Auckland City Rethinks Bus-Only Grafton Bridge


Auckland City Councillors are re-thinking the bus-only policy over Grafton Bridge, following the bad publicity resulting from the number of tickets issued to motorists who drive over the bridge at hours they shouldn’t.

They have even considered opening the bridge up to all traffic, because the number of buses using the bridge has not reached the number projected - or refunding those fined so far.

But it’s likely at this stage, the council will opt to see if new signage is more effective in making clearer  the 7am to 7pm bus- only hours.

Over 12,000 infringement notice to motorists issued to date have netted $1.9m although since better signage and publicity, infringement levels have dropped steadily from a peak of 1,500 per week. to less than 400. But this is still way higher than infringement on bus lanes such as Khyber Pass Rd, where 100 to 200 tickets are issued a week.

The council’s group manager (Parking), Dale Clements, says in a report to council on the situation, there is a perception amongst some road users and the media that there has been inadequate signage at Grafton Bridge and that the enforcement process has been designed as a revenue gathering exercise.

“The perception of some people, described above, has been exacerbated by the low level of observed bus volume on the bridge; 281 buses per 24 hour weekday. ARTA has plans for an increase in the number of buses using the bridge to 374. However, precise numbers and the timings of any increase have yet to be confirmed and in the meantime, perceptions of low bus volumes undermines the argument for retaining Grafton Bridge for buses only. ”

Grafton bridge was re-opened by Auckland Mayor John Banks on a rainy October day

Mr Clements says the council may have created a “unique traffic situation.”
“Between the hours to 7am and 7pm, Grafton Bridge has been converted from a popular route open to all traffic to a bus-only carriageway, by virtue of the fact that there is insufficient road width to accommodate car lanes. Anecdotally, there appears to be few carriageways of this nature, therefore the motoring public may be taking longer than expected to get used to the change. ”

But he thinks there may also be some civil disobedience by those who feel inconvenienced, especially in cutting through to Auckland Hospital .

The latest signs will try to end any ambiguity.
“Grafton Bridge bus lane 7am to 7pm” will be replaced with “No entry straight ahead 7am - 7pm, ” No left/right turn signs to be added 20-30 metres back from the junction.
Also the option of changing traffic light phasing at either end of the bridge is also being investigated. This might involve the inclusion of a “B” light, allowing only buses to go straight ahead during restricted times.

The report says some leniency has been shown to motorists caught before new signage. The council has investigated cancelling all fines but legal advice taken indicates that “neither the Council, nor its officers, can lawfully decide to generally return all the money collected from people who have lawfully paid infringement fines.”

The option of opening the bridge back up to all traffic “would be an option that should only be considered in consultation with ARTA and NZTA and should only be considered once the full schedule of buses is operating across the bridge. ”
Of those ticketed so far:

  • 33% of people have challenged the penalty notice
  • Exemptions have been granted to 30% of those challenging the penalty notice compared to the historic average exemption rate of 16%
  • 25% of people have paid their fines to date, to the value of $465k
  • only 5 cases have been lodged with the courts




  1. jarbury says:

    They’ll have to refund ARTA and NZTA about $15 million of their contribution to the Central Connector if they go back on the bus only commitment.

    They just need to paint the first 20m or so of the bridge green and put BIG signs up saying bus only.

    On a recent walk across Grafton Bridge (no council staff were monitoring the bridge) I saw at least 6 cars go across in the space of 10 minute. $900 of missed fines!

  2. Kurt says:

    There is no way this should have been bus only.

    Rate payers aka the public forked out a fortune to refurbish this bridge and then are denied access to it and if they infringe they are smashed with taxes disguised as fines.

    All the while privately owned bus companies occasionally use it profiting from… you guessed it the public.

    Open it so it can be used by the public, they own it!!

