In late 2016, the NZ Transport Agency sought input and views on a proposed bylaw to allow electric vehicles access to six priority bypass lanes in Auckland from 6 to 20 March 2017.
The Transport Agency received 22 submissions, which were carefully considered. Some were in support of the bylaw as proposed, while others related to a range of themes focused on the impact the trial could have on congestion and public transport in the Auckland region.
General themes from these submissions included the length of the trial, the impact on traffic flow both now and in the future, safety for cyclists due to the vehicles being silent, and how the general public will be notified of the trial.
Common themes and questions raised in submissions were:
- The trial should be for a minimum of six months to ensure that the impact on traffic flows and public transport can be assessed.
- Auckland Transport’s website describes the purpose of these special vehicle lanes as to “reduce congestion and speed up travel times by separating buses and vehicles with more than a single occupant”. So why is there a proposal to now allow single occupancy vehicles in these lanes?
- What will happen when electric vehicles outnumber other vehicles?
- If the trial is extended (in the future) to vehicle lanes that allow cyclists, will electric vehicles have to be fitted with warning sounds (Acoustic Vehicle Alerting Systems)?
- Will there be a publicity campaign so other drivers know that the trial is happening?
- The use of stickers to identify electric vehicles who wish to use the special vehicle lanes should be acknowledged in the bylaw.
Analysis of submissions
The Transport Agency has reviewed all the submissions. Our analysis in response to the key themes raised above is as follows:
Analysis and response
The trial should run for a minimum of six months
- The purpose of the trial is to inform requirements for road preparation, communications with road users and determine potential journey benefits relating to priority bypass lanes.
- This concern was taken into consideration; however for the purpose of the trial the Transport Agency considers that two weeks is an appropriate timeframe.
Single occupancy vehicles should not qualify
- Ultimately the purpose of the Government’s Electric Vehicle Programme is to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand to reduce gas emissions.
- Allowing electric vehicles access to viable special vehicle lanes will help encourage New Zealanders to decide that their next car will be an electric vehicle, reducing emissions that come from the country’s vehicle fleet.
- This concern was taken into consideration; however the initiative is about incentivising uptake of a vehicle type not the occupancy.
Electric vehicles outnumbering other vehicles
- Electric vehicle numbers are monitored as part of the Government’s wider electric vehicle initiative.
- Roading productivity, such as traffic flow, is constantly measured by the relevant road controlling authority to ensure adjustments can be made to optimise lane use.
- If a special vehicle lane is considered viable for use by electric vehicles, the Transport Agency will use a set of performance metrics to monitor the lane. These will give us an early indication if the lane or wider network is, or could be, negatively affected.
- This issue is part of the long term strategy, not the trial which is a short term exercise.
If the trial is extended, in the future, to vehicle lanes that are accessible by cyclists, sound warning devices would be needed to alert cyclists
- The current trial is not in vehicle lanes accessible to cyclists.
- The Transport Agency will provide input to the Ministry of Transport regarding the use of electric vehicle warning sounds.
A publicity campaign is needed
- A press release will be issued prior to the trial informing the media and public of what is happening.
- A trial advisory sign will be displayed at each trial site and eligible vehicles will be required to display the official trial sticker.
Participating electric vehicles should carry a sticker
- The bylaw has been amended to include the requirement to display the official trial sticker, which will be supplied by the Transport Agency.
Conclusion and next steps
On the basis of this analysis, the Transport Agency has amended the bylaw to include a requirement for a sticker to be displayed on the window of electric vehicles that participate in the trial.
The trial will proceed during the period 6 to 20 March 2017.