A couple of months ago AT told me their staff were working on a trial to allow taxis to use the Grafton Bridge bus lanes. I was pretty shocked, as I know how much cyclists value the traffic- free environment of the Bridge on weekdays. I know many of us ‘specially enjoy the ‘B’ lights as well.

I told AT I didn’t see the justification to give taxis access to the bridge during the bus lane hours, and didn’t support the trial. I was also  interested to know how the bus companies have responded.
Grafton Bridge

Taxi drivers give me grief in the Central City. Numerous times they’ve ‘u’ turned across my path without warning, and overtaken me on my bike so close and fast that I’ve felt threatened. I seldom have these experiences with other car drivers.

Other cyclists report similar problems with taxi driver’s behaviour towards cyclists on Auckland’s streets – particularly those in the Central City.

The taxi trial stems from AT’s scheme a couple of years ago to give taxis access to bus lanes in the City. We were horrified and cried ‘foul’ when the idea was mooted then. I suggested to AT that before giving taxis special rights beyond other motorists, it was essential to invest in a road user programme along the lines of the current work with bus companies, (NZ Bus in Auckland)  to improve road sharing with bikes. The programme gives bus drivers personal experience of life on a bike in Auckland by taking them out riding busy streets like Dominion Rd. Cyclists are on hand to learn about life from the bus driver’s perspective, particularly seeing the blind spots that drivers have which prevent them from seeing bikes behind and on the left hand side of the bus.

With this background I was disappointed to see the Grafton Bridge taxi trial reported to the February Board meeting in this manner –
‘Grafton Bridge Taxi Trial

The plan to trial providing taxis 24 hour access to Grafton Bridge in order to improve travel times for taxi passengers will be introduced in late March (as a 12 month trial). Monitoring will be undertaken to assess the impact on bus journey times, cyclist safety and amenity as well as the number of bus lane infringements on the bridge. The trial can be stopped at anytime if significant issues arise.
The proposal has been discussed with the Waitemata Local Board . While some reservations were identified, the Board were supportive of the planned monitoring regime. The Taxi industry and Cycle Action Auckland have also been involved in the development of the proposal and discussions will continue with them towards the end of February to communicate the monitoring methodology and Auckland Transport’s expectations of driver behaviour.’
I’m glad the Waitemata Local Board has expressed reservations about the trial. Good work, WLB! My concerns appear to have been overlooked, as  Cycle Action was lumped in with the Taxi Federation, which is an odd thing to do.

AT recently sent me more information about the trial –

‘Auckland Transport is proposing to allow taxis 24 hour access to Grafton Bridge on a trial basis to determine whether their presence will adversely affect other users of the bridge. This will improve access for taxi passengers travelling to or from Auckland City Hospital and Starship Children’s Hospital. In order to allow taxis to use the bridge during the hours of operation of the existing bus lanes, these lanes will be converted to ‘bus and taxi’ lanes and the corresponding signage and road marking will be updated. The trial will be open only to taxis, not to private hire vehicles. Individual taxi companies may have their permission to use the bridge retracted if ongoing poor driver behaviour is observed. Extensive monitoring including CCTV footage, stakeholder feedback and lane productivity will be carried out before and during the trial period and a review of data will be conducted every three months. If adverse effects on safety, compliance or lane productivity occur the trial may be stopped. If results from the trial show no major negative impacts, the new special vehicle lanes will be adopted on a permanent basis.

A draft poster has been given to me to share with you for this blog.It will be used to inform taxi drivers how they are expected to behave on Grafton Bridge.

5353_Grafton_Bridge_Panorama_Auckland_Feb15 (3)_1
Handing a poster to a taxi driver is pretty low level commitment from AT to improving drivers’ behaviour. It’s a far cry from the programmes run for bus drivers to share the road more safely with cyclists. Why isn’t AT taking this opportunity to improve road safety across the network?

I’m surprised AT management sees this as a priority. It is soaking up staff time in reports and meetings and will continue to do so over the next year. Cyclists time will be needed to help report incidents and follow up to make sure they are dealt with properly.

Why is this trial more important than clearing the huge backlog of vitally important projects that AT cycling staff have been unable to get off the ground since AT was formed, (eg bike parking at transport terminals, safe design for cycling at intersection upgrades, improving the deficiencies in the existing ‘completed’ Auckland Cycle Network etc).

