1. Why were ramp signals installed?

Ramp signals were installed to help improve network efficiency due to the increasing traffic volumes on the Auckland Motorway.  The system installed over three years by the NZ Transport Agency in collaboration with the historical Auckland Councils to manage the increasing traffic volumes and improve safety on the motorway. 

If you would like to read historical information on the project visit our project page.

2. How successful have the ramp signals been?

Auckland motorway data gathered since the introduction of ramp signals has shown the following results:

  • 12% improved travel speeds across the motorway.
  • 18% increase in throughput onto the motorway.
  • Reduced merging incidents: around 32-34% outbound and 17% inbound
  • Faster response times to incidents by Emergency Services due to improved traffic conditions.
  • Motorway incidents being cleared up to 15 minutes faster.

Large volumes of vehicles entering a section of motorway will cause traffic to slow and create a ripple effect on the motorway.  Ramp signalling provides a smoother flow for traffic entering the motorway, by breaking up these large volumes into more manageable numbers. 

Accidents that occur on Auckland’s motorway, happen during peak hours when traffic is stop-start which adds to the congestion and reduces overall efficiency of the network increasing journey times.

3. Who manages, monitors, operates and maintains the signals and ramps?

Ramp signals are NZ Transport Agency assets.  They are monitored and managed by dedicated signal operators at the Auckland Transport Operations Centre.  Operators use CCTV and the Ramp Signalling System to monitor ramps during designated hours of operation.  When a fault is identified the operators advise the Auckland Motorway Alliance(external link) (AMA) that maintenance of the assets is needed.

To report a ramp signal fault please email info@nzta.govt.nz to advise us of the ramp location, date, time and nature of the fault.  Be sure to let us know how you would like someone to contact you in regards to your feedback. 

4. What are ramp signals used for?

Ramp signals are used to:

  • Improve traffic flow on the motorways, enabling better and more consistent motorway journey times.
  • Allow for safer merging with high speed traffic thereby assisting in reducing the number of accidents near merging lanes.

Motorways are designed for distance journeys, therefore we advise motorists on shorter trips to consider alternative routes using local arterial roads, or travelling on public transport(external link) to prevent adding to motorway congestion.

5. When are ramps operational?

Ramp signals may operate during weekdays between 5:30am and 8.00pm.  They may also be made operational during weekends should critical sections of the motorway experience unusual traffic peaks.

6. How do ramp signals operate / know when to turn on and off?

Sensors on the ramps and motorways feed live traffic conditions back to the system.  These live conditions are analysed by the system which then makes a decision as to which ramps need to be activated.  More than one set of ramps can be activated and work together to help manage traffic, depending on the current conditions.

When a signal is activated, pre-warning signs on the approaches to ramps advise traffic to prepare to slow and stop safely. 

As the motorway congestion clears, the ramp signal timing will speed up to let more traffic onto the motorway.  Once all waiting onramp traffic has been let onto the motorways the system can then decide to switch off.  However the signals may not switch off even if it appears that traffic is flowing freely.  This is because free flow traffic sometimes means that the congestion is close to happening or the congestion has only recently cleared.  The signals stay slightly longer that would otherwise seems necessary just to ensure congestion does not set in again.

Some on-ramps are grouped (co-ordinated) to share the load of vehicles entering the motorway across busy sections.  This means that we can promote more equity and efficiency in managing motorway travel times across a wider section of motorway and reduce stop start movements. 

See our video of how signals operate

7. How many cars can move forward on a green light?

Whenever the collective signals turn green, one vehicle from each lane may proceed along the on-ramp to merge safely with the motorway traffic. If there are two lanes, two vehicles - one from each lane - may proceed.

 The placement of multiple lights at on-ramps is to assist with sightlines from vehicles further back in the queue in the same way as this is done at signalised road intersections.

8. Who decides the timing of the lights?

The length of time between a red and green light to enter the motorway is determined by a combination of live motorway traffic conditions, demand on the ramps, and the queuing conditions.  The information collected by the sensors will be different for each on-ramp and motorway section.  The timing between red and green lights changes in very small intervals to adapt to these changing conditions.  Some areas experience high demand at different times of the day to others and so, by regulating the volume of vehicles entering the motorway, the system helps to relieve congestion and decrease travel time spent on the motorway.

9.  Why are signals on when the motorway is clear?

Signals operate in response to live traffic conditions on individual and multiple sections of the motorway network.  Ramp signals will often activate further back along the motorway to assist in clearing traffic conditions ahead.  By increasing the spacing of traffic entering the motorway further back, incidents or peak congestion can be cleared more efficiently and reduce further queuing. 

See our video of how signals operate

10. Why do some ramp signals have priority lanes?

Please see our section on Priority Lanes for further information

11. Is it illegal to go through a red ramp signal?

Yes, it is illegal. Ramp signals are a legal traffic signal and running a red light holds the same penalty as a regular traffic light. 

12. What stops motorists ignoring ramp signals and priority lanes?

Ignoring the red light may get a driver onto the motorway but will impact the queue they leave behind. 

Sensors on the ramps detect when there is an increase in cars entering the motorway.  If this volume is more than what has been approved, the system compensates and the wait time to enter the motorway will be increased due to this red light runner behaviour. 

Ramp signals and priority lanes are actively monitored by police as part of their regular motorway patrols.  They look for those who run the red signals or do not meet the requirements of priority lane usage and will issue fines accordingly.  Ramp signals are a legal traffic signal and running a red light holds the same penalty as a regular traffic light.  

Please see our section on priority lanes for further information.

13. Where can I get historical information on this project?

If you would like to read historical information on the project visit our project page.

14. I have some feedback I would like to give how do I do that?

Email us at info@nzta.govt.nz with ‘Ramp Signals’ as your subject along with your feedback.  Be sure to let us know if you would like someone to contact you in regards to your comment(s).  To report a ramp signal fault please advise us of the ramp location and nature of the fault.

15. I can’t find an answer to my question?

Email us at info@nzta.govt.nz with ‘Ramp Signals’ as your subject along with the nature of your query, someone will get back to you.  Be sure to let us know how you would like someone to contact you in regards to your comment(s).