Bus Tunnel Safety Initiative Gets Green Light

20 August 2010

Effective enforcement - deterring motorists from taking illegal shortcuts through the Mt Victoria bus tunnel - is a step closer following yesterday's meeting of Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast, the Council's Transport Portfolio Leader, says committee members voted by a comfortable majority to recommend that a traffic resolution be enacted to make the tunnel officially a bus-only lane.

The resolution has to be confirmed at next week's full Council meeting. If it receives the go-ahead, it would be advertised and could be in force by the end of September.

Motorists, if caught, would be fined $150 for driving through the tunnel - which runs between Pirie Street in Mount Victoria and Waitoa Road in Hataitai.

The City Council has entered into an arrangement with Armourguard, which employs the 'Transitwise' staff who use tripod-mounted cameras to monitor the 'T2' lanes on State Highway 1 at Paremata. The staff, warranted by the Commissioner of Police, will also work in Wellington and use the cameras to discourage motorists from driving in bus lanes.

The staff and cameras are intended to deal with two issues:

  • discouraging illegal use of the bus tunnel  
  • illegal use of the proposed new Golden Mile bus-only section on Manners Street between Willis and Cuba Streets.

Mayor Prendergast says yesterday's vote followed controversy over the bus tunnel - including the incident early in 2009 when a pedestrian taking an illegal shortcut through the tunnel was hit and seriously injured by a motorist also taking an illegal shortcut.

"Residents, especially in Pirie Street, have also complained about the number of motorists - including taxis, shuttle vans, other commercial vehicles, and 'boy racers' - who 'hoon' through the tunnel at all hours."

Mayor Prendergast says the enforcement cameras will be set up outside the tunnel on an "as needs" basis. "The number of vehicles illegally using the tunnel is relatively small - but they are a hazard and an annoyance.

"Contrary to what some cynics might think, this operation will certainly not be a major 'revenue-earner' for the Council. We would be happy if there is no revenue because motorists have got the message to keep away from the tunnel."

Councillors yesterday also heard representations from residents from both ends of the tunnel who are annoyed by the number of 'out-of-service' buses that use the route.

As a result, the committee also voted to ask Council officers to draw up a memorandum of understanding with NZ Bus to agree circumstances - such as major congestion in the city - under which 'out-of-service' diesel buses would be allowed to use the tunnel.

The committee also asked officers to investigate the possibility of a pedestrian crossing in Pirie Street, and also look at a possible speed reduction in the street.