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Taxis on Grafton Bridge from Monday

From Monday bikes and buses will have another road user to share with on Grafton Bridge with Auckland Transport starting a one year trial to allow Taxis to use the bridge.

Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial 2

Taxis are getting access to Grafton Bridge on a trial basis to make it easier for people to get to Auckland City Hospital and Starship Children’s Hospital.

The year-long trial will allow taxis to use the bridge 24 hours a day giving them the same access as buses, motorcyles and bikes.

Auckland Transport’s Network Operations and Safety Manager Randhir Karma says the trial is being run to see if adding taxis affects other users of the bridge.

“We will be reporting back on driver behaviour, bus travel times and intersection queuing every three months.”

Mr Karma says Auckland Transport will carry out CCTV monitoring of Grafton Bridge throughout the trial.

“The bridge is a major link to the hospitals and allowing taxis to use it at all hours should improve access for patients and visitors.”

The existing bus lanes operate 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday, at other times the bridge is open to general traffic.

“We will be converting the existing bus lanes to ‘bus and taxi’ lanes and the signs and road markings will be updated.”

Mr Karma says there will be rules around taxis using the bridge. “There will be no overtaking of cyclists and the taxis must give bikes space when following them. They won’t be allowed to pick-up or drop-off passengers and u-turns are banned.”

He also says the taxis cannot use the special vehicle lane when they are not in service.

Auckland Transport will be using video cameras to enforce the rules during the year-long trial which starts on 31 August.

I have a few big concerns with this.

  1. Taxis using the bridge and queuing at the lights at either end will reduce the number of buses that get through intersections. This will obviously make public transport slower so a case of a few taxi’s holding up buses that could be carrying more than 100 passengers.
  2. That this will be just the tip of the iceberg and following the trial there will be a greater push to allow taxis to use more bus lanes around the city.
  3. Some taxi drivers already struggle to follow the road rules so it wouldn’t surprise me to see ATs rules regularly flaunted unless they have near constant enforcement.

Just to reiterate, here are the rules for Taxis

  • Can only use the bridge if carrying passengers
  • Must be a branded taxi i.e. no services such as Uber
  • No stopping on the bridge to pick up or drop off passengers.
  • No u-turn manoeuvres on the bridge.
  • Give cyclists space when following them across the bridge – unfortunately there is no definition of how much space should be given
  • No overtaking cyclists on the bridge.

Given the general behavour of some taxi drivers – definitely not all – I suspect that AT are going to need a lot of enforcement for this. Wonder how long it is till we first hear of a taxi following a bike to closely or overtaking? If you do experience it also make sure you provide feedback to Auckland Transport.

Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial

On monitoring AT say

The trial will assess the impact that taxis have on pedestrians, buses, cycles and motorcycles along with any potential influence on general traffic.

  • Interim analysis of driver behaviour, bus travel times and intersection queuing will be carried out every 3 months.
  • Specific public or bus driver feedback will be reviewed as it is received.
  • Auckland Transport Operation Centre (ATOC) will undertake CCTV monitoring throughout the trial period.
  • A final review will be done once the trial has been completed.

If significant adverse effects on safety, compliance or lane productivity occur, the trial may be stopped early.

72 comments to Taxis on Grafton Bridge from Monday

  • Brendan

    Given must Uber drivers are taxi drivers, I don’t see why Uber drivers are banned. I guess the taxi federation probably fought to keep them out.

  • Brendan

    Given most Uber drivers are taxi drivers, I don’t see why Uber drivers are banned. I guess the taxi federation probably fought to keep them out.

  • Gary Young

    I see a wedge: thin end of.

    If I was a conspiracy theorist I would regard this as a step in their long-term strategy to gain access to the Northern Busway.

    • Sort of.

      A Conspiracy theorist may think this is the start of the unwinding of the Grafton Bridge experiment. Good.

      Within a week of the general vehicle ban on Grafton Bridge cars driving via Lower Domain Drive and Domain Drive grew substantially.

      This is an ongoing disaster. A case of killing the old Auckland City via an act of green washing?

      The charm and inherited value of Auckland Domain has been laid to waste by the blighted traffic reoriantation. The narrowness of the measure of success used when determining the outcome is an inaccurate representation by the Council.

      Get those damn cars out of the park I love…

      • Matthew W

        I agree they need to sort out the Domain. Obviously not by opening up Grafton Bridge though, which is a major piece of PT infra. The Domain doesn’t take you from Grafton to K Road, so sorting out the Domain really is independent of G Bridge.

