In early July we wrote about the current plan for getting [some] cars out of [part of] Queen St in the new ‘Essential Vehicle Area’ established as part of the Wai Horotiu Queen St Transformation.

Put simply, buses, people on bikes and mobility scooters (and presumably lime scooters), emergency vehicles, and essential goods delivery vehicles are all allowed to pass through the EVA. Taxis, ubers, and private cars aren’t and if they do they’ll be sent a $150 fine – though we also learnt about a loophole for double-cab utes due to how Auckland Transport were implementing it.

AT were starting enforcement of the zone with just warning drivers but even with that, at the time of our last post we raised some concerns about the implementation that would likely lead to a lot of non-compliance, either deliberately or accidentally, and were concerned about that leading to negative press that risked putting the Wai Horotiu Queen St Transformation back even further.

These issues included:

  • The EVA being too short resulting in drivers not understanding why they can’t drive on the 150m of road the EVA covers between Wakefield and Wellesley streets.
  • Confusing signage, including signs with  a paragraph of text to read
  • The poor name of the zone, after all who doesn’t think their trip is essential
  • A lack of a proper loading and servicing plan for Queen St resulting in trying accommodate existing uses and vehicles rather than, for example, trying to encourage those activities to occur at different times, by different modes or with loading zones outside of Queen St.

Sadly, our fears of significant non-compliance appear to be panning out with Stuff’s Todd Niall reporting on the results of just the first four weeks of enforcement:

Since then, more than 30,000 warning letters have been sent to drivers who either didn’t see or ignored the signage.

There were 10,000 repeat offenders and one who had been warned 10 times.

However, the signs and road markings put up by Auckland Transport have been criticised as inadequate.

The agency will put more up before starting to issue $150 fines.

The “grace” period, during which warnings are being issued, has been extended by three weeks due to the level of breaches and letters to be sent out.

Number plate recognition cameras monitor the stretch between Wellesley St and the Town Hall.

Any vehicle not registered in the allowed categories gets pinged.

There were 9000 breaches in the first week, 9227 in the second, 5471 in the third and 10,302 in the fourth. Auckland Transport is a week behind processing breaches.

I wonder how many of those repeat offenders are taxi and uber drivers?

Todd also reports that a third batch of signage is planned to be installed before AT plans to start issuing fines on September 5.

What’s frustrating is this was an entirely predictable outcome due to the overly complex approach for what should have been a fairly simple change.

For example, as I pointed out in that post last month, Tauranga was able much simpler signage for a very similar type zone

I also suggested that perhaps AT should try a permit system so that only vehicles with a valid permit were allowed in Queen St. It could work like bookable loading zones, which are already in use in other cities. It’s a simple system where you book a loading zone bay for the specific day, time and duration you need it for. Some organisations could be pre-approved so the approval can be automated and given in seconds, while other organisations may require a quick once-over by staff. When approved your plate details would go into the enforcement system with an exclusion for you from the time you specify (with a buffer window either side).

An loading zone booking app used in the USA.

Like with the above Tauranga example, that would have the benefit of significantly simplifying messaging but also help to ensure that loading zones aren’t overloaded, resulting in vehicles parked up on the widened footpaths, and give AT a better understanding of who is using Queen St and when.

It’s important that AT get this right as this type of road space management needs to be a key part of their toolkit for reducing traffic and emissions while improving town centres all over the region.

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    1. Maybe the law is a ass. If that list of vehicles was replaced by the words authorised vehicles would people on a moped know they were an authorised vehicle?

      1. The only creative part of AT are the people dedicated to interpreting any law or rule they can find to justify 1) Inaction, or 2) Incompetent action when forced to act (see above).

        AT’s founding legislation enables them to write bylaws, as far as I know in 12 years they never have, but they have spent that time pointing to laws and regs as an excuse for failure to act or act well.

