As a society we tend to be quite keen to ensure that people follow our rules and laws. We have political parties arguing about how they’re “the party of law and order” and even when laws aren’t broken, we often don’t look too kindly of people who bend them to get ahead.
One major exception to this seems to be when it comes to the enforcement of road rules. Authorities, especially local ones, come under regular criticism at the mere hint of trying to to enforce things like parking or bus lanes. All too often we hear the cries of “revenue gathering” or how unfair it is to poor unsuspecting motorists.
And that’s exactly what we saw last week with the AA complaining about Auckland Transport’s enforcement of bus lanes.
Auckland Transport is accused of using “too much stick” after a large leap in revenue from traffic fines.
The total generated by infringement notices in 2019 was $46.3 million, up about 60 per cent from 2017. The number of tickets rose about a third over the same period.
AT said the increase was driven by increased use of technology in a bid to keep the city moving.
But the Automobile Association questioned whether the agency was “revenue gathering”, and asked for leniency in areas still waiting for viable alternatives to private vehicles.
AT issues infringement notices for a range of offences within two overarching categories – stationary and moving vehicles.
The former includes parking and traffic offences – as well as punishing people who park in the wrong place, AT can issue tickets for things like tyre defects and registration plates being wrongly fitted.
Fines vary according to the offence.
Notices for stationary vehicles rose by about 6 per cent between 2017 and 2019; the number generated by moving vehicles more than tripled.
They were triggered by unauthorised use of special vehicle lanes – bus lanes and T2/T3 transit lanes for vehicles with multiple occupants. That carries a $150 fine.
So the big increase in tickets is for moving vehicles as a result of Auckland Transport starting to roll out permanent cameras on some bus and transit lanes. These replaced the staff that previously did this from the side of the road and who rotated around different sites. That saw numbers jump from 70,986 tickets and $10 million in revenue in 2018 to 152,994 tickets and $21.6 million in revenue.
These articles come up from time to time but what stood out to me about this one was the absurd argument that we shouldn’t enforce bus and transit lanes until public transport is better.
The AA noted substantial work was underway across Auckland to provide alternatives to private vehicles, but said many projects were a long way from completion.
In the meantime motorists were suffering from more roadworks and fewer parking spaces – as the population continues to grow.
“I think motorists will see AT are making much more money and might read it as revenue gathering,” said Strawbridge.
“The AA’s position is that there need to be realistic options before the stick is applied, and at the moment it appears there is too much stick.
“We do need to build that public transport network but [those options] need to be up and running before they look at applying the stick-type policies, ramping up enforcement.
“Look at the North Shore bus lane – it’s been a huge success because it’s fast and efficient. But for other parts of the city there just simply is not that option yet.”
There’s a catch-22 situation in this, where we can’t enforce these bus/transit lanes until public transport is ‘good enough’ but unless we enforce them PT will never be good enough.
I don’t know how many bus/transit lane cameras there are but these lanes are only on some of the busiest bus routes in the region, such as Fanshawe St where they were first installed. Enforcing these bus lanes is what makes them work. These are locations where public transport is good and doesn’t need to mean they’re of use for every bus in the region. My understanding that AT tend to give a warning the first time someone gets caught in a bus lane.
It’s also a different position taken by the AA a few years ago where they said:
Irvine said AA did not have a problem transit lane enforcement.
“Bus lanes play an important role in the city’s transport network, and if they’re going to work properly, the rules need to be enforced.
So, which is it AA, should we enforce these lanes or not?
Finally, with COVID having a major impact on budgets for the city, perhaps AT should step up their enforcement to raise more revenue for the Council. If drivers want to pay these ‘voluntary taxes’, thereby easing pressure on the rest of us ratepayers then that’s fine by me.