      • Peter Nunns

        If cars in the Domain are the problem, surely the most obvious solution would be to restrict car access to the Domain.

      • roberthelmat

        I agree the bridge should be opened up to all cars, at least T2.

  • JeffT

    Taxi drivers are some of the worst drivers out there. It’ll become a congested mess. But hey, where isn’t?

  • George

    Hospitals are a special case, and deserve exemptions.

    The challenge will be seeing if this just becomes a shortcut to and from Newmarket. A trial is pragmatic.

    • JimboJones

      Why are the exemptions only for taxis? Why not an exemption for anyone driving to the hospital? It all seems very odd to me…

      • roberthelmat

        I agree, cars should have never been stopped from using the bridge, it clogs all the surrounding roads, Khyber Pass, Grafton Road, Newton Road, and creates a very long journey to the hospital. My mother 83 will not drive to the hospital from here because the bridge is closed to cars.

        • Torbayite

          If cars could use the bridge all the time the bridge will be blocked as well.

          I actually wonder where the taxis will be bringing people from to use Grafton Bridge. Not Eastern or Southern Suburbs. Not North Shore and Western Suburbs as they will use the motorway and get on/off in Grafton gully. So only would be CBD, Ponsonby and Westmere people. So for Taxis for a small number of people we are interfering with buses from many suburbs. There are plenty of buses from North Shore and East Auckland that use Grafton Bridge each day.

          Also many of the Outpatient clinics are at Greenlane Clinical Centre (The only overnight service there are about 10-20 people under the Eye service.)

  • JeffT

    If it is to get people to the hospitals they should monitor the drop-offs. They’re just the other side of the bridge. That also means it’s only one-way taxi traffic. Is it a one-way bridge?

    The taxi company’s obviously used the public safety concern to gain access. Let’s make sure they’re using it for this.

  • buttwizard69420

    Why isn’t the rule ‘FOLLOW cyclists across the bridge? Even if you were stuck behind the slowest meandering pack of cyclists in the world, it’s still going to be a huge fare/cost saving as opposed to going all the way across the gully at the University intersection.

  • Greg N

    Taxis can already use Transit lanes (whether with passengers or not) as they’re passenger service vehicles, so yep, very much thin end of the wedge and part of a campaign to get taxis everywhere.
    And of course Taxi Federation want Ubers excluded to provide a Marketing point of difference.

    As for Hospital trips – people use taxis to get to and away from the Hospital so going both ways is valid.

    Suggest any cyclists on the Bridge “take the lane” when they do yo ensure no taxis pass them – those no passing lines down the middle are there for a reason after all.

    Mind you if AT were serious about traffic flow they’d do something about Park Road traffic going towards the hospital from the bridge – it completely blocks up and hold up the buses something wicked.
    So a few dozen cars can hold up hundreds of bus users.

  • Trundler

    I assume the taxi drivers want to use the bridge as a shorter route? Since when were taxi drivers motivated to take the shortest possible route?…. Less revenue for them. Doesn’t make sense as they can’t use when empty to get back to city for next fare in the shortest possible way.

  • Sailor Boy

    Please can everyone actually complain to AT every time a taxi passes them while riding. AT will actually stop this trial by the looks of it.

    • Linz

      OT I know – but what happened to your Twitter account @silorboy? Andrew W was interested in a conversation we were having about Dick Quax ….

    • Ricardo

      And why cant a taxi pass a cyclist if it’s safe to do so. The road is for all forms of transport allowed, not just cyclists.

      • Pete

        because there is a double yellow line, and due to the narrow width of the bridge it is impossible to pass a cyclist in a car/bus without crossing the yellow line.

  • Matthew W

    Who is taking time critical trips to the hospital? Doctors on call? Presumably not patients who would be in an ambulance if it was an emergency.

    • As a cancer patient, it would be patients family who would be taking patients to and from the hospital. Often for an emergency admission, and after being released from hospital generally patients are not fit to use public transport and would prefer not to have to use a taxi, but would prefer to have family drive them home as soon as possible to continue recovery.

  • Ricardo

    Good. Commonsense at last – hope it is used responsibly by all users.

    • Gary Young

      In my own world weary experience the chance of a concession being used responsibly rather than being abused selfishly is pretty much close to zero.

    • JimboJones

      Common sense? Why are taxis so special? Why should a full bus be held up by a bunch of taxis in front of them at the lights?
      Yet more proof that the term ‘common sense’ is never used in a good argument.