    2. The final version of those signs was the result of hundreds of hours of staff time, consumed by the Customer Experience Team at AT, discussing the wording, The project also required outside consultants who ran a series of internal workshops, complete with white boards and 340 post it notes.

  1. AT’s decision making processes seem crowded, chaotic and uncertain whereas their implementation processes seem quite effectively. Whatever idiocy their committees of decision makers sign up for gets implemented. This is the worse sort of bureaucracy. I’d far rather have clumsy implementation of good decisions.

  2. Let’s face it – until it’s bluntly obvious that one can’t drive there – we won’t see increase in compliance.
    This is a very similar story to the bus lane across Grafton bridge. Until AT modified the traffic lights so they stayed red with a ‘B’ next to it most drivers didn’t get the message either. The message must be very simple.

    1. Thanks to a Cllr on the old Auckland City Council, it wasted something like $20-50k on ineffective signs for Grafton Bridge, because the Cllr believed that they were the best signs even after everyone told him they weren’t.

      Once it was proved that they weren’t, the current signage was installed, which worked.

  3. Incrementalism gone mad.

    It would have been easier to understand if it ran all the way to the harbour from Mayoral Drive.

    You’d still have the logical terminus of Aotea Square car park (& Victoria Street & no less than 4 Wilsons in easy strolling distance) to drop your wheels.

    Wellesley, Kitchener and Albert could drain away any lost souls accidentally using the city centre as a through route.

    1. If their goal was to reduce traffic they would have made it bigger. If their goal was to look like they are doing something while pissing people off and maximising fines then this is the perfect solution.

  4. Should we now ever accept,that there is no money in the budget,AT has ,had ,between 10,000 and 30,000 opportunities to extract $150 from errant road users,that is between 1.5 million and 4.5 million dollars. Are we ever likely to see the headline,
    “AT loses millions in lack of enforcement”, never,but spending a similar amount on non motorised vehicle improvements,invokes pitchforks.

  5. I would put the lack of compliance down to most people not agreeing with the random closing of 150m of road to traffic. Other than “we hate cars” there hasn’t been any valid reason given for the restrictions. Once the fines start, you can bet there will be a backlash.
    A better way would have been buses only one way and open to traffic the other. With the opposite lanes the next block. But that would reduce the revenue from the fines.

    1. I’d hardly call getting cars off Queen Street random. People have been talking about it for years, many other cities in the world have done it, and yes the reason is “we hate polluting stinking dangerous cars taking up heaps of space on our main shopping street for almost no reason”. Sure maybe that it is only for 150m is a bit weird, but people should be able to read signs.

    2. “Other than “we hate cars” there hasn’t been any valid reason given for the restrictions.”

      The CCMP 2012. The TERP 2022. Open your eyes, boy.

    3. Nah, the reasons are self evident. Every time I go there:
      1) I’m tripping over other pedestrians squeezed onto the footpath.
      2) I’m waiting at traffic lights where large sections of the phase are used to carry 3 cars each. While ped phases carry 50+.
      3) I see citylink buses stuck behind cars waiting forever to do a very simple (but important) last mile trip.

      The fact also remains that there is functionally zero parking. two of the primary uses of this queen street space is showing off your car, and being confused and accidentally going there. This space has much better potential uses and will do a better job if there are less cars.

  6. I heard somebody describing it as a ‘low emission zone’

    I was a bit puzzled until I clicked that they thought that EVA = Electric Vehicles Area

    The ability to book out a loading zone is a really good one. Something that should be in the AT parking app. I work with tradies and we had some work recently in Queen st, so would have very happily paid (and added to the job) the cost of some parking in a zone. Instead had to chance it or used a hand trolley to get boxes of gear from parking building to the store

  7. What an absolute mess. There is no reason that loading and unloading needs to occur on this street. Pedestrian malls much longer somehow operate all over the world, including the pedestrian malls in actual malls all over Auckland.

    This street should have been bus and bicycle only the day after the councilors unanimously supported a car free Queen Street 3 years ago. It’s not too late for council to fix this.

