumes into the air and add to Auckland’s heavy congestion, can pass for free is backwards and idiotic. Start implementing a toll for cars, not walkers!

  53. 5 September 2017

    Rchard Smedley said:

    I completely agree with Juan. If Council are hell-bent on using a PIP to deliver sky Path, why not charge 1 person car commuters. Much more lucrative!

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