  • Graeme Easte,

    Yes this is the thin edge of the wedge – Taxi Federation has been lobbying to be able to use bus lanes since the first one was introduced about 15 years ago – I have witnessed then lobbying at Transport Committee on numerous occasions and as a City Councillor had a deputation of 3 call on me personally – though I made it very clear that I was opposed in principle to any watering down of bus priority measures. It is not just about taxis themselves getting in the way of or delaying PT but the undermining of enforcement as car drivers see other cars (some taxis are not well labelled and can look much like any other car at a distance) using the bus priority lanes. No need for buses to have priority on the bridge if it is made clear that non PT vehicles can use the bridge in genuine emergencies (e.g. women about to give birth, people with injuries being rushed to A&E in a friends car which happened to me once).

  • Steve C

    the road code recommends a 1.5 metre passing distance, so there’s your guideline

    sadly unenforceable and whenever did you see a taxi driver follow the road code?

  • JimboJones

    This has got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. Haven’t AT got better things to spend their money on than changing all of the signs to allow taxis and then have to monitor how its going, have meetings about it, someone is going to write a report, etc? Shouldn’t the right wing be jumping up and down about what a waste of money this is?
    Its not like it’s going to solve Auckland’s traffic problems – it will just make buses slower! I doubt you need a trial to prove that.
    If anything they should simplify the use of the bridge and make it bus only 24×7.

  • How many taxis are there in Auckland?

  • Stu Donovan

    it may be a visual trick, but the sign in the right of that photo seems very inconveniently placed in the middle of the footpath? It’s been a while since I’ve walked through here though …

  • AuckDavid

    Is no passing an informal rule or will it be specifically written into bylaw? As road user rule only prohibits crossing double yellows if passing motor and horse-drawn vehicles

  • Luke

    Next it will be SUV owners and people earning over $200k.

  • lloyd c

    I’m thinking that AT know that it will be a disaster but are giving them a trial so they can shut the taxi drivers up once and for all. Alot of Taxi drivers are absolutely shocking drivers so the trial will be suspended with 3 months due to multiple rule breaches.

  • Will these Taxi Buses be available on the shore?

  • Just as a matter of interest, are emergency vehicles such as Ambulances allowed to use the Bridge? They would seem to be the obvious vehicles to be given usage rights, rather than taxis.

    • Nick

      I’d say so. Emergency vehicles are allowed anywhere.

      • Stranded on the North Shore

        Actually this is a good point @Maximus – emergency vehicles are allowed anywhere, yes, but only when it’s part of the emergency duties. So an ambulance in non-emergency business might need to go different way… Does anyone know what the real story here is with emergency vehicles?

  • It does seem odd. Why allow a taxi with one passenger, but ban an ordinary car with say, four passengers? A taxi is just a car, doing what cars do, so why favour them? Making the bridge a T3 lane would be more valuable if any cars at all are to be allowed to use it.

    • Stu Donovan

      yes I agree – it does seem odd and a T3 lane would appear on the surface to be more appropriate.

    • Nick R

      Yes precisely. Why should me being driven in a car by a taxi driver get special treatment, while me being driven in a car by my parter/parent/friend doesn’t.

      Simple fact is the single lane each way on the bridge, and especially the single lane at each intersection, has a very low vehicle throughput. The efficient thing is to make it buses only so the few vehicles it can support move a whole lot of people. Taxis and T3 would clog up the bridge and make it move less people than currently.

      Anyone who wants to drive in car or taxi can simply use the recently built four lane traffic-only bridge to the north, or the four lane crossing st khyber pass to the south. Both are only 500m away.

    • SteveC

      I have always thought that if a taxi uses a T2 lane it ought to have two passengers and the driver not be counted, afterall if the driver departs with the vehicle and if there’s only one passenger it’s a single person trip

  • Mark

    So are buses allowed to overtake cyclists at the moment? Because they do, sometimes cutting me off badly. And if so, a bus stuck behind a taxi stuck behind a cyclist would suck.

  • John Polkinghorne

    “Taxis… can only use the bridge if carrying passengers” – wonder how many seconds it’ll take for that rule to get broken?

  • Torbayite

    Could we get the pre Taxi use stats of the buses published now? I presume Number of buses per hour (should not change but needed as reference). Time to cross Bridge (from bus companies GPS). Key measure would probably be buses that do not get through one (or two) light changes) as feel this would be most sensitive to change) If this trebled between 0700 and 1900 weekdays would show a reason for stopping.