    1. I must be the only person that has no problem with it. Sure I would prefer they did the whole street (no idea why they don’t), but I think the sign is fine. It clearly says no right turn, yes the exception list is big but that is the exceptions not the rule. If you ignore the no right turn and you aren’t in the exceptions, you should get a fine just like any other no right turn sign.

      1. The restriction is:
        a) not what the councillors instructed the council to doe
        b) not what the public wanted
        c) likely to result in poor compliance
        d) more permissive than needed, resulting in poor safety, climate, and pollution outcomes

        The sign is fine for the restriction that is in place. The issue is that the restriction is wrong.

        1. Sound like auckland council in a nutshell, they never really commit but instead slowly “phase in” change in a way that is easy to cancel and ignore.

    2. Malls work because off a bunch of truck docks linked to a vast array of back of house walkways. Queen Street doesn’t have any of those. They used to have alleys like Darby St and Vulcan Lane and service roads like High St and Lorne Street but you can’t load from those any more. Goods have to arrive at the front door of shops in Queen Street. It is a matter doing that when it isn’t too busy. Luckily it is never too busy.

      1. Yes ironically those alley’s got converted to shared spaces etc first. I think that booking system would work best, put some of that number plate recognition work to good use.

      2. We don’t even need a booking system. Where I studied, there are pedestrian zones, but they allow deliveries between 6 and 11am, and 6:30 and 8:30pm (pick some hours that are usually not busy). Outside those hours the space is car free. Those hours are a bit of a mouthful but it doesn’t matter because this rule is standardized across the city centre. Anyone doing those deliveries probably knows those hours.

        1. +1, we even have that system already, with all of the shared spaces being loading only and all for the same time period.

      3. “Malls work because off a bunch of truck docks linked to a vast array of back of house walkways. Queen Street doesn’t have any of those.”

        Many of the building have their own truck loading bays and walkways.

        For the other businesses, perhaps we could make these truck bays and walkways publicly accessible. We could call the truck bays ‘loading zones’ or ‘car parks’ and call the walkways ‘footpaths’. In fact, now that I look a little closer, we already have those on may of the nearby streets. Some of the streets (Elliot Street, Fort Street) actually only allow vehicles to stop if they are loading. It’s almost like when those streets were recently changed into shared spaces, that was a conscious decision made specifically to enable loading for nearby businesses….

        I’m always amazed that some of the older transport engineers were able to figure out how to get a motorway through Transmission Gully, but can’t figure out how to get 100L of milk to a business without parking right outside.

        1. Well there’s a challenge. You could park your truck in the loading zone on Wyndham Street and have your whole load of milk fall out the back on you. You could use the 10m loading zone on Victoria, provided one other truck didn’t get there first. Or you could park on Fort St before 11am and wheel your loads of milk up Queen Street however far up it needs to go, making multiple trips there and back. I guess it all depends on what price people are prepared to pay for their flat white in Queen Street. Productivity doesn’t seem to rate.

        2. Assuming it is an other truck is pretty optimistic. In the absence of enforcement of parking rules, it may very well be a few cars that will be parked there for the rest of the day.

          At least Queen Street has footpaths that are level enough to actually wheel supplies to a shop.

  8. Something like the B aspect or bike/ped aspect traffic signal is needed for Special Vehicle lanes, so that signs, surface markings and signals are clear. The No Entry sign, with “Except authorised vehicles” should go with this. People who are occasionally in the City Centre need something that shows them clearly what has changed since they were last there. Bookable access can go well with numberplate recognition, but it will take some time to build, test and introduce that system (granted it works elsewhere, so that’s not too hard). And persuading the businesses that it can work requires some demonstration – but a demonstration that works!

