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Grafton Bridge – Revenue Gathering or Stupidity Tax

I’ve lost count of the number of times this same story comes up in the Herald and about the only thing missing this time was a sob story from a motorist. Instead we get three councillors who think this is a perfect opportunity to try and score some political points.

A central Auckland bridge is netting $150,000 in traffic fines from confused motorists every month.

Almost 1000 tickets have been issued each month this year to drivers snapped by enforcement cameras as they cross Grafton Bridge – which has been closed to all but buses for three years.

This year’s total take is about $1.25 million.

Some civic leaders say a “dog’s breakfast” of signs around the bridge creates confusion.

Auckland Council members Cameron Brewer, George Wood and Calum Penrose have called for a review of the signs after learning that as many as 997 tickets, worth $150 each, are being issued each month.

Mr Brewer said the council-controlled Auckland Transport had put up an array of small signs around the busy approaches to the bridge to show it was for buses only between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.

But the number of signs had added to the confusion.

“For many who may be heading into the area for the first time in a long time, it is as clear as mud.

“With no time to take it all in, many drivers find themselves on the bridge, nowhere to go, and staring at a $150 fine.”

Mr Wood called the signs a “complete dog’s breakfast” and said they explained why so many people were still being fined three years after the bridge became a bus corridor.

Well George I don’t think that it is the signs that are causing people to keep using the bridge but a mix of stupidity and risk taking thinking they might get away with it. First there were cries of not enough signage, now cries of too much signage but I think that the signs are just a convenient excuse. As I understand it Auckland transport already has a policy of letting out of towners off with a warning and with the amount noise that was generated the previous times this issue has come up I would be really surprised if there was really that many people that didn’t know that the bridge was off limits.

If there is any confusion at all it is due to the fact the bus only status is only active between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, perhaps the solution is to just make it bus only 24/7. The other thing Auckland Transport should do is to is to come out and say that if people are going to be stupid enough to drive over the bridge then they deserve a fine (and the same goes for other bus lanes too). They shouldn’t have to appear almost ashamed that they are keeping the bus lanes moving as without enforcement they quickly deteriorate with drivers thinking they can get away with clogging them up.

50 comments to Grafton Bridge – Revenue Gathering or Stupidity Tax

  • pete

    Mate, get off your horse

    Bus lanes appear on the road and you can drive off them. Police monitoring bus lanes give you some distance to realise your mistake

    With Grafton bridge, once you make your turn onto it you are stuck and committed to breaking the law, there is no way of backing out is there! I know plenty of people whom have been stung on this bridge, and all are well educated, with good vision, careful and considerate drivers. In one case a 43 year old lady got her first ever ticket on this money maker

    Wouldn’t the answer be to make it a toll road so urgent cases can get through and subsidise the roads for the rest of us whom live a quieter life :-). Start at $20 and adjust toll so that not too many cars use it so as not to slow buses. Should use payment same system as Puhoi tunnel as we have already bought that one :-(

    • There are plenty of signs leading up to the bridge from all sides saying it is bus only, there is green paint on the road at the entrances and there are gantries with lights saying whether you can go on to it or not. If you still fail to see all of these then you deserve to pay a fine.

      • deserthead

        While I tend to agree with you, there could well be, say, 5% of the 1,000 per month (ie 50 people) who are new immigrants with little english, befuddled elderly drivers, or overwhelmed rural folk who genuinely get a bit confused in the big smoke after visiting relatives at the hospital.

        Perhaps a $50 fine would be more appropriate, at least for first offenders. It still has a deterrent effect but is less of a revenue grab and a bit more ‘humane’ to those who make a genuine mistake.

        And as someone who recently lived in the area, I found the after-hours access to cars very useful and see no reason to do away with that for evenings and weekends when traffic congestion isn’t a problem.

      • pete

        I ma certainly not blind

        So I went down Grafton Road today, and checked the signs again. There are three signs that looked like parking time indicator signs high up above eye level saying in small print no access to bridge durring certian hours. The next sign was when you turned left onto the bridge and the green paint, but too late then!

