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.
I mean, they have promised me a NO ENTRY sign pic.twitter.com/4rAu3YjZlX
— Chlöe Swarbrick (@_chloeswarbrick) August 22, 2022
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).
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.