  9. The problem is the laws AT has to work in to achieve these things.

    The first point to note is that this will never have any effect unless it is actually enforced. But since this involves moving vehicles AT can only enforce it using special vehicle lane powers. All other moving vehicle offences (like banned turns, one way streets, pedestrian malls, red light running etc.) can only be enforced by the police. Quite frankly the police have more important things to be doing than dedicating a permanent resource to enforcing these types of controls. Has anyone put in an official information request to find out how many tickets the police have issued to non-authorised vehicles who have ignored that nice simple sign in Tauranga?

    So for AT to be able to enforce this they needed to use special vehicle lane powers. The bylaw-making powers in the Land Transport Act 1998 are nice and broad on this and AT’s Traffic Bylaw allows for them to create special vehicle lanes for classes of vehicle however they choose to define them. But to be enforceable the special vehicle lane needs road markings and signs that comply with the Land Transport Rule: Traffic Control Devices 2004. That rule sets the road marking as the primary control for special vehicle lanes and signs only needed if it isn’t a 24/7 lane. It talks about the symbol marked on the road needing to comply with the schedule of markings. Arguably that could limit the types of special vehicle lane to only the symbols already set in the schedule but since some of those symbols use text a broader interpretation would allow for any class of vehicle special vehicle lane to be marked in text on the road surface like the BUS LANE one.

    This creates huge problem for AT in relation to the type of lane they want to have here since it is not one of the preset lanes like bus or transit where the symbol in the schedule already covers the buses (and the vehicles with right number of passengers for transit lanes) those symbols also allow for cycles, motorcycles and mopeds (and PT vehicles in transit lanes) without being marked on the road. But if AT is to rely on the general power to create a new type of special vehicle lane that is not one of the ones with a preset symbol they will have to mark on the road surface every class of vehicle that they want to be allowed into the lane. If you think that is a stupid amount of information to have to show under that turn ban sign imagine how that would look painted onto the road in letters the same size as a bus lane symbol. You probably can’t even fit the word “motorcycle” in the width of the lane.

    So it seems that AT has gone cap in hand to Waka Kotahi and asked them to officially create a new category of preset special vehicle lane marking using their powers to add to the TCD Rule with gazette notices. The result of that was the creation of the news signs and markings for a goods vehicle lane that can be combined with a bus lane.

    Is this perfect – no probably not because the definition of a goods vehicle probably will cover a double cab ute. But given the tools that NZ transport law gives AT and Waka Kotahi it probably is the best that they could actually do to create something close to the type of Queen Street we want.

    Maybe some more advisory signs will help but chances are if they keep issuing warnings rather than tickets people will keep ignoring it. It is probably better to stop being the nice guys and start raking in some of that ticket revenue. The media backlash will work as better notification to people to stay off here than the signs will.

    1. Makes you wonder how anything was ever done.

      And why AT seems to have discovered so many problems with the law.

    2. “Quite frankly the police have more important things to be doing than dedicating a permanent resource to enforcing these types of controls.”

      Tell me, Translex, given the vacuum of responsibility that characterises our transport system, why do you think this wouldn’t be of importance to the Police? Note, I am not saying it should be them – clearly the transport sector should get their act together. But when it comes to enforcement, AT is incompetent, and that’s left us poor citizens of the world at the mercy of arrogant drivers.

      Given this, what is more important to the Police than protecting people from both the danger presented by these vehicles, and from the knock-on effects of a lack of enforcement – on a programme critical to our climate response?

      Protecting property, perhaps?

      What I’ve seen the Police spending their time on recently would not make a complimentary post. It’s not just the transport sector in need of regime change.

