Last week I highlighted some of the interesting points from the last AT board meeting. One of those garnered quite a bit of discussion and also raised a number of questions in my head. Here are the answers from Auckland Transport to some of those questions.
How AT will monitor them and how will it deal with taxi services like Uber?
We are still working through the details of this proposal. As for monitoring, we plan to use a video camera operated on site by an enforcement officer, who will cross reference registration numbers against the NZTA database of authorised taxis.
The intention is to allow only taxis authorised by NZTA to use the bridge and not private hire vehicles like Uber.
Is it only taxis that have passengers or can empty ones use it too?
Empty ones will be able to use it as well.
Are there any changes to signage that will happen?
Some minor changes are planned, but we are still working through the detailed design.
Have the views of bus companies and cyclists been taken into account given the narrowness of the route?
As previously mentioned this proposal is still under development, but we have been working with our Public Transport Operations team on this. We will consult with bus operators and we will monitor any impacts to bus journey times using bus GPS data. We will also consult with cyclists on the proposal.
As part of the trial we also plan to conduct user surveys to understand the impacts on buses and cyclists. We are planning to conduct video surveys to identify any potential safety risks. We are planning 3 monthly review periods with the trial concluding after 12 months. If at any time we feel that it is not operating satisfactorily then we are prepared to terminate the trial.
Where did the idea come from?
We originally received a request from the taxi industry to permit taxis in all bus lanes in Auckland. We undertook an assessment of the likely impacts and we decided not to agree to this request. However, we did conclude that we could look at this specific location because it would provide significant benefits to taxi passengers on a route that links high demand destinations (i.e. the hospital and the city centre).
Has NZTA been consulted as they funded the strengthening works on the basis of it being bus only during the day?
We are still developing the proposal and once that is done we will be consulting NZTA.
As I said last week, this seems like it could have quite a bad outcome, especially for cyclists who are more likely to feel more pressured on the narrow road. It could also be quite bad for bus users if a lot of taxi’s start using the route as a bunch of taxi’s at lights might mean buses start missing a phase slowing buses down. Add to that the confusion between just what is a taxi and the sheep like nature of many drivers who might drive over the bridge from seeing other cars do it and it seems like a recipe for confusion and frustration. Leave it as it is and if the key is to link the city centre to the Hospital then Wellesley St seems like a much better option from most locations anyway.
Grafton Bridge (probably my favourite in Auckland)
Photo is credited to oh.yes.melbourne
Last week Cycle Action Auckland invited me along for a walk doing with the NZTA along the Grafton Gully Cycleway route. What I ended up finding most interesting about the walk was not the details of the cycleway itself but what the project will do to the area, but it also gave me a new appreciation for the Grafton Bridge.
What the NZTA thinks the cycleway may look lik
The areas that the cycleway will skirt around, the Symonds St cemetery and the bush clad gully, are really a bit of hidden gem. The only people who seem to venture into the area at the moment tend to be a bit undesirable as they are often under the influence of various substances and this understandably has put the rest of us off visiting. This probably isn’t helped by the cemetery also being is a state of disrepair as probably not much has been done since the motorway was rammed through it in the 60s. The gully itself is littered with all kinds of rubbish from old tires (heap of them) to shopping trolleys and everything in between. The cycleway is prompting the restoration and clean up of these areas and the presence of more people, will add to safety. In many ways, what this project really seems to be doing is creating a brand new park close to town and one that is quite unique from others in the city. When people first start to ride and walk down through this new connection I get the feeling that they will be quite surprised by it.
The other thing is the Grafton Bridge. The structure has always been impressive but looking at it from a distance, driving underneath it at speed, or even walking across it, you don’t really get a good appreciation for just how big and impressive the structure is. Again I think people will really be surprised and seeing it from ground level has well and truly enshrined it as my favourite bridge in the city, if not the country.
Grafton bridge from the ground
But its also worth looking back and seeing how things used to be, so here are a collection of shots showing just how much of the bushland we have lost to the motorways.
Grafton Gully in 1940 and 2010
Grafton Bridge, Auckland. Whites Aviation Ltd : Photographs. Ref: WA-11627-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23009732
Just imagine if we could have retained that bush, the area could have been such an excellent natural park on the edge of town.
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.