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.

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34 comments

  1. Ok, so if I’m rich enough, I’m now going to be allowed in transit lanes in peak on my own. Sweet.

    1. Thankfully this is currently all it means!

      Though with EV pricing coming down and awareness coming up, I wonder if a one year trial period is short enough to accomplish it’s goal – save face and fail to be effective (in encouraging EV purchase and use).

      Not having read any draft regs, I wonder if hybrids are included in the EV proposal – I surely hope _not_.

  2. The risk is we end up with no T2 lanes and some T3 lanes in order to leave capacity for EV’s. The downside of that is we will have fewer HOV lanes overall and when they do get put in single occupant electric cars will be given priority over two occupant conventional cars and hybrids.

    1. Agree a SOV is a SOV not matter what power source makes its wheels turn.

      As such it has no place in a HOV lane. Be it a Taxi, or a private vehicle, or a truck.

  3. Firstly every Uber cab and their relative will now use them. Best hope the registration says the car is a Hybrid. This will only slow the bus lanes up.

    Second problem is the poor enforcement of bus lanes anyway.

    The T3 lane in Onewa Road is 2.2 km and it sort of functions but nowhere as well as it should. It definitely did under the NSCC but not under AT. Everyone knows AT don’t monitor the lanes that much and if so they use one monitor down the bottom below Lake Rd rather than two or more. Therefore the top end to about half way down becomes jammed with single occupant or 2 occupant traffic, especially on school runs. The point is they only ever use one so once you’ve passed the camera, the T3 lane is all yours. AT need two monitors and regularly at different locations to keep the cheats guessing.

    Its one thing to have bus lanes, its another to enforce the law to make them work.

    1. Agree about enforcement – it can be rather hopeless on Onewa. This morning the bus was crawling along the T3. Even worse in the evening on the other side. I don’t understand why buses don’t have cameras.

    2. I’ve lived in Birkenhead for a week. Caught the bus for the second time today. AT were monitoring before Lake road this morning, though maybe just checking nobody tried turning left too early. But you’re right, just one monitor.

      As for performance this morning, was in the city in 15 minutes. No complaints.

  4. This deciaion calls into question why Onewa Rd (I understand to be the second busiest suburban arterial after Dom and pretty close) is even a T3.

    1. Because it worked well under North Shore City Council when they policed it so much better than AT. While AT could enforce it better than they are, it still works reasonably well. What doesn’t work is the general lane with huge majority of cars single occupancy. I have no problems with T3’s. It’s the T2s that are questionable (like the T2 bypass on Great North Rd onramp in Waterview – what’s that about?). Once EVs are allowed on Onewa T3 – that’s surely going to become a problem in the months/years to come.

  5. to “save face” for the Minister making a really poorly informed decision.
    Given that NZTA advised against it, in what way was it “poorly informed”, rather than just “poor”?

    1. The decision was poorly informed, not just poor, because the Minister of Transport’s paper that went to the Cabinet Committee was a poor piece of work.

      Two examples: a) it included a list of barriers to an increase in uptake of EVs, and then produced a list of initiatives (including EVs in bus lanes). If the paper had been written/reviewed properly someone would have noticed that the bus lane proposal addressed precisely zero of the barriers identified; b) it said that allowing EVs in bus lanes had been demonstrated to be an effective way of increasing EV uptake, giving a report on the Norwegian situation as a reference. That reference referred to bus-lane congestion caused by EVs, but there was no evidence given that bus-lane access was a cause of increased EV uptake rather than an effect (as it clearly was).

      1. There are a lot of shoddy Cabinet papers from ‘tame’ public service authors in a whole range of ministries that seek to justify what can’t be justified, but it conforms with the unfounded beliefs of those in Cabinet.

  6. I think it really is a well-meaning but fundamentally idiotic idea. The thought process seems to be nothing more sophisticated than “buses are good, EVs are good” without understanding any of the principles behind it.

    It’s this sort of thinking that means bus lanes and bike lanes are painted the same shade of green and often share the same lane, not very well suited to either of them. It’s “let’s do something to promote bikes and buses” without having the faintest understanding of how and why those lanes achieve anything or in what ways buses and bikes are beneficial, or how buses and bikes are different from each other, or different from cars.

    At worst, bad carpool lanes and bad bus lanes are a deliberate sop, or greenwashing. But I think that more often, it’s just lack of thought.

