The Herald yesterday reported on some shocking figures on bus speeding and red light running.

Nearly $700,000 worth of fines have been handed out to speeding bus drivers in the past five years, including one who was clocked going 61km/h over the limit.

The Herald can reveal more than 10,500 tickets were issued to Auckland bus drivers and a further 553 fines, worth almost $83,000, were issued to those who were caught running red lights.

That is a shockingly high number of tickets for a group of professional drivers, working out at over 5 tickets per day. And all of this appears to just be those drivers caught at fixed speed cameras. You have to wonder how much more it happens in other areas. Particularly concerning is the article mentions two drivers caught in the same location travelling at more than 100km/h in a 50km/h zone.

The stretch of road where two buses were caught travelling at over 100km/h in a 50km/h zone

Equally frustrating and bad are the red light runners. Though the numbers aren’t all that high in comparison but that could just be because there aren’t all that many cameras around. I’ve probably seen as many complaints about it on places like Twitter, such as the one below from Su Yin as the number of tickets.

Personally I think we should have them on every light controlled intersection as red light running is rife, both for buses and other road users.

While it’s not the only one, a key reason have this issue is from bus drivers trying to stick to schedule. Metrics such as punctuality are an important measure for Auckland Transport and poor performance by the various bus companies could impact their ability to get bonuses and/or future contracts. So it’s not surprising that pressure is pushed down on to bus drivers.

One of the main tools to addressing this significant safety issue is to roll out additional bus priority. Buses that aren’t getting stuck in traffic are more reliable, meaning it’s easier for them to meet their timetable and therefore there should be less red-light running. As a bonus, that extra priority would also help make services more attractive.

A lack of bus priority prevents buses from getting to pick passengers in the city, 

I’m also a bit disappointed by AT’s response.

Auckland Transport spokeswoman Natalie Polley said they were always working with operators to ensure bus services remained one of the safest ways to travel.

She said AT monitored events and altered light phasing when issues were identified.

Safety, performance and operator health and safety were taken into account when companies were awarded contracts which would next take place in 2023, she said.

She said driver distraction detection systems had been trialled and would be installed in all buses in the coming years. AT was also working with police to improve the sharing of information about traffic incidents and infringements.

Auckland Transport is also supporting the Vision Zero programme to end road deaths, largely by reducing the speed of vehicles on the road.

Saying you support Vision Zero is not the same as delivering it.

Even putting aside adding more bus priority, it feels like AT could be doing a lot more rather than just waiting a few years for the next round of contracts. For example, they collect location data off all buses for use in real time displays and Perhaps they could also use that come up with an analysis highlighting all of the buses that exceed the speed limit.

I’m sure there’s much more they could be doing to address this significant safety issue, what are your suggestions?

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49 comments

  1. I don’t get it. On site in Aussie we had IVMS (In Vehicle Monitoring System). It was all analysed and we were held to account. It included speeding, harsh braking, harsh accelerations… Why the hell is this not mandatory in buses?

    1. There use to be another device which was fitted to the engine years ago which prevented engines and the vehicle it was attached to from going over the speed limit i.e. a regulator and they were set to a maximum speed limit . So why don’t they do it now? .

      You could give all the power you want but it would not go ofver the speed limit it was set at .

    2. Yes good idea just for the passenger comfort point of view too. Some drivers or maybe it’s their crappy bus controls mean you are tossed all over the place especially if speed bumps and sharp corners are involved.

      We have one driver out of all the others on a local route and his style is remarkably noticeable. The bus must wear out quicker too being harder on all the steering, brake, tyres etc components.

  2. One organisation, AT, provide all the bus infrastructure, routes and schedules. If professional drivers can’t drive the route and stay on schedule without breaking the law then that’s on AT.

    Imagine a production line in a factory where staff repeatedly get injured in two very specific ways. WorkSafe are going to come in and investigate what is wrong with the production line design (and the company’s systems and processes) that’s making that happen. They could then order the company to make specific changes that would improve safety.

    Unfortunately driving in a work context, despite causing more deaths and serious injuries than any other work activity in NZ, is not seen as an area where workplace health and safety legislation should apply. When things go wrong individual drivers are blamed rather than contributing systems factors being taken into account.

