Auckland Transport has pocketed an additional $4.6 million in fines from motorists in just three months, after extending the restrictions on a single poorly painted bus lane to include non-peak hours.
The bus and transit lane extends just 160m along Khyber Pass Rd leading into the Newmarket shopping strip on Broadway.
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Its green lane paint has peeled from wear, leaving largely unmarked asphalt, and one of the signs indicating it is a bus lane is bent 90 degrees away from oncoming drivers so they can’t see it.
Until December last year, motorists were fined only for driving in the bus lane during Monday to Friday peak hours of 7am to 10am, and 4pm to 7pm.
However, Auckland Transport (AT) has implemented a new six-month trial to more than double the restricted hours during the week when motorists can be fined.
AT is now pocketing $150 every time a motorist travels more than 50 metres along the lane, from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.
Numbers released under the Official Information Act reveal in the three months prior to the trial – September to November 2019 – the Khyber Pass Rd bus lane issued 10,020 infringements, equalling $1,503,000 in fines.
In the three months since the trial extension was implemented – from December 2019 to February 2020 – 40,980 infringements were issued equalling $6,147,000.
By fining motorists during the weekend and new hours in the middle of the day, AT has netted an extra $4.6m in three months.
In response to the Herald on Sunday’s questions about the level of revenue increase and the deteriorated state of the bus lane, AT’s Mark Hannan cited the high compliance rate of motorists staying out of the lane.
“The figures are clear: 98.76 per cent of drivers get it right and follow the rules when using Khyber Pass – just 1.24 per cent of drivers get it wrong,” Hannan said.
“The legal requirement for signage and markings is to have signs and the words Bus Lane. There is no legal requirement for greening.
“Infringements fees are set nationally by the Ministry of Transport, not by AT.”
Hannan also noted that AT had not been issuing infringements since the country went to alert level 4 on March 26.
Damian Christie was nabbed with a $150 fine on a Saturday morning in February while driving his kids to the movies along Khyber Pass Rd.
“The roads were virtually empty. The only reason we were in the left-hand lane was so we could turn left at the bottom. If it was clear that it was a bus lane then obviously we wouldn’t have done it,” Christie said.
“When I went back to look at the signs and marking, it’s pathetic. The bus lane is only just over 100 metres long, but it looks like someone painted the first 5 metres then gave up – the paint just fades out.
“If they could afford to mount permanent cameras there and rake in millions of dollars in just a few months, the least they could do is make it clear where the lane starts and ends.
“It seems the real trial is how much money can they grab from a 100m patch of road.”
Accompanying their Official Information response, AT explained the reasons for the bus lane trial were to help buses run on time, to encourage people to carpool or use public transport, and to improve pedestrian safety.
AT also said they prepared frequent users of the Khyber Pass Rd changes by issuing only warning infringements between November 18 and 30 on all the lanes on Khyber Pass Rd and Broadway.
In November, brochures were also sent to residents and businesses and electronic signs along Newmarket streets warned of the changes.
Public “drop in” information sessions were also held in Newmarket Station Square.
However Christie was still bemused at his fine on a Saturday, and took to Twitter to see if others had been nabbed, unaware of the bus lane trial.
Numerous motorists replied saying they too were unaware of the changes, and had been fined on quiet Saturday and Sunday afternoons with the roads largely empty and no buses in sight.
“$150 fine for 50m of bus lane that is in the left-turning lane anyway. It’s a trap,” one person commented.
Several others mentioned the lack of adequate signage.
“This is just so wrong. Turning from Gillies Ave [intersection with Khyber Pass Rd] you are not looking at signs, just traffic so just so easy to get trapped – as I was!” another commented.
Christie also appealed to AT to waive the fine which he says arrived during the middle of lockdown, when his filmmaking business had “virtually dried up overnight”, but was refused.
“I pointed out that clearly we hadn’t realised the bus lane was active on the weekends now, and maybe they could show a bit of compassion at a time when everyone is stressed and anxious about making ends meet,” he said.
“The response showed they couldn’t care less.”