  3. jarbury says:

    Kurt, before it became bus only Grafton Bridge was bumper to bumper congested, holding up buses. The central connector project is designed to give bus priority to people travelling between Newmarket and Britomart. Without Grafton Bridge being bus only most of the gains elsewhere on the central connector would be lost on Grafton Bridge.

    How fair it is that 200 people on five buses are delayed by 10 minutes because 25 people driving cars congest the bridge?

  4. Jon R says:

    Kurt, not sure which planet you fell from but if you’ve lived in any country in the world you will see bus only sections of road like this. They are all owned by local ratepayers and all happily follow the law. Christchurch has some bus only streets even! Wellington has a bus only tunnel!

    If you are one of the selfish people anything that gets in YOUR way will seem unfair. Stay in your car, make a traffic jam and smell the fumes. You’ll feel happier!

  5. ingolfson says:

    Indeed. There are even crazy things like motorways built with my tax money where I am not allowed to walk or cycle on, Kurt. Open them up - I paid for them!

    Same goes for driving around the airport in Wellington - what a detour. It is ridiculous that motorists cannot cut across it.

    In short - yes, society can restrict and limit some things if it so sees fit.

  6. Su Yin says:

    The first sentence sums up the absurdness of it all. Bad publicity from issuing fines to people who broke the law? What?

    Don’t renege on this one, councillors!

  7. ingolfson says:

    The lawyer guy who challenged this and crowed about it in the Herald works for Immigration NZ, apparently.

    I wonder if I can get him to waive a negative call on an immigration decision because some obscure rule in his laws wasn’t in large enough print.

  8. jarbury says:

    Woot, 44 people!

  9. I like your idea Jarbury. Painting the first 50m in the bus lane green should be a pretty good visual clue.

    This is like the parking signage issue. Because the Council is so busy trying to please so many groups, the use of our roads, whether for parking or clear ways or bus lanes is pretty confused.

  10. Andrew says:

    Kurt, before the (one lane each way) Grafton Bridge was closed to cars, the (minimum two lane each way) Wellesley St / Grafton Rd bridge opened nearby, so cars actually have more lanes across Grafton Gully than ten years ago.

    Why should bus-fare-paying AND ratepaying bus users have to share the two narrow 30km/h lanes they get with cars that take up so much more room, yet transport far fewer people per square metre of road space taken up?

    I think, to clear up the confusion, Grafton Bridge should be bus+bike+emergency vehicles only 24/7. Get rid of this 7am-7pm confusion.

  11. Andrew says:

    And I see the guy who started that group is a lawyer. Surprise.

  12. James Pole says:

    Keep the bridge bus-only! One of the main reasons why people avoid PT in Auckland is the reliability issues associated with buses. Hence it is sadly ironic to see the group of people causing delays to bus services, cause even more delays to bus services by pushing for the bus lane to be removed!

    If I was a councilor I would propose a peak only bus lane hours (7-11am / 3-7pm) on the provision a review is done in 6 months time to check that the average bus trip times has not been increased during 11am-3pm. If it has indeed increased significantly (which I suspect will be the case) the data can then be used to justify a return to a 7am-7pm bus lane.

  13. Geoff says:

    Just wish to point out, it is perfectly legal to drive across the bridge in your car between 7am and 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The bus-only rule applies on weekdays only, so all up it is available for cars for 108 out of 168 weekly hours.

  14. rtc says:

    @James - if ACC were to open up the lane to buses for half the day they would still be required to refund 15 million from NZTA and ARTA.

    I think we should also remove all laws in NZ because of all the bad publicity resulting from people breaking said laws having to deal with the consequences…

  15. Jon C says:

    @Geoff Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Geoff says:

    My point was that its not practical to introduce prominent bus-only features, because it is currently available for cars for a majority of the time. I wouldn’t want to see, for example, the lanes painted green, because it will create a situation where we allow motorists to drive along green bus lanes most of the time.

  17. Matt L says:

    Kurt - your attitude shows what a lot of drivers are like, if there is asphalt I have a right to drive on it. At the end of the day the council/government build and do a lot of things with rates/taxes that have no direct benefit to us.

