Priority lane FAQs

1.  What is a priority lane?

There are different types of priority lanes.  Some are dedicated lanes that separate buses, trucks and high occupancy vehicles from single occupancy vehicles on the arterial road network.  They aid in reducing congestion and speed up travel times.  Depending on the amount of traffic on parts of the network, these lanes have varying operating times and conditions.  All are well sign-posted and marked clearly on the road surface.  You can find information on arterial priority lanes here.

Motorway priority lanes differ from arterial ones in that they are designed to bypass the ramp signals for qualifying vehicles.  Most on-ramp priority lanes cater for a mixture of vehicle types and number of vehicle occupants.  There is at present one priority lane that comes from the Port that caters only for trucks.

You can find information on arterial priority lanes here(external link)

Typical priority lane (left) allowing permitted vehicles to bypass the ramp signals

2. Why do some ramps have priority lanes?

Priority lanes allow high occupancy vehicles (HOV) such as buses and cars with multiple passengers to bypass queuing traffic at ramp signals without stopping ahead of single occupancy vehicles.  The aim of these lanes is to encourage car sharing and use of public transport, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the network while moving more people.

They also give priority to high value freight vehicles which in turn helps the economic wellbeing transportation industry.

When on-ramps are on an incline, buses and trucks can lose momentum and add to queuing times. Priority lanes allow these vehicles to progress up inclines and maintain a good speed onto the motorway and not slowing other vehicles.  More reliable travel times ensures that commercial freight and bus schedules can also be maintained.

3. Who can use the on-ramp priority lanes? 

These lanes are designed to assist those vehicles with two or more people per vehicle to bypass the ramp signals. The aim of these lanes is to encourage car sharing and use of public transport, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the network while moving more people.

They are also designed to help larger freight and transport vehicles use the motorway without the need to stop at the ramp signal. These larger vehicles have more difficulty in getting started so we help them keep moving by bypassing the ramp signals. 

Vehicles which can use priority lanes are:

  • Vehicles of any size as long as they have two or more occupants.  These are known as T2 vehicles.
  • Trucks (size/weight restrictions may apply)
  • Motorcycles (except at the Grafton Road on-ramp southbound)
  • Buses of any type, even without passengers (to assist in keeping to schedules)
  • Emergency service vehicles (when attending an emergency)

Find out more about priority lanes [PDF, 1.2 MB]

4. Why are there truck priority lanes?

Truck priority lanes allow trucks to bypass the ramp signal without stopping and losing momentum, especially when an on ramp is on an incline. Quicker access means that trucks can maintain a good speed onto the motorway, and will not slow down other vehicles when they merge. All truck lanes are well sign-posted and marked clearly.

The cost of moving freight directly impacts on our standard of living. By delivering freight efficiently, the cost of doing business is reduced and can result in cheaper goods for all New Zealanders and an increased competitive advantage for our exporters.  

Planning for state highways

5. How can you be sure priority lanes are being used correctly?

Priority lanes are monitored by police as part of their regular motorway patrols.   Anyone attempting to skip queues by using the priority lanes inappropriately could face an infringement.

6. Do children, infants and animals count as passengers?

Children and infants qualify as a passenger for priority lane usage.  Unfortunately pets though part of the family do not and you could face an infringement for improper use.

7. I'm pregnant. Do I count as one person or two?

In the priority lane world, you are one person.  Babies of any age, however, count as a person.

8. What about two-seater vehicles?

To maintain a consistent approach to enforcing entry requirements, the rule is based not on how many seats you have but on how many passengers are in it. 

9. Where would I find out about ridesharing opportunities in my area?

There are several websites that can help you find a car pooling buddy.  We recommend taking a look at Smart Travel NZ(external link) to find out more.

10. Why are motorcycles allowed in some priority lanes?

The rationale behind allowing motorcycles to use priority lanes is that it is safer to keep two-wheeled vehicles moving than to have them travel in start-and-stop traffic conditions.