AT’s new cycling manager is tackling these issues by focusing on much needed and long-overdue collaboration within the business, honesty and commitment. We’re extremely pleased with and grateful for her appointment. I also acknowledge that canning the taxi trial would not mean the business will necessarily go faster on delivering key cycling projects. However, like the Board’s recent decision on St Lukes Rd interchange, it would demonstrate the business is 100% committed and will not be distracted from delivering wider transport choice, including faster bus travel and safer and more pleasant cycling conditions, across the network.

I’m waiting to hear why taxis deserve this special access to the Bridge, when emergency vehicles can use the bridge at any time. It’s a bit simplistic to think taxis travelling from the north to Auckland Hospital are full of people suffering from heart attacks, broken legs etc needing crisis /emergency care. I suspect they’re more often carrying visitors and staff, who may be equally well served by buses- especially once the city has more dedicated bus lanes.

I’m also keen to hear why my suggestion to AT has not been taken up to incentivise the Taxi Federation to engage in a version of the very successful, 2014 national award winner, bus/bike Share the Road workshops. I understand there are plans afoot from the NZTA to extend the programme to taxis. This would be a good chance to get it of the ground in Auckland and have higher public value than the taxi trial.

  •  Please tell us about your experience of sharing the road with taxis.
  •   We also want to hear from regular riders on Grafton Bridge what particular concerns you may have if taxis are given a ticket to use this valuable short stretch of road space.

Please add your comments below.

Categories
Auckland Council Bikes for Life Bridges Overseas examples PT/Taxis
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14 responses to “AT taxi trial for Grafton Bridge… tell us what you think!

  1. So we need to ensure AT is advised for *any* bad behaviour by every taxi company.

    I guess as each taxi company is dobbed in, and removed from trial then after all taxi companies are banned then the taxi trial will then end?

    1. Shouldn’t take to long. Taxis are without exception the worst drivers on the road. I could have started to day with the one that decided I was small enough to squeeze past in a sing lane situation. Didn’t get the plate or the company unfortunately. This is an absolute joke. Worst move by AT for a while.

  2. Ugh, this looks like the thin edge of wedge for getting taxis to use bus lanes like some places overseas.

  3. I think you are combining two separate issues – Taxis using the bridge and Taxi driver safety. Taxis need driver safety training regardless of this proposal.

    So the question is, does Taxis using the bridge improve the transport network. I’m a PT user (not a cycler) and I say no.

    – Buses need this to be uncongested to ensure the quick transit across the city. As the PT network increases, more and more buses will use this route and having taxis on the bridge as well will make waiting times longer (and require longer light cycles to ensure buses get through).

    – I dont really think there is demand from taxi passengers. My guess is the majority of taxis will use this to re position, not to take passengers. There are plenty of alternative routes available and anyone making the short trip from K Road to the Hospital is well served by buses (or should be – more please).

    – The bridge is also a safe (ish) route for bikes (compared to riding down the hill and through the multi motorway junction) and this should be encouraged. Adding taxis reduces this safety for bike riders with minimal benefit to passengers.

    – It is a slippery slope to taxis using other bus lanes. I see Taxis as an important part of the PT network as they eliminate the need to bring your car to work, just in case you need to make a trip that requires a car. However, any impediment to buses (and bikes) which need to be prioritised is not beneficial to the network, especially as bus volumes increase. This is especially so since there is no way to limit taxis to only when they have passengers (the cost of enforcement would be too high). Further, would only apply to taxis, or private hire vehicles (ie. Uber), airport shuttles, …

  4. I share the concerns raised, i simply cannot see the justification for this change.

    I don’t use Grafton bridge however i do use the bus lanes on Great North road. I would have serious safety concerns sharing a bus lane with taxis. For the most part bus drivers are very safety conscious taxi drivers are most definitely not safety conscious the exact opposite!

    You would certainly hope this change isn’t coming about because some politician wants to shave a few minutes of their taxi trip!

  5. I ride Tamaki Drive everyday and have had issues with taxi drivers poor behavior, especially the Corporate Cabs guy who deliberately ran into me across the shared path along Quay st.!

