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.

Bus Lane

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.

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50 comments

  1. If all bus lane non-compliance on Dominion Rd was fined (and driver behaviour didn’t change in response) then that’d probably be enough to fund all of AT’s operations.

    If people find themselves getting caught out by bus lanes then a way of helping would be to make more bus lanes 24/7. That way there’s no ambiguity as to whether you can park or drive in them at any particular time. This would also make enforcement simpler and bus operations more efficient.

    1. 24/7 buslanes could also mean more obvious infrastructure like kerbs separating from the general traffic. This would help drivers differentiate even if they’re not familiar with the area

      1. It would also further pave the way for light rail and dispel complaints about reduction in traffic capacity. It would essentially be the same capacity.

    2. If people find themselves getting caught out by bus lanes then a way of helping, would be to impound their car for 10 days. This will have two effects; 1. it will educate the driver to stay out of the bus lanes. 2. it will remove one more car from the roads.

  2. I wish they had an auto bus lane ticketing machine at the esmonde road busway on ramp. Saw a bloke in a half million dollar Ferrari race up there.

    1. Cute video but people actually get serious about trams, trains or buses doing this. We’ve got to resist this concept, because there can be kids sitting in the back of parked cars. Cars should be towed away, sure, but it needs to be done after someone has checked carefully that there’s noone inside.

  3. Couldn’t make it up, stop fining me for using the lane for the alternate mode of transport until you supply an alternate mode of transport. Why we even give voice to a private company which business model is to ensure people use cars is beyond me…

    1. Let alone enshrine their privilege in legislation and practice guidelines all over the place.

      They are an insurance company. Their voice in our system is a relic of a time gone by and inappropriate in a time where modeshift away from driving is critical to fixing our safety crisis and responding to our climate emergency.

  4. I cycle A LOT in London and outside of proper cycle lanes, a big chunk is using bus lanes. I can probably count on one hand the amount of blatant bus lane driving I’ve seen in the last 3 years.

    People expect to get caught and fined so they don’t break the rules. I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept for any enforcement authority in NZ (not just transport related) to understand

    1. Because those enforcement authorities (except maybe 1/4 of auckland transport) don’t want to. They like cars and driving and think buses are for losers.

  5. I’d also like to see some enforcement of red lights around the CBD. In my experience the biggest villains are buses and courier drivers.

  6. I’d like to see those Dominion Road buslanes given a refresher and a lick of new paint. Those bus lanes have about the same vibrancy as weathered parking lines in a neglected shopping centre carpark.

  7. Isn’t it simplest to fit each bus with a dash-cam, that can take photos of cars directly in front of them in the bus lane, and stamp it with time and date? I think they do it in other cities. Very simple to issue tickets that way if authorised. Make it something like a blanket $200 fine each time, people will soon learn.

    Of more concern to me is the poor cyclists having to use the bus lane as shown in your top picture. Horrendous logic to put the slowest and most vulnerable road users in the same lane as the most massive and least manoeuvrable users. No one likes it, on either side.

  8. You can’t enforce the actual rules until there’s good public transport? This is a particularly shitty take. If you can’t even enforce rules there’s no chance in hell of doing anything else.

    Let the AA get away with this and nothing will be able to get better.

  9. If they don’t already, I hope they put cameras on intersections as well. I’m tired of my right turning bus being blocked by cars turning left and therefore being unable to access the bus lane. Having to wait multiple phases just to catch a bus that’s sitting right there is a truly frustrating experience.

  10. There has been talks about cutting budget for PT because of less demand from Covid.

    I think the progress of PT actually going backward. It may be a wrong timing at the moment to lobby for this.

    1. For what, Kelvin? For enforcement of basic rules to enable the PT network to function? Maybe I’ve misunderstood you. If not:

      Do you think drivers should be able to muck up a network, and muck up the journeys of people making sustainable choices, just because a pandemic overseas is putting people off using public transport there?

      If public transport numbers are still relatively low here it’ll be because the trains are f**ked and there are more parking spaces near work due to WFH. Not, largely, due to fear of Covid transmission on PT. Any remaining fear about Covid itself in relatively Covid-free Auckland would mean we need to widen footpaths and roll out cyclelanes for them. But no… we’re not getting that, are we?

      Because even our Covid response is car dependent. Let’s not put up with that. If there’s lower travel demand at the moment, it’s a good time for making strides with PT improvements.

        1. Eastern line to Otahuhu closed for another two weeks starting 25 January. Pukekohe shuttle still timetabled for 40 km/h max in to February.

  11. 5pm in Newmarket is a key example of why this enforcement needs to be happening more widely and more frequently. Private vehicles who can’t be bothered waiting to turn into the side roads from Broadway just sit in the bus lanes and block the whole system. What should be a 5 minute bus ride becomes 40 minutes and getting onto the bus has become increasingly dangerous with buses unable to pull into stops and people having to go into the road to get on and off.

    1. I agree Samuel. It starts in Newmarket, but then the service to Parnell is crap and it compounds all around the inner and outer loop.
      Despite all AT’s pretense about better PT, at the very basic level it falls down. There’s little point building expensive infrastructure if you can’t have buses running with good frequency and reliability.