        A permanent red arrow for left turn at the lights, with a green B (for bus) would fix the problem too

    • S

      What signage would you put up to advertise the existence of the toll road?

      • Hamish O

        Yeah, there must be more than 8 large motorway style signs in lead up to the ALPURTB2 toll road. Even if you started back at the hospital you wouldn’t fit them all in.

        • S

          Fair point. Perhaps the signage should spill out into the surrounding suburbs to really get the idea across. To make sure those out-of-towners get it, put some signage up on the motorway, especially at the off-ramps near Grafton. The supports of the bridge itself would be suitable for this.

          Advertisements in the Herald may help, as well, especially when paired with articles like the one mentioned in the original post.

          There could also be AT ambassadors at the intersections knocking on the windows of cars that look like they’re going to go across the bridge while waiting at red lights. They could wear costumes so as to be noticeable.

          (largely tongue in cheek, though unfortunately half serious given the concerns expressed in the article)

      • What signage would you put up to advertise the existence of the toll road?

        Something subtle – like “Toll road – $150.00 each way” ?

        There are massive numbers of signs. I think that just making it “buses only at all times would do the trick”

  • Peter M

    That assumes you’re blind Pete. There are so many signs showing that Grafton Bridge is for buses only that it’s completely insane.

  • deserthead

    They should absolutely put a permanent camera on the bridge, but at the western end to capture on tape the tards who stop in the yellow box thus blocking the incoming buses turning left onto the bridge from Symonds St.

    The other day a mate said he saw some idiot stop there, then panic when he was confronted by a large bus turning onto the bridge, which resulted in said idiot reversing into the car behind him. Brilliant.

  • Glenn C

    Crossing the bridge because you didn’t see all the signs is like causing an accident at an intersection because you didn’t see the red light.

  • Cameron Brewer, George Wood and Calum Penrose

    The Three Stooges of Old Auckland car-fellating politics.

  • Normally I have no sympathy for people who drive in bus lanes. But I doubt that grafton bridge is ever “clogged up” due to motorists.

    I think they should give people a warning the first time round. Fine them the next time – that way they can’t argue ignorance.

  • Torbayite

    Has anyone got statisitics on how many people (as opposed to just a bus count) cross GraftonBridge at peak times.
    I imagine it would be one of the highest per metre width in Auckland as it flows and has active transport as well as buses.
    this is the arguement for the bus lane only poicy with fines. It has a very important role carring people in and out of the CBD

  • Personally I think the signage could be a bit clearer. So could the rules – a bus lane 24/7 is easier to make signs for and explain than one that has limited operating hours (and overhead signals that don’t seem to work properly).

    And I’d suggest waiving the fine for anyone who stops and reverses / three-point-turns / five-point-turns back out the same way they went in rather than driving to the other end.

  • Anthony

    Having green B bus lights onto the bridge during hours of bus lane operation, and normal green arrow lights in every other direction for cars should be enough to stop people.
    People might miss or misunderstand a sign, but if the lights give clear direction, there is no excuse.

  • Adam

    There are a ton of signs at either end of the bridge, if you read just one of them, you would know not to drive onto the bridge.

    Driving in the modern world involves a lot of signage being absorbed, if you cant absorb it all, stop driving, or subsidize my rates

  • AC

    I yelled at the screen reading this. Sorry after 3 years and all the signs there is zero excuse. Brewer, Wood and Penrose can take a running jump ( off Grafton Bridge)

  • Bryce P

    I wonder how many of those have been given to the same person twice? Now that would be an interesting stat. It will be the same people who constantly use the T2 onramps even though there is just a single person in the car. The ‘they’ll never get me’ person. I mean, I very, very rarely drive anywhere near Grafton but I know not to use the bridge. I would however, support the 24hr bus lane idea. Maybe it just confuses people. What about a big red / green sign at each end with a car above it? Red when bus only, green when you can use it.