  6. its a trial, why not see how it goes, if it has little effect, then all ok, if there are problems, then stop it. We need to reduce congestion and if this helps we should do it.

  7. Well, I’m a regular cyclist of Grafton Bridge, so 1) thankyou for letting us know, and 2) I shall make sure to take note of any unreasonable driving and pass it along. I’m a little surprised they want to try this, but I’m willing to give it a chance… if they stick to those behaviours on the flyer I don’t see it being too big of an issue.

  8. I use Grafton bridge at least twice a day on either a bicycle or a motorbike. I love the fact that its nearly always empty, and treat it like a little gift to those of us who are doing our bit to reduce traffic congestion. In my opinion, bus drivers are generally as bad as taxi drivers, and I see more buses on my commute. Grafton Bridge is narrow, so no bus should be allowed to pass cyclists. We all know that at either end cyclists will pass buses as they wait (parked over the cycle advance box at the hospital end), so whats the point in passing? I don’t support giving taxis access to the bridge but perhaps there is capacity to offer it to electric vehicles or similar?

  9. Completely oppose this for a few reasons:

    – The behavioural “rules” above will NOT be obeyed. Calling it, right now.

    – Fat chance that it will have any impact on travel times to the hospital. I’d expect most of the traffic will be crosstown between the central city and Parnell/Newmarket, and thus overall the change will slow down bus travel to the hospitals more than it will benefit anyone catching a taxi there. But of course, we know that inconvenience to 30 bus passengers is worth far less to AT than inconvenience to 1-2 car passengers (whether private or taxi).

    – In the end, this will lead to a blurring of lines regarding private motor vehicle use on the bridge, as car drivers will reasonably wonder why taxis can rat-run through there but they can’t. Cue a wave of tickets, more pearl-clutching in the Herald about revenue gathering, and in the end, possible re-opening of the bridge to general traffic.

    This is a really, really bad idea and it’s a sign of AT’s screwed priorities that it has even made it to trial stage.

  10. There was much excitement when the busway between Newmarket and Britomart was opened in late 2009. A lot of media attention was given to the numbers of tickets that were issued to those unfortunate enough to miss the significance of the signs on the section that crosses Grafton Bridge. New signage seems to have made a difference. With ever increasing pressure on delivering higher quality PT services with shorter travel times, it is mystifying why a decision was made to trial letting taxis on the bridge during the day. This will only rekindle confusion for other motorists.

    Good progress has been made over the last few years improving road sharing behaviour between cyclists and heavy vehicle drivers. This has resulted in few problems on Grafton Bridge between buses and those who choose to cycle. Will taxi drivers be prepared to act in the same responsible way most bus drivers are? Recognising that cyclists cannot safely ride in the gutter, and given the narrow lane width and the double yellow lines, taxi drivers will need to follow cyclists at a safe distance rather than passing them. Given the short distance and the fact that typically the cyclists will be travelling at the same speed as the buses, this will not cause delays. As we have seen in the poster in Barb’s blog, AT has issued a warning to taxi drivers that tailgating cyclists will result in the driver being banned from the bridge. Let’s hope that goodwill prevails, and the progress being made in increasing courteous road sharing between cyclists and heavy vehicle drivers will extend to taxi drivers.

    1. Its not just the individual taxi driver going to be banned, but the **entire** Taxi company they work for will be banned.

      And so it should be. If Taxi companies don’t employ responsible drivers they don’t deserve to use the bridge.

      As a result, I expect few Taxi companies will complete the full trial without being banned, and I also fully expect once all taxi companies are banned for this trial to end (early) and the status quo of no taxis will resume.

    2. Richard, good comments. The bus/bike workshops have certainly paid dividends. Let’s hope you the same applies to heavy vehicle users and bikes, thanks to your workshops.
      You have glossed over why taxis will improve their behaviour without similar involvement in workshops. Can you comment on that, please?

      1. Hi Barb,

        My name is Michelle and I am a student from Rangitoto College. We are currently working on a NCEA level 3 Geography internal based on the proposed new cycle route in Northcote region, Auckland. I was wondering whether I could ask you a few questions on where you stand on this proposal?

        Thank you so much and I would truly appreciate your help

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