A road trial closing one end of a popular Mount Maunganui through road has racked up $1.2 million in fines in just two weeks.
Tauranga City Council is trialling a cul-de-sac on Links Ave that closed the eastern end of the street to through traffic, except busses and authorised vehicles.
The cul-de-sac is formed by two bus lanes and anyone that drives through them will receive a $150 fine.
In the first two weeks of the trial, council sent out 8500 warning letters and have now issued 8000 fines totalling $1.2 million.
Links Ave is a travel corridor for three schools, Mount Maunganui College, Omanu School and Mount Maunganui intermediate. The schools have a combined roll of around 2500 students.
The street runs parallel to Maunganui Road and Oceanbeach Road and is used by drivers in peak times to avoid traffic queues on the other roads.
The increased vehicle volume raised safety concerns for the children using the road, which prompted council to implement two cul-de-sac trials.
The first ran for six weeks, late last year and the cul-de-sac was in the middle of Links Ave.
Data shows the trial successfully reduced traffic but the placement of the cul-de-sac was unpopular.
The current trial will last at least four months and has attracted just as much vitriol from the community.
Matt Nicholson started a petition after learning how many people had been fined for using Links Ave. Photo: Supplied.
The huge number of infringements prompted Matt Nicholson to start a petition calling for council to refund all fines incurred during the trial.
As of May 5, the petition has 3986 signatures.
Matt was fined when travelling east towards Concord Avenue.
He says the new roundabout at Solway place just before the bus lanes is confusing and the signage that the road is closed isn’t clear.
“To say it's confusing would be an understatement.
“Over 16,000 people, not seeing a sign clearly indicates that there's not enough of that signage.”
The new roundabout at Solway Place is confusing drivers. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.
Council transport director Brendan Bisley says drivers will pass between three to five signs before they get to the bus lanes depending on the direction of traffic.
“When they get to the bus lane itself, there are large areas of road surfacing painted green with the words BUS LANE written.”
Matt says council should just give out warnings rather than fines and he hopes they will “do the right thing” and refund people for the fines issued.
“Making revenue off a trial doesn't really seem like the best thing to do for the residents in your area or anyone that visits,” he says.
“It's not really conducive to making your trial stick or be brought into by the public.”
Jacqui, who did not want her last name published, lives on Links Avenue near the cul-de-sac, and she and two of her children have been fined.
She says finding $150 out of her budget isn’t easy and the further travel caused by the closure is costing an extra $20 a week in petrol.
Jacqui’s family are reluctant to visit her now because of the extra travel, they live in Pāpāmoa and have to double back to leave the street.
“They avoid coming to my house now, that’s really sad,” she says through tears.
“It's very inconvenient to say the least. It’s inconvenient not just for the Links Ave residents, but for the whole community.”
Her commute to work in Brookfield at midday also takes at least 15 minutes longer. Other trips that would normally take 10 mins are taking up to 35 minutes, she says.
Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown says people can’t see the point of having an “important” road permanently closed when the safety concerns are around a two hour period on weekday mornings.
Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Philip Brown. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.
“It just seems ridiculous that you have to close it for 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Philip.
“It just does not make sense and it shows gross mismanagement of our transport assets.
“It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
“To shut an entire road, both directions as a bus lane seems way over the top, which obviously is causing congestion issues with all of the surrounding streets.”
Philip suggests closing Links Ave to through traffic during the morning weekday peak to help with the safety concerns.
He has received feedback from Oceanbeach Road residents that they’re unhappy with their road being blocked up by traffic for longer periods.
During the initial trial, Oceanbeach Road saw an increase of 3000 vehicles per day to a weekday average of 17,400, according to council data.
“If the trial was to remain in longer term, changes would be made to Oceanbeach Road to look at improving traffic flows at key points,” says Bisley.
The level of continued use of the cul-de-sac – in spite of the bus lane, shows just how many people use Links Avenue as a ‘rat run’ through Arataki, he says.
“The main purpose of the trial is to look at ways of getting the current levels of traffic down to a safer, more reasonable level for a residential street.”
-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.