Rethink on lanes blamed for jams

By Kieran Nash

Traffic is backed up on Lake Road which feeds directly to Onewa Road. Photo / Janna Dixon
Traffic is backed up on Lake Road which feeds directly to Onewa Road. Photo / Janna Dixon

Officials are set to review the future of controversial transit lanes blamed for increasing peak-hour jams on Auckland's North Shore.

The lanes are on key routes to and from the Northern Motorway and were introduced to encourage car pooling and ensure buses aren't caught in queues.

Most require vehicles to have at least three people in them (T3 lanes), although some need only two (T2).

The North Shore network was extended in December to include Lake Rd and a longer section of Onewa Rd. Both are T3 lanes.

This week it emerged that Auckland Transport has no idea if the new lanes are working - a survey comparing traffic flows before and after their introduction won't be finished for a month.

It also confirmed cameras pointed at the Lake Rd lane were there as a deterrent only - no enforcement action has been taken against drivers who break the rules.

Transit and bus lanes were introduced across Auckland, Manukau and North Shore by their now defunct city councils in the years before the creation of the Supercity.

A review by Auckland Transport, expected to start in the next few weeks, will aim to iron out inconsistencies and create one set of rules.

Auckland Transport parking and enforcement manager Eunan Cleary said the review would address driver frustration and concerns about dangerous driving.

"If something's not working we can reverse it. If the behaviour's erratic there's a chance that safety issues would come up."

That's welcome news for those affected by the Lake Rd lane, which has caused tailbacks of several hundred metres for traffic queuing to get on to Onewa Rd.

Motorists have reported seeing other drivers doing U-turns and driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid being stuck in the queues.

Worried mum Kelly Wilson walks her 7-year-old daughter Mackenzie to Northcote Primary, beside the intersection, and said dangerous driving would cost a child's life.

"A kid will die here. [Some drivers are] just oblivious to the fact that there's a school there."

Motorists say transit lanes can cut journey times by two-thirds, and that's left some drivers determined to use them.

North Shore road policing boss Superintendent John Kelly said some people used "all sorts of tricks", such as having mannequins in their cars to fox enforcement officers.

Others are trying to speed commutes without breaking the rules.

Brenda Cerqueria, 21, from Birkenhead, said she'd been asked to make up the numbers while waiting at a bus stop, but didn't want to travel with a stranger.

"I used to drive but they extended the [Onewa Rd] T3 lane all the way down to the motorway. It makes it 50 times worse. If you want to get to work early you have to leave at 6am. After 6.30am it's chaos."

NORTH SHORE TRANSIT ROUTES A 'WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY'

Motorists this week voiced their outrage at the huge jams caused by the transit lanes on Auckland's North Shore.

Mark Woods, who carpools with friend Tim Sommerville, said people often drove on the wrong side of the road to turn right on to side streets to escape the queues.

"I've seen it so many times. It's an accident waiting to happen," said the 43-year-old broadcaster.

He described the situation as "hopeless" and said a friend took two hours to get to the city from Birkenhead this week.

The transit lane on Lake Rd is designated T3, meaning only vehicles containing three or more people can use it.

Tye Meek was using it for the first time on Thursday.

The 25-year old Birkenhead builder said traffic was "pretty s**t".

"Obviously it's pretty congested. Not many people have their kids up at this time to use the T3 lanes."

Finance manager Krisina Keat said queues had got longer since the Lake Rd lane was introduced.

"It's a bit of a nightmare," said the 32-year old Hillcrest resident.

Insurance manager Garry Taylor, 38, called it a "waste of time and money".

"I can understand the reason for it in terms of carpooling but the reality is it's so hard to organise."

- Herald on Sunday

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