    Also remember there can be patients on the buses. So actually time for all patients to get to hospital maybe slowed by Taxis on bridge. Also staff travelling to the hospital on the buses will be potentially slowed by the Taxis.

    Could some please state how many buses go across Grafton Bridge 00700-1900 daily? I suspect roughly one a minute each way which is 12hours x 60 minutes x 2 directions = 1,440 journeys. 20 people on each are 28,800 journeys a day. (If each pays $3 $90,000 a day in fares) Happy to debate this!

    • roberthelmat

      Maybe one every 10 Minutes or 6 per hour so 100 ppl per hour x 12 is 1200 people so 3K max in fares. If it were your numbers then the buses would make a profit and not have to be subsidized by ratepayers.

      • Ben W

        One every ten minutes? Have you ever been on Grafton Bridge?

        • roberthelmat

          That would be a very generous average over the day I would say. Sometimes I walk the length of the bridge and do not see a single bus. Maybe in an imaginary world.

          • Ben W

            If you walk there during the peak you’re almost certain to see multiple buses queued at both ends; and during the day you’ll almost always find buses on the bridge too. It only takes a few minutes to walk across, so it’s not surprising that every now and then you could walk across and not see one.

    • Greg N

      You can read the (one and only) quarterly report on the trials progress here.

      ATs report says buses weren’t held up by more than a few seconds by taxis, but some drivers said they were and needed 2 light changes to get over the bridge.

      • roberthelmat

        Sounds fishy two light changes? Because of a taxi or two? I smell something not right about this, damn the statistics cos someone said …..

        • Ben W

          Because of the traffic demands on K Rd and Symonds St the light phase to get out of Grafton Bridge is kept short; yet another reason why we should not allow general traffic to use it. Any increase in traffic along the bridge will mean slowing down those two arterials as well.

      • Mike

        The report recommends that the taxi trial be discontinued because taxis are speeding and overtaking cyclists, despite taxi operators being told that these behaviours are not acceptable and were being monitored.

        • roberthelmat

          That’s right Mike but the facts are wrong they are not doing that, maybe one or two in two weeks that’s all. Looks like the trial was going too well so they are trying to shut it down.

          • The facts aren’t wrong, you are. They were allowed a maximum of three incidents of taxi’s passing cars. Video records show there were 30 such incidents.

  • Pete

    I cycle across this bridge twice daily, Monday to Friday. Prior to the taxi trial it was a reasonably dangerous part of my commute. The road is narrow, and bus drivers often push past cyclists with inches to spare. They then slow at the ends of the bridge and block cyclists passing them back. I have had bus drivers force me into the kerb when I started to pass them on the left. No cyclist likes waiting in the exhaust fumes of a stinky bus, AND there are cycle advance boxes at each end of the bridge so this is where we head to. Buses also park over top of the cycle advance boxes. So, not off to a good start on the bridge, before taxis are introduced.

    Taxi drivers are a unique bunch. In many ways they are similar to bus drivers. They have chosen a career as a professional driver. You would think they would strive to be quite good at it. Many of them, however, have little regard for road rules and even less for other road users. On the Grafton Bridge, during the trial I have seen nearly all of AT’s rules broken, on many occasions. Empty taxis, unbranded taxis (and/or cars at times when they are not allowed), taxi’s squeezing past cyclists, and obviously, passing cyclists. I feel even less safe than before the trial started. The queues at the Symonds St end, is often 4 or more buses and a couple of taxis.

    Auckland Transport’s reason for the trial, ‘getting patients to and from the hospital’ is deeply flawed. There can be no way of checking which taxis are actually going to or from the hospital. So you are effectively saying it doesn’t matter, all taxis are allowed, no matter what the destination. When you think about it, the hospital is really no different to a school or a workplace. It’s just another destination where people want to get to as quick as possible. The only time it deserves special privileges is in and emergency. This is why we have ambulances, which are allowed on the bridge.

  • Pete

    Grafton bridge is effectively a bus lane, and as much as I’d like to see buses removed from it, it is efficient in its current form (barring the safety concerns above). Taxis are not efficient means of public transport, they deserve no special treatment. They can use T2/T3 lanes when they have passengers. A taxi is driven about half the time with just its driver in the car (to and from jobs). The rest of the day it IS transporting passengers or sitting a taxi rank.

    In summary, I do not support taxis using Grafton Bridge. I also ask you to review allowing vans such as ‘Super Shuttle’ on the bridge. These are taxis with more seats, not buses. I have seen empty super shuttle buses on the bridge.

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