  • Sam

    Anyone who ends up driving on the bridge is not fit to be driving. If you cannot notice the plethora of signs then one has to wonder are they actually noticing other things that they should be while driving? If you cant decipher a bizillion signs, let alone see them, then how can we be sure you’re capable of noticing kids running between cars?

    This article disgusted me. To maintain the integrity of bus lanes people must be fined for breaking the rules. EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERY BUS LANE I HAVE EVER SEEN IS VERY CLEAR. Its not revenue gathering when people are breaking the law. If I repeatedly get caught drinking on the street can I complain that my blatantly flaunting the laws of the land is a form of revenue gathering? NO! (for those that think my comparisons are not closely related….they are, they’re both breaking the law which no matter what, needs to be punished, other wise, why have laws?)

  • I was visiting the hospital tonight so had a quick look at what was on Park Rd, There was a sign between Park Ave and Seafield View Rd about it, there was another one between Seafield View Rd and Grafton Rd, More at the entrance to the bridge, the words Bus Lane painted on the road and to top it all off the gantries with lights.

  • LucyJH

    I cycle across Grafton Bridge quite a bit – it’s much nicer without the cars. The signs are pretty jolly prominent – if you don’t notice them then maybe you shouldn’t be driving a car at all.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes I think that’s the issue. How much marking do you need to have before it becomes ridiculous.

      The only other thing they could do is mark the entrances green. Does anyone know why this has not been done already? Maybe there’s a reason …

  • TheBigWheel

    Last month I crossed Grafton Bridge was heading west by bike, at about 6 pm. I pulled up at the lights next to a car, which was stopped on red, apparently going to head straight over the bridge. I *politely* pointed out the *very obvious and easy to read and understand* signs telling the driver that he could not drive over the bridge. No prizes for guessing.. the *very stupid* driver headed straight on regardless. Holding me up when he got stuck in the queue at the other end. Thanks mate. Hope you got done.

    Conclusion.. it’s a tax on stupid people. Like the lottery. Only the jackpot is at best a few minutes of your own time at lots of other people’s expense. Rant over. High horse dismounted.

  • Don

    Although the bridge has many signs warning about its status I suggest that the thing drivers are more attuned to is red/green lights. In the case of the Grafton Bridge there is lights on the gantry above the traffic lanes however they are relatively small and very high up. Given that the highest vehicle to use the bridge is a bus why are they placed at over twice a bus height? The traffic lights should be arranged so that when the bridge is bus only should show a red arrow and a B for bus to further deter motorists. There is also an argument for over signage resulting in ‘message overload’ where too many written signs end up being uninterpreted due to a short time to read and absorb the message.
    Given the amounts of revenue/fines extracted from this bridge there should be sufficient available to something to rectify the situation. Another point is that placing staff and cameras on this bridge to catch offenders reduces the policing effort on the other bus lanes in the city. Is this a good situation?

  • jonno1

    Why is this a bus-only route anyway? The alternative routes (Khyber Pass Rd & Grafton Rd) make for a rather long detour.

    But that aside, Anthony’s suggestion above of a “B” light 7am-7pm makes a lot of sense. Do the existing lights stay red all the time? If so, it becomes a simple case of running a red light. And I agree that the signs are pretty clear now the overgrowth has been removed. I did wonder about the yellow box at the western end one evening, until a bus turned in from Symonds St – heh, I was pleased to be outside the box.

    One more thing – I’ve noticed the cameraman virtually blocking the southern footpath on occasion – that’s not a good look.

    • Nick R

      The alternative is the new four lane bridge between Grafton Rd and Wellesley St, a few hundred metres away via the recently widened Grafton Rd. Or Khyber Pass, or Grafton Rd, or Alten Rd, or Beach Rd.

