AA say compromise the key in Auckland speed limits debate

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineFebruary 27, 2019

The AA supports efforts to bring down speeds on high-risk Auckland roads, but will be calling on Auckland Transport (AT) to dial back its proposal for lower speed limits across the city in order to both improve road safety and get lasting buy-in from the public.

The proposal that has gone to public consultation includes a blanket 30km/h speed limit for the CBD, 30km/h speed limits in a number of town centres, and widespread speed limit reductions on roads in the Rodney and Franklin districts.

AA spokesman Barney Irvine says the clear message from Auckland AA members is that the proposal in its current form is a step too far.

“People are pretty open to the idea of safer speeds in the central city, but a blanket 30km/h limit just doesn‘t pass the credibility test,” he says. “On top of that, the Transport Agency and its speed management guide recommend 40km/h for most roads in the CBD, and AT has shown no evidence to say we need to go below that.”

The AA will therefore be calling on AT to instead opt for a 40km/h CBD limit.

However, on busy arterials like Hobson, Fanshawe and Nelson Streets, the AA is questioning whether speed limit reductions are workable.

“These are extremely wide, multi-lane roads, and everything about the road environment points to a 50km/h speed limit,” says Irvine. “When the traffic is flowing, trying to get people to drive at slower speeds is likely to be an exercise in futility – particularly if the new limit is 30km/h. The only likely way to get compliance would be relentless enforcement, and that‘s not the outcome anyone wants to see.”

On Nelson Street in particular, there are also concerns that a lower speed limit would push too much traffic back on to heavily congested motorways.

Of 14,000 responses in a recent survey of Auckland AA members, 62 percent opposed or strongly opposed a blanket 30km/h CBD speed limit, while only 16 percent were in favour.

Asked about the speed limit on Nelson Street, less than 2.5 percent said 30km/h, while nearly 90 percent said 50km/h or more.

While most attention has focused on the CBD, Irvine says that most of the proposed speed limit changes are actually in rural areas, and many Franklin and Rodney residents would get a shock when they found out how many roads were affected.

“The big concern for us is the number of roads that are being reduced from 100km/h down to 60km/h, or even 40km/h, when the Transport Agency recommends 80km/h would be safe and appropriate. A lot of these are low-risk roads, and the whole situation‘s going to confuse and frustrate locals, particularly once tickets start getting issued.”

Irvine says that a more targeted approach would achieve the right safety outcomes and win stronger support from the public.

“For this to succeed, AT needs public buy-in. Without it, AT risks ending up with low compliance, high public frustration, and a future situation where speed limit changes become a no-go zone politically. That‘d be a poor outcome for road safety.”