    1. I’d be interested to know what AT sees as its barriers to fixing this.

      It is clear we have an elemental issue with dangerous driving is clear, and buses are very visible and more dangerous when they’re doing it. Speeds, all kinds of intersection behaviour and general courtesy such as treatment of pedestrians and passing behaviour is bad.

  3. Clear sign of dysfunction of the network, and frustration show through as attempts to keep things on track.lf this were an experiment,a psychologist would tell you this is highly predictable behaviour to placing humans under stress.We will get the usual garbage from AT about, it is the bus companies responsibility to manage driver behaviour, but AT clearly have a role in this as well.Dedicated bus lanes,bus priority at traffic lights,paint and software,probably the two cheapest tools AT have at their disposal,seem reluctant to use either

    1. I have no hard evidence, only anecdotal evidence, but as a passenger who has taken the Birkenhead 97R/97B buses to the City and back for coming up 25 years, there was a huge improvement in on-time arrivals when each successive bus lane was implemented (Onewa heading to City, Onewa heading to Beach Haven, Fanshawe St). It gave a markedly shorter ride time and more predicability (duh!). So more and more of these, please, around the greater Auckland area.

  4. What would be very interesting to see would be comparing a few (5-10) bus routes timetabled speed/length for off-peak compared to on-peak to get a taste of just how much time is lost due to a lack of priority around the city

  5. I know it’s the individual drivers making the decisions here to speed and run the red lights but they’re put in an impossible situation by AT. The consistent lack of bus priority is definitely a contributing factor.
    My personal worst one is the one between Newmarket and the city. In the afternoon peak that trip can take anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. The right hand turn into Park Rd from Khyber Pass is an absolute nightmare. Lack of bus lanes on Broadway and in a few pinch points on Khyber Pass forces bus drivers to do what they can to keep up with the schedule.

    1. I regularly see buses running a red light on a pedestrian crossing in my neighbourhood and they are in a priority lane.

      Akl drivers are shite in the main. Why would bus drivers be any better? There is a mind set that running red lights is a misdemeanor not a serious and life threatening crime. Until that changes we will continue to see aberrant behaviour

      1. Exactly. The trouble is that these (bus) drivers are taking our kids to school on buses with no seat belts, running red lights when our elderly are crossing the road, and are being paid to be professional drivers. I hate them with a passion.

        1. They got a sh*t job at bad pay and bad hours, and are expected to achieve service times that are often “ambitious”.

          We should pay them better, give them more realistic route times AND police them more strongly. Carrot and stick.

    2. I haven’t been there recently but I always did wonder why buses can’t turn right from the left lane at that intersection? Have a special bus phase there. I am sure it would be better for everyone: cars also get backed up by loads of buses having to move from the left bus lane to the right turn lane.
      It’s these little improvements that AT could do for next to nothing that would make a massive change to everyone. They should have a couple of sensible people (they don’t necessarily need to be transport engineers) that spend every day catching buses at various times and making suggestion improvements. Those 2 people and the associated minor changes would cost almost nothing compared to AT’s budget and could completely change PT in Auckland. Or at least use GPS stats to see where buses are getting stuck.
      None of this stuff is difficult, its just not considered important. Easier to employ a marketing team and have them design a nice poster about how great PT is than to make it great.

      1. Because cars.
        You’d have to hold car traffic to give them a right turn from the left. This is profane in Auckland. They do it all over Australia though.

        1. We’ve had bus priority lights in other places. A bus lane up the left of Khyber Pass Road, with a bus light at the Park Road intersection should be achievable.

          And if Auckland Transport is only a supporter of Vision Zero, who is actually responsible for implementing it? I support lots of things, but it is other people who actually deliver on them.

  6. Every bus has had a gps head on it since the early 2000’s (well. the older stagecoach fleet started the rollout early 2000’s). Its not a technology issue.

    It appears that either a daily report of reported offenders for speeding over a sign posted location hasnt yet been created, or the people that should enforce the back end at each depot are over worked and underfunded and do not have the time to follow up.

