Back in May, the Government announced a policy of allowing electric vehicles into bus lanes and high-occupancy vehicle lanes as part of a package to increase electric vehicle uptake. We opposed this because it would clog up lanes, slow down buses, reducing PT speed and ultimately potentially put our recent ridership growth at risk. It turns out that the Government even ignored advice on the issue from the NZTA. Luckily the proposal allows local road controlling authorities to decide if they would extend the same benefit to local streets.
Auckland Transport in its report on the issue agreed that allowing electric vehicles would negatively affect bus lanes, which are seen as a priority due to the roll out of the New Network. Auckland Transport also noted in a presentation on the issue the situation of Oslo, which allowed electric vehicles into transit lanes causing congestion & lower PT use. In response, Norway has recently passed legislation banning electric vehicles from transit lanes. AT’s board paper also points out that no other NZ local road controlling authority are supportive of electric vehicles in transit lanes.
There were three options in the report, in which Auckland Transport decided on option c.
- a. Not support EVs in any special vehicle lanes (e.g. bus lanes and transit lanes) based on initial conclusions that it is too risky and has the potential to undermine the rollout of the New Bus Network. Focus instead on other support measures for EVs such as priority parking for EVs in parking buildings and at park and ride sites, working with EV charging providers.
- b. Not support EVs in bus lanes but supports the testing EVs in ‘selected’ T2 lanes (where lower bus frequencies exist), for one year once the necessary legislation and rules are in force, subject to additional funding from Central Government. This would require finding suitable corridors on AT’s network and is considered a fall-back option where impacts and costs can be controlled by strictly limiting the extent of the testing.
- c. Not support EVs in bus lanes but supports the testing of EVs in T2 and T3 lanes on roads managed by AT for one year once the necessary legislation and rules are in force, subject to additional funding from Central Government. This shows we are supporting the Minister and his policy and will test the policy proposals in robust way. This is the preferred option.
While I understand why Auckland Transport went with option c (especially compared to option b), to at least show the NZTA and the Minister they made an effort, it also seems that the prime motive for this is to “save face” for the Minister making a really poorly informed decision. It is a relief that Bus Lanes have been excluded from the trial; however, I have concerns especially regarding trialling in T3’s, especially important ones e.g. Onewa & Manukau Roads which are pivotal for quality bus operation.
I wonder if the best solution is to upgrade the more integral T3’s such as for example Manukau & Onewa Road to Bus Lanes, which will better support the New Network, and leave the less essential T3’s for trial.
I also hope that the NZTA/Government exempt the successful Northern Busway from this change, as allowing electric vehicles will congest the rapid transit corridor. In fact, it could backfire congesting the bus operations & stations to the point where the step change of North Shore Rail option would need to be brought forward.