    I think they should just make it a bus way 24/7, that would be clearer and easier to understand.

  18. Al says:

    Will be interesting to see if the number of fines drop after April 12.

    From this date the number of buses using the lane will significantly increase … hopefully it will be just as efficient then for passengers

  19. Adrian says:

    I agree with the idea of making Grafton Bridge only usable by pedestrians, buses & emergency vehicles 24/7. It’s really not that much extra distance to go around Symonds St-Khyber Pass-Grafton Rd, or go down Grafton Road from the university and link to the hospital that way. I think that the majority of drivers who are using the bridge are just lazy, or are people who are naturally rule-breakers. If the bridge was for pedestrians, buses & emergency vehicles 24/7 there would be no confusion. The only exception I might make would be for desperate husbands getting their wife to the hospital to have a baby!

  20. Andrew says:

    And supporting Grafton Bridge being for pedestrians, cars and buses 24/7, I’d like to point out that on the Wellesley St/Grafton Rd bridge, pedestrians and cyclists are banned 24/7.

  21. Luke says:

    Can anyone report on how much the Central Connector has improved transit times?
    Have yet to see any reports on this yet so would be interesting to see something.

  22. Andrew says:

    Whoops, typo in my last post. “Cars” should have been “cyclists”.

    Should have read:

    And supporting Grafton Bridge being for pedestrians, cyclists and buses 24/7, I’d like to point out that on the Wellesley St/Grafton Rd bridge, pedestrians and cyclists are banned 24/7.

  23. max says:

    “Can anyone report on how much the Central Connector has improved transit times?”

    Probably difficult to say, as the routes have changed too, so it’s a mixture of shorter distance, greater priority. Also, the whole central connector had bus improvements, and the Khyber Pass route was congested by road works at the rail overbridges…

    I guess they can give you end-to-end times, but admittedly, the above is just a long way of saying I don’t have any such data…

    If the bridge is ever reopened to cars, though, we will end up seeing how much the connection speeds drop.

  24. Jeremy Harris says:

    I can’t believe they’d even consider reversing it… C & R doing anything to stay in power no matter how non-sensical… The popular thing isn’t always the right thing…

  25. Jack says:

    Why dont they make the bridge bus only during peak times (7-9 am and 4-6pm) and open to all traffic every other time. That makes sense to me and seems to suit everyone. Busses get prioity during busy times, and at lunch time etc it saves many more cars going onto the sthn motorway and getting off at mortimer pass when they may just want to go to the hospital 300m away!!!

    Am I missing something !?!?! :$

  26. max says:

    Jack, while your idea makes some sense on a logical level (ignoring driver psychology), it will NOT reduce the fact that cars would then be even more likely to use it during peak hours than now.

    Drivers barely get the idea as it is - reducing the car restrictions to just two hours each way will make them even more likely, not less. Enforcement would have to be stepped up even more - and I’d assume that the wide majority of infringements are exactly in the times you suggest to still keep cars banned.

    With motorists being so blind to the signs, and, in some cases, to the laws, making the ban more ambigious is not the way to go.

  27. Jason says:

    I am going to court to challenge my ticket and am currently building a case. I have also been out of the country for 10 years and did not even no you were not allowed to cross.

  28. Ranne says:

    Oh dear, I crossed Grafton Bridge to day at 11.30. I haven’t been to Auckland during the day for ages and pulled into a lane to turn into Grafton Bridge. There was a bus in front of me and a bus behind me. When the light changed I turned the corner and the bus behind me beeped - then I saw a sign which had been obscured by the bus in front. If I hadn’t turned I would have caused an accident. I hate being a traffic offender, I haven’t had a ticket … ever! So I am horrified that I have been forced into this position. I hate coming in to Auckland Central and avoid it at every opportunity. Can’t see myself wanting to shop in town again!


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