  7. Was on an NX1 last week that almost ran over a couple of people at the Queen street traffic lights. We were city-bound and the driver decided to drop us off on the far side of Queen street. Ran the red light and almost collected a couple of people on the far side of the intersection.

    Also often see 856/861/878 busses on East Coast Road that give way to cars trying to turn north out of Glamorgan and Glenvar. While trying to be nice, the bus is now creating a massive blind spot.

  8. At really does not care. I tried to get an answer out of AT a while ago about whether or not their contract with NZBus permitted that company to put buses on the road for passengers with malfunctioning or non functioning air conditioning. They refused to say one way or the other and fobbed it off to NZBus who produced and amost illiterate version of the “we are sorry our service did not meet your expectations” reply. NZBus is still running buses without adequate air flow – even in this time of Covid.

    1. I complained to AT last Spring about a bus on the 66 route that was roasting in the afternoon because the air conditioning was blowing hot air. They forwarded my complaint to the operator. To their credit Pavlovich did send a well written response explaining how the problem originated and that they’d take the bus out of service ASAP to fix it.

      “Unfortunately, AC defects are the most common during this time of the year – we have to take many buses off the road due to defects of this nature (some buses still running in the Winter mode – so AC units are heating air, not chilling it).” – From their email. I’m inferring from this that bus air conditioning systems are less advanced than the climate control you get in modern cars.

      1. Bus AC is automatic and set in the depot each morning, the driver can’t change it. Sometimes it’s set wrong.

        I remember hearing an guy arguing with the link driver that his wife was too cold, he would not accept that the driver couldn’t control the temperature because he could on his car!

    1. I can confirm the drivers ARE being ticketed. I had one issued to a driver from the Police and his bus company also stood him down to two weeks due to the incident.
      Unfortunately, unless you have footage and the infringement is serious the Police will not investigate, and AT only gives the bus company a slap on the wrist. Please email [email protected] if you have any incidents you would like investigating. You really need footage.

      1. Is that an emaiol that you can use for enforcement of any traffic issue anywhere in the country? I’m considering starting to video my trip to work, but it’s only worth doing if the Police are actually going to prosecute people.

        1. That email is only for commercial vehicles. For other complaints you can try your luck filling in an accident form ( for incidents, ignore the title) and hand it in to your local police station. I’ve had mixed results. They don’t tend to prosecute unless a law is broken AND someone was injured, or if the driving was very dangerous.

    1. It’s semantics. You can call it a bonus or you can call it a penalty. If they don’t meet certain targets, they pay a penalty (not getting a bonus)

      With those sorts of perverse incentives its no wonder we get dangerous behaviour like this.

  9. Apart from the lack of bus lanes and lack of red light cameras, traffic lights are also quite dumb over here. In some places buses are able to communicate with traffic lights so you can make it less likely a bus has to wait for a red light. If the light turns red right in front of a bus that is 2 minutes delay right there.

    Also are they really penalising bus companies for not being punctual? That would be really dishonest.

    1. Actually auckland is fully kitted out with this system and used to run it about ten years ago. But it got a bit hard to manage cos it was distrusting traffic, so they shut it off.

      Turning that on and using it properly would do far more than any bus lane.

  10. I wonder if a complaint to Worksafe about dangerous workplace behaviour would get some proper independent investigation under way?

    Might also encourage solution seeking by AT and the bus companies.

    1. It seems that work safe refuse to dip their toe into driving / road related work injuries. It’s far more dangerous and causes much more damage to society than the wet floor in the office kitchen. But they launch a full investigation every time something minor happens in an office.
      It would seem that these bus companies are doing exactly what worksafe was suppose to bust, encouraging unsafe conditions and culture through pressure, but nothing explicit. But it’s in the too hard basket for them

      1. It’s truly amazing that an organisation named Worksafe doesn’t care whether people work safely as long as they are on a public road.

  11. This is not a new thing as I was on a 756bus via Mission Bay to Downtown and we were stopped outside the Parnell baths by a Auckland City Council Traffic Cop for going over the speed limit and this was at around 6.30am , and in those days there was very little traffic on the road . And this was around late 1977 .

