Auckland Transport battle: Car-poolers show their hand

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland Transport should bear burden of proof on T2 and T3 rules, AA says

Simon Soulsby, Christine Jones and Rajitha Kurkulasuriya get hand signals going for the cameras. Photo / Natalie Slade
Simon Soulsby, Christine Jones and Rajitha Kurkulasuriya get hand signals going for the cameras. Photo / Natalie Slade

Simon Soulsby's car-pooling passengers have taken to flashing three-finger salutes at Auckland Transport enforcement officers after he received two $150 tickets for driving in Onewa Rd's high-priority traffic lane.

"They wave their hands out of the car and put three fingers up - not in an offensive way," said Mr Soulsby, an advertising account manager who has been car-pooling for three years to save time and money, and reduce pollution.

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His passengers, Rajitha Kurkulasuriya and Georgina Hill, have sent statements to Auckland Transport testifying they were in his car on both days in November when he is accused of trespassing in the lane, but he has yet to hear back to find out whether he will have to spend time and money going to court.

The Automobile Association, which has persuaded Auckland Transport to drop similar action against several other drivers, says the onus should not be on motorists to prove their innocence if the council body cannot make out from video footage whether they have enough passengers to use transit lanes.

Spokesman Mark Stockdale said they should not be expected to roll down their windows to prove they had three people in their vehicles in the Onewa Rd T3 lane or two occupants in Constellation Drive's T2 lanes, which have become new enforcement hot spots after better signs led to far fewer tickets issued on central Auckland's Grafton Bridge.

He said the AA had asked Auckland Transport to verify complaints from drivers that it had advised them to wind down their windows because of difficulties seeing into cars with tinted windows or spotting small children.

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Auckland Transport admits telling the motoring association the only way it can be sure vehicles with tinted windows are eligible to use transit lanes is if their windows are down.

But spokesman Mark Hannan said it was "a comment made in passing" and not a policy statement. It had asked officers to exercise caution if unsure tinted vehicles were carrying enough people and their cameras could not see clearly inside.

Numbers of tickets issued for North Shore transit violations had fallen dramatically after a major spring-time enforcement drive.

Mr Stockdale said motorists deserved a better appeal process and more discretion should be applied by Auckland Transport when offering exemptions.

Albany resident Janne Witt said it took four letters and help from electorate staff of her local MP, Prime Minister John Key, for Auckland Transport to drop action against her husband after its cameras failed to detect their 9-year-old daughter in the back seat in Constellation Drive.

Although he had eight witnesses, Mrs Witt said her husband's only other recourse would have been to defend himself in court at the cost of lost working days and hundreds of dollars.

- NZ Herald

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