Sunday, 25 October 2015

Necessity knows no law

For a post more than two years ago, How do you solve a problem like Elizabeth? 10 Sept 2013, I observed and photographed the congestion in Elizabeth Street during the morning peak. Transport for NSW had released figures confirming that bus routes in Elizabeth Street were the most congested in the CBD. I will re-blog one of the photos so you can compare it with the situation after 4 October 2015.
Elizabeth Street at Market Street, Sept 2013 
Elizabeth Street at Market Street, Oct 2015 6:53 pm
Elizabeth Street at Market Street, 15 Oct 2015 8:37 am
Glory be! Nothing has changed. Well actually a lot has changed - note the big gaps in the bus priority lane. Something is causing congestion in the priority bus lane further south.

I observed two years ago that the second lane from the kerb is the defacto bus lane as buses that set down passengers at a stop south of the Sheraton on the Park must merge right to get around vehicles queued in the kerbside lane to turn into Market Street. The bus drivers would move forward slowly and wait for a fellow bus driver to take pity on them and let them move in front. I predicted that painting red lines on the second lane would not change the situation one iota.

However TfNSW has made other changes that actually reduce the capacity of Elizabeth Street to carry buses.

The riffle shuttle that doomed a City

When Chris Lock told a Community Forum it Sydney High that Elizabeth Street would be the axis for north-south bus routes in the CBD alarm bells rang.

The Dec 2012 brochure distributed at the meeting listed: "Key features of redesigning the bus network in the City Centre
  • "Elizabeth Street will be the main north-south bus route, featuring dedicated bus lanes and stopping lanes..."
The narrowing of Elizabeth Street at the Old Supreme Court Building had been the main problem for transport in the CBD for two centuries and had occupied the greatest minds of the 19th and 20th Centuries. When a doddery old fart insists that 200 years of history are wrong and he is a genius who will redesign the bus network he is almost certainly delusional.

Elizabeth Street reborn
It would be another two years however before the plans for the redesign of bus routes would be open to scrutiny. They were so preposterous they bring into question the sanity of the public servants put in control of Transport for NSW.

The post on the plans, Double-crossing the red lane 4 December 2014, is the most scathing post that has appeared in this blog.

The most bizarre feature was the location of a "bus lane" in the central lane of the two north-bound lanes past the Old Supreme Court building. This would have required buses and general traffic to riffle shuffle at either end of the pinchpoint. It never happened - an anonymous little voice must have piped up: 'This is crazy".

Of far greater concern was the elimination of a set-down-only stop outside David Jones and the introduction of a stop further north of Park Street, at the southern side of the Sheraton on the Park.

Two years ago only a few bus services from around the very-inner suburbs used the stop Elizabeth Street after Park. With good reason; bus drivers knew that buses would be trapped behind vehicles and taxis queued to turn into Market Street. The high frequency services from Oxford Street, Flinders Street and the southern Sydney suburbs avoided this stop, using the set-down stop outside David Jones. These buses would pull out into the second lane after setting down and picking up passengers at the stop just south of the intersection with Bathurst Street and remain in the lane until the stop at David Jones, then proceed through the pinch-point. The second lane was a de facto bus lane in the morning peak. In the evening buses would also use the central lane if they had no passengers to set down at David Jones.

Car traps string of buses, 15 Oct 8:47 am
From 4 October 2015 just about every bus service in Sydney that is not forcibly terminated "outside the CBD" is being forced to use the stop Sheraton on the Park where they will be trapped behind vehicles queutng to turn left.

The photo above is but one example that I observed. There were three buses bumper to bumber that were unable to move until the car moved, supposedly into the left turn lane. I scanned a video but don't know how to post it. Meanwhile traffic was moving freely in the general-vehicle lane.

Priority Bus Lanes in the inner city

Bus lanes in the inner city were easy to understand. The lanes were generally the kerbside lane and they petered out before coming to a corner where left-hand turns were permitted. Signs beside the road specified the hours of the day when the lanes were in operation. In deference to local businesses and traders some portions of the lane were available for parking when the lanes were not in operation.

I queried the effectiveness of Bus Priority Lanes in my submission to the EIS for the Eastern Distributor so they have been around for three decades or more. The latest report from the Office of State Revenue for State Debt Recovery, August 2015, lists the statistics for the year 2013 - 2014. As you can see the revenue collected from bus lane monitors was between $zero and $zinch. This is in spite of the fines being currently $311.

It has been revealed recently that State Revenue does not pursue motorists who present an international drivers licence and fail to pay a fine. Despite this the revenue collected from fines last year was more than double the revenue collected during the final year of the previous state government.

So people with international drivers licences would have to be added to the list of those permitted to travel in Bus Lanes:

  • Taxis;
  • Hire cars (but not rental cars);
  • Motorcycles and bicycles;
  • Emergency vehicles.
"General traffic is also permitted to travel in bus lanes for up to 100 metres in order to:

  • Turn left or right into or out of a street;
  • Enter or leave a property adjacent to a bus lane;
  • Pass another vehicle that has stopped to turn right or to avoid an obstruction."

The animals went in two by two, hurrah! hurrah!

Elizabeth Street north of King Street
The bus lanes shown in the document Sydney City Centre Bus Infrastructure Submissions Report, October 2014, bear little relationship with what was unveiled just before 4 October 2015 so I have included photographs of the actual lane markings.

Elizabeth Street pinch point demarcate
Elizabeth St north of Market
Motorists would have difficulty in judging 100 metres so I have measured 100 metres in the Google Earth snap-shot above. It turns out that the mother-of-all pinch points is around 100 metres long. 100 metres from the intersection with King Street is the southern-most side of the loading bays for the David Jones store and is the stop line for south-bound traffic in Elizabeth Street.

This is the point at which general traffic is permitted to swerve into the bus lane so the vehicles can queue in both lanes at the King Street traffic lights. North-bound buses are obstructed further south by taxis turning two by two into Market Street and by congestion at the Sheraton on the Park bus stop so general traffic should have little difficulty in filling the two lanes.

Vehicles that do move into the bus lane must remember to make a bee-line to the No Stopping kerbside lane on the northern side of King Street to avoid being pinged by the Boys in Fluoro - they are beyond the ken of the bus lane cameras. Vehicles can continue along the kerb-side lane until they reach an obstruction, e.g. a bus stopped at the Martin Place bus stop, then, of necessity, they can swerve back into the bus lane, which peters out at Martin Place.

It is not just inner-city dole bludgers using the CBD as an adventure park that can travel in bus lanes, slowing buses to the speed of the most timorous of their ilk; people who work for a living and make a positive contribution to the economy can also take advantage of bus lanes.

There will be a further post on the Elizabeth Street bus lanes and bus-lane monitors.

1 comment:

  1. Don't be stupid. General traffic is only allowed to enter the bus lane after Market St to access a driveway. They can't enter it to access King St because it's one way the other way.

    And putting a bus lane in lane two of Elizabeth St northbound approaching Market St is a great thing. Pity it's not a bus only lane to kick the taxis out.