  7. I’m from Norway and have seen the program first hand. This actually worked great in the start, when EV’s were scarce. Bus lanes have unused occupancy and letting EV’s drive on them is unlikely to slow anyone down by a significant amount. It’s a great tool, because EV owners get an extra incentive to buy into a new technology. That’s the whole point here, We want to encourage people to buy EV’s – this is a program to help transition the country to a technology that is superior to ICE cars!

    Please also remember, this is an incentive with a sunset period of 1 year. In Norway, due to a wide ranging, highly beneficial package of EV incentives (using bus lanes is only one of many incentives), the transition has been incredibly successful. I agree, at this point (it’s been many years!) it’s having a big impact on public transport, so this benefit will have to get removed, but overall everyone has benefited as the technology is now more affordable, accessible, people are paying less for transport, the air is cleaner, the charging infrastructure has been built out – overall a huge improvement that every country is going to go through sooner or later! We should be celebrating this program – and asking for more!

    1. The MoT couldn’t produce any evidence that allowing EVs into bus lanes was a factor in increasing their uptake in Norway – as I understand it the key factor was subsidising the purchase price so that there was no price difference between them and petrol cars of similar specification. That would certainly change purchasing decisions (I’d be in there like a shot!), but it’s not on our government’s agenda.

      An incentive with a sunset period of one year is of negligible significance to fleet buyers (who determine the all-important second-hand market) when making procurement decisions – any increase in utility now will be offset by a similar reduction after a year has passed.

      1. Further – Most of the research was based around how the total Green House Gas emission wasn’t much better using EV’s because EV’s got their power from coal power plants.
        The article used GLOBAL electricity generation stats, not ones specific to Norway. Only 2% of Norway’s electricity is coal generated, vs 30% on a world wide scale.
        This is a negligent use of statistics to push their view point.

  8. I have a Nissan LEAF and was part of the EV trial. I didn’t use it as I don’t live near any of the affected on-ramps and don’t use them in the course of my travels.

    I completed the feedback at the end of the trial and indicated it had been of no use to me and that I was unlikely to make use of it in any case as these access ways should be reserved for public transport.

    As for EV owners being “rich”…..you can buy a used EV for under $10,000 now. There have been Mitsubishi i-Miev cars on TradeMe in the $9850 price range. They can do 80km on a charge and can be fast charged to full in 10 minutes. They make great city cars. That’s not really ‘rich” as I understand the word.

    1. Depends on what you mean by “rich”: you generally need a few grand spare to buy an EV, compared with a similar-specification petrol car. .

      1. I have one car right now. But because I drive to Rotorua and Taupo every few weekends with kids in tow (down on Friday, back on Sunday), I would still need my petrol-only corolla, as recharging half way is simply not feasible. A reasonable 1st generation LEAF is more like $13k, not “under $10k”… Even if it was $10k, that’s $10k I don’t have. On the other hand, there’s Tesla with enough mileage for my trips that would replace the vehicle, and possibly the Mitsi Outlander, but that’s also another $15 above what I would need after selling my corolla… So in the light of things that makes me poor, because I owe only one car.

          1. The logistics of driving with kids are not as simple as they might seem. If kids manage to fall asleep in the back, I would definitely want to keep moving – you be surprised how long your bladder can hold when the kids are asleep. Auckland to Rotorua is 230km – less than 3 hours drive. Auckland to Taupo is 280km 3.5 hours – also safely doable in one go. Even with 1 stop I would just make it to Rotorua, but I would need 2 stops to make it to Taupo. As I said. Leaf & i-miev are not suitable. Everything else is too expensive. I really really want an EV, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve done the numbers, and they just don’t stack up for a family with a single car that travels outside major city on a regular basis. I hope that will change soon, but not yet.

  9. What about cyclists in the bus lanes? Why are they not fined for riding outside of their own cycle path on Onewa road

    1. Oh come on man. A lot of money was spent upgrading Onewa Road for cyclists to have a shared path and they don’t use it. They are often holding up my passengers. Either cycle on the path or in the car lane.

      1. Oh come on man. A lot of money was spent painting bus lanes on Fanshawe St, Wellesley St, Symonds St, Victoria Street, Onewa Rd and even the motorway (by Westhaven). Why are there buses still driving in general lanes of traffic? The buses are holding up the general traffic so much…

        @Bus Driver – you need to change your attitude – the cyclists riding down Onewa Rd are riding much faster than you anyway.

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