Auckland drivers slapped with nearly $11m in bus, transit lanes fines

Auckland bus and transit lanes are turning into a trap for unsuspecting drivers, raking in nearly $11 million in infringement fines in just a year.

Data released to Newshub shows Auckland Transport (AT) issued a total of 72,387 infringements to offending motorists last year.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine says his organisation supports bus and transit lanes, however he warns AT and Auckland Council have to "tread really carefully with this".

"By installing these lanes on key routes - and taking lane space away from general traffic - they're asking a lot of motorists, and they're going to be asking a lot more in the years ahead," he told Newshub.

"In return, they need to be really clear with people about why the lanes are going in, and the rules around their use."

If you get caught driving in a special vehicle lane, it's a $150 fine. In total, this came to $10.8 million in infringements.

Auckland drivers slapped with nearly $11m in bus, transit lanes fines

Mr Irvine warns there's "no question" the fine is too high.

"For running a red light or a typical speeding offence, you get fined $80. It doesn't make any sense for transit lane violations to be nearly double that. To a certain extent, they've got it around the wrong way," he says.

"Auckland Transport isn't in the business of revenue gathering. The problem is, though, that these perceptions will always exist, and if they're not clear enough about the reasons for putting the lanes in, or about the rules around them, the public will be suspicious."

Auckland drivers slapped with nearly $11m in bus, transit lanes fines

Transit lanes are limited to certain vehicles during peak periods in order to decrease congestion and ensure a smooth traffic flow. Bus lanes are limited to buses, bikes, motorbikes and mopeds during the restriction times. Motorists are only allowed to enter them 50 metres before making a left turn.

The worst areas for infringements in Auckland include notorious areas like Khyber Pass Road, Queen Street and Hobson Street.

Newmarket's Kingdon St to Broadway bus lane is only 150-metres long - however 7,584 drivers were caught breaking its rules in 2017.

Auckland drivers slapped with nearly $11m in bus, transit lanes fines

Mr Irvine says there are a number of reasons why so many motorists are being caught.

"Some people aren't aware of or don't understand the change in rules," he told Newshub.

"Others get caught out through no fault of their own (like people who pull out of a driveway into the transit lane, and then find they can't merge with the general traffic lane). And of course some people will be deliberately flouting the rules."

AT says it operates its bus and transit lanes in "full compliance" with national legislation and associated bylaw provision.

"Lanes are regularly monitored by traffic enforcement officers, who will issue a ticket to those vehicles not complying with the conditions of the lane," it says on its website.

"If you are unsure about whether you can use the lane, it is best to travel in the regular traffic lane."

The transit lane figures.
The transit lane figures. Photo credit: Auckland Transport

AT says it's been an ongoing battle to stop motorists from entering the lanes.

"This is not about revenue gathering, bus and transit lanes are about keeping Aucklanders moving and using the limited road space most effectively," AT spokesperson Mark Hannan told Newshub.

"For instance on Onewa Road during peak hour the T3 lane carries more than 70 percent of commuters. A bus carries between 70 and 90 people and each bus takes 50 cars off the road.

"Motorists in Auckland know the rules around these lanes but some continue to drive in the bus lanes slowing the progress of buses."

Mr Hannan says the administration cost for each infringement is approximately $40. Half the revenue (less costs) goes to the government consolidated fund.

Auckland drivers slapped with nearly $11m in bus, transit lanes fines

One Aucklander showing why the rules are in place is Kiwi socialite Pebbles Hooper, who filmed herself pulling out of traffic in Auckland and apparently illegally driving down a designated bus lane.

The former gossip columnist posted a short clip on Instagram where she pulls out of heavy traffic in Auckland. In the video she asks her followers to vote on whether she should "hit" the designated bus lane. 

She then films herself driving down the bus lane with the caption "Skkkrrrrrrrrrr".