      The reason it is bus only? 65,000 bus passengers a day use that corridor, and previously there were only 13,000 vpd on the bridge. But the bridge is just one lane each way, including at the intersections. So cars waiting at the lights must queue in single file. it only takes six or eight cars to have a tailback halfway across the bridge.

      Put simply, the single file bridge is excellent for moving people by bus and horribly inefficient for moving people by car. Delaying 65,000 people so that 13,000 don’t have to drive a few hundred extra metres to a custom build car only bridge is ridiculous.

  • Jon Reeves

    I think everyone should receive one warning notice. The second offence is a full ticket. Either that or stop confusion by making it a busway 24/7.

    To be honest, if anyone never sees the signs around that bridge, from what I saw when I back in NZ in February, you should lose your driving license and be forced to undertake an eye examination!

  • Duncan

    I can’t quite recall, and someone can quote me on this one, but the route was also made ‘bus only 7am-7pm’ to allow easier access for Emergency vehicles as well?
    I am on the bandwagon that if you can’t see the signs you aren’t paying enough attention while you drive. I do believe those with somewhat clean driving records making an honest mistake should be able to have discrepancy though.

  • I remember saying that it should be bus lane 24/7 when they were debating it over three years ago to eliminate the confusion argument. The commentators at the time shut it down as we didn’t need to. Now I’m going down the other track, we should leave as is. Motorists who cant see the signs on all accesses to the bridge deserve to be hit with the fine, and really shouldn’t be driving on the road. There is so many signs and indications it’s ridiculous!

  • NCD

    Considering the amount of attention the issue has been given in the media, I would expect half of NZ who will never come to Auckland know about it.
    I have some sympathy for people turning up in town for hospital services, but for a local a fine would be a gentle reminder to re-engage with society.

  • Louise

    I wonder if there’s some sort of protest going on with drivers today? I was walking across the bridge this morning and usually I only see one or two people driving across it during my walk down the entire bridge, if that – today I saw five go through one light phase mixed in with buses. It can’t be a coincidence that it was mentioned in the paper and then this happens this morning. Pity there wasn’t a camera there today to catch them and “gather” some more “revenue”.

  • Ian

    As I always say, we have to gather revenue somehow! Seems like a good way to do it as far as I’m concerned.

  • Ari

    I think it is a stupidity tax. BTW I’m told bigger, brighter signs are going in soon. It will be even more of a joke. They probably cost more than any revenue gathered.

  • Louis M

    What a joke! I agree with previous comments. If you’re incapable of reading signs, then don’t drive! It has been three years now! The NZ Herald should get over it!

  • There are regular users of bus lanes in London, who pay their fines when they get them, on time, and happily.

    They are informal toll lanes, indicating that for a tiny few, the time savings they get from using them are well worth the £60 fine (former film director Michael Winner once exclaimed this was a “bargain”). There are so few they make little difference to the flow of traffic (bearing in mind most bus lanes are accessed by licensed hackney carriages as well).

  • Torbayite

    So 65,000 bus passengers per day according to Nick. R Add on perhaps 5,000 walkers and cyclists and 1,000 cars out of hours makes 71,000 per day.
    So this narrow bit of road carries nearly half as many people per day as the harbour bridge if my maths are right

  • Oliver

    I noticed this morning that the Grafton Rd end of the bridge now has new traffic lights installed that have separate ‘B’ and normal lights. The ‘B’ light went green and the normal light stayed red.

  • Anthony

    A red light, B light and green turning arrows.
    I wonder how many people have been caught entering the bridge since the B light was installed?

  • Gem

    Iv just got a fine for this….I haven’t been near the bridge for 4years so this was all new to me. Being hooted at by other cars behind me to go and already half way over before I reached the bridge, what more could I have done?? Crashed? Gone into someone….I panicked as I had our baby in the car crying at all the horns going off and me panicking ….so not a nice “free” trip out to the museum it was with the kiddies in the school holiday….I don’t mind paying the fine , but yes $150 is pretty steep,That’s my birthday money out the window. Oh well….

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