      1. If the problem exists in both Parnell and Newmarket, that suggests full bus-only lanes need to be in place and enforced all the way to the end of Broadway.

        With regard to the left-hand turning traffic vs straight ahead bus lane problem, this must exist in other countries too. Does anyone know how they handle it?

        I suspect what is needed is to adopt a solution city wide in one go with abundant advertising around it (like we did when we change the give-way road rules for right-hand turns).

  12. Some people wouldn’t use public transport even if it was good.
    Some bus lanes are pretty useless though. Especially ones that end up at an intersection with a left only arrow lane when the bus wants to go straight ahead. What’s the point of that the engineer and the people who signed of on that should get the don’t come Monday award.

      1. I think he’s referring to buses getting blocked by other traffic queued to turn left. That is allowed almost everywhere in Auckland.

        But imagine the outcry if that would be disallowed. It will take a lot of courage to change this.

        1. It will also take a law change (this was part of the accessible streets package) or banning left turns. Given the shape or a lot of our road network, banning left turns would be really undesirable.

    1. The off-peak fares and fare cap are great. However the fare cap only really benefits those traveling long distances on PT, likely to be commuters. Likewise the fare increases are regressive in that single zone trips have increased by the most (10%). So AT is discouraging people from using PT for short trips, which are the ones where PT is likely to take not much longer than driving.

  13. Yes there is a really annoying catch-22 at this point. Everything has been squeezed so badly to accommodate cars that we can’t do anything else anymore without undoing some of that.

    However, taking space away from driving cars is a phenomenal treat to people’s lifestyles at this point, given how cumbersome, dangerous, or socially inappropriate it is to get around in any other way than driving. Imagine we go from “driving takes 20 minutes but the bus takes 1.5 hours” to “driving and bus both take 1.5 hours”. It probably won’t come to that but it is a serious leap of faith to assume that eg. PT will be that much better in the future.

    So it takes a lot of courage to build even a minimal amount of bus lanes or even enforce existing rules. But it must happen at some point.

    1. Looking for a leader who won’t duck for cover, she’s sooo hard to find. Take it easy, take it easy. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.

  14. On the 12/10/20 I was going up Mt Eden rd and a person pass me on the bus lane as he just wanted to get ahead to sit at the next set of traffic lights . If you watch this at the 6.20 – 6,40 mark you can see the person doing the passing . ;-

  15. “Revenue gathering”, says the organisation with 1.73 million members and profits of $31 million on revenue of $170 million. According to an earlier article on this site, the 14 members of the AA’s senior leadership team pay themselves an average of $500,000 a year each.

  16. AA shoots its own argument by complaining about few parking spaces while the population continues grow. Fewer parking spaces surely mean that single occupancy vehicles will soon become obsolete . And they don’t tell us where these parking spaces are going to go, because open spaces that have been used for parking are now being built on to provide more buildings for people to work in.

  17. There is an error in the article.

    It doesn’t make sense for the name in the following excerpt to be Strawbridge, and it would be one of AT’s poorer statements if it was. I think the similarities between Stockdale and Strawbridge tripped the journalist or copy editor up.

    —————–

    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.”

    1. IMHO could well be Strawbridge as he collects parking revenue. Given the ultra conservative way that parking charges are applied he might be embarrassed by the suddenly escalating collection of revenue. As an example, how many years is it since weekend parking prices at the Victoria St car park moved from $2 per hour? How are parking charges immune from inflation and bus fares aren’t?

  18. $150 fine for flouting a bus lane? That’s peanuts!

    I was fined $400 for failing to declare 4 small plums (purchased in Woolworths, Brisbane) which I forgot that I still had in my bag and inadvertently brought into NZ.

    Even $300 for flouting a bus lane would still be cheap compared to this.

    1. Well the plumbs had the potential to cause hundreds of millions in permanent and ongoing damages (admittedly a low chance). And you won’t forget again I presume.
      The bus lane flouting has the potential to cause a couple minute delays for 100 people. Although I agree that the bus lane fine should be higher. Actually I’d prefer it scaled to income.

      1. The fine for someone who washes a person’s car when they are stopped at traffic lights is $380.
        You choose to drive while distracted by using a cell phone and it’s $80.
        Equity (or common sense) plays no part in this.

        1. Agree, that one’s absurd. I doubt the authorities will ever get $380 out of anyone who is washing windscreens at intersections.

  19. People complaining about AT getting more efficient at doing their job? LOL
    AT should have those permanent cameras everywhere, they pay for themselves very quickly and any net surplus revenue should go into more cameras or safety projects or something.

    1. +1 to that.

      Even small town UK has permanent bus lane cameras do people don’t take the p**s.

      For a city Auckland’s size it should be a no-brainer.

  20. Seems from the Herald article the AA is not thinking of smaller bus lane type level stuff but Just thinking big ticket Busway etc alternatives. Not understanding the big importance a simple bus lane plays. Either that or the article is taking them out of context or it’s that the AA want to keep a balance of ben scene on the side of the motorist. Of course motorists will me better off really, especially longer term, with bus lanes etc everywhere possible.

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