      1. I really think that AT should be given a lot more of the traffic enforcement powers. I’d like to see them enforcing the red light cameras and being able to enforce other movement controls that they put in place like driving on shared paths, turn bans, pedestrian crossings, one way streets, give ways and stops. All kinds of things that could be enforced by camera by a Road Controlling Authority that would be more invested in the outcomes than the police are because it would be part of their core function and linked to their goals and ambitions.
        I don’t agree with your suggestion that AT is incompetent with all of it’s enforcement. I think their bus lane enforcement has been pretty good and with their new camera systems it will get even better (so long as they aren’t so careless about sticking the poles up in shared paths). I think a lot of their parking enforcement is very good – but I agree they make some odd interpretations as an excuse to not do some of it (like pedestrian malls) and should be harsher with driveway parkers who block footpaths.
        Give them the power in addition to the police having the power – I think it could lead to heaps of improvements and it certainly couldn’t make it any worse.

        1. Red light enforcement was recently transferred to Waka Kotahi, hence why so many more are being installed. Previously the Police could effectively hold new ones ransom because Police needed budget to do the enforcement.

    3. “This creates huge problem for AT in relation to the type of lane they want to have here since it is not one of the preset lanes like bus or transit where the symbol in the schedule already covers the buses (and the vehicles with right number of passengers for transit lanes) those symbols also allow for cycles, motorcycles and mopeds (and PT vehicles in transit lanes) without being marked on the road. But if AT is to rely on the general power to create a new type of special vehicle lane that is not one of the ones with a preset symbol they will have to mark on the road surface every class of vehicle that they want to be allowed into the lane.”

      AT/AC have created this problem themselves. They could make a bus only lane and a cycle lane at each end and enforce it under existing powers. AT/AC have intentionally made the smallest possible impact to vehicles despite broad support for a complete ban on vehicles

      1. That is a fair statement. If this was just a bus lane then it would be much easier to install enforce and understand. But AT and their political masters would not be brave enough to do that here because the business lobby will claim they need loading bays accessible to the commercial businesses down here that don’t have some other street access. Actually they will also claim that their customers need to park here to but I think AT is getting closer to being brave enough to say that nearly all the customers will walk from somewhere else so forget about customer parking. But the ability for goods to be unloaded and tradies to come into fix the lights and loos probably means that we wont get a pure bus lane here.

  10. Seems this is the anti car lobby. Hi, just curious. Im an Uber driver, we seem to be forgotten. How is it not a Good idea to include us as a solution? The mind boggles, as in the evening, and sometimes during the day, most people requiring an Uber are either slighly, or completely intoxicated. How else are these poor Souls suppose to get where they are going?
    Looking forward to your replys.

    1. I guess the same way they do now – they will walk to a place where you can pick them up. People walk to taxi ranks, bus stops, train stations and carparks from whatever place of entertainment or work they have been using in the city. So it shouldn’t create any problems to walk outside the car-free area to meet the Uber.

    2. In London when cars were removed ride share vehicles that replaced them became the problem. Thanks but no thanks. Charlie, as the need to reduce emissions increases you may be in a sunset industry.

    3. “most people requiring an Uber are either slighly, or completely intoxicated.”

      Most people using Ubers rae doing so because they don’t wish to walk or take Public Transport.

  11. Bookable Loading Zones are already available in Auckland but they’re a joke and we never use them because:

    the application process is frustrating and takes an age
    when you do book a zone you inevitably turn up and find someone is already parked in your booked space
    the cost of a fine is less than that of a booking (we require minimum half day bookings)

    All of the above was true even when the client we were delivering to was AT

  12. what a dud. They think sending letters deter people from breaking the law. Nice one. Let’s extend that and see what happens… That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. If there is no penalty for using the road why would people stop using it. It’s amazing how little brain power they have in AT. It’s quite astonishing actually

  13. I think after additional ‘do whatever you want’ period there will be another one and another since non-compliance is going to grow. Article says 4th week had the most drivers breaking the rules more than any other previous week. So much for sending letters.

    1. People are basically calling bluff.

      The same thing happens with things like parking in footpaths, bike lanes or shared zones. The idea that AT will actually enforce this seems totally ridiculous.

      Of course if they lose this bluff and get a ticket, there will be a lot of sore losers who will complain loudly. So be it. AT gave them a fair warning.

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