    And in those days Council Traffic Depts had to justify their Being .

  12. I’m just bemused by the level of surprise in the article. This is common as muck.

    In my experience, bus drivers will run a red light – if put in a situation where they can – more often than they don’t.

    About half the trips I’m on involve buses driven over 50 km/hr. But most involve buses driven at a speed that doesn’t meet other road code rules.

    All the bus drivers are doing is driving like a regular Aucklander. All of it needs fixing. It’s just that there should be tighter control over professional drivers, and this would assist changing the wider driving culture.

    1. I think this is also true of most trucks. I was out on a childseat check with Police a while back and a truck went straight through the red light in front of them. When pulled over driver said ” You cant stop one of these just like that” .

  13. A bus driver has to have “P” endorsement on their driver license in order to carry passengers for hire and reward. To get and hold a P endorsement a driver needs to pass a fit and proper person test – it is important that this stops rapists from driving Ubers but it is also meant to ensure that people who get a lot of traffic infringements (particularly safety related ones like speeding and red light running) and thereby indicate a disregard for traffic laws don’t get to drive passengers commercially. So if the same drivers are doing this regularly they should be putting their job at risk because Waka Kotahi NZTA should be taking away their P endorsement. They should be more afraid of entirely loosing their job rather than being afraid of their boss complaining they aren’t meeting schedules.

    I get that the preferred approach here in the comments section is to always blame AT for everything, but with this one I think it seems like WK aren’t doing their bit effectively enough. I don’t think we or the drivers who are choosing to break the law can blame AT and the lack of a bus lane along the full length of every bus route for why the driver is breaking the law. it is a deliberate choice by a professional who should know better or find a new line of work.

    1. At the end of the day the individual choice is always the bus drivers. However, AT also need some blame for creating the perverse incentives in the contracts. Bus companies get paid more if their services are on time, which inevitably leads bus companies to directly or indirectly pressure drivers to speed and run red lights. There are similar incentives with couriers who get paid by the package, so they are inevitably incentivised to speed, run red lights, pass cyclists dangerously, and park illegally and/or dangerously to make more deliveries.

    2. I agree with Sailor Boy. AT are the RCA and have responsibilities. The Safety Review said:

      “Buses should be required under operating contracts (as they are progressively renewed or clauses are renegotiated earlier) to achieve full compliance with road rules including with speed limits. Alcohol interlocks should be progressively fitted to all buses. Contractor fleets could similarly have requirements imposed to improve road safety outcomes in their fleet use. Maximum speeds on busways should respect safe system principles and speed limits need to be reviewed wherever buses share space with cyclists.”

      Presumably, AT chose not to renew the clauses of the contracts earlier, even as the red light running problem got out of hand.

      AT didn’t review speed limits wherever buses share space with cyclists.

      “it is a deliberate choice by a professional who should know better or find a new line of work.” – Correct, but anyone at AT should be trained in Vision Zero by now, and realise that AT is a key system player, and their failure to follow the Safety Review has provided these drivers with an environment in which this is standard practice.

      WK, Auckland Transport, MoT and the Police all need to step up.

      But AT is our RCA. They are failing in their duty.

      1. Any one bus driver has absolute control over how they drive but they are the only individual whose driving they can influence. AT have the power to influence the driving of every single bus driver but choose not to.

        Every action or inaction by AT senior management “is a deliberate choice by a professional who should know better or find a new line of work.”

  14. There must be some software available to allow monitoring of driver compliance. I worked for kiwirail a few years ago and back then we had fobs that we swiped before driving company vehicles, if we sped our manager would query us about it.

  15. I once had to step back while on the footpath on Queen Street to avoid being hit by bus that was running a red light AND cutting the corner at speed.

    I was able to do react in time, but if an elderly person or a baby in a stroller had been where I was standing, they’d have been injured or killed.

  16. Ironic that you have used a photo of a Waiheke bus for this post. There are comments that the island’s buses seldom go as fast as the speed limit most and are commonly 10 to 15kph slower. With mainly narrow bendy roads and few passing opportunities there is frustration with other road users. No red light running